Australian capital city stays running bargain rates for top spots

Kick off your slippers, pack your bags, it's time to head for the CBD, writes Teresa Ooi.

Australia's cities now represent some of the best value holidays in the country. Thanks to the success of campaigns for bush retreats, amazing capital city hotels are running bargain rates for facilities you'd normally pay big money for. And, to top it all, events are finally emerging from their pandemic pause. Staycations have never looked this good. Here's how you can unwind at each of our eight capital cities this summer.

Adelaide

The City of Churches also has a burgeoning small-bar scene in the laneways of the city centre. One of the hottest locales is Proof Bar on Anster Street which serves up classic cocktails. For locally crafted beer, drop in to underground bar Bank Street Social and for an excellent meal, head to Peel St restaurant.

No visit to the city is complete without a visit to the 140-year-old Adelaide Central Market. Stop by the Kangaroo Island stall for a taste of 50 producers from the island and stock up on honey and sticky figs.

Wander along Northern Terrace, the city's tree-lined boulevard, home to the cultural institutions such as the Art Gallery of South Australia and the South Australian Museum. If you are travelling with kids, visit Adelaide Zoo, otherwise take a drive to the Adelaide Hills, an excellent cool-climate wine region producing sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. Try Shaw + Smith and Bird in Hand.

Brisbane

With almost 300 days of sunshine a year, Brisbane is one of the best cities to enjoy the great outdoors. For adrenaline junkies, climb the 1136-step, 80-metre Story Bridge and abseil 30 metres back down the anchor pier, taking in the glorious city and glistening river views.

For art lovers, view more than 17,000 works of art at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art at South Bank. For tennis fans, head to the Pat Rafter Arena to watch the ATP Cup. Brisbane will host the event from 31 December 2020 to 5 January 2021, with tickets prices from $30 to $150.

Canberra

This is such an easy city to get around. You can easily immerse yourself in Canberra's art galleries and museums for days. Almost every visitor makes a beeline for the National Gallery of Australia for its large collection of Indigenous art. Close by, the modern National Portrait Gallery features everyone from Barry Humphries and David Williamson to Mick Jagger.

Drop by Parliament House, a fine example of modern architecture, and if parliament is sitting, you can watch question time from 2pm onwards. Make time to visit Lake Burley Griffin to watch the paddle boating, kayaking and hot air ballooning. In recent years, Canberra has built a following for its craft beer (check out BentSpoke Brewing Co).

Darwin

Darwin, the laksa capital of Australia, is about the only city which celebrates an international laksa festival. It is testament to the Top End's cultural melting pot. Here you will find some choice dishes of locally caught mud crab, barramundi and crocodile marinated in Kakadu plum, lemon myrtle and finger lime.

One of the best places to savour local food is at Mindil Beach Sunset Market (April-October), which boasts 60 food stalls serving Indonesian, Malaysian, Cambodian and Japanese dishes. For dessert, treat yourself to a mango ice-cream as you browse the art and craft stalls. To see the winding waterways, take a scenic flight for views or take a boat tour of the Mary River wetlands.

Hobart

The capital of Australia's Apple Isle has become a hot destination with its buzzing harbourfront precinct, trendy craft-beer bars, wonderful fresh local produce and the eclectic Mona, the Museum of Old and New Art. Wander along Hobart's beautiful, working waterfront, admiring the old sandstone warehouses at Salamanca Place and walking past the floating Brooke Street Pier. If you are visiting post-Christmas, the harbour will be filled with yachts from the Sydney to Hobart race.

Drive 90 minutes out of Hobart to Port Arthur, Tasmania's historic penitentiary, and trace the state's convict past.

Melbourne

After more than 100 days of lockdown, Melbourne can't wait to show off the trendy and tasty side of its inner-city again. Wander through the cobbled laneways, which are full of colourful cafes and quirky boutiques. Walk down Degraves Street and explore the city's arcades and street art, including works by British graffiti artist Banksy. Get your caffeine hit at Brother Baba Budan or Patricia on Little Bourke Street. To understand how embedded coffee is in Melburnian culture, pop into Industry Beans in Fitzroy.

Music lovers will have a ball of a time at the Melbourne Music Week-Extended to be held from 9 December to 28 February 2021. The festival will show Melbourne is ready to make beautiful noise again.

Perth

Known as the sunniest city in the country, Perth is also famous for its easy beach lifestyle, great food and wonderful wineries. For a bird's-eye view of city, explore Kings Park in the heart of Perth.

To get the full flavour of what Perth is all about, swim at pretty Cottesloe Beach with its cobalt waters, snorkelling reef and family-friendly sandy shore. Come March, it is transformed into an outdoor art gallery with Sculpture by the Sea. For a bit of culture, see Indigenous art at the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Sydney

One of the best ways to get to know Sydney is to go for a coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Tamarama (known locally as Glamourama). You can also take in the emerald city's landmark sites, such as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, if you take a walk from Mrs Macquarie's Chair in the Botanic Gardens to the iconic Opera House and beyond. It is a fabulous walk with even more gorgeous harbour views. You can spot Kirribilli House, home of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, across the water.

From the Opera House, wander to the Museum of Contemporary Art and catch Australian Chinese artist Lindy Lee's exhibition of ethereal and vibrant works. Finally, take a ferry ride to Manly and soak up the sun at picture-pretty Shelly Beach.

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