See O’Connor Differently

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Pot plants and flowers at Urban Jungle

O’Connor is well-loved for its lush streets and gardens, and its local shops – which is home to the plant-lovers heaven, Urban Jungle. Photo: Daniella Jukic.

If you’re looking for a home in Canberra’s inner north where the streets are shaded by lush trees, the blocks are big enough for a game of backyard cricket and heritage-listed properties abound, O’Connor could be the suburb for you. Characterised by established gardens, a high ratio of detached single dwelling houses to high-density housing (increasingly rare in the inner north) and proximity to Civic, ANU and Dickson, it’s no surprise that O’Connor’s median house price is a cool $1.005 million.

Thinking about visiting or moving to O’Connor? Here’s what you need to know.

History

Gazetted in 1928, O’Connor is named after legislator and federalist Richard Edward O’Connor. Its streets are named after Australian flora, legislators, pioneers and explorers.

Many people aren’t aware that O’Connor’s boundary includes the Bruce/O’Connor Ridge Nature Reserve. This elevated area lies between houses in O’Connor and the nearby Australian Institute of Sport in Bruce.

And of course, you can’t talk about O’Connor without mentioning the Tocumwal Housing Precinct, which spans across eight of the suburb’s cul-de-sacs. The precinct is a cluster of distinctive, pre-fabricated homes that were originally built for the US Army Corps during World War II at Tocumwal air force base in New South Wales.

Transported to Canberra in the late 1940s to address a critical housing shortage, they’re now heritage listed and recognised as an important part of the capital’s past.

Shops and eateries

O’Connor’s small shopping centre has all the basics you could want: a supermarket, a hairdresser, post office, pharmacy and physiotherapist.

The Duxton bar and restaurant is the local watering hole, famous for trivia nights and pub-food that’s a little bit fancy. Photo: Daniella Jukic.

Food-wise, The Duxton bar and restaurant is something of a local institution, famous for its trivia nights and top-notch pub food. Takeaway joint Flatheads serves up crispy fish and chips, pizza and burgers, and Vietnamese restaurant Tu Do has been delighting locals with cheap and cheerful dishes like spicy beef noodle soup since the 1990s.

You can also enjoy European cuisine at the Australian Croatian Club and Polish White Eagle Club, which are just down the road from O’Connor shops.

Flatheads at O’Connor shops offers coffee, baked goods and a killer fish and chips takeaway menu. Open from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm, seven days a week. Photo: Daniella Jukic.

Places of interest and things to do

  • Explore O’Connor Ridge.The O’Connor Ridge Nature Reserve is an extensive strip of land popular with bushwalkers and mountain bike riders because of its extensive network of trails. Part of Canberra Nature Park, access to the reserve is from Dryandra Street.
  • Immerse yourself in everything French at Alliance Francaise in McCaughey Street. Brush up on your French, take a class, or learn more about Francophonie Cultures. Events and activities include French music, art exhibitions, open days and café style discussions on science, history, literature and the regions of France. Each year the Alliance Française French Film Festival showcases around 40 new and classic French films to a growing Canberra audience.
  • Visit the Banksia Street Wetland. Built in 2010, the Banksia Street Wetland improves water quality of the Sullivan’s Creek catchment. For information about wetland meetups, which usually consist of weeding, mulching, pruning, rubbish removal and coffee drinking, follow the wetlands on Facebook.

Or visit one of the many Little Street Libraries around the suburb. Photo: Genevieve Jacobs.

Playgrounds and parks

Popular parks and playgrounds in O’Connor include:

  • O’Connor Dog Park. This dog park is also known as the Inner North Dog Park. In the parkland just off Fairfax Street, dog owners can enjoy some playtime with their furry friends. There are two good-sized segregated enclosures for large and smaller dogs, a well-gravelled carpark and groovy looking human-dog drinking fountains.
  • Finn Street Park. Designed by architects as a toddler-friendly nature play space back in 2017, Finn Street Park mimics a bush environment – think plenty of rocks, sticks and logs to play with. It also has an outdoor amphitheatre with rock seating, dry river bed and a grassy maze.
  • Tennis Court Playground (Boronia Drive). Tucked away next to the O’Connor Tennis Club with parkland on one side, this classic suburban playground has a swing set (including a baby swing) and climbing frame with a slide.

Getting around

O’Connor’s central location makes getting around easy. It’s a ten-minute bike ride to Civic and the ANU, while also being close to the light rail line. There are light rail stops along Northbourne Avenue, including at the Macarthur Street intersection.

Transport Canberra bus routes 50 and 51 service O’Connor.

The Duxton offers a spacious indoor and outdoor area for locals. Photo: Daniella Jukic.

Schools

There are three schools in O’Connor: O’Connor Cooperative School is a public school on Macpherson Street, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School is on Boronia Drive, and Black Mountain School on Cockle Street, which provides education for children with additional needs.

Lyneham High School is one suburb away, while Dickson College is a short drive away and caters to Year 11 and 12 students.

Why the locals love it

The local IGA has friendly staff on hand to help with your shopping needs. Photo: Daniella Jukic, We Are Found.

As an older ‘garden’ suburb, residents say that one of the biggest perks of living in O’Connor is the feeling of being surrounded by nature. Bushland, including O’Connor Ridge, is easy to access, while many blocks have large trees and gardens that attract wildlife.

It’s a popular suburb for people from all walks of life who appreciate living close to Northbourne Avenue, Civic, Dickson and the Australian National University.

Quick facts

  • Median age: 34 years
  • Median weekly household income: $2,129
  • Median weekly rent: $380
  • Houses vs. apartments: 65.8% houses; 19.3% apartments
  • Suburb sales record (excludes land sales): $2,440,000 in 2018

Source: 2016 Census.

Want to find the latest real estate listings for sale and rent in O'Connor? Zango can help you find them:

Do you live, or have you previously lived, in O’Connor? What are your favourite things about the suburb? What advice would you give to people considering moving there? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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10 Responses to See O’Connor Differently
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Fairs Fairs 6:27 pm 12 Nov 16

Holden Caulfield said :

As a former resident I always used to think the O’Connor Shops were (and still are) ripe for redevelopment, or new opportunities is perhaps a better term. The Duxton (and All Bar Nun before it) are all fine and dandy, but it’d be nice to have more diverse food options there.

39 Steps was pretty average when it first opened and TBH I’m surprised it’s still open.

I’m still pining for Delicateating, which paved the way (in Canberra at least) in the late 1990s for contemporary casual dining in the burbs. Prior to Duxton taking over that whole corner, there were a few decent options.

Now it’s just one big pub. A good one for the most part, but give me a shops with a Flatheads at its prime, Delicateating and the old Vietnamese on the corner (which is now the Griffith Vietnamese) over one pub any day.

That aside O’Connor was a great place to live.

The Duxton have not only taken over the corner, with their outdoor seating and forcing pedestrians to funnel through the drunks on either side of the pavement (a few of us nicknamed this “The Duxton Drunken Alley”) to get to the shops but are now trying to drive residents out with their new outdoor terraced area for DJ’s and bands and their continual push for 2am opening hours! Bring back “Delicateatting”, bring back the Vietnamese Restaurant… bring back decent pub owners who didn’t try to take over the area!

Kalliste Kalliste 7:28 pm 07 Aug 15

Zan said :

When I moved to O’Connor I was about 8 years old. We lived in the last street of O’Connor then which was the corner of Wonga Street and Coolibah Crescent. We played in the drain opposite. The Govie houses were not quite finished as drainage and fencing was not completed. I trod on a nail on a fence post that had not been put up. We used to walk up the hill (where Banskia Drive/Brigalow Street is) and stood on the top and away in the far distance was a little stone church. I would say that would have been the early 1950s.

When I moved to O’Connor I was about 4 and we lived in Way street in that government housing I imagine was going up when you lived there, based on minimal research it looks like they were part of the Tocumwal Precinct which I never knew about O’Connor.
We would play in the long strip of grassed area between the cul de sac and I remember losing a kite there one day. That was back in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

Zan Zan 7:24 pm 07 Aug 15

Yes, St Ninian’s Church. It was so far away from O’Connor across the sheep paddocks.

Nilrem Nilrem 4:32 pm 07 Aug 15

Zan said :

When I moved to O’Connor I was about 8 years old. We lived in the last street of O’Connor then which was the corner of Wonga Street and Coolibah Crescent. We played in the drain opposite. The Govie houses were not quite finished as drainage and fencing was not completed. I trod on a nail on a fence post that had not been put up. We used to walk up the hill (where Banskia Drive/Brigalow Street is) and stood on the top and away in the far distance was a little stone church. I would say that would have been the early 1950s.

Cool! Was that the little stone church in Lyneham near Mouat Street?

Zan Zan 3:40 pm 07 Aug 15

When I moved to O’Connor I was about 8 years old. We lived in the last street of O’Connor then which was the corner of Wonga Street and Coolibah Crescent. We played in the drain opposite. The Govie houses were not quite finished as drainage and fencing was not completed. I trod on a nail on a fence post that had not been put up. We used to walk up the hill (where Banskia Drive/Brigalow Street is) and stood on the top and away in the far distance was a little stone church. I would say that would have been the early 1950s.

MERC600 MERC600 1:46 pm 07 Aug 15

Alexandra I enjoy reading your ‘Look Around’ articles. Even after 36 years in this joint there are suburbs I’ve not been to, and you certainly do dig out interesting facts..

Doesn’t seem to have any statues in the park. Perhaps one of Todd Carney would fill the void. He helped put O’Connor on the map.

Nilrem Nilrem 1:22 pm 07 Aug 15

Actually with Northbourne Avenue and Barry/Gungahlin Drives on each side. Gungahlin Drive is disliked by O’Connorites because it cut through the lovely native bushland on Bruce and O’Connor Ridges.

Agree with the previous rioters on the perils of the megapub taking over the shops. They recently closed down a perfectly good fish and chip shop (Flatheads) for their own …. private dining room. I just don’t know how we survived without one of those!

The Polo (Polish Club) is a great venue, and pokie free (hooray), but technically in Turner, because it is on the other side of David Street from the shops.

Antagonist Antagonist 11:26 am 07 Aug 15

It is interesting to look back at the area to see how it has changed since I lived there in the 80s. I have many fond memories, but O’Connor has moved on and evolved somewhat these days. I would not say it is more busy (it has always been so), but the area definitely has a different ‘feel’ or ‘vibe’ these days. I recall an earlier attempt to rejuvenate the Shops in the 80s. The old and run down Shop-Rite was given a face lift and replaced with a flash looking Food Master (which remained remained dingy and unchanged inside). Meanwhile, the newsagent changed owners and I scored my first job delivering newspapers to all of the units on Northbourne Ave from Macarthur Ave down to Barry Drive for $5 a day. And boy did I pump some money into the ‘Ghosts n Goblins’ game machine in the old take away.

These shops were also the place I first fell in love – when I first saw Tony Brown’s 1981 XD ESP, which I would own many years later. And I fell in love a second time a few years later when the owners of the Food Master pulled up in their 1983 XE ESP. Sweet memories.

And I often wonder whatever became of Dr Harris. Not only was he the family doctor, but he delivered quite a few people from our family at the Canberra Hospital. I heard rumours that he was still working in the late 90s, but have heard nothing since.

astrojax astrojax 10:53 am 07 Aug 15

Holden Caulfield said :

As a former resident I always used to think the O’Connor Shops were (and still are) ripe for redevelopment, or new opportunities is perhaps a better term. The Duxton (and All Bar Nun before it) are all fine and dandy, but it’d be nice to have more diverse food options there.

39 Steps was pretty average when it first opened and TBH I’m surprised it’s still open.

I’m still pining for Delicateating, which paved the way (in Canberra at least) in the late 1990s for contemporary casual dining in the burbs. Prior to Duxton taking over that whole corner, there were a few decent options.

Now it’s just one big pub. A good one for the most part, but give me a shops with a Flatheads at its prime, Delicateating and the old Vietnamese on the corner (which is now the Griffith Vietnamese) over one pub any day.

That aside O’Connor was a great place to live.

delicateating, yes, but the vietnamese [village?] used to be in duxton’s corner location was brilliant, with tudo down the block – awesome. bernadettes started in the old post office space now long swallowed by delicateating et al. there was quite a good traditional mexican in the same spot after her. and marinetti’s was an institution. yes, bring it back, the cosmopolitan choice it once was!

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 10:41 am 07 Aug 15

As a former resident I always used to think the O’Connor Shops were (and still are) ripe for redevelopment, or new opportunities is perhaps a better term. The Duxton (and All Bar Nun before it) are all fine and dandy, but it’d be nice to have more diverse food options there.

39 Steps was pretty average when it first opened and TBH I’m surprised it’s still open.

I’m still pining for Delicateating, which paved the way (in Canberra at least) in the late 1990s for contemporary casual dining in the burbs. Prior to Duxton taking over that whole corner, there were a few decent options.

Now it’s just one big pub. A good one for the most part, but give me a shops with a Flatheads at its prime, Delicateating and the old Vietnamese on the corner (which is now the Griffith Vietnamese) over one pub any day.

That aside O’Connor was a great place to live.

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