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Hotel Kurrajong review, Canberra: Weekend away

TIME : 2016/2/26 17:46:52

Hotel Kurrajong review, Canberra: Weekend away

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Our rating

3.5 out of 5

The refurbished Hotel Kurrajong Canberra shows the capital is embracing its history and heritage with elegance and respect.


Living history updated respectfully.


More parking spaces would come in handy.


Hotel Kurrajong Canberra


Originally built in 1926 to coincide with Canberra's Parliament House grand opening celebrations, Hotel Kurrajong was designed by chief architect for the Commonwealth, John Smith Murdoch, to house public servants. 

Located an easy level 800 metres from what is now known as Old Parliament House, Hotel Kurrajong sits on a quiet, leafy street in the suburb of Barton alongside government office buildings. An abundance of restaurants and bars are a few minutes' drive away in the trendy suburbs of Manuka and Kingston. The impressively imagined NewActon precinct, home to Hotel Hotel, Peppers Gallery Hotel and Parlour Wine Room, is six minutes' drive away.


Old-world charm and a palpable sense of history are embedded in the seams of the hotel. Perhaps most famous as the former home of Prime Minister Ben Chifley (the Bathurst boy preferred the simple comforts of the hotel to the pomp of The Lodge, and lived in Room 205 for 11 years), the building operated as a hostel for public servants and more recently as a hotel school.

A major revitalisation, a joint venture between TFE Hotels and the NRMA, has introduced a distinct art deco theme with interiors by Andrew Parr. 

Framed black-and-white photos of former prime ministers of Australia line the corridor walls, along with images of Canberra at the time the hotel opened 90 years ago. The current Prime Minister officially opened the hotel in February, saying: "This deserves to be a building that is part of our history."

As a heritage-listed building, great care was taken to preserve vital architectural structures and features, and as a result the exterior has not changed much in close to a century. Architecture buffs will recognise "the Canberra look", a nod to the prevalent style created by Smith Murdoch and seen at Old Parliament House, Hyatt Hotel Canberra, Peppers Gallery Hotel and several other landmark buildings. Hallmark features include pavilion-style architecture built in an "H" shape around garden courtyards and deep verandahs.


Wi-Fi is complimentary. Although many booking sites note the hotel has a business centre, this is incorrect. I was told during my visit in February there were plans to deck out one of the rooms with computers and printers for the use of guests, which would make sense given the large number of business and government clientele at the hotel.

Dedicated parking spaces are scarce given the number of rooms: there are about 35 spots in the side lot of the hotel and by the entry circle. Much of the adjoining street parking is zoned for stays of no more than two hours. On two occasions I struggled to find parking after returning from sightseeing, though it was easier after 5pm when the surrounding government buildings emptied out.


The hotel's 147 rooms have been completely refurbed with modern amenities including Philips flat-screen TVs, white plantation shutters, coffee makers and Zambeli products in the bathroom.

The interior styling by Parr is glam and elegant, featuring art deco-inspired furniture and elegant peacock motifs (guests who are not fond of teal blue might struggle, as the bright hue is splashed around liberally on cushions, rugs, chairs and wall art).


Chifley's Bar & Grill is helmed by award-winning chef Michael Chatto, who has created an expense-account-worthy steakhouse experience. The focus on premium beef (supplied by Victor Churchill and Andrews Meats) gives diners a choice of 18 prime cuts including David Blackmore Wagyu and Cape Grim Black Angus. Succulent scallops and salmon tartare entrees provided a tasty seafood foil for the meaty main course. It's a menu that will please the business traveller dining alone as much as the weekend getaway couples and groups.

In-room snacks also bear Chatto's imprint, with Mick's Nuts and Mick's Brittle produced in the hotel kitchen.


The hotel is in a convenient location and provides a handy base for exploring Canberra's best attractions. Don't miss Old Parliament House, National Gallery of Australia and National Portrait Gallery. Shopping options can be found nearby in the downtown precinct, Civic, or in the boutique-laden suburbs of Manuka and Kingston. 


It's an exciting time of activity and development in Canberra's hospitality scene. While uber-modern facilities at trendy hotels will be sought out by some travellers, I for one am pleased to see the capital embracing its history and heritage with elegance and respect. There's something essentially Australian about visiting the capital, a feeling that is enhanced with a stay at the historically important and now freshly presented Hotel Kurrajong Canberra.


Doubles start from $199. Hotel Kurrajong Canberra; 8 National Circuit, Barton; Phone 02 6234 4444; See

The writer was a guest of the hotel.