New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published September 6th 2016
Step back to 1883 at this charming cafe, with kids play area
The Millhouse Café is a quaint café located in Queanbeyan, just 20 minutes from Canberra's CBD. The name Millhouse Café comes from the origin of the historical building, as it was the manager's residence of the Byrnes Flour Mill next door, built in 1883. After decades of industry, the mill closed down and the manager's residence has since been used as a teahouse, bookstore, antiques dealer, gallery and residential home over the last century.
The Millhouse Café, which opened in 2013, is located on the ground level of this towering building, with the bedrooms used as dining rooms so diners can sit by the fireplace or in a private dining room. At the back of the property is a sunny courtyard and children's play area - which is an idyllic spot on a sunny day. If you enjoy local history in particular, this charming, family friendly café is worth the short drive over the border, before doing some shopping nearby or taking a walk along the river. With history coursing through each room in the cafe, it makes you feel like you are stepping back in time when you walk through the door.
Front entrance to the Millhouse Café, built in 1883
If you walk in the front door, like hundreds of people would have done over the last 133 years, look up and appreciate the high ceilings and stop and poke your head into the three cosy dining rooms. One has a toasty fireplace and all of them have a range of second-hand books on the bookshelves that you can buy. There is also artwork on the walls in the back room that you can buy, with exhibitions changing regularly. This family friendly café also has dollhouses, colouring in pencils and toys for kids to play with inside, just like many have done before them. When this building was the manager's residence, it once had a family with 11 children living within its walls, with the kids of varying ages all sent to work at the flour mill next door.
As mentioned, the owners of the Millhouse Café have been running it for the last few years and from the looks of the happy customers happily chatting to each other around the café, it has settled into the community perfectly. When you reach the counter to find a menu and place your order, the friendly welcome feels like you have just walked into a friend's home. The menu includes a wide range of sweet treats, all day breakfast items and burgers, toasties, croissants and a range of tasty main meals for lunch. The food on offer all sounds delicious, with surprisingly reasonable prices. This is another reason why the courtyard fills up so quickly at lunchtime, as it is a friendly and affordable place for locals to pop in for lunch and be greeted like an old friend.
Tasty toasties and croissants ($6.50), side of chips ($2) and delicious coffee
In the courtyard, there is also a colourful kids play area with cubby house, tea sets, toys, mini slides and balls to play with. The ground is covered in fake grass so it is a soft place to fall if your young ones trip over. There are sunny spots to sit under the speckled light of the trees as well as some shady tables down the side of the building. Choose between large communal tables, small tables for four, casual chairs by a coffee table or a couch in the sun down the side. Although this café is located on a busy corner, once you walk inside it feels like the modern world is left at the gate.
The Millhouse Café is a fascinating step back in time, where you can run your hands over the walls of the building and imagine what it was like there in era's gone by. If you are interested in the history of Queanbeyan, the Millhouse Café is often included on the historical walks held by Mysterious Queanbeyan by Moonlight Tours. These tours are guaranteed to put a chill down your spine as you tour Queanbeyan's historical sites and cemeteries.
The café itself was also a charming surprise, where everyone who walks in the door is treated like a local and given extra personalised service to make you feel at home. This makes this café more than a café - it is a place for locals to relax and come together as a community. At the time of writing, Queen Elizabeth Park across the road is getting a multi-million dollar upgrade, so when it is finished, it will then create a view from the front of the café across the road to the parkland and river. This new park will attract local families back to the area and the Millhouse Café is perfectly situated so it can be enjoyed afterwards. So why not head on over the border and check out the Millhouse Café - if you have kids they will love the play area and parents will love their particularly good coffee....