My partner Harry, and I, moved to Canberra at the beginning of 2020, but hadn’t really had a chance to explore the surrounding regions due to lockdowns, working weekends and a host of other ‘life’ dramas getting in the way.
But with a free day up our sleeves, we decided to take a trip out to Queanbeyan, a short 20 minute drive from home.
We’d been aching for some live music too, so noticing that The National Capital Orchestra was performing Dvořák at The Q, we decided to plan a day around that, starting with a quick hike in the morning, pick-me-up brunch after that, and some beers and barefoot bowls to wrap up the day.
Morning hike at Molonglo Gorge
We’d heard about Molonglo Gorge and the Blue Tiles Walk but had never gotten around to doing it. And, since it’s only 15 minutes drive from the eastern outskirts of Canberra and under 10 minutes from Queanbeyan, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity.
The trailhead for this meandering walk along the Molonglo River is the Molonglo Gorge Nature Reserve, so we parked our car there and headed off on the short return hike—around 3.2 kms out and the same back.
The walk itself was easygoing—a perfect way to wake ourselves up for the day. The track is clear and easy to follow, with only a few short sections of rocky terrain that require a higher level of concentration.
While hiking, I remarked to Harry just how different the landscape was here, compared to other hikes we’d done in the area. A little more ‘Canada’ than ‘Canberra,’ with the scattered pine trees, large grey rock faces and elevated trail route.
Looking down, you can see the rocky boulders and gushing body of water that make up the Molonglo River. We visited after a couple of months of heavy rainfalls so the river was pumping!
Brunch at Ciao Cafe & Cakes
After working up a sweat on the hike, we decided to drop in to Ciao Cafe & Cakes for brunch.
Ciao Cafe is a Queanbeyan fixture, having served the community for decades under different owners and business names, located in a beautiful building on Crawford St with a heritage-listed facade and iconic orange chairs out the front.
Formerly known as Continental Cakes, Ciao Cafe was recently acquired by a local couple Connie and Damien. A long time employee of the establishment, Connie’s cake decorating skills are well known in the community—she’s baked hundreds of cakes for celebrations all around the Canberra region.
I tried the Eggs Vego and Harry tried the Chicken Schnitty Burger with a chocolate milkshake. The meals came out freshly cooked; steaming baked beans and eggs cooked to perfection for me, and tender chicken with crunchy lettuce and just the right amount of mayo (with a side of crispy hot chips) for Harry.
Displayed inside were a bunch of baked goods but it was the cakes that caught our eyes—cheesecakes, mudcakes, tortes… everything! We’ll definitely be back for any birthday or anniversary cakes we need in the future.
The Q Performing Arts Centre
With our hunger sated it was time to settle down at The Q for a performance by The National Capital Orchestra. We picked up our tickets, grabbed a beer and a cider at the bar and relaxed while we waited for the doors to open.
The Q has a light-filled lobby, with one wall absolutely plastered with show posters from years gone by—you could literally spend hours just looking at the posters!
When the doors opened we filed in with the other showgoers and took our seat. First up, the orchestra was performing Cello Concerto by Dvořák—with the solo performed by an extremely talented Canberra cellist, James Monro.
But not before my absolute favourite part of all orchestral performances; the beginning tune-up. There’s something about it that gets those anticipatory show tingles going.
After Dvořák, we were also treated to Holland’s Festival Flourish, Barber’s haunting Adagio for Strings and Liszt’s Les Préludes. Beautiful programming and stunning performances.
We were pleasantly surprised by the extremely high standard of performance for a reasonable ticket price and we’ll be keeping our eye out for more orchestral performances at The Q in the near future.
Barefoot bowls at Campbell & George
To finish up the day, we headed over to Queanbeyan’s OG local, Campbell & George.
Established in 1934, it’s an institution that’s clearly seen generations of Queanbeyan locals pass through its doors, offering up a bistro, a private restaurant, a sports bar, an impressive beer garden and of course, their bowling green.
Opting for a bowl of wedges from the bistro, we kicked off our shoes and played a few rounds of barefoot bowls, all while sipping craft beer and basking in the setting autumn sun.
What a day in Queanbeyan! There were activities galore, all extremely accessible, no huge crowds but good vibes abounding, all delivered with a smidgen of old world charm by hardworking, unpretentious Queanbeyan hosts. We’d highly recommend a day out in Queanbeyan for old fashioned good times.