Quick summary of the Park Hyatt Canberra, the pros: beautiful hotel, quiet, very nice, modern room, nice facilities. The cons: room had zero view, expensive everything (but I kinda knew that going in).
Yes, there is a Park Hyatt in Canberra. Surprised? I was, too.
When I was planning my short trip to Australia several months ago, I was looking for a second destination to visit besides Sydney. Melbourne was an option, of course, but Canberra stuck around on my list long enough for me to settle on it. The chain hotel options were the Crowne Plaza Canberra or the Park Hyatt Canberra. I went with the Hyatt, as I had a Hyatt anniversary night, and the Park Hyatt Canberra is amazingly only a Category 4.
The hotel is actually called the “Hyatt Hotel Canberra – A Park Hyatt Hotel.” The website clearly shows it’s a Park Hyatt, but the name is a bit different. My guess is that Hyatt is doing their best to keep the historic “Hotel Canberra” name within their own title for the hotel.
So, what’s in Canberra?
It’s true the “bush capital” isn’t known for much. When I mentioned my plan was to finish my trip in Canberra to a couple Australians, I got quizzical looks. I guess it’s not high on the tourist destination list. So what. I like places less traveled.
The only reason Canberra became the capital in 1908 was because rivals Sydney and Melbourne quarreled over which would get the honor. Instead of duking it out indefinitely, they settled on a tiny town in the hills, roughly midway between the two cities: Canberra. The decision to build a new capital city at Canberra has been lamented as “a good sheep station ruined.”
At least the name “Canberra” was an apt choice. It means “meeting place” in the local aboriginal language. Definitely a good name for a capital.
Arriving at the Park Hyatt Canberra
I arrived by train from Sydney, an experience that I detailed previously (SEE: Adding insult to injury…when your seat mate hogs the window seat). A taxi took me to the Park Hyatt Canberra. I considered walking, and I am so glad I didn’t. The distance to the hotel was *far* greater than I’d assumed when looking at Google Maps. The scale is deceptive, given Canberra’s interesting layout.
We arrived after maybe 10 minutes. The exterior of the Park Hyatt Canberra is pleasant, and quite a bit different for a Park Hyatt. It definitely wasn’t the gleaming, modern edifice of luxury I’ve come to envision.
The Park Hyatt Canberra is fairly close to both the current Australian Parliament and the Old Parliament building. By close, I mean 10-20 minute walk.
Lobby and hotel interior
When I arrived, there wasn’t anyone at the desk. A couple people walked in and out, and it took a few minutes for someone to arrive to check me in. This was a bit surprising, given the status of the Park Hyatt brand. But I honestly didn’t mind a bit. The building is lovely, and there was plenty to admire.
The Hotel Canberra is one of the oldest hotel in the capital area. When I toured the Old Parliament building, the guide actually pointed it out in an old photo.
The hotel has an interesting history intertwined with the parliament. It opened in 1927 as the primary hotel for politicians during their stays in Canberra, and was actually management by the government. Later, the hotel was closed and the building was used as an annex of Parliament House before being finally re-opened as the Hyatt Hotel Canberra in 1988.
After I had my room key, I made my way through the rest of the hotel. First, I passed through the tea area. The Hyatt Hotel Canberra offers a high tea on weekends. The food looked lovely. But my guess was that it would be a bit out of my price range.
There was a guy playing the piano softly, adding to the ambiance of an already delightful setting. Then I entered a long hallway and passed by the restaurant.
Finally, I entered the rear section of the hotel with some interesting staircases. I loved the design of the space.
There is a glass roof above the twin staircases, making the whole area feel light and airy.
Room at the Park Hyatt Canberra
My room was on the third floor on the north side of the hotel, not far from the staircases in the grand hall. As soon as I entered, I could tell that although the building is historic, the accommodations certainly reflect the modern style of the Park Hyatt brand.
The bed was heavenly. I am convinced most of my best sleep while traveling occurs at Hyatt hotels.
There was a glass of wine set out. Considering that I was a lowly Hyatt Platinum (now an even lower “Discoverist”), I’m guessing this is a standard welcome gift.
I did try the wine. It was awful. More likely it’s a decent wine, and my taste is the problem.
The desk faced away from the window and toward the bed and entry. Which was for the best…
…since there wasn’t any view to speak of. Unless you consider part of the hotel roof a “view.” This was a bit of a bummer.
The bathroom was beautiful and very large, just like the other Park Hyatt at which I’ve stayed (Milan). It had both a large tub and a shower.
Between them was the sink.
There were plenty of amenities for one person.
I loved that the shower was large. The shower head was directly above, and even if I was 6’4″, I would have fit. It still didn’t beat the shower at the Park Hyatt Milan (SEE: Park Hyatt Milan: A Review). That shower still reigns supreme. Best. Shower. Ever.
In the corner next to the door was the toilet and a bathrobe.
And of course a phone. ‘Cause what else is there to do when you’re on the porcelain throne.
Park Hyatt Canberra dining and facilities
The Hyatt Hotel Canberra offers a couple dining options, the most famous of which is the high tea. Tea was currently being served when I arrived on Sunday. The food looked amazing, and the setting lovely, but at $62 AUD per person, I definitely passed.
I looked up prices for breakfast at The Promenade Cafe for my first morning, just in case they were a bit more reasonable. Continental is $34 AUD and the full buffet is $39 (weekends they are $38 and $45, respectively). Even with the exchange rate, that was a bit more than I wanted to spend.
The hotel pool and exercise facilities are located outside the main hotel building to the west. I had every intention of taking a relaxing swim when I got back from my day out in Canberra. But after hours in the sun and tours through the museum, library, and parliament buildings, I was too exhausted. Plus, bedtime came early each day as I still hadn’t really adjusted off of California time.
Getting a taste of Canberra
It was obvious to me that Canberra is unique among Australian cities. The layout is much different than Sydney, with huge roundabouts and loops, and lots of walking paths. I found it comparable to Washington D.C. The stretch of ground between the new Australian Parliament Building and the ANZAC Memorial is reminiscent of the mall in Washington.
As I would find out, Washington D.C. was the inspiration for the city. Canberra is a planned city, designed by two American architects who won an international contest for the honor of planning Australia’s capital. An Italian-American architect was also awarded the honor of designing the new Parliament Building, which is literally built into a hill. He died just last year at 95 years old, in Canberra.
Both parliament buildings are well worth touring. I found the old “temporary” parliament building to be the better of the two.
I finished the day with a walk along the Molonglo River, before entering the rear entrance of the Hyatt Hotel Canberra.
I reminisced on my short time in Australia, and how I already hoped I could return with my wife. The country enthralled me. I knew I had only scratched the surface.
My stay at the Park Hyatt Canberra reminded me (yet again) that while it is nice to stay at a beautiful, historic hotel, you don’t get much beyond a nice room without elite status.Luxury is nice now and then, but more run-of-the-mill places do have their benefits (SEE: 3 reasons budget hotels DESTROY nice ones).
Overall, I wouldn’t change anything. It was a great use of my Hyatt certificate and 15,000 points for the second night. The hotel is beautiful, the rooms are lovely, and my interactions with staff were all pleasant. It is a great place to stay if you are interested in touring the Australian parliament, as both are quite close.
If we return to Canberra, I’ll likely look for a more low-key hotel option. I’d also like to rent a car and visit nearby parks. One thing left unfulfilled on the trip was my desire to see a wild ‘roo. We’ll definitely be back to Australia.
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