"No time" is a well-worn phrase for busy people who struggle to take a pause from work commitments and life's routines involving family, school, community.
But a holiday and change of scenery need not stretch for weeks on end to make you feel like you've truly got away from it all. In fact, banking leave can be counterintuitive, leaving you stressed, and desperate for a break.
In fact, after one to three nights away, 75 per cent of Australians felt they had greater life balance, almost two thirds felt happier and almost half felt a closer connection to their partner and children, according to research by Choice Hotels Asia-Pacific.
"So, there's no question about the benefits," says Choice Hotels Asia-Pac CEO, Trent Fraser.
Increased availability of flights, particularly from low-cost carriers, has also made a short break more feasible, extending beyond Australia to Fiji, Bali and New Zealand, according to Simon McGrath, the chief operating officer of AccorHotels Pacific. Western Australia's Bunker Bay, Cairns, Palm Cove and Port Douglas are particularly strong short break destinations for the group. "Three or four days in the right environment can feel like you've been away for a week or more," McGrath says.
On Australian soil, travellers are spoilt for choice for great deals a few hours' drive, or an easy flight away from home, says Blake Hutchison, general manager, Luxury Escapes. "It's not uncommon for our members to book upwards of five short breaks each year on top of their annual two-week holiday away".
Hutchison says an emerging trend is combining luxury with a bit of adventure and holidays such as a two-night safari-style glamping experience in the Flinders Ranges, a four-day luxury small group tour of the Kimberley and two and three night cruises out of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are popular.
The growth in cruise bookings of two to three nights' duration is not surprising, given the Australian short break cruise market grew a whopping 60 per cent in 2016, says Cruise Critic editor Louise Goldsbury. No matter how long you can wrangle off, Traveller's short break list is sure to get you packing.
FIVE DAYS: TOP SPOTS
Now we're talking! A five-day short break sees you slip into island time in Fiji, cycling the stunning Alps2Ocean Trail, or jetting off to Bali for shopping, cocktails and phenomenal dining. If it means heading straight to the office from your flight, it just makes your stories around the water cooler that much more impressive.
THE PLACE Sheraton Tokoriki and Marriott Momi Bay, Fiji
GOOD FOR … island luxe, food and wine
WHY WE LOVE IT Can't decide between an island or mainland stay? Combine two nights at the newly refurbished Sheraton Tokoriki in the Mamanuca Islands, followed by a decadent couple of days at Fiji's newest overwater bungalows for the best of both worlds. Arrive by boat to Tokoriki Island, stepping into the warm, cerulean sea where you'll be greeted with the traditional Bula song. Opt for a beachfront room and be seduced by swaying palms, fabulous cuisine, tropical spa treatments and swims in the sea. Your South Pacific short break ends at the swanky new Marriott Momi Bay Fiji. With a dreamy lagoon, adults only and family pools, terrific food, tropical cocktails and fiery sunsets, you'll head home with your body clock set to Fiji time.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $210 a night for an island breeze room plus tax twin share at Sheraton Tokoriki; from $360 for a deluxe lagoon view room at the Marriott Momi Bay. South Sea transfers cost $99 one way for adults; $50 for children. See sheraton.com/tokoriki; marriott.com.au
THE PLACE Alps2Ocean Cycle Trail New Zealand
GOOD FOR … cycling, Alpine scenery, hot tubs
WHY WE LOVE While it may be a tad ambitious (unless you're Cadel Evans) to do the entire Alps2Ocean trail (301km) in five days, it's easy to cherry-pick highlights of this stunning alpine ride – particularly if you go with a tour operator. The A2O's official starting point is Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain, but alternatively start at the head of Lake Pukaki where you can ride along the lake's edge looking out over snow-capped mountains all the way to Twizel. You can then tick off either Twizel to Lake Ohau Lodge, or Lake Ohau Lodge to Omarama. The section from Omarama east down the Waitaki Valley, descending along the edge of Lake Benmore to Pumpkin Point, is particularly picturesque, especially when you finish with lunch at Kurow Winery. Days are bookended by stays in A2O partner accommodation including farm stays, friendly B&Bs or luxury lodges; soaks in hot tubs, and dinner at country pubs.
DON'T MISS Stargazing from a wooden hot tub filled with glacial water drawn from the Ahuriri River at Omarama Hot Tubs.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Fly into Christchurch Airport and either take a shuttle or hire car to Twizel or Mount Cook Village. At the end of the trail, fly home from either Christchurch or Dunedin airports. Cycle Journeys offer self-guided packaged tours, bike hire, luggage transfers, shuttles, accommodation and more. See cyclejourneys.co.nz; alps2ocean.com
THE PLACE Cicada Lodge, NT
GOOD FOR … Nature, adventure and food
WHY WE LOVE IT Nature and culture collide in this serene bush lodge in the stunning Nitmiluk National Park, near Katherine. With only a handful of rooms, Cicada Lodge offers a wonderfully intimate experience. Guests mingle over sunset drinks, while the small, attentive team look after every need without airs and graces. The lodge is a stepping stone to Katherine Gorge with canoeing, hiking, bush walking and cruising on offer.
DON'T MISS Sunset nibbles where the waft of gums and tea-trees on the breeze set the scene for the most Territorian of canapes – confit of croc tail with bush spices, or perhaps mushroom arancini with native pepperberry chutney. Alternatively, catch a blazing outback sunset with phenomenal views of the escarpment from Baruwei Lookout (about one kilometre's walk from the lodge).
MAKE IT HAPPEN Cicada Lodge is a 3.5 hour drive south of Darwin Airport. From $372 (single occupancy) a room per night in wet season, inclusive of welcome drink, sunset drinks and canapes, gourmet breakfast, Wi-Fi and in-house movies. See cicadalodge.com.au
THE PLACE Mercure Singapore Bugis
GOOD FOR … foodies and cultural junkies
WHY WE LOVE IT The striking red, blue, yellow and green facade panels of Mercure's newest Singapore hotel mirrors the primary hues of the nearby public housing. Inside hints of Peranakan influence are evident in the soaring lobby with pockets of motif tiles on marble walls and quirky Alice in Wonderland-style throne chairs, floating bookshelves and woven basketware. There are 395 heritage inspired rooms, including tiny standard rooms (15 and 16sq m) through to executive loft rooms (25sq m). An infinity lap pool overlooks the burgeoning arts and cultural precinct, while there are two onsite restaurants (including a new Cantonese eatery) and rooftop Skydeck.
DON'T MISS Singapore Art Museum, which boasts one of the world's largest public collections of modern and contemporary south-east Asian artworks opposite the hotel. The vibrant Arab Quarter with its colourful shophouses selling Persian carpets, silks, textiles and trendy boutiques is 10 minutes' walk away. Hangar in Arab Street serves up great coffee. Go-to Middle Eastern eatery Artichoke, popular with expats and Singapore foodies, is right across the road.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $SG190 including breakfast a night. See mercure.com
THE PLACE Alila Seminyak, Bali
GOOD FOR …Flop and drop, shopping, gastronomy
WHY WE LOVE IT The Alila Seminyak sits on prime beachfront real estate between Potato Head and The Legian in the Petitenget area of southern Seminyak. In front is a long sweep of volcanic beach; behind, the 240-room resort features Alila's trademark clean lines and Asian design with lots of wood, terrazzo and water. The eight room types are all contemporary in style and designed to maximise views and come with wide balconies (courtyard gardens for non beach facing rooms) and sun shading screens. Room interiors feature customised lamps with wooden batik blocks, rich wood walls, Javanese relics and Balinese gongs.
DON'T MISS A stone's throw from the heart of Seminyak, check out Bali Boatshed, St Tropez and Kim Soo. Have brunch at the legendary La Lucciola, dinner at the fabulous Mama San or Tiger Palm and be sure to check out hot new beachclub, Mrs Sippy.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $US383 plus taxes a night including breakfast. See alilahotels.com/seminyak
THE PLACE Ovation of the Seas, Tasmania
GOOD FOR … cruise and adventure junkies
WHY WE LOVE IT Get a taste of adventure and a taste of the island on Australia's biggest, newest mega liner, Ovation of the Seas. Passengers can go simulated-sky diving at sea, roller skating, attend circus school and rise 90 metres above sea-level in an observation capsule for 360 degree views. At a more leisurely pace, why not have a robotic bartender serve you up a perfectly mixed cocktail in the Bionic Bar, dine at Jamie Oliver's first Australian restaurant at sea (or one of the ship's 18 other restaurants) before retiring to your stylish stateroom. On arrival in Hobart, spend two days exploring Tasmania before sailing for home.
DON'T MISS The "Tassie Trout and Mount Field" shore excursion takes passengers to the historic town of Richmond, the three-tiered Russell Falls and to the southern hemisphere's oldest trout hatchery. Alternatively, visit the Musuem of Old and New Art (MONA) or join a hike to Freycinet National Park's stunning Wineglass Bay.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Ovation of the Seas' five-night Tasmania cruise departs Sydney on November 23, 2018; from $1099 a person, twin share as part of Royal Caribbean's "Seek and Save Annual Summer Sale". See royalcaribbean.com.au
FOUR DAYS: TOP SPOTS
With four days to play with your options immediately widen. Join the first comedy festival at sea, hop over to Kangaroo Island, or leave the kids with the grandparents for a luxe, adults-only sojourn in the Margaret River.
THE PLACE Pacific Dawn, Whitsundays QLD
GOOD FOR … First time cruisers, families, sun chasers
WHY WE LOVE IT P&O unveiled a swish makeover of the 26-year-old Pacific Dawn last year. Highlights include two new 80-metre water slides, a fun kids' water park, P&O's first seafood restaurant, Shell and Bones, a striking redesign of key public spaces, while the Pantry, an international marketplace of nine fresh food outlets, replaces the traditional ship buffet. You can even get a decent coffee onboard. P&O's tagline is "the fastest way to slow down" and its four-night Whitsundays itinerary offers just that. Once onboard all you need to figure out is where to dine, what show you'd like to see, and what, if anything, you'll do during the ship's day in port at Airlie Beach.
DON'T MISS Adventure lovers be sure and "walk the plank" or zipline over the top deck, steam your cares away in the Thermal Suites, and enjoy an haute high tea at Luke Mangan's Salt Grill.
MAKE IT HAPPEN P&O Cruises Pacific Dawn operates out of Brisbane. From $512 a person quad share. See pocruises.com.au
THE PLACE Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, SA
GOOD FOR seclusion, nature, food and wine
WHY WE LOVE IT It's easier than ever to get to Kangaroo Island thanks to seasonal direct flights with Qantas from Melbourne and Adelaide. Home to producers, cellar doors and wildlife at every turn, this natural paradise – often referred to as Australia's answer to the Galapagos – is also home to the spectacular Southern Ocean Lodge, set high on a clifftop overlooking the remote Hanson Bay. The 21-suite property has all the trappings you'd expect from a high end lodge stay – five star food and wine, day-beds, freestanding tubs and fireplaces, infinity plunge pool, luxe day spa and more – but its remote location in a far flung corner of Australia's third largest island makes it feel even more incredibly special.
DON'T MISS There's plenty to do on Kangaroo Island: Admirals Arch, seal watching and more, which the lodge can easily arrange for you, however once you arrive, trust me, you won't want to leave.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Southern Ocean Lodge is located 30 minutes' drive from Kangaroo Island Airport and 90 minutes from SeaLink's car-ferry service at Penneshaw from Cape Jervis on the South Australian mainland. From $1200 a person a night inclusive of all meals, open bar, in-suite bar, signature experiences and island airport transfers. See southernoceanlodge.com.au
THE PLACE QT Queenstown, NZ
GOOD FOR … skiing, hiking, alpine luxe
WHY WE LOVE IT Retro ski theme meets striking contemporary hotel at QT Hotels and Resorts' latest debut on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. The 69-room hotel has all the funky elements we've come to expect of QT: herringbone floors, leather straps reminiscent of vintage sports equipment in onsite restaurant Bazaar, Eames era chairs from the QT Collection by Nic Graham (QT Collaborator) and NZ Sheepskin, while QT Gel Beds, high-thread-count linen and white marble bathrooms up the comfort factor. Floor-to-ceiling windows, meanwhile, take in views of the Southern Alps.
DON'T MISS Take a walk up Queenstown Hill and have your photo taken in the Basket of Dreams, enjoy sunset cocktails at QT's Reds Bar or dinner at Bazaar with produce sourced from the rooftop garden. Don't even think of coming home without trying an iconic Fergberger.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Air NZ has daily non-stop flights from Sydney to Queenstown and a ski season daily flight from Melbourne. From $NZ280 a night. See qthotelsandresorts.com
THE PLACE Empire Retreat, Margaret River, WA
GOOD FOR… beach, bush, food and wine
WHY WE LOVE IT Escape the stress of modern life at this adults-only boutique retreat with a clutch of modern rustic rooms, onsite vineyard and Sodoshi spa. Set on 107 hectares of bush, vineyard and undulating pasture at the heart of the Margaret River wine region, Empire's main hub is an old stone and timber farmhouse, once the owner's own home. There are two loft rooms located in the historic house; another eight include luxury villas with open fireplace, al fresco courtyard and private courtyards.
DON'T MISS Wine tasting in the surrounding vineyards, surfing or swimming at Margaret River's fabulous beaches, or sink into a comfortable lounge with a good book.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $295 a night. See empireretreat.com
THE PLACE Ngurra Eco Lodges, Big4 Sunshine South West Rocks
GOOD FOR …surfing, nature, families
WHY WE LOVE IT These seven ground breaking new eco lodges meld with surrounding bushland thanks to photo decals by local photographer Adam Williams that replicate the landscape behind. Ngurra (meaning "place of home" in the local Aboriginal language) Lodges are ideal for people who love the idea of camping, but want all the creature comforts too: leather lounges, modern artwork, three televisions, full kitchen and laundry facilities (including oven, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer), en suite bathroom and two large bedrooms. The view of subtropical bushland from the upstairs windows is striking. Built locally to a design by Sunshine Resort owner Tony Mayne, local kangaroos can often be found right next to the outside decks, which also prove the ideal spot for a cold ale or two.
DON'T MISS Explore South West Rocks' six beautiful beaches, – including a rare west-facing beach with spectacular sunsets – drift snorkel on the incoming tide down Back Creek, and be sure to book for Mexican night (currently Thursdays) at the onsite Full Circle Eatery.
MAKE IT HAPPEN South West Rocks is located halfway between Sydney and Brisbane and just over an hour from either Port Macquarie or Coffs Harbour airports. From $490 a night for up to six people. See big4southwestrocks.com.au
THE PLACE The Big Laugh, Pacific Explorer, Moreton Island
GOOD FOR Fun loving couples, singles and groups
WHY WE LOVE IT P&O introduces the first comedy festival at sea onboard Pacific Explorer this June. Fourteen big-name comics including Jimeoin, Matt Okine, and Dave Callan will deliver 36 shows (or 2000 minutes of jokes) over the jam-packed four-night festival at sea. Everything from comedy workshops, comedy gong shows, where guest performers get judged by the audience, and intimate cocktail and comedy shows are on the menu. The round-trip cruise from Sydney also stops at Moreton Island – one of the world's largest sand islands – where you can feed wild dolphins, snorkel Tangalooma Wrecks or join an adrenalin-packed ATV quad bike tour.
DON'T MISS Go on a heli adventure for a bird's-eye view of the full 186 square kilometres of Moreton Island, see comedian Kat Davidson and the Scared Weird Little Guys, and dine at 400 Gradi by award winning Margherita pizza chef Johnny Di Francesco.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $526 a person quad share. See pocruises.com.au/cruises/
THREE DAYS: TOP SPOTS
Three nights opens up a whole world of travel possibilities. Whether it's a long weekend in Tassie, a country road trip, or flying across the ditch to the land of the long white cloud.
THE PLACE Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort and Spa
GOOD FOR … Flop and drop tropical stay
WHY WE LOVE IT Craving some pool time and guaranteed warm weather? The Pullman Port Douglas fits the bill nicely. A three-hour flight from Sydney (3.5 hrs from Melbourne) will have you on a sun lounge, cocktail in hand, by say lunchtime. After a scenic drive along the magnificent Great Tropical Drive, guests arrive into an airy foyer with soaring ceilings opening out to a seemingly endless lagoon pool, fringed by palm trees and clusters of low-rise accommodation blocks. The food at new onsite restaurant Aluco is great, there's also an onsite spa, beautiful lush gardens and friendly staff who go the extra mile. Located at the sleepier southern end of Four Mile Beach, the main township is an easy drive away.
DON'T MISS Yoga on the beach (included in Accor's new MyWellness program along with smoothies at breakfast, and salad from the lunchtime menu at $50 a day), brunch at Betty's Bohemian Cafe, the Port Douglas Sunday Markets and an SUP tour down the pristine Mossman River with Windswell.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $299 a night. The new My Resorts offerings including MyGlass and MyKids start from $35 a person per day with a raft of inclusions. See pullmanportdouglas.com.au; accorhotels.com
THE PLACE Valley Views Glamping, NZ
GOOD FOR … Glampers, countryphiles
WHY WE LOVE IT Patrick and Amber Tyrell have created something truly special on their 40 hectare holistic beef farm in the foothills of Mount Domett in the spectacular Waitaki Valley. Pull back the tent flap of your lotus belle tent for mesmerising views of rolling green pasture and grazing belted Galloways. Belle tents come complete with king size beds, luxury linen, feather quilts, plump pillows, pure wool blankets, fairy lights and even mobile phone chargers. Incredible home cooked meals are meanwhile served in a communal building, which also houses the bathrooms with hot showers.
DON'T MISS An alfresco bath under the stars and a long lunch at the fabulous Kurow Winery.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $NZ220 a night including continental breakfast. Hot meals extra. The property is 2.5 hours' drive from Dunedin Airport, or 3.5 hours from Christchurch Airport. See valleyviews.co.nz
THE PLACE Saffire, Tasmania
GOOD FOR … Luxury, food and wine, nature
WHY WE LOVE IT Saffire offers the ultimate mini break. Once you arrive at the luxury lodge in the beautiful Freycinet National Park on Tassie's east coast, there's nothing left to do except decide what you'd like to eat and drink, and even then, the exceptional staff can help with your decision. Saffire delivers the best of cool climate Australia – with a similar feel to New Zealand's renowned super-lodges – complete with stunning beaches, unspoiled wilderness, sophisticated dining by new executive chef Todd Adams, and guided tours. Twenty swanky suites offer king-sized beds, two-person showers, deep tubs, iPod music system and sun-filled courtyards. From your bed, the dramatic Hazards and Oyster Bay materialise from behind electronic blinds. Magic.
DON'T MISS Don waders and down freshly shucked oysters in waist deep water at a table in the estuary, join a guided walk to Wineglass Bay, and meet Saffire's resident Tasmanian devils.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $2100 a night twin share, including all meals, in-room snacks, mini bar, non-alcoholic drinks, a selection of alcoholic beverages and $100 spa credit. See saffire-freycinet.com.au
THE PLACE The Beach Club, Hamilton Island, QLD
GOOD FOR … Romance, tropical island luxe
WHY WE LOVE IT Picture this. One moment you're sitting in city traffic; the next you're kicking back on a sun lounge gazing across an infinity pool to the Coral Sea beyond. That's the beauty of direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Hamilton Island. The low rise adults-only Beach Club is the epitome of beach chic, complete with attentive service, terrific Modern Australian cuisine, and a 24/7 chauffeur service to anywhere on the island. A fresh, contemporary design lends the boutique, 57-room property a personal beach house feel. The 40 sq m rooms feature prints by Australian artist John Olsen, a freestanding egg shaped bath and rain shower in the mosaic tiled bathroom, oversized American oak armchair and plantation shutters. Ground floor rooms offer a courtyard; first floors have a terrace.
DON'T MISS Swim with turtles on a snorkelling trip just off Catseye Beach, dine on hawker style Pan Asian cuisine at Coca Chu, and join a yoga class on Dent Island.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $700 a night including a la carte breakfast, return VIP airport transfers, non-motorised water sports, gym, spa, sauna and tennis court hire. See hamiltonisland.com.au
THE PLACE Cider Suites, Orange, NSW
GOOD FOR … Food and wine, local produce
WHY WE LOVE IT The Cider Suites at Borrodell Vineyard are the ideal base for exploring NSW's coolest country town, blessed with a thriving food and wine scene. Both suites offer a contemporary, environmentally sustainable design with high ceilings, cosy fireplace, king-sized bedroom, heated concrete floors, airconditioning, double glazed floor to ceiling windows and a spa bath. At the end of a day spent exploring country roads, settle in to the window seat with a bottle of cool climate wine for magical sunset vistas across Towac Valley to the distant mountain range.
DON'T MISS Orange F.O.O.D Week (April 6-15, 2018), wine tasting at De Salis Wines' charming cellar door, breakfast and great coffee at Byng Street Local Store.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Orange is a 3.5 hour drive from Sydney over the Blue Mountains (or a 50-min flight from Sydney). $240 a night midweek. Minimum two-night stay on weekends. See borrodell.com.au
THE PLACE Pen-y-bryn Lodge, Oamaru, NZ
GOOD FOR … Foodies, couples
WHY WE LOVE IT Jump on an early morning flight to Dunedin, pick up a hire car and wend your way along the coastline to the funky seaside town of Oamaru. Here Pen-y-bryn Lodge, believed to be the largest single-storey timber dwelling in Australasia, offers historic, luxury accommodation with superb table d'hote cuisine prepared by owners James Glucksman and James Boussy (aka the Jameses). Glucksman may not have formal cooking qualifications, but boy can he cook. Days at Pen-y-bryn, (Welsh for "Top of the Hill") start with incredible breakfasts (practically everything bar the butter is made in-house), followed by a mosey around town, a spot of reading in the garden, canapes and cocktails and yet another superb dinner.
DON'T MISS See tiny blue penguins at Oamaru's historic harbour, visit Steampunk HQ, and check out the Moeraki Boulders on your way back to the airport.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $NZ625 a night. See penybryn.co.nz
TWO DAYS: TOP SPOTS
A weekend getaway may not seem enough, but it's surprising how a 48-hour reboot is sometimes all that's needed to return refreshed and revived.
THE PLACE Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort, QLD
GOOD FOR … Food, wine and beach lovers.
WHY WE LOVE IT Noosa's only five-star, full service hotel has ditched its pink salmon look (it was the 80s) for a crisp navy and white palette, fabulous food, swish rooms and new poolside cabanas. While not beachfront, the 176-room property sits in a prime Hastings Street position, a mere barefoot stroll across to Main Beach, and Noosa River at its back door. Stays revolve around terrific food (Peter Kuruvita's Noosa Beach House is onsite), walks in the Noosa National Park, and Massimo's gelato. A midday checkout gives you time to squeeze in one more swim.
DON'T MISS A pilates class at Noosa Flow, coffee at Belmondos, and dinner at either Sum Yung Guy, Wasabi or both (book way in advance).
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $345 a night. See sofitelnoosapacificresort.com.au
THE PLACE The Anchorage, Port Stephens, NSW
GOOD FOR … Hamptons inspired luxury, beach and spa
WHY WE LOVE IT This rejuvenated Port Stephens icon feels a million miles away from city life. All 80 of the Anchorage's spacious guestrooms have new, Hamptons-inspired interiors framing dreamy sea vistas. There's also a luxe new Spa Lucca, a fabulous whisky bar and a new infinity pool overlooking the marina. A dedicated Veuve Clicquot bar operates from the second pool lined by smart blue and white sun umbrellas.
DON'T MISS Take a stroll along the water's edge for sunset drinks on the deck at the Little Beach Boat House; dolphin sightings almost guaranteed.
MAKE IT HAPPEN The Anchorage is around three hours' drive from Sydney (or a 90-minute flight from Melbourne). See anchorageportstephens.com.au
THE PLACE Harts Farm, Mornington Peninsula, VIC
GOOD FOR …Country markets, food and wine, romance.
WHY WE LOVE IT Vistas of rolling vines and olive groves, French linen, freestanding bath looking out over gum trees and fluffy towels makes Harts Farm the ideal weekend getaway. A former dairy property, Hart's Farm is now a boutique olive grove and cidery with purpose-built B&B attached. There's a luxurious queen size bed, TV, DVD player, iPod dock, walk in shower (in addition to bathtub), and organic toiletries. Breakfast may include poached pears or avocado with local goats' cheese, along with house-made muesli and freshly ground coffee.
DON'T MISS Follow the Wine Food Farmgate Trail (winefoodfarmgate.com.au) for foodie gems, artisan producers and the chance to buy direct from organic growers.
MAKE IT HAPPEN An easy 80 minute drive from Melbourne CBD; 90 minutes from Melbourne Airport. From $350 a night (min two-night stay). See hartsfarm.com.au
THE PLACE Soul at Gerringong, NSW
GOOD FOR … saltwater therapy, country drives
WHY WE LOVE IT This new seaside guesthouse offers coastal living at its best in the quaint village of Gerringong on the NSW South Coast. Curated by owner and interior designer Simone Mathews, the late 1800s original farmhouse has been lovingly restored with oak timber floors, soaring ceilings, stone fireplaces and a mix of curios and bespoke interiors. Offering three separate buildings – the Soul Farmhouse, Barn and Cabana – Soul has all the mod cons (Netflix, airconditioning, kitchen, luxe bathrooms) plus heated outdoor swimming pool, concierge on arrival and extensive outdoor entertaining spaces.
DON'T MISS Find zen in a local yoga class, have a surf lesson with Land's Edge Surf School and book for dinner at charming bistro by the sea, the Blue Swimmer.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $1500 a night (exclusive use) for up to 16 people. See soulofgerringong.com.au
THE PLACE Pomodoras on Obi, Maleney, QLD
GOOD FOR … Scenic drives, local produce, nature.
WHY WE LOVE IT The scenic drive up to the glorious Sunshine Coast hinterland with lush hills rolling all the way to the coast, is alone worth the visit. Located in Maleney, five cabins reside in the treetops overlooking Obi Obi Creek. All cabins come with large decks, and sunken baths overlooking bushland, filled with the sound of birdlife and the creek gurgling by. The boutique property also has an excellent onsite restaurant.
DON'T MISS Go for dinner and a beer tasting at the new Brouhaha Brewery, take a guided aviary tour at the phenomenal Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World and have brunch (and fab coffee) at Shotgun Espresso.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $165 a night including continental breakfast, fruit platter and French macaroons on arrival. See pomodoras.com.au
THE PLACE Kirkton Park Hunter Valley
GOOD FOR … Food and wine buffs.
WHY WE LOVE IT With a swish new look by Sydney designer Greg Natale, Kirkton Park Hunter Valley (formerly the Sebel) sits pretty in a bucolic setting overlooking the Brokenback Ranges. Guests arrive into a grand monochrome entry hall with crisp blue, black and white hues extending throughout the boutique, 70-room property. The elegant Locavore bistro features high-backed banquettes, blue wallpaper, leather dining chairs, dark timber floor and chic white timber shutters; while Epoche Bar offers seasonal cocktails and alfresco wood fire pizza. Sleep easy in luxurious guest rooms with crisp white sheets, freestanding black bathtubs, and black and white artwork. There's also a vegetable garden, pig pen, chicken coop and oversized swing.
DON'T MISS An alfresco lunch at the one-hatted Margan Wines and Restaurant, and a tasting at the Hunter Valley's first equestrian inspired cellar door, Dark Horse Vineyard.
MAKE IT HAPPEN A little over two hour's drive from Sydney (or fly into Newcastle Airport and pick up a hire car). From $320 a night. See kirktonparkhuntervalley.com.au
THE PLACE Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
GOOD FOR … Chic urban escape, special occasions
WHY WE LOVE IT Sydney's newest five star hotel has made a big impression since opening its revolving doors last year, ticking all the boxes for a decadent weekend, or staycation. There are 590 luxurious rooms and suites (with luxurious soaking tubs), wraparound harbour views, a champagne bar and alfresco pool (already a victim of its own popularity). Club Millésime on the top floor offers incredible views of Darling Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge stretching all the way to the Royal National Park. It's worth forking out that bit extra to stay in a Club Sofitel room with complimentary canapes and drinks served nightly, afternoon tea, and a la carte breakfast included. The service throughout the hotel is outstanding.
DON'T MISS Lotus Bangaroo, catching a show at the Lyric Theatre with pre-theatre dinner of sashimi and sake at Sokyo, a spin on the ferris wheel.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $499 a night. See sofitelsydneydarlingharbour.com.au
SHORT BREAK STAR: MY QUICK GETAWAY
Brigid Kennedy, chef and owner, The Loch, Berrima, NSW
I use my well-earned short breaks for inspiration. Recently we went to northern Tasmania, which is similar in topography to the Southern Highlands, and a place to experience all seasons. The Tasmanians are on message as premium food and wine producers. It's a joy to see everyone working together to override the tyranny of distance from the mainland. We stayed at historic Calstock, a beautifully restored mansion run as a B&B and, like most of Berrima, capturing the Georgian essence. Comfortable but luxurious, just like we do at the Loch. It was wonderful to wander the gardens and have time to actually smell the roses instead of having to prune them!
Rooms at the Loch from $210 a night (minimum two night stay) including breakfast hamper; theloch.net.au
Rowina Thomas, hotelier, The Lyall Hotel and Spa, South Yarra, VIC
That feeling you get when your neck and shoulders instantly relax on arrival keeps me returning to Far North Queensland. Port Douglas is where rustic, tropical Australia meets understated luxury, and the recently refurbished Sheraton Mirage is my resort of choice.
A short break for me means reading books, afternoon siestas, slow swims and long beach walks. I love the solitude of Four Mile Beach at sunrise, and mixing with the locals at the Sunday market. The restaurant and cafe scene is quite sophisticated. A mid morning coffee at the While-a-Way Bookshop Café, a sunset cocktail on the inlet followed by dinner at my favourite restaurant, Salsa, is my idea of the perfect day.
Deluxe one bedroom suites at The Lyall from $320 a night; see thelyall.com
Bill Shead, owner and manager Arajilla Retreat, Lord Howe Island
I like nothing better than to sail from Lord Howe Island to Hobart in my catamaran Cutloose for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival held every two years. Australia and New Zealand's maritime history forms the essence of our modern history, and the festival gives a terrific insight into early settlement days. The passion and excitement of the show stays with me long after I've returned to Lord Howe Island, where our own maritime history is as rugged as it gets. I love immersing myself in the festival atmosphere in Hobart – enjoying the local food and beer, seeing boat building and vintage vessels proudly still sailing for all to see.
Arajilla from $750 a person a night including all meals, coffee and tea, return airport transfers, push bikes, Wi-Fi, daily room servicing and turndowns, picnics and barbecues; arajilla.com.au
Tracy Atherton, general manager, Jackalope Hotels
I can't think of a more blissful break than sailing through the Whitsundays. No shoes, no news (the Wi-Fi modem is going for first swim!), just a few sun-kissed days off the grid spent island-hopping, swimming, drinking a crisp white wine and eating fresh fish. It's amazing to think I happily pay good money to not have internet access. It's the perfect get away from it all.
Jackalope Hotel from $650 a night, including breakfast, mini-bar and Wi-Fi; see jackalopehotels.com
Ben Sington, managing director The Langham, Melbourne
It's a toss up between the Lakehouse in Daylesford or a trip to Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. The Lakehouse's Alla Wolf-Tasker's wide acclaim is well-deserved and her staff have a knack of recommending excellent wines. I'll never forget swimming in the lake on a sunny New Year's Day with my underwater headphones listening to Wagner's Das Rheingold.
The Mornington Peninsula, also has it all: fantastic beach walks and swimming along the picturesque Bass Strait coastline, golf courses, (I like Moonah Links and the National), wineries, farmers markets and restaurants. Crittenden makes an excellent Pinocchio Sangiovese, Main Ridge makes what I consider to be the peninsula's best pinot noir, while I also like the lively Foxey's Hangout. A visit to D.O.C. for Italian specialities like white anchovies, San Danielle Parma ham and fabulous home-made sausages is a must.
Rooms at the Langham Melbourne from $360 a night; melbourne.langhamhotels.com.au