New wave ... the pool at Clifton Suites on Northbourne.
Garry Maddox finds comfort comes with a no-nonsense caveat.
In the rule that says what matters is location, location and location, Clifton Suites on Northbourne appeals instantly. It is 10 minutes' walk from Canberra's main shopping area and a short drive from key attractions, including the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Lake Burley Griffin.
That is a plus for the two types of guest who use the hotel, converted from an eight-storey office building five years ago: business people during the week and families at weekends. But what is spruiked as "one of Canberra's finest and most innovative accommodation and corporate function venues", winner of the AHA's best suite apartment hotel accommodation from 2007 to 2011, asks guests to sign a somewhat troubling form on checking in. "The Clifton on Northbourne DOES NOT tolerate parties or excessive noise within guest rooms or other areas of the hotel," it reads, warning that breaches - or even having too many people in your apartment - will result in guests being "evicted WITHOUT refund".
Two things spring to mind: heavy use of capital letters is NEVER advisable unless you want to sound really angry, and did something dark and dangerous take place in the hotel to justify the form's conditions? Do Rotarians run wild when they visit the national capital? Do public-service parties get so out of control that photocopiers are thrown into the pool?
The Clifton's calm receptionist explains that the form is required so that guests know what is expected. During our stay, it appears getting run over by a pram is a bigger risk around the hallways than wild partying.
Our one-bedroom apartment on the sixth floor is comfortable, spacious and well appointed. It has a kitchen with stove, microwave, dishwasher and dining table, a tucked-away laundry, a desk, lounge area with a sofa bed and TV, a good-size bedroom with en suite, second toilet and a balcony that would be ideal for a party. Had I not signed the form, that is.
For a 4½-star hotel, Clifton Suites is better inside the apartment than out, with the small foyer often appearing crowded, the carpet in the hallways on the sixth floor looking a little thin and the lifts seeming slower than Friday afternoon in a government office.
Other than those quibbles, with its 153 one and two-bedroom apartments set around a light-filled atrium, the hotel is a perfectly suitable base for a weekend of leisure. And it seems a popular venue for conferences, too.
Being spring, it's a cold weekend in the nation's capital. That makes the stunning Fred Williams: Infinite Horizons exhibition at the National Gallery a better option than visiting the open-air Floriade NightFest or cycling around the lake. With plunging overnight temperatures, the apartment's efficient airconditioner and strong hot shower are appreciated.
The Clifton's Breeze sports bar and restaurant works well for breakfast ($17 a person; $39 for families) if booked the night before ($22 a person if not) and there is a small gym that is better equipped than many comparable hotels. In-room internet access costs $6 an hour; $40 for the week.
It's the weekend of the AFL and NRL grand finals and the sports bar has happy-hour drinks all afternoon and $10 gourmet burgers. A small band of fans arrives in time for kick-off in the Manly-Warriors match and barrack enthusiastically; even the disappointed Warriors fans stick around to wind down after the game. Fortunately, there was ABSOLUTELY NO excessive noise.
Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.
Clifton Suites on Northbourne
Address 100 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra.
The verdict Comfortable and convenient without being flashy. Good for work or a short break in Canberra.
Price A one-bedroom suite costs $150-$300; two-bedroom suite costs $245-$400; the executive high-rise two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment costs up to $500.
Bookings Phone 1800 828 000; see cliftonsuites.com.au.
Getting there From Sydney it's 285 kilometres or a three-hour drive.
Wheelchair access Yes.
While you're there The hotel is close to the city centre for shopping, restaurants, museums and galleries.