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Top 5 Historical Cafes in Canberra

Home > Canberra > Mother's Day | Cafes | Breakfast | Weddings | Lists
by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun! Find me on instagram: @australianrecipesbythebay
Published December 21st 2016
Update June 24th 2019
Number 1 on this list, Ivy and the Fox, has closed.

Enjoy a cuppa at these quaint cafes
When family and friends come to stay, I personally enjoy taking them to some of Canberra's historical buildings, pubs and cafes which highlight this city's unique history and heritage. Many of our visitors only know about the Canberra of today, which is fair enough, however I love showing them a different side to Canberra - of what life was like when the city first began. When going out together for breakfast, coffee or lunch, there are five historical cafes that spring to mind. These cafes are places where you can relax with a cuppa, whilst soaking up the character and ambience of some of the city's most unique and beautiful buildings. Why not step back in time and visit one this weekend?

ivy and the fox, canberra, cafes, historical buildings, outside seating, australian national university, acton, ACT
The historical Old Canberra House, now Ivy and the Fox cafe

1/ Ivy and the Fox
café has only been open for over a year, however the building itself has been standing for over 100 years. Old Canberra House, built in 1914, was the residence of the first Canberra Administrator and now stands grandly amongst the leafy trees and cottage gardens. There is indoor seating inside (with a cosy fireplace in winter to enjoy) as well as outside seating under the trees. As it is only a stones throw from Lake Burley Griffin and the city, it is a popular venue for garden weddings and functions. This café has kept the old world charm and features of this heritage listed building and added their own modern twist - see website here for details. For a full article on Ivy and the Fox café, see here.

As the cafe is situated in the grounds of the Australian National University, visitors need to download a university app to park during the week - however parking is free on weekends.

ivy and the fox, canberra, cafes, historical buildings, outside seating, australian national university, acton, ACT
History and character at Ivy and the Fox

2/ Yarralumla Gallery and The Oaks Brasserie has both "historical" and "quaint" covered in the one unique location. With wrought iron chairs, leafy courtyards, art gallery and historical cottage from the early 1900's, this is an ideal café to visit for a quiet cuppa or two under the trees. Most of the seating is outside in the courtyards, however there is often a marquee set up for inside seating and weddings. Walk around the café afterwards and admire the cottage and heritage listed Old English Gardens alongside the Yarralumla Nursery next door. Yarralumla Nursery was established by the Commonwealth Government in 1913 for the propagation of plants to develop Canberra as a "Garden City". A cottage was built in the grounds to house the nursery manager and this is the cottage that you walk into today, to place your order at the café. See here for the cafe website and for a full article on Yarralumla Gallery and The Oaks Brasserie, see here.

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Enjoy a relaxed setting in the gardens of Yarralumla Gallery and The Oaks Brasserie

3/ Terrace Café
is located at Old Parliament House (Museum of Australian Democracy) and exudes style and décor from the late 1920's. Inside there are black and white prints on the walls which highlight the architectural features of this iconic building. Take a cake and cuppa outside to enjoy the views across Lake Burley Griffin, to the Australian War Memorial in the far distance. If you have time, explore the building which was built in 1927, walk through Bob Hawkes office and sit in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Also take a wander outside to the historical rose gardens either side of the building. If you would like more details, there is also a walking tour you can print out to take with you. See website here for more details. For a full article on the Terrace Café, see here.

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The sophisticated Terrace Cafe, Old Parliament House

4/ Lanyon Café is located inside the historical Lanyon Homestead in Tuggeranong, 25 minutes south of the city. It is a step back in time to the early settler period, with the main homestead dating back to the 1850's and the outhouses at the back of the property were built by convicts. One of these buildings is now used as Lanyon Café, complete with low doors, small windows and authentic Ploughman's Lunch and Devonshire Tea's on the menu. The most popular area to sit however, is outside under the trees looking out to the countryside. This venue is also popular with weddings and events due to its peaceful location and scenic backdrop - see website here for more details. For a full article on Lanyon Café see here.

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Unwind at the historical Lanyon Cafe

5/ Millhouse Café is last on this list, however certainly not least. Although it is not technically in Canberra, this cafe is located in Queanbeyan, just 20 minutes away over the border into NSW. If you love history and character than this café is worth driving over for, as it was originally the managers residence of the Byrnes Flour Mill next door, built in the late 1800's. Diners can walk inside the ground floor and sit by an original fireplace for their meal, or sit outside in the leafy courtyard. This café has so much history, that the Mysterious Queanbeyan by Moonlight night tours visit this venue, to tell spooky stories of its past - and present. See website here and for a full article on the Millhouse Café, see here.

If you are looking for a historical restaurant to visit for some old world charm and service, then visit Chifley's Bar and Grill in Hotel Kurrajong (built in 1926) or the Tea Lounge at the Hyatt Hotel (built in 1924). With so many cafes to choose from in Canberra, ranging from early settler to the modern industrial cafes of today, how can we possibly try them all? I'm not sure - but we can certainly have fun trying!

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The fascinating Millhouse Cafe, built in 1883

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Why? Go back in time this weekend!
When: See individual websites for details
Where: See individual websites for details
Cost: See individual websites for details
Your Comment
Hi Sue,

Online the Ivy and the Fox is listed as permanently closed. Is that your understanding?


by gerry (score: 0|5) 1191 days ago
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