36 hours in O'Connor
Black Mountain and Telstra Tower, in the clouds. Photo: Brendan Maunder
**Disclaimer: in the communist inner north of Canberra, we're all comrades. Borders are a fickle thing, and the residents of O'Connor (or O'Collective) are often welcomed into some of the surrounding enclaves, including Acton and Turner**
Begin your Friday afternoon with a stroll along the bike path, keeping an eye out for racing commuters pushing by on two wheels. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across the Sly Fox, a temporary coffee stand that sometimes sets up near the end of Verdon Street, and is known to occasionally even stock a few craft beers and ciders on a Friday afternoon.
For dinner, head to the Australian Croatian Club on McCaughey Street. Friday night is bistro night at the club, and the menu is always changing. Here you'll find traditional Croation delights like Brodet (a kind of seafood stew) and lignje (Croatian calamari) alongside mixed grills and hearty T-Bone steaks.
Until recently, the Polish-Australian White Eagle Club on David Street would also have been an option. But in mid-January the club was devastated by fire. It's unlikely to re-open in the near future, but once it does make sure to get along, as it's worth a visit for the dumplings and their diverse collection of Polish beers.
If you manage to drag yourself out of bed on Saturday morning, head for O’Connor’s great guardian, Black Mountain. From the end of David Street, over Barry Drive, through the CSIRO, and up the steep climb, the sunrise run can be particularly rewarding. And if you’re feeling particularly touristy, you can always head up Telstra Tower for a bit of a gander over the capital as well (open daily from 9am).
Grab a coffee and a pastry (or a full breakfast) from the 39 Steps café at the O’Connor shops on your way back down – if you get a takeaway, there’s plenty of soft grass, shade and entertaining Saturday morning sports over at the O’Connor Oval just around the corner.
For lunch head back to the shops and get familiar with the Duxton and its family-friendly, sports-proud, genuine pub atmosphere. There’s an indoor courtyard and a newly-upgraded outdoor seating area, a decent food menu, and plenty of options behind the bar. It’s an easy place to lose an entire afternoon, especially when there’s sport on one of the big screens.
If you’re feeling energetic in the afternoon, take a stroll through the secluded park area secreted away in a block surrounded by Macarthur Avenue and Macpherson, Tate, and Miller Streets – access is from the end of any one of the historic cul-de-sacs. Keep an eye out for some of O’Connor’s original Tocumwal homes, which were brought to Canberra from a dismantled air force base in NSW at the end of World War II to help alleviate Canberra’s housing shortage. A bushwalk through O’Connor Ridge, right up on the north-west edge of the suburb will round out the afternoon and build a healthy appetite for dinner.
The options in O’Connor for dinner on Saturday are limited, but not without quality. The always-busy local Vietnamese restaurant TuDo arguably does one of the best pho soups in town, and it’s BYO – so grab a bottle from the IGA before you wander in. For dessert, head back into the Duxton, past the bar, and straight for the stairs at the back which will take you up to The Loft. It takes the Duxton’s laid-back feel to the next-level, literally, with plenty of dark corners, plush couches, an ample cocktail menu and an upgraded wine list. The tapas-style food isn’t half bad either – try the salted chocolate brownie for some sweetness to finish the night.
After all the walking and eating of Saturday, you’d be excused for wanting to spend a bit of time resting up on the couch come Sunday morning – head to the IGA for supplies of pastries, and grab some of the Bread Nerds bagels while you’re at it. If you’ve woken up with a spring in your step, take those pastries on the road, and head across borders down into the ANU or even the Botanic Gardens in Acton, where there are a number of pretty spots to set up for a lazy morning of munching, napping, and watching people walk or cycle by. Or if you’re feeling guilty for over-indulging the night before, there’s always the O’Connor Tennis Club on Banksia Street. Anyone up for a hit?