13 April 2021

An Insider’s Guide to Queanbeyan

| Michelle Rowe
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The Q, Queanbeyan

The Q offers arts and entertainment for the whole family. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Queanbeyan is undergoing a renaissance, with a vibrant $74 million civic and cultural precinct on the way, a thriving arts and entertainment scene and heritage buildings getting a new lease on life as exhibition and community spaces.

But the beating heart of the city remains its community spirit, say those who know it better than most. The Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Tourism team introduced Region Media to some locals with very firm opinions on what’s great about their home patch.

Helen Ferguson at Queanbeyan Hive

Queanbeyan Hive director Helen Ferguson loves the character of Queanbeyan, with its heritage-listed sites. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Helen Ferguson, Director, The Queanbeyan Hive

The thing I like best about Queanbeyan is that it has real character, with lovely old buildings like The Queanbeyan Hive which was built around 1910, as well as the heritage-listed railway station. There is nothing sterile or ‘cookie cutter’ about this city. There are beautiful areas as well as not-so-beautiful parts – which means there is great diversity. The people living in Queanbeyan are friendly and authentic, and they all have amazing stories to share. The op shops, the parks and the river are, for me, the city’s special places.

Jordan Best

Jordan Best says she’s privileged to work in a venue as extraordinary as The Q. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Jordan Best, Artistic Director, The Q Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre

I know I’m biased, but The Q is such an extraordinary venue. We program so many different kinds of shows and there really is something to appeal to everyone. Coming in to work in the morning is a joy. Eating my lunch in the foyer, with the light streaming through our big windows … I am very lucky to work in such a gorgeous theatre. Outside of the Q, I love the quiet turns of the Queanbeyan River – watching the swans and their babies is the perfect way to clear your mind – peaceful and beautiful.
At Thirty 4 cafe on Crawford Street I’m always welcomed with smiles, and their coffee is excellent. In fact, I’ve been welcomed so warmly by the whole community here – Queanbeyan people are just good people!

Nichole Overall at Riverside Cemetery, Queanbeyan

Nichole Overall says there are ghost stories galore at the historic Riverside Cemetery. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Nichole Overall, Author and Social Historian

One of my favourite spots in Queanbeyan is our historic Riverside Cemetery on Erin Street. Opened in 1846, it’s the oldest official public cemetery in our region. With its picturesque setting, it offers a physical chronicle of the regional journey following the arrival of Europeans in 1828. It also acts as a monument to our people, their challenges and progress. Each gravestone has its own tale to tell: tragedies, success and more than a few mysteries. And of course what’s an old cemetery without some quite excellent ghostly yarns!

I also love the Riverbank Cafe, for more than just its river views. This cafe is a testament to the ingenuity and creativity that Queanbeyan has long been able to boast. It’s literally a piece of art: three converted shipping containers with a stunning glass feature wall criss-crossed with metal in a geometric design that doesn’t just enhance its appearance but strengthens the structure.

Its further innovation comes courtesy of the floods which have troubled us over our almost two-centuries-old history – it’s designed to easily be removed by crane and placed on higher ground should the outside chance ever again arise!

My other local favourite is Music by the River with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. This outstanding annual performance encapsulates how far Queanbeyan has come, particularly in the past decade or so. It is a tribute to the beauty of one of our greatest natural assets, and it brings not just the immediate community together but the wider region and beyond.

Jenny Cooper, Queanbeyan City Travel

Jenny Cooper and her husband Jim have run Queanbeyan City Travel for 32 years. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Jenny Cooper, Owner, Queanbeyan City Travel

Queanbeyan has some of the most amazing hidden gems. One of them is The Queanbeyan Lions Community Bookshop right next to our travel agency on Monaro Street. It’s one of the busiest shops in town and is volunteer-run. They have the most amazing range of books. My husband Jim was born and bred in Queanbeyan and I came here from Rutherglen when I was a child. We were childhood sweethearts and have run the travel agency in Queanbeyan for 32 years. What I love most about being here is that although Queanbeyan is a city, it feels like a regional town. You can’t just duck over to Coles or into the pub on the corner without someone saying ‘hello how are you?’. That’s something you don’t find in a big city. You walk into the Thirty 4 Cafe and you’ll be served by Mert; Tim will make you a coffee at 4th Seed or Anthony will give you a mouthful of cheek at The Royal Hotel. They’re the owners – you don’t see that an awful lot in a bigger city. We have some beautiful coffee shops in Queanbeyan. There’s also the Royal Turban Indian Restaurant – the food there is to die for.

But most of all what I love is the community atmosphere. It’s been an incredibly tough time for travel agencies such as ours during the pandemic. But we’ve stayed open four days a week, and we’re still here. We have amazing landlords, great staff and clients. Gorgeous people have come past and popped their head in the door or knocked on the window to say thumbs up, great to see you’re still here. And we are still here, smiling. I don’t think you’d find that anywhere else.

Mathew Griffin, Hotel Queanbeyan

Mathew Griffin has run Hotel Queanbeyan for 14 years and sees first hand the close-knit community spirit. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Mathew Griffin, Manager, Hotel Queanbeyan

I love the rich sporting history of the place. Queanbeyan is the original home of The Raiders, Formula One driver Mark Webber comes from here, as well as cricketer Brad Haddin, rugby union player Matt Giteau and a couple of Olympic gold medallists. This sporting heritage flows back into our junior sport, which has really strong participation rates. I also like the way people from all walks of life mix well together in Queanbeyan. I’ve run the Hotel Queanbeyan for 14 years and I see it first hand – we have barristers and tradies and more, all getting on well.

What the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council has done with the parklands is great, too. Town Park is stunning, and there’s a concerted effort to keep improving things, especially along the river walk. You can see platypus in the river … if you pick the right time of morning.

For anybody who’s coming to Queanbeyan, I’d say definitely check out the pubs. There are four, and they are all great. They’re family oriented and have good dining, and every one of them has been renovated. They also have a lot of history. Nichole Overall runs Mysterious Queanbeyan by Moonlight ghost tours and they often come through the pub. We have 67 rooms upstairs and, given the pub’s been running for nearly 100 years, there may be a few ghosts!

Charlie Tizzard

Charlie Tizzard, who owns Throttle Media, is a sixth-generation Queanbeyaner. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Charlie Tizzard, Throttle Media

I’m a sixth-generation Queanbeyaner and my family are direct descendants of the “Father of Canberra” and founder of the Queanbeyan Age, John Gale. My family has lived on the same land in Queanbeyan for more than a century and, while I’ve spent time in America and Europe and South East Asia, Queanbeyan has always been home. Seven years ago I opened Throttle Media on Monaro Street. There is nothing that life can throw at me that I can’t handle with the people on this street.

One of the places I really love is Melita, a tiny cafe that has been run by the Sakkas family for at least 30 years that’s just a couple of doors from us. Their food is so good that we have a lot of clients from Canberra who buy lunch there, and end up coming back at the weekend so their partner can try the food. We are blessed to have them as neighbours.

There is something for everyone in Queanbeyan if you are willing to explore the nooks and crannies. The cafe along the river is lovely. Then there’s the pubs. I can’t choose between them as they are equally good, but The Royal Hotel won an award for having the best pub steak in Australia and I actually believe it is the best in Australia – their food is second to none. They also get some world-class entertainment passing through. Queanbeyan is not a generic town. It’s got heart and soul, from its architecture and the types of businesses that thrive here, to its people.

Mert Toplu

Mert Toplu says Queanbeyan reminds him of his home country of Turkey. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Mert Toplu, Owner, 34 Cafe

For someone who was born and raised overseas, Queanbeyan feels like home. In Turkey in the 1990s, there were no big shopping malls – you’d find everything along the street, and that’s what it’s like here. The beauty of the city is that it’s small but it has a lot happening at its centre. You can find everything you want on the main streets.

When COVID hit, I had a million questions in my mind about how our business, then just nine or 10-weeks-old, would cope. We had invested so much in it. I quickly realised the community here just wants you to do well. They appreciate you doing something good for the town and are 100 per cent here to support you. And we did get amazing support during those COVID days. I realised then how connected to each other this town is, how strong the community is. They grabbed us and motivated us to keep going.

One of the really great places here is right next door to us – Queanbeyan Health Foods. It is run by a group of lovely ladies and is so popular that a lot of people come from Canberra to buy organic products from them. It’s great for us, too – people stop for a coffee while they’re visiting the shop. I also think The Q is doing an amazing job – their new creative director is doing incredible things. If I have time, I love to have a walk around the river … before coming back to our beautiful cafe for a coffee!

For more ideas to explore the Treasure Trail – Braidwood, Bungendore & Queanbeyan – see visitqueanbeyanpalerang.com.au.

Original Article published by Michelle Rowe on The RiotACT.

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“Wow”. No mention of Ciao cafe and cakes
Best coffee and cakes ever. Been trading for over 10
Years. Working hard through fires ( supplying 100’s of sandwiches every day for 3 months to our firies and volunteers) kept on going through pandemic. (No working from home for us). Been running pay it forward for many years to all the people in need in our community. But yet the newest cafe gets the cafe of the year award. Goes to show it’s not what you know or do. It’s who you know.

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