The usual haunts may be booked solid but bargains await in places that go quiet in summer, writes Sheriden Rhodes.
COME summer, it may be peak season on Australia's eastern seaboard hot spots such as Palm Beach, Sorrento, Byron Bay and Noosa but in other parts of the country it's low, wet or green season and there are bargains to be had. Here, we scan the continent for the best deals - especially if you've left your run a little late.
In the peak "dry" season, the pearling township of Broome is pumping and prices are sky-high. But right now you can bag a hot summer deal. Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa, the only resort fronting the renowned Cable Beach, is the ideal spot from which to watch tropical storms as they light up the sky over the Indian Ocean. On sale now for travel until the end of March, you can stay five nights for the price of four, from $594 a person, and enjoy bonuses including welcome drinks at the Sunset Bar and Grill.
Families should also ask about the kids-eat-free offer. Temperatures in Broome in summer usually hover about the 30 to 34-degree mark and it might rain one out of every three days. If this doesn't deter you, book now and kick back with the resort's signature Matso's mule cocktail as the blazing sun sets over Cable Beach. 1800 199 099, cablebeachclub.com. Pinctada Cable Beach Resort and Spa is offering last-minute discounts with its Summer Escape package, which includes a bottle of Australian or French sparkling wine, a $100 Pinctada Resort Credit and VIP Mercedes-Benz airport transfers. This package did cost $490 but is on sale until March 21 for $280 a room, a night. quickbeds.com.
Seashells Broome offers a stay-five, pay-four summer special, valid until May 30. The 4½-star property is a favourite with families and offers a choice of spacious self-contained one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and bungalows, lush tropical gardens, a vast shaded pool, barbecues, free in-house movies and car parking just 300 metres from Cable Beach. 1800 800 850, seashells.com.au.
There are no direct flights to Broome from Sydney in low season; however, there are competitively priced airfares to Perth with Jetstar and Virgin Blue. Skywest has one-way fares from Perth to Broome from $159.
In winter, the winding roads to the ski fields resemble city peak hour but in summer, Kosciuszko National Park is virtually all yours. With a range of apartments and chalets and a gorgeous spa surrounded by alpine scenery, Lake Crackenback Resort, which borders the park, is a wonderful place for Christmas.
Priced from $750 an adult and $660 a child, the resort's It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas package includes five nights' accommodation for four in a two-bedroom Gold Chalet, Christmas-day buffet lunch at Cuisine on Lake Crackenback and a Christmas-night dinner hamper. Alternatively, work up an appetite for Christmas lunch with the Double Pleasure Package of two single-day treks - the picturesque Blue Lake walk on day one and climbing Mount Kosciuszko on day two - including two recovery nights at the resort, from $573 a person (based on six share). 1800 020 524, lakecrackenback.com.au.
OK, it's mighty hot in the red centre at this time of year but you'll have airconditioned comfort in your room and a gorgeous pool in which to cool off. Outback Pioneer Hotel by Voyages offers discounted last-minute rates on Rock Getaway packages. Enjoy grilled barramundi at the barbecue or splash out on dinner under the desert sky - a unique and very Australian way to celebrate Christmas. Make the trek to the rock at sunrise before the blistering heat drives you back indoors for an ice-cold ale. On sale now for travel until February 16. The package, which normally costs $430, is priced from $225 a room, a night. quickbeds.com.
Tropical north Queensland
It's the wet season (high rainfall, thunderstorms and the occasional tropical cyclone) and it's hot and steamy to boot. The upside is that the frenetic madness of TNQ's peak holiday season has passed, while its beautiful rainforests, including Mossman Gorge, the Atherton Tablelands and the Daintree, are at their glorious best.
Bramston Beach House is a stunning, new, four-bedroom, architecturally designed house just metres from Bramston Beach, a little-known pearl in a string of gorgeous beaches south of Cairns. From January 15 to March 31 you can book a six-night stay for the low-season rate of $2460, a 20 per cent saving on high-season prices. Because it's stinger season, it's not advisable to swim in the ocean, so kick back in your private pool or take a dip in the beautiful pools at nearby Josephine Falls. You also receive a hamper of tropical fruits, olives, home-made breads and biscuits, all prepared by private local chef Chris Buckley. (02) 9008 1330, www.bramstonbeachhouse.com.au.
Less than an hour north of Cairns, at the secluded end of Four Mile beach, Sea Temple Resort and Spa Port Douglas offers 20 per cent off a three-night stay in a two-bedroom apartment (priced from $279) until March 31. The five-star resort is on four hectares around a massive lagoon. Nearby is the Sea Temple Golf Club, an 18-hole championship links-style course rated in the top 50 public-access courses in Australia. 13 15 15, mirvachotels.com.
Also in Port Douglas, the five-star Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas has slashed the price of its Deluxe Garden Rooms to $165 a room a night (normally $619), for stays until March 22. quickbeds.com.
With its Mediterranean-inspired, low-rise architecture juxtaposed against the azure Coral Sea, Palm Cove near Cairns has a Greek-Isles-meets-Australian-tropics feel. Takeabreak.com.au has a special on a newly renovated two-bedroom apartment in the family-friendly Novotel Rockford Resort in Palm Cove of $700 a week for stays until January 31. takeabreak.com.au/Palm-Cove-Paradise.htm.