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Canberra Unlocked: Tuggeranong

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If you don’t live on the southside, a trip to the Tuggeranong valley can sometimes seem a (literal) bridge too far.

But locals know the drive will reward you with everything from relaxed café culture to Canberra’s best swimming spots.

Canberra’s enviable position as a planned city has many upsides. Perfectly proportioned suburbs, close-by town centres and manageable traffic (well…mostly). But a downside is certainly that, with everything at your fingertips, a trip to the other side of town can sometimes seem redundant.

However, we think summer is perfect time to explore Canberra’s “deep south”. Why? Because the southside was built for the warmer months. With epic natural swimming spots, bars with outdoor areas perfect for a cold one with mates and cult-favourite eateries, Tuggeranong is the place to be.

Let us show you Southside’s summer superiority in the final instalment of our Canberra Unlocked series. Want to read the entire collection? Unlock oodles of summer fun here.

EAT

Tuggeranong’s dining scene is best summarised as “many hidden gems” with cult-favourite eateries and new ventures sprinkled across the valley.

That being said, in a win for those who struggle to make up their minds, there is a concentration lakeside in Tuggeranong Town Centre. Head there for a technicolour feast at Mookie, where you’ll find classic American fare (think: burgers, fries, shakes and concretes) with an Asian twist and a hefty dose of fun. Hello Kitty concrete with cheesecake, strawberry whipped cream, fairy floss and strawberry pocky, anyone?

 

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Nearby, Vanilla Pod might seem an odd name for an Italian restaurant, but you’ll only wonder about it for a few minutes—until some of Canberra’s (dare we say it?) best handmade gnocchi lands in front of you. Then you won’t care about names any more, or anything beyond your plate. With plenty of outdoor seating and a woodfired pizza menu, it’s a great choice for families.

Speaking of pizza, if you’re looking for a takeaway option (perhaps for a picnic next to nearby Lake Tuggeranong?), Zucchini Bros is where locals will steer you. This takeaway pizza joint may look unassuming, but it boasts fans across the valley, and beyond.

Another great takeaway option can be found at the Wanniassa Shops at Grill by Canberra Gourmet, where Filipino flavours infuse a diverse range of innovative seafood, meat and noodle dishes. And, if you’re looking to book an intimate dinner or celebration, some of Canberra’s finest Turkish cuisine can be found at Little Istanbul.

 

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Cult followings can also be found at two of Tuggeranong’s most innovative eateries—Little Theo’s and Phat Panda. These two restaurants—a suburban takeaway joint and an inner city Asian fusion explosion, respectively—might be polar opposites in what they serve (head to Little Theo’s for epic stacked burgers and deep fried Mars Bars and Phat Panda for loaded bao and Vietnamese-style ‘Panda Rolls’) but their focus is the same—flavour, fun and personality. Both are must-visits in the valley.

DRINK

Coffee culture has hit Tuggeranong in a big way and nowhere is it more evident than at the southernmost outpost of Two Before Ten’s caffeinated empire. This sprawling lakeside café boasts an airy loft interior with oodles of table space and views across the lake. The menu is stacked with fresh-produce-heavy options sourced from their Aranda kitchen gardens.

Across town, Foundry Coffee Co. offers a sleek urban café with a minimalist fitout that encourages solo caffiends to grab a stool before they choose from a curated but well-thought-out menu that includes a selection of bagels.

 

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Looking to catch up with mates southside? Rose Cottage’s expansive outdoor area was made for summer while their pub food menu allows drinks to turn into dinner and the night to kick on (and on).

Live music lovers can also get their fix at PJ O’Reilly’s in Tuggeranong Town Centre, where local and national acts can be found taking the stage on Fridays and Saturdays.

CHILL

Looking to relax this summer? Tuggeranong has “chill” in spades, mostly thanks to its proximity to the winding Murrumbidgee River, which widens in areas to allow for outstanding natural swimming spots.

Kambah Pool—while located down a set of wide but steep steps that may not be accessible for everyone—offers wide sandy banks and plenty of shade for restful weekend visits; while downriver, Pine Island Reserve offers a grassy reserve with barbeque and toilet facilities and an easy, ambling stroll to the water.

In the warmer months, make sure to be aware of snakes and other wildlife and check City Services ACT before heading out to make sure the water is safe for swimming, and be aware that water levels may have risen to unsafe levels after rainfall.

If the weather isn’t playing ball, Limelight Cinemas is the place to go, with every cinema filled with premium reclining chairs and a timetable boasting the latest and greatest flicks from around the world. Spot of shopping on your radar? Tucked away at the Wanniassa Shops you’ll find The Markets Wanniassa—a treasure trove of Canberra-made.

Discover locally-made spirits, chocolate, jewellery, clothing, pantry staples and much more in this colourful and diverse space. Just don’t blame us if the day slips away somehow as you browse.

LEARN

Lakeside in Tuggeranong city centre, you’ll find one of the most innovative arts spaces in Canberra at Tuggeranong Arts Centre. Here, community-centered dance, theatre, craft, comedy and art blend seamlessly to offer a bustling program of local performances and exhibitions.

Tuggeranong isn’t perhaps where you’d expect to find one of the largest knife maker forges in Australia—but Tharwa Valley Forge will prove you wrong. Their skilled craftspeople and bladesmiths have been handcrafting knives since 2003 in the quiet village of Tharwa, just a few kilometres south of Canberra, and their short courses are nationally renowned.

MOVE

Tick off Canberra’s southernmost lake loop as you amble around Lake Tuggeranong’s 6.7-kilometre circuit, taking in stunning water views and lush green spaces. There are plenty of play areas and free fitness stations dotted along the way, as well as cafés and shade for picnics and play.

If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, dip into the Canberra Centenary Trail on the hike from Kambah Pools to Red Rock Gorge, along the Murrumbidgee River. A four-kilometre hike there and back along a relatively flat track, but if you’re looking to take things to the next level, head to Red Rock Gorge and then continue on to Pine Island, a further seven kilometres south.

 

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The Kambah Pool to Pine Island Walking Trail is a Canberra favourite but can be challenging and isn’t suited for all weather, so exercise caution and do your research before heading out.

Of course, if you’re looking to really stretch your legs, take the short drive to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve where hikes range from short ambles to important Aboriginal cultural sites, to to full-day hikes through stunning scenery.

PLAY

One of Tuggeranong’s hidden gems isn’t actually in Tuggeranong per se, but is instead a scenic half an hour drive south. A destination for Canberrans since the 1980s, Corin Forest is a favourite seasonal destination of families with youngsters—and it’s easy to see why. Corin Forest boasts snow-making facilities that create a winter wonderland in the colder months with snow play and tobogganing, and in the warmer months visitors can enjoy the alpine slide.

 

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Weather not playing ball? Tucked in the northern suburb of Kambah you’ll find the perfect rainy-day solution. Inflatable World Kambah is a massive indoor space containing jumping castles and obstacle courses galore—just don’t forget your socks!

This year, spend and support local as you explore Canberra unlocked.

See visitcanberra.com.au for more inspiration.

 Feature image: Mookie. Credit: Ashley St George

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