Haven’t been to Watson? Chances are you’ve driven past on the Federal Highway before crossing the ACT border on the way to Sydney.While it might feel like the edge of town when you’re leaving Canberra, Watson is really just a stone’s throw from Civic, Mount Majura Nature Reserve, Dickson Shops, the Australian Catholic University and Exhibition Park in Canberra.
Watson is a charming, residential suburb populated by students, families and retirees. It’s also a suburb in flux, as developers introduce townhouses and apartments at its north, including on the site of the old Starlight Drive-In cinema (though the developers did keep the original drive-in sign on display outside the complex).
Thinking about visiting or moving to Watson? Here’s what you need to know.
Watson was established in the 1960s and is named after Australia’s third Prime Minister, John Christian Watson.
The suburb has an active community association, which has fought for local environmental conservation and opposed high-density developments, particularly in North Watson, since the early 1990s. Its campaigning is one reason why there’s still an 18 hectare native grassy woodland in the suburb, now called Justice Robert Hope Park.
Shops and eateries
Watson has its own local shops with a Supabarn, takeaway and post office.
The shops are also home to a couple of hidden gems like Filipino eatery Lolo and Lola (try the double-fried crispy pork belly followed by the halo halo espesyal, a tropical shaved ice dessert that’s as Instagram-worthy as it is delicious), and cafe The Knox Made in Watson. The Knox welcomes families and four-legged friends, and serves local produce, all-day breakfast and goodies from its on-site bakery.
Still hungry? Watson is a four minute drive to Dickson Shops, and an eleven-minute drive or a short tram ride to the Canberra Centre.
Places of interest and things to do
Watson is just over the road from Exhibition Park, meaning residents can enjoy a calendar of varied events all year round.
- Stock up on fresh produce at the Capital Region Farmers Market. Every Saturday morning, you can sample fresh regional produce from over 100 stallholders at Exhibition Park.
- Indulge at the Handmade Markets. Held over a weekend in March, June, September and December, the Handmade Markets regularly attracts over 20,000 visitors from Canberra and the region. Over 270 local designers and producers showcase gifts, homewares, fashion and food.
- Explore Mount Majura Nature Reserve. It’s a tough climb to the top, but the locals insist the views are worth it.
Playgrounds and parks
Parks in Watson include:
- Justice Robert Hope Park (Watson Woodlands), access off Antill Street. Connecting to Mount Majura Nature Reserve, Justice Robert Hope Park has over 500 box gums and protects a variety of vulnerable species.
- Harding Street Playground (Harding Street). Slated for a refresh in 2019, Harding Street playground is an older-style playground in the middle of grassland.
- Mary Kitson Playground (Mary Kitson Street). Suitable for younger children, Mary Kitson playground has simple equipment surrounded by grass.
Watson is right on the Federal Highway, so it’s a much shorter drive to Sydney. Heading the other way, the same road will take you past Dickson and Braddon into Civic.
Watson has two primary schools: Majura Primary School is a public school for preschool to Year 6, and Rosary Primary School is a Christian school for kindergarten to Year 6. The nearest high schools are Lyneham High School (Year 7 to 10) and Dickson College (Year 11 and Year 12).
Why the locals love it
“When you live in Watson, you can choose to feel like you’re in the centre of all the action, since it takes zero time to get into Dickson, Braddon or Civic. But you can also choose to feel like you’re escaping from the hustle and bustle of it all, since you’re on the edge of the city, Mount Majura is basically in your backyard, and if you’re like me, you have to drive past a cow paddock to get to work. It’s a funny little suburb like that, but it’s a nice place to live.” – Jack, 27.
- Median age: 34 years
- Median weekly household income: $1962
- Median weekly rent: $370
- Houses vs. apartments: 58.3% houses; 24.9% apartments and 16.6% townhouses
- Suburb sales record (excludes land sales): $1.57 million in 2017
Source: 2016 Census.
Want to find the latest real estate listings for sale and rent in Watson? Zango can help you find them:
Do you live, or have you previously lived, in Watson? 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.