The Capital and a Colonial Boy… From Canberra to Big Ned Kelly.

It was not just the rain and flooding that altered our recent Big Things road trip… Mr Toby’s health had taken a bit of a turn for the worse which meant we had to shorten the itinerary quite a bit.

We had enjoyed our visit to the NSW Coast in Greenwell Point and the lovely South Coast Retreat but couldn’t continue our journey down the Coast, as it would have taken too long to get us home. The only other option was to cut inland. Plus we had found another accommodation option that we simply had to try out.

Another Google search for ‘Pet Friendly Accommodation’ had lead us to the Mercure Canberra and their Pampered Pet Package. So our journey towards home would be via Canberra.

The long But Lovely Way Round

To get across country we headed up through the mountains… Now normally I have a pretty good navigation radar, but on this occasion I simply had no idea where I was going – even with the Suzuki in-built navigation system! So perhaps we ended up going the wrong way to get to where we should be, but the drive was beautiful. For our next trip we will definitely take a bit more time to meander and stop off along the way, but we still enjoyed the amazing scenery as we travelled through the mountainous landscapes. Heading up through places like Kangaroo Valley, Barrengarry, Fitzroy Falls… (considered what it would be like to live in Moss Vale…) The drive was amazing – up and down, round and round, with simply stunning scenery on every turn.


A short jaunt back along the Hume again and then a turn off to Canberra on the Federal Highway and we were almost at our destination. This part of the drive was not very interesting; except for the enormous wind farm we passed near an area that looked like a giant empty paddock – which turned out to be Lake George.

As we neared Canberra we saw signs for an olive grove and farm called Grandmas something something (we could only see the word Grandmas). So figured since we had a little time up our sleeves, and we were feeling like a bit of afternoon tea, we would stop off for a bit – Woo Hoo, Devonshire Tea here we come. Upon entering the drive way of the property we noticed a sign that told us ‘Kitchen Closed at 3pm’ – so simply no hope of curing our 3:30itis there. (Note that this place would also play a part in our following day and the eventual addition of over an hour and a half to our homeward journey!)

As we arrived into Canberra the weather turned cold and rainy, but we made it to our accommodation, unpacked the roof rack and made our way into our room.


Land of the Giants

It’s interesting to discover what different venues interpret to be pet friendly amenities. As we discovered on our visit to South Coast Retreat there is BYO everything and our visit to Pier One Sydney there is plush bedding, ceramic bowls and a doggie mini bar. Here at the Mercure, the room is definitely great for pets – a doorway to a small verandah and an enclosed yard, and they supply beds and bowls… yet seemingly for giants!


Since we’d been on the road for a bit, we thought we would take advantage of the room’s yard while the rain held off. I have to be honest and say that we were slightly disappointed by the state of the facilities. The verandah was filthy – even if it was a sunny afternoon there was no way we were going to sit on any of the dirty chairs. The little security gate at the steps was broken and falling apart and the grassed area was quite patchy. It all just looked a little bit dirty. But it was still nice to stretch the legs…

courtyard1courtyard2Such a shame that the exterior was disappointing (it really just only needs a bit of cleaning up and repairs…), as the room interior was lovely. It looked to have been recently renovated, with pet friendly flooring and really nice furnishings. The bed was comfy and there was even funky chair (which we couldn’t resist breaking the rules and having a photo on…)


Management had left a welcome letter in the room (with the do’s and don’ts), which included advice to contact the front desk if we needed pet friendly activity and dining options during our stay. While Toby and Nan rested, Audrey and I took a walk through the property to see the folks at reception and find somewhere nice to have dinner. Apparently a previous guest with pets had been welcomed at a restaurant down town called EightySix/86 so a reservation was made in our name. The restaurant holds great credentials so we were looking forward to a ‘nice dinner out’ at a ‘classy joint’.

Cold. Cold, Dark and Wet.

Apart from the difficulty in finding the restaurant, we were relegated to an open outdoor area with no lighting, no heating and effectively no atmosphere. The rain was blowing in on us; it was so dark we could barely read the menu. Luckily Toby and Audrey were snuggled into their VIVO Pet Stroller, so they were none the wiser. There was only one thing for it… Wine!wine-in-the-dark

The staff were really nice (so very friendly and accommodating – even considered breaking the rule and bringing us inside) and the food quite tasty. But disappointingly it was not the lovely dinner out we were hoping for, so really there’s nothing more I can write here… Except as we headed back to the hotel we drove past a Food Truck Park that had undercover, outdoor seating with lots of light and vibrancy.

Meet Me At The Buffet!

For our breakfast we had the option of in-room dining or a special table with access to the buffet. We opted for buffet – when it’s an option you never say no to a hotel buffet breakfast!

The pet friendly table was in a lounge style area just out from the main room, so we felt connected to the experience. The staff had set the table up the same as any other in the restaurant and were courteous and friendly. In fact the room, with olde worlde décor, fireplace and comfy chairs was really nice and cosy. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but the artwork on the walls was all historic dog paintings…


After a leisurely, yummy breakfast we had a little stroll through the courtyard, then packed up and headed on our way.

Round and Round

Having not visited Canberra for many years we took ourselves on a little driving tour around the buildings. We stopped for a moment at the Australian War Memorial and thought about taking a walk through the grounds, but could not find any reference to pets on their website and after ringing them and staying on hold for almost 10 minutes we gave up.

A bit more driving around checking out the architecture and pondering on whether we would have wanted to spend more time here… we found a public park that had a lovely looking coffee shop opposite. Figuring it was about coffee o’clock and a park walk would be nice we tried to stop. And by tried, I mean drove around the Canberra CBD area searching for a nearby car park for 15 minutes with no luck.

Remembering there was the place called Grandmas something something up the highway, we decided to hightail it out of town and head towards the hope of a Devonshire Tea. We discovered it was called Grandma’s at the Farm for a coffee and scones. The location was quite picturesque but incredibly windy. Perhaps it was because it was the middle of the week, but the place seemed rather empty and a bit past its prime… I imagine though, that it is much like at home and on the weekends and during holidays it’s probably really busy and bustling. The coffee was nice and the scones really tasty, plus Mum got to have a bit of a potter in the shop and bought some olive oil. Out the front we made friends with the farm dogs and then headed on our way.


The Long Drive

We knew that this day would be the longest of our driving legs but what I didn’t realise at the time was that to get to Grandmas we would head back along the Federal Highway (the A23) and not the Barton Highway (A25) – Aaaaaah! We were on our way back to Goulburn… to Sydney…!

A stop off at the Yass Service Centre to re-configure and stock up on some chips, a few lollies and water and we were back on track. We/I still really wanted to tick off a Big Thing on the way home and hoped we would be there before sunset.

Driving the NSW highways, there are lots of rest stops and laybys to pull into, so it meant that we were able to stop a few times along the way and Tobes and Aude could have little fresh air rest breaks out of the car and some snacks and drinks.


The Big Ned Kelly

We were headed back to Auntie Pam’s for an overnight rest stop so decided that the Big Thing we would see was Big Ned Kelly in Glenrowan. We made it there around 6.30pm, which would give us time to have our photo, and then the puppies could have dinner and Tobes would get his insulin by 7pm. My boy was very tired and not 100%, but he was still keen for a little trit trot up the street and stood alongside Audie for the photo.

the-big-ned-kellyThe Big Ned Kelly – Glenrowan is the place of the last siege of the Kelly Gang. The Big Ned Kelly statue stands at 6 metres tall on the corner of Gladstone and Kate Streets right in front of the Glenrowan Post Office Newsagency. See more info here >

It was only a short drive from Glenrowan back to Shepparton where we settled in for a restful night and a relaxing next day at my Aunties, reflecting on our road trip – and napping.

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