Surprising places to visit while you are waiting for a plane
Around many city airports there are busy highways, smoke-topped factories and industrial buildings, with multiple overpasses getting people to where they need to go. Canberra Airport is an exception however, as the airport borders rural land and is away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I recently took a friend back to the airport and we had an hour or so to spare before the flight. When I suggested we go to a plant nursery by the airport for a "quiet coffee", she looked at me as if I had lost my mind. "Quiet? Near an airport?" she asked, "Is that possible?"
Most of our visitors are surprised by what you can discover within 5 minutes of Canberra airport. There are plenty of places to linger over a coffee, do some quick shopping, visit an apple orchard, have lunch in a hatted restaurant or buy a hot roast roll from a pig on a spit - to name just a few ideas. Why not allow a little more time before your flight and look around for awhile - you may be surprised by what you will find.
Buy apples straight from the grower at Beltana Grange Orchard, Pialligo
Pialligo is the name of the rural area just outside the airport, as you turn off the main road and enter Beltana road. You may want to slow down as you drive in, as there are resident peacocks that cross this road, wandering between the grassy properties. This area has been called "Canberra's original food bowl', as historically it was farmland and orchards created by the early settlers, with its rich soil by the Molonglo River. Two apple orchards that have been there for decades are Beltana Grange Orchard and Kerrisons Apple Orchard, which are popular venues to buy farm fresh apples between February and June, depending on the season. If you see the OPEN signs, drive in and have a chat to the grower at the apple sheds and buy at least a kilo of apples. Kids, in particular, enjoy taking a bite of a just-picked apple - you won't find any fresher or juicier.
Kerrison's Apple Orchard, just minutes from Canberra International Airport
If you are looking to stop for a light lunch or coffee, stop in at Tulips Café or Rodney's Plants Plus Café, which are both quaint cafes located inside plant nurseries and have play areas for kids. They also have pots for sale, garden ornaments to buy and at Rodney's, in particular, has a large range of beautiful homewares to shop for. Next to Rodney's is the Spit Shack (on the property of Able's Landscaping), a takeaway food venue with a pig on a spit turning and roast meat rolls to buy. The Spit Shack has moved to this new location in the last few months, from its previous location at the entrance to Pialligo. There is now plenty of room for parking. Ensure you open your windows if you drive by, as the smell is sure to make your stomach rumble.
Relax under the trees at Rodney's Plants Plus Cafe
There are also two restaurants along this Pialligo road, both award-winning for their food and dining experience. Pialligo Estate is a scenic venue for weddings and events, with its restaurant being awarded a hat by the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide in 2016. Its Farmhouse Restaurant creates their cuisine with the ethos of "paddock to plate", with local and fresh ingredients used in every meal. Ask about their extensive market garden, winery vines and olive groves, as they continue the farming history on their scenic property. Their cellar door is appointment only and if you wish to dine in for a meal, they recommend that you book. Call 02 6247 6060 to check for availability.
Pod Food, which is located in a 1930's restored cottage, is a fine dining experience with a Modern Australian menu. It is located in the Pialligo Plant Farm, making the leafy surroundings a beautiful venue to sit on their deck and enjoy the ambience. Call 02 6257 3388 to make a booking, or to check availability before you arrive.
Fine dining with a view at The Farmhouse Restuarant. Source: Pialligo Estate website
The Vibe Hotel is located at the entrance to Canberra Airport, so you can't miss it as you drive in. This architecturally striking building is walking distance to the terminals, so it can also be used as a waiting area whilst waiting for a flight, in modern and creative surroundings. There are TV's on the walls with flight information, so you won't miss that important arrival or departure while you are lounging in their leather furniture. For a casual visit, you can pop in and sit at their Helix Bar and order a coffee or bar meal, or for a more substantial lunch you can take a seat at the restaurant. If you are looking for something to do on a cold morning while waiting for a plane, take a seat by the fireplace with a hot drink - the fireplace is impressive to look at and even more enjoyable to sit by.
Majura is the shopping area located next to the airport, with Majura Park Shopping Centre located here. There is a popular Coffee Club, food court, Big W, Toys R Us and various outlets to explore while you are waiting for the arrival or departure time. Across the road is the hugely popular IKEA, which always has a full carpark during opening hours. This extensive warehouse is a one-stop-shop for the house and garden, where you could walk around for hours getting ideas of what to do at your home. If you just want to spend a short amount of time however, there is a large café there to stop for a coffee, breakfast or lunch. Try the meatballs, smoke salmon or other Scandinavian food on the menu, for cheap prices and deals.
During Floriade, school holidays and at Christmas time, the Canberra airport area is busy with recreational holiday makers and tourists coming in and out of the city. Often Canberrans are dropping off guests to the airport or picking them up, with some time to find things to do in between. For tourists to the city who check out out of their hotel at 10am and have some time before their flight, there is plenty of things to do around the airport. The apple orchards, in particular, are popular to visit, as the locals like to support the farmers and also receive the juiciest apples in return, between February and June.