If you’re gradually swapping the couch for cafes and baking for beers with mates, but your feet are itchy for more, we hear you. You don’t need to wait for the school holidays or a border opening for an escape, because there are plenty of options for a long weekend or mini city break not too far from home. Pack your overnight bag and hit the road with these options from our state capitals.
Get rugged up and into the great outdoors with mountain hikes or tantalise your tastebuds with fresh local produce before retiring to a crackling fireplace in a quaint cottage or cabin. It's a winter favourite, but great all year round, and with less than a 3 hour drive from Brisbane you'll be slowing down the pace and breathing in the fresh country air! Explore Girraween National Park, home to massive granite outcrops, boulders, running creeks and in Spring spectacular wildflowers - there are walks for all levels from beginners to experienced hikers. Check out Granite Arch, Castle Rock, the Sphinx and Turtle Rock or Mount Norman to name a few.
If you're driving from Brisbane, why not take the scenic route back via Queen Mary Falls. The Granite Belt has a growing reputation as one of Australia’s top producers of alternative variety wines. You'll discover new favourites among family run estates and small producers starting to make a name for themselves such as Symphony Hills in Ballandean (some of their wines even featured on Qantas's business class flight menus).
Cocktails at Bistro C in Noosa, a spot of shopping in Peregian Beach, or an afternoon drive into the hinterland, the Sunshine Coast oozes long weekend relaxation. There are plenty of family-friendly beaches and accommodation from Caloundra to Maroochydore, and romantic escapes for couples further north in Noosa.
Put your trainers on for a hike through Noosa National Park, take the whole family for a rainforest walk at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, or go for a dip at either Kondalilla Falls or Gardners Falls. Explore the Eumundi markets, stop for a beer at a local brewery, a sunset picnic by the beach or book in to one of the coast’s many award-winning restaurants for dinner.
Northern Rivers & Gold Coast
This is a big stretch of coast, so of course, there is so much on offer. Head to the hinterland - from Mount Tamborine and Springbrook in Queensland, to Mullumbimby and Kyogle in New South Wales, for bush retreats and rainforest walks. Or on the coast, there’s everything from a spa retreat at a flashy Gold Coast resort to a relaxing getaway at a boutique stay in Byron Bay or Kingscliff.
The Northern Rivers is dotted with boutique breweries, farm to plate eateries, boutique galleries and good shopping. There’s also national parks, family-friendly beaches and natural beauty that come in spades.
Blue Mountains & Hunter Valley
If clean mountain air, delicious food and wine and quaint country towns appeal to you, then this is a mini escape you need to take. Head 2.5 hours north from Sydney to the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine region, known for its semillon shiraz, and enjoy a wine tour, picturesque countryside and cosy farm stays. Further west, Mudgee is also worth a stop, renowned for its full bodied reds.
Make it a loop and head south for a drive through the Blue Mountains. The dramatic cliffs and valleys here are filled with walking trails, waterfalls and lookouts made for a picnic pitstop. Stop for lunch and browse the local antiques stores, art galleries and cafes in Katoomba and Leura, or go apple picking and cider tasting in Bilpin.
Fancy a spot of boutique shopping or antiques browsing in Bowral? Maybe a bushwalk in Kangaroo Valley is more your style? With quaint cottages, towns lined with cute cafes, and gorgeous scenery that can feel more like the English countryside than an hour out of Sydney, a short getaway to the Southern Highlands is the perfect recipe for a battery recharge away from the big smoke.
Ready for a flop and drop beach break? Hit the road north to the stunning Central Coast. From family-friendly Avoca Beach to picturesque sunsets at Long Jetty, quirky cafes, lakes made of fishing, and miles of beaches to explore, the coast has everything for a relaxing escape or a fun-filled family getaway.
NSW South Coast
It’s a classic mini break from the nation’s capital, but with such beautiful beach towns, what more could you want from a city escape? Boutique shopping in Milton, Ulladulla and Mogo, a bustling cafe scene growing along the coast, fishing, boating and beaches galore, the South Coast has all the ingredients for a getaway with the girlfriends, the family or a romantic escape. Why not test your climbing skills on the summit of Pigeon House Mountain, cruise up the Clyde River, or do a cheese and wine tasting in historic Tilba Tilba?
Think picturesque country drives, quaint cottages and bookstore cafes to while away the hours in. The Southern Highlands is home to some epic wilderness areas and hiking trails, from Kangaroo Valley to Wombeyan Caves, and the South Coast beaches are just a short drive away. Plan your stay in one of the quaint towns of Bundanoon, Bowral or Moss Vale, to enjoy open fires and red wine in winter, or summer BBQs and waterfall visits in summer.
New Zealand and Japan are off the cards, so what better opportunity to make the most of our underrated Australian ski fields?! And just a 2.5 hour drive from our nation's capital, we have access to the country’s largest ski resort, Perisher, as well as our equivalent of a quaint European alpine town - Thredbo. There is everything from beginners’ slopes to backcountry trails and black runs. Winter in Australia never looked so good!
Wilson’s Promontory or The Grampians
Melbournians are spoilt with the amount of incredible natural beauty accessible just a short drive from the city. Heading south-east out of the city is the magical wilderness of Wilson’s Promontory and to the west is the Grampians offering, quite literally, a breath of fresh air. The granite mountains and empty beaches are renowned for their wildlife sightings, including kangaroos and wombats, so if you’re looking for space and serenity, you’re sure to find it here.
Great Ocean Road
There’s no better way to hit the great frog & toad than with a drive along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. From Torquay to Port Fairy, Lorne to the Grampians, there are Instagram-worthy shots around every bend. This stunning region boasts national parks, coastal bluffs, surf breaks and quaint towns bursting with art and culture. Not to mention the magical Apostles right on the coastline. Stop into small towns for tea and scones, take five to hang ten at local surf spots or browse quirky stores, and art galleries along your way.
Daylesford Spa Country
Imagine a weekend staying in a picturesque country cottage, with a spa treatment, massage, long lunch and wine by the fire - now that’s a recipe for relaxation. Head north from Melbourne for an escape to Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges - home to Australia’s largest concentration of mineral springs. There are also award-winning restaurants and hotels, great shopping and cafes, and of course, beautiful countryside to drink in.
Just minutes from the mainland, Kangaroo Island feels a million miles away. A whole third of the island is protected nature reserves, so you’ll be rubbing (socially distant) shoulders with native wildlife like koalas, sea lions and a diverse range of birds. Over on the west side you’ll find Flinders Chase National Park where, depending on the season, you might be lucky enough to spot penguins, along with some pretty impressive sculpted rock formations like Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. While the island was affected greatly by the recent bushfires, it still boasts a passionate tourism industry and community ready to show you what makes this island so special.
Stretching 430 kilometers from Lake Callabonna to Port Pirie, the Flinders Ranges are the largest mountain range in South Australia, and only a five hour drive north of the capital. Made up of towering ancient rock formations, cliffs, gorges and dusty red roads, you could easily mistake the region for somewhere like Mars. In fact scientists believe that this central area, a naturally formed, crater-like amphitheatre (Wilpena Pound), began forming over 600 million years ago. So the whole area feels quite prehistoric. For the best views out over the region, head to Yacca Lookout in Willow Springs Station. Accommodation ranges from eco luxury villas, to simple accommodation or campsites.
Come armed with grape expectations, and you will roll back home a very satisfied customer. South Australia’s premier wine regions, the Barossa and Clare Valleys, are both conveniently located within driving distance of Adelaide.
Here you’ll be able to sip, swirl and sniff your way around a choice of 50 cellar doors, all within a 40 kilometer stretch. The region is renowned for its Rieslings, some of which are among the best in the world. While the various wineries offer delicious menus and tasting plates, I recommend picking up a picnic basket and filling it with a collection of goodies from the various producers and stores. Then stopping to enjoy it somewhere along your way where you can really relax and take in the serenity. The towns of Clare, Sevelhill, Auburn and Polish Hill River are particularly quaint and worth a look in too.
Less than an hour’s drive north of the city and you will find yourself in one of Australia's most internationally-acclaimed wine regions. The Barossa is home to some of the oldest vines in the world, 80 cellar doors and exceptional provisions from talented and passionate producers. It's a wining and dining mecca, so you’ll want to spend more than a day here; fortunately the accommodation options range from bougie bed and breakfasts, to camp sites and luxe tents.
There’s a reason that WA’s Gourmet Escape Festival focuses so heavily on the Margaret River region.. We’re talking fresh seafood, surrounding farmland and of course those sweet berry vines; it's paddock to plate at its finest. Just a two hour drive south of Perth will take you deep into this gastronomic region where you can sip, swirl and sniff wine, make your way around craft breweries and distilleries, and sink your teeth into a myriad of tasty morsels. Then, when you can’t possibly fit anything else in, explore the regions forests, abseil down coastal rocks, go underground and explore caves, or of course, hit up the beaches.
A little known fact is that Western Australia is home to the world's largest wildflower collection; many of the species there aren't found anywhere else on earth. If you’re in the Geraldton region along the Coral Coast between June and August, keep an eye out for some beauties. If you’ve got the time, take a wander down the Everlastings Trail, you might be in for some of the most stunning wildflower sightings you’ve ever seen.
Take the road less travelled - Western Australia’s Coral Coast spans 1,100 kilometres from Cervantes, up to Exmouth in the north of the state. It’s less crowded compared to Australia’s East Coast drives, following the picturesque Indian Ocean through some of our country’s most noteworthy regions. It’s packed full of Insta-worthy photo ops, delicious spots to eat and myriad places to stop and swim. You’ll be able to explore rugged ancient gorges in its pristine national parks, and walk white sandy beaches. Admire beautiful wildflower displays and World Heritage listed sites, plus, throw in a coral reef where you can swim with majestic whale sharks.
Arguably the most famous national park in the Top End, Kakadu is a three hour drive south east of Darwin. It’s home to Aboriginal art dating back over 20,000 years, as well as incredibly diverse landscapes, from wetlands to dramatic rock formations and canyons.
Litchfield National Park
An easy day trip from Darwin (a one hour drive), Litchfield is like Kakadu’s little sister. It might not be as big in size, but it’s still home to some spectacular waterfalls and croc-free swimming holes like Florence Falls. Be sure to check out the Magnetic Termite Mounds, and the Lost City - a series of sandstone outcrops that evoke the remains of an ancient civilisation.
The drawcard here is Nitmiluk National Park, which is home to some incredible gorges (including Nitmiluk Gorge, commonly known as Katherine Gorge). There are plenty of hiking trails, 4WD tracks and swimming holes, including and the popular Edith Falls. In the town of Katherine itself, be sure to visit the School of the Air to learn how remote children are educated, explore the Aboriginal art galleries and take a dip at Katherine Hot Springs.
Keen to book an Aussie escape? Click here!