What’s the best way to beat the winter blues? Plan a mid-winter break to escape the grey city days before they’ve even set in of course. Check how to use your annual leave to maximum advantage, then take a break not too far from home for a spa retreat, winery weekend, or beach break for some much needed vitamin d. Here are our top picks for where to escape to in New South Wales.
As Australia’s second oldest city, and a major port town, Newcastle has historically been known for its hard-working industries and heritage charm. In recent years, however, with an influx of people leaving Sydney for the beautiful coastline and lower cost of living, there has been an injection of quirky, creative influences.
Begin your weekend with a stroll down Darby Street in Cooks Hill, where you’ll find an eclectic mix of local boutiques, cafes and restaurants, grocers, design firms and galleries. Just over the hill at Merewether Beach enjoy the coastal walk, where the Bogey Hole, a convict-built ocean bath, is the ideal place for a post-walk dip. A city-centric stay should include a visit to both the Newcastle Museum and Art Gallery, whereas if an afternoon drive appeals, the surrounding Stockton Beach, Central Coast and Hunter Valley regions are all beautiful options.
If you had to name a town that embodies the country charm and cosy village atmosphere we city-dwellers dream of one day tree-changing to, Leura would be it. This quaint town, perched atop the narrow escarpment in the heart of the Blue Mountains has everything on the list: spectacular views, a walkable village centre, adorable homes and guesthouses, oodles of nature, plenty of creative locals and businesses, and good food. The agenda for a weekend escape would include a hearty brunch, a stroll from boutique to boutique, perhaps a bush walk, a wine by the fire with a good book and dinner at one of the many excellent eateries in town.
Who doesn’t love a winery weekend? Whether you’re after a tasting tour of a whole heap of vineyards, or a long lunch at your favourite winery restaurant, the Hunter Valley has it all. While you’re here don’t forget to stop by some of the boutique breweries, and produce farms to sample locally-made cheeses, condiments and other culinary delights. Then when you’ve consumed your weight in cheddar and shiraz, take a leisurely stroll through one of the national parks and reserves around the region.
Byron Bay is a tried and tested holiday destination, and it’s not hard to see why. There are stunning beaches, the iconic lighthouse walk, luxurious lodges, experimental locavore cuisine, Byron-made brands and boutiques galore, and of course, the endless beauty of the hinterland. Spend a day driving through the countryside, exploring the eclectic villages of Bangalow and Mullumbimby, before heading to the beach for a sunset dip and drinks overlooking the ocean at the Beach Hotel or Raes on Wategos. Keep your eyes peeled for migrating whales and dolphins off the coastline too!
If escaping the cold is your number one priority this winter, head to the mild climes and beautiful beaches of Kingscliff. This Northern Rivers town attracts boardriders for its consistent surf breaks, while a coastal path between Fingal Head, Kingscliff and Pottsville provides on-land activity for cyclists and walkers alike. Be sure to check out the Kingscliff markets on twice a month for fresh regional produce, and local crafts and fashion. Then for delicious seafood, you can’t go past Fins restaurant.
If a dose of nature and adventure are what you’re after, hit the road north to Port Stephens, just 2.5 hours from Sydney. This region is home to the epic Stockton Sand Dunes, where 4WD-ing and quad biking are the name of the game. Plus there are plenty of national parks and hiking trails, beautiful bays for kayaking and SUP-ing, and wildlife galore. Whale and dolphin watching are big business here, thanks to the massive Port Stephens- Great Lakes Marine Park. Snorkelling and scuba diving are also popular activities to explore the Cabbage Tree Island shipwreck, and local stingray and grey nurse shark populations. On land, the Tomaree National Park is home to a healthy koala population too.
With a long history of being a summer holiday destination for Sydneysiders, Port Macquarie has grown into a modern hub that flies the flag for its diverse, rich farming region. The town itself is home to spectacular beaches and coastal walks - ideal for spotting whales migrating past in the winter months! Taste local flavours at one of the organic cafes and eateries in town, many of which roast their own coffee or beer, or source ingredients from boutique farms nearby. Spend a morning picking strawberries or tomatoes at Ricardoes Tomatoes, and an afternoon sipping a wine with oysters by the water at Whalebone Wharf Seafood restaurant. Despite being a regional hub, Port Macquarie offers a slow-paced escape for recharging the batteries by the sea.