Drinks menu... the Novotel's bar is a popular spot on Saturdays.
Novotel Canberra's location makes it an ideal launch pad for sightseeing, writes Susan Bredow.
We're exhausted when we check into the Novotel Canberra, so we need to summon patience when told the hotel doesn't have a room with a queen-size bed, despite the fact we booked and paid for it in advance on the hotel's website.
It's not long though before we are told we have a room with a king bed and a balcony. A happy result, until we find the bathroom is only a little larger than a cupboard, with the toilet in such a tight corner, it requires a certain level of dexterity to use. The sink doesn't fit so it's outside in the room.
A bedroom at the Novotel in Canberra.
It would be nice to unpack but wardrobe hanging space is restricted by an ironing board and tea and coffee-making facilities. At this point, we remind ourselves that we have chosen the Novotel because it rates so well on the world's best-known travel-advice site. But it's a bit like a low-cost airline: at an average of $143 a night, the room rate is reasonable; but extras include $18 a day to park and $24.95 for internet connection.
The morning newspaper is free and we order The Sydney Morning Herald; we get another paper on the first morning and nothing the next. We mention this and are told that because of the mix-up, we can have the internet for free. While the bed is made each day, bathroom cleaning is something the hotel staff are saving until we leave.
The deal maker Location. Canberra's central shopping and dining area is a few hundred metres away and Lake Burley Griffin about one kilometre. On a chilly but clear autumn morning, we walk to breakfast at Gus', which has an all-day breakfast menu with excellent coffee and delicious mushrooms. The French-inspired restaurant lays claim to being Canberra's first outdoor cafe. Given that the temperature is almost zero, we opt for an indoor table.
Afterwards, we have a rather successful shopping expedition, partly because the Canberra Centre on Bunda Street seems calmer and less crowded than the malls we usually visit.
And then we eat We have the hotel buffet breakfast one morning, with a variety of cooked dishes, including tasty home-made baked beans and a fresh-fruit bar. Coffee comes from a push-button machine.
Stepping out The bed is good, especially after a day exploring the lake, visiting the National Gallery of Australia and enjoying some very good dining experiences, including a meal at The Chairman & Yip. We go to Dickson for yum cha at The Scholar and to Manuka for Asian-fusion tapas at Bambusa. We use the hotel's gym, pool, spa and sauna but given the lovely weather, we prefer to be out.
Happy hour with $5 drinks ensures all tables at the hotel bar are taken on Saturday evening, so we head next door to Benchmark Wine Bar.
On Sunday morning, our spirits are raised by the sight of hot-air balloons floating past our window. But at the door, there's still no paper.
Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.
Address 65 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra.
The verdict A good position for a good price.
Price Standard double rooms start at $143 a night, if booked in advance online.
Bookings Phone 6245 5000; see novotel.com/Canberra.
Getting there Canberra is about 290 kilometres from central Sydney; about a three-hour drive. The Novotel is on the northern approach to the city.
Wheelchair access Yes.
Perfect for A base from which to enjoy all that Canberra has to offer.
While you're there Visit the National Gallery of Australia, including the sculpture garden.