Travel Black Book: Ambassadors Series

Canberra: Australia's best all-in-one city

The best of home: Ambassadors to Singapore provide an insider's guide to their favourite destinations

Who: Mr Bruce Gosper, 59, Austrialian High Commissioner to Singapore.

Favourite destination: Canberra, Australia's vibrant and beautiful capital in the south.

It offers the best of Australia: great national, cultural and educational institutions; lifestyles attuned to sport and recreation, whether high-level sports, cycling, bush-walking or family-friendly activities; fine food and wine and some good nightlife; as well as national parks, and great beaches and decent ski fields about two hours away.

SEE

Canberra is a city in a park and a car is essential if you want to take everything in. To get a good perspective, head up to viewing points on Mount Ainslie or Red Hill.

Then head to The National Arboretum Canberra (www.national arboretum.act.gov.au), a 250ha site with more than 44,000 trees from more than 100 countries - many of which are rare, endangered or symbolic.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens (www.anbg.gov.au) on the slopes of Black Mountainhas the world's most comprehensive display of living Australian native plants.

Further afield, Namadgi National Park (www.australia.com/en/places/namadgi.html) and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (www.tidbin billa.act.gov.au) will give you a sense of the region's natural flora and are great for long walks. Wear good shoes and take along water. Also, always walk with a friend.

  • GETTING THERE

  • Singapore Airlines flies to Canberra on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

  • TIPS

  • • Canberra is perfect for a three- or four-day trip. I suggest taking a Thursday night flight, which gets you there on Friday morning, and flying back on Monday night.

    • My favourite times to visit are when the seasons change, which shows off the national monuments against the gorgeous backdrop of the changing colours of autumn (March to April) or spring (September to October), when all of the blossoms are out.

    • The airport in Canberra is Australia's best and arrival and departure are pretty stress free.

    • Canberra is famous for its clear skies, so whichever time of year you visit, you are likely to enjoy beautiful, crisp blue skies in the day and starry skies at night.

Many of the city's national institutions are near one another. I love the National Gallery of Australia (nga.gov.au) and the National Portrait Gallery (www.portrait.gov.au).

On the other side of Lake Burley Griffin, the National Museum of Australia (www.nma.gov.au) has a great collection which describes Australian history and society since 1788 as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories.

Further along the lake is the Australian War Memorial (www.awm.gov.au) - a tremendously moving monument and the most visited one in the country.

Canberra is Australia's best place for cycling and you can ride around the lake or explore the city's huge network of cycling paths.

A more serious cyclist can join the Centenary Trail (bit.ly/2gPwY80), a three-day 145km ride around the region.

EAT

For a good meal in Canberra, I recommend The Farmhouse at Pialligo Estate (thepialligoestate.com.au/dining/farmhouse-restaurant), a fine-dining restaurant tucked behind nurseries on the north side of the lake. It is a good place to dine with someone you love.

For modern Australian cuisine, Monster (monsterkitchen.com.au) serves a good drink and a must-try menu of dishes made with seasonal local ingredients, while A.Baker (abaker.com.au) has a restaurant, bar and a commercial bakery.

Ottoman Cuisine (www.ottoman cuisine.com.au) is in a quiet part of the city just south of the lake andhas a clean and fresh take on Lebanese food. Morks Restaurant (morks.com.au) in Kingston Foreshore is Canberra's best take on modern Thai cuisine.

Pho@Dickson (www.facebook.com/phoatdickson) serves terrific Vietnamese food, and my favourite Indian restaurant is Indian Affair (www.indianaffair.com.au), located in the city's south. Try the eggplant Masaledar Baingan, which is scrumptious with a Kingfisher beer.

Grease Monkey (greasys.com.au) and Brodburger (brodburger.com.au) are great for burgers.

Try a kebab at Turkish Halal Pide House (www.turkishhalalpidehouse.com.au) in Yarralumla. It is where former United States President Barack Obama was taken when he visited Canberra and asked for some everyday food the locals eat.

Nearby, the Southern Cross Yacht Club (www.cscc.com.au/yacht-club) is another favourite of mine. You can sitby the lake with some fish and chips and a glass of wine, while enjoying the sun going down behind Black Mountain.

For dessert, try Frugii Dessert Laboratory (www.frugii.com) in Lonsdale Street. It is very local and very good and, sometimes, they have a special durian treat - a dessert stick with durian ice cream encased in lychee gel.

You cannot go wrong with coffee in Australia and Canberra has some of the best. Mr Sasa Sestic has been judged the world's best barista and you can get his coffee at Ona Manuka (onacoffee.com.au/location/ona-manuka).

Molly (www.molly.net.au) is one of my favourite bars - a downstairs speakeasy with charcuterie and a good selection of Tasmanian and Japanese whiskies.

For a quiet drink, Bacaro (italian andsons.com.au/bacaro) is a wine bar at the back of restaurant Italian and Sons, which serves excellent Italian fare.

PLAY

There are great events in March when the rugby season has started and you can watch the Brumbies, Australia's best rugby team, at GIO Stadium Canberra in the evening.

Then visit Enlighten (enlighten canberra.com.au), a light festivalin the Parliamentary Triangle. It makes for a great walk at night around some of Australia's most significant buildings, all lit up with clever moving designs.

In the morning, return to the lawns of the Old Parliamentary House for Balloon Spectacular (balloonspectacular.com.au), a nine-day festival when dozens of hot-air balloons ascend. Get there by 6am to see the balloons take shape, lift off and sail over the city.

You can enjoy truffle-hunting in July and head out to the nearby wineries and distilleries.

The Canberra region produces some amazing wine, such as Clonakilla's Syrah Viognier (www.clona killa.com.au), one of Australia's best, and rieslings from Ken Helm (www.helmwines.com.au).

Be sure to try The Fog, a sweet aperitif made from Murrumbateman Shiraz, spices and herbs from The Canberra Distillery (www.the canberradistillery.com.au).

In September and October, there is Floriade (www.floriadeaustralia.com), a beautiful festival of flowers.

SHOP

On Sundays, the Old Bus Depot Markets (obdm.com.au), located in a converted industrial building in Kingston Foreshore, is where you can find handcrafted wares, jewellery and local food products.

At the nearby Canberra Glassworks (www.canberraglassworks.com), you can see glass pieces being made.

STAY

Near the city, try the modern and stylishly quirky Hotel Hotel (www.hotel-hotel.com.au) or the minimalist Peppers Gallery Hotel (www.peppers.com.au/gallery).

On the south side of the lake are East Hotel (easthotel.com.au) and the sleek Hotel Realm (hotelrealm.com.au).

For something different, Jamala Wildlife Lodge (www.jamalawildlifelodge.com.au) is a luxury safari style-lodge attached to Canberra's National Zoo & Aquarium. Its suites have floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can see right into the adjacent animal enclosures.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 23, 2017, with the headline 'Aussie's best all-in-one city'. Print Edition | Subscribe