The quick getaway is travel’s equivalent of the energy bar. It’s bite-sized, it restores, relaxes, revitalises and sends you back home with clear eyes and an improved heartbeat. Here are some suggestions, from our own holiday experts, from one to five nights for culture mavens, outdoor lovers, foodies, families and cruise fans.
By Katrina Lobley
There are obvious reasons to dash to the Blue Mountains for a quick break: all that fresh air, all those hiking tracks, all the hot chocolate and mulled wine. To delve into its cultural side, plan a visit around one of the laidback festivals. The Blue Mountains Music Festival of Folk, Roots and Blues (March 14-16, bmff.org.au) features Xavier Rudd, Eric Bogle, The Spooky Men’s Chorale, Lior, Mustered Courage and more playing eight stages around Katoomba. Come winter solstice, dress warm and weird for the Winter Magic Festival (June 21) that overruns Katoomba’s main street. This year’s theme is “phoenix dreaming”. A different type of congregation will gather at Jenolan Caves on Easter Sunday (April 20). Conquer 252 steep stairs to reach the Cathedral Chamber for a free, non-denominational underground service (jenolancaves.org.au). Another indoor option since 2012 is the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in Katoomba. If the infamous fog rolls in, take refuge and poke around the City Art Gallery and World Heritage Exhibition. bluemountainscultural centre.com.au.
Since MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art – threw open its doors in 2011, plenty of buzz has emanated from the million-plus visitors who have already fallen down this rabbit hole in suburban Hobart. The eccentric gambler who singlehandedly put the mischief back into art galleries, David Walsh, has built an underground warren full of fantastical and at times challenging sights and artworks. Even reaching MONA is fun: hop on a ferry from Hobart’s CBD and share the ride up the Derwent with plastic cows and sheep. The grounds also include a rather gothic wedding chapel, winery, brewery, haute eatery and luxury overnight dens. mona.net.au.
Of course Adelaide can be visited any time but there’s nothing like a festival to discover the city’s quirky underbelly. Among its 10 major arts festivals is the Fringe, already under way, with a head-spinning 966 acts. Catch a cabaret, comedy or circus act, a concert or something undefinable among the fairy lights of The Garden of Unearthly Delights or one of the permanent or pop-up venues around town and beyond. From February 28, the Fringe runs alongside the more grown-up Adelaide Festival (both conclude March 16). The umbrella event includes Adelaide Writers’ Week (March 1-6) and Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art (March 1-May 11). This year’s Adelaide Festival highlights include screen icon Isabella Rossellini discussing the sex life of insects and sea creatures in Green Porno. Other city festivals devote themselves to cabaret (June 6-21), guitars (August 17-20) and Australia’s links with Asia (September 12-28). festivalsadelaide.com.au.
By Michael Gebicki
For anyone who lives in or near Sydney, nowhere else beats the Blue Mountains for drama and diversity in the great outdoors. Furnished with jaw-dropping vistas across trough-like valleys, blue gum forests, deep gorges, waterfalls and fern glades, this natural paradise makes the heart soar. Don walking boots and you can tackle some of the most inspiring tracks in the country. With autumn on the horizon, the mountains are in their prime. Proximity to Sydney – just over an hour from the heart of the city to Katoomba – is icing on the cake.
First stop is Wentworth Falls for one of the most awesome views over this World Heritage Area, and an optional 2½-hour, 6-kilometre stroll along the National Pass. After crossing the top of Wentworth Falls, the trail zigzags into the valley via a staircase carved from the sheer cliff face, then doubles back to cross the bottom of the falls. After a couple of mostly level kilometres along a forested ledge, the trail climbs back to the top of the cliffs via the glorious Valley of the Waters, with the Conservation Hut cafe as a reward at the top.
The nearby village of Leura, the prettiest in the Blue Mountains, has a streetscape classified by the National Trust and a dynamite dining choice in the Leura Garage, although local competition is fierce. visitbluemountains.com.au.
At Falls Creek, just south of Nowra, the left turn on to Jervis Bay Road takes you into another world. Instantly you’re looping through a green tunnel of paperbarks, banksias and grevilleas with lorikeets arrowing through the branches. As the road heads towards the national park at the southern arm of the bay you might spot a few eastern grey kangaroos standing by the roadside and pelicans overhead.
Taking a big bite out of the state’s east coast, Jervis Bay measures about 15 kilometres from north to south and 10 kilometres across. The main town is Huskisson, from where there are dolphin-watch cruises and fishing trips and boats for hire, but it’s the natural credentials of the area that seduce. The bay’s beaches are a series of scalloped coves bracketed by knuckles of rock and backed by blackbutt, ti tree and mahogany forest. Superstar of its beaches is Hyams, on the southern shores of the bay, which has the whitest sand in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records. parksaustralia.gov.au/booderee.
Wrapped around the edge of a marvellous coastline, Huskisson is the main accommodation and services base for majestic Jervis Bay, and a magnet for anyone who loves watersports. jervisbayextreme.com.au.
The bayside beaches are well protected, and great for small children. Fishing, diving and sailing rank high in the local list of activities, and this is one of the best places on the NSW coast to see dolphins. Between July and November, Jervis Bay is home to about 400 Australian fur seals, Australia’s only mainland fur seal colony.
On the edge of Currambene Creek, just inland from the bay, the high-ceilinged safari tents of Paperbark Camp are a miracle of style and comfort. paperbarkcamp.com.au.
The khaki canvas and raw timber blend perfectly with the olive leaves and grey trunks of the spotted gums and paperbarks, with plenty of room for a king-sized bed and bathroom, where guests shower beneath the forest canopy.
Nuggety, bracing and easy on the eye, our cool-climate wonderland dishes up the wonders in quick succession, and five nights is perfect to get your teeth into some of its red-blooded adventures.
From Launceston Airport you’re heading south-west to Cradle Mountain-Lake Saint Clair National Park, a 2½-hour drive to the northern fringe of Tasmania’s World Heritage Area. In this dramatic landscape glaciers have carved sawtoothed peaks and glacial lakes have been colonised by plant species that date from the time when Australia was fused with Antarctica.
Just inside the park boundary, Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge looks like a stage set for a lumberjack town, a loose array of timber cabins, some with a twist of smoke curling from the chimney, set beside a frisky mountain stream.
Most of the accommodation comes in family-size versions, with log fires to add the essential backwoods element.
After two nights at Cradle Mountain, you’re back behind the wheel with the Freycinet Peninsula the destination, a 260-kilometre, 3½ hour drive. Dominated by the four granite peaks of The Hazards, the Freycinet Peninsula is barely 35 kilometres long and just a few across, yet in terms of scenery, wildlife, and sheer beauty, Freycinet is a five-star performer. At the gentle bay at Cooks Beach, the arrangement of casuarinas along the shore suggests a Japanese print, while at Sleepy Bay on the seaward side, the exploding surf sends a tremor through the rocks at your feet.
The walk across the saddle to Wineglass Bay is by far the most popular of the park’s walking trails. Essential to the Freycinet experience is a sea kayak trip along the peninsula’s sheltered inner coastline. freycinetadventures.com.au.
By Julietta Jameson
Beware: the Shoalhaven gets under your skin. Don’t be surprised if, after even a quick trip, you’re suddenly planning your sea change here, where perfect undulating countryside meets beautiful beaches. And being only a couple of hours out of Sydney, it’s a perfect region for an overnight break.
The historic, well-preserved town of Berry is one of the jewels in the crown. It’s a real village, full of great cafes, providores and crafts but it still exudes a local, authentic vibe. Beyond Berry you’ll find fantastic wineries with inviting cellar doors and artisan cheese makers ready with samples among other farm gate experiences. Further inland, enchanting Kangaroo Valley draws visitors with its tranquillity and charm, while towards the coast, Shoalhaven Heads is a classic beachside holiday spot, still characterised by caravan parks and fibro shacks, with Macmansions few and far between despite the incredible ocean views.
The legendary Coolangatta Estate is a great place to stay, with its combination of acclaimed winery and historic buildings. coolangattaestate.com.au.
Or opt for one of many self-cater stays, so you can pick and choose from the incredible array of fine regional produce. berrygetaways.com.au.
Rugged, dramatic and unspoiled, Bruny Island attracts creative dreamers to its beautiful shores, many of whom express their love of food and wine through use of the island’s pure natural resources.
Cheese, wine and oyster are the stars, plus a supporting case of fudge, chocolate, truffles, berries and assorted seafood. Combined with a romantic pristine landscape, a visit here is a must-do for anyone serious about Australian cuisine.
The Bruny Island Long Weekend is a holiday package that encompasses the very best of this little slice of Tasmania. A three-day small-group food, wine and walking tour, it puts together farm gate visits (including wading out with an oyster farmer), beautiful meals and luxury camping as well as the chance to take in Bruny Island’s natural beauty and wildlife.
You don’t need to worry about getting there either. The Bruny Island Long Weekend provides a private one-hour boat transfer to the island and a sea plane ride back to Hobart.
Says owner-operator Rob Knight, “Bruny is a microcosm of Tasmania’s amazing produce. This is the ultimate Tasmanian long weekend.”
$1480 a person; brunyislandlongweekend.com.au.
Think Far North Queensland break and the mental picture is usually one of relaxing in the sun near the beach somewhere.
But to venture off the beach and into the hinterland is to find an exciting food trail traversing some spectacular undulating countryside.
With five days to spare, foodies can have the very best of both worlds: quality time at a coastal resort such as Peppers Beach Club (peppers.com.au), combined with days spent on a culinary odyssey in the Atherton Tablelands, where organic and biodynamic producers await, only about an hour’s drive from Cairns or Port Douglas.
Either way, be sure to kick things off with a serious coffee in Cairns. Caffiend, with its City Arcade location and frontage to a street-art filled laneway, has a surprising Melbourne vibe. caffiend.com.au.
Markets abound: Rusty’s is Cairns’s atmospheric fresh produce hub. rustysmarkets.com.au. Atherton’s country markets showcase artisan cheese, yoghurt and ice-cream, vanilla, honey, coffee and even locally distilled liquors.
But take time to visit the producers where they live. Many have onsite cafes and shops – and more. Tarzali Lakes Smokehouse, for instance, has an onsite platypus colony.tarzalilakes.com
Map out your own trail, via tasteparadise.com.au.
By Tracey Spicer
In our bolt to the beaches, we often overlook the delights found on the city’s fringes. In recent years, the Macarthur district (macarthur.com.au) has developed into a destination for families whose interests range from adventure to heritage and nature. First stop is Ultimate Karting Sydney, Australia’s newest and largest indoor Go Kart centre (ultimatekartingsydney.com). Down the road in Smeaton Grange is Maximum Skating, a flashback to the 1970s with roller derby, figure skating and inline hockey (maximumskating.com.au). A relaxing afternoon awaits, feeding the huge koi fish at the Japanese garden outside the Campbelltown Arts Centre (campbelltown.nsw.gov.au), or checking out the quirky sculptures at the Australian Botanic Garden in Mount Annan (rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/annan). History buffs will enjoy Glenalvon Historic House (cahs.com.au) while Camden Acres Homestead, a self-contained B&B, is the perfect place to put your feet up at the end of the day (camdenacreshomestead.com.au). And for dinner? Enzo is a local institution, serving fresh, authentic, Italian cuisine. enzoitalianrestaurant.com
Two-and-a-half hours’ drive north of Sydney, the twin towns of Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens are a sanctuary for frazzled families. Jimmy’s Beach Holiday Park is perfectly positioned between the surf at Bennetts Beach, and the calm of the bay (northcoastholidayparks.com.au/jimmysbeach). Choose from cheap and cheerful tent sites, or self-contained ‘‘chalets’’. Explore the glorious Myall Lakes with the friendly and fun tour guides at Lazy Paddles (lazypaddles.com.au) before treating the kids to one of the delicious pancakes or smoothies at Tea Gardens Ice Cream Shack (facebook.com/pages/Tea-Gardens-Ice-Cream-Shack). This shop is chock-a-block with the lollies I used to love, from Milkos to Chomps and Wizz Fizz. For a relaxing Sunday brunch, or romantic dinner without the kids, try Benchmark on Booner, oceansidehawksnest.com.au. The best thing about this region is its natural beauty. Slide down Dark Point’s giant sand dunes, or picnic at the Hole in the Wall along Mungo Brush Road. nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/myall-lakes-national-park/mungo-walking-track/walking.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Fiji is the best place for families with small, even medium-sized, children. The Malolo Island Resort has recently re-opened (maloloisland.com). Here, you’ll find some of the best snorkelling and surfing in the Pacific, with the famed Cloudbreak just off the coast. Or, if you’d prefer somewhere in Denarau, close to the airport, the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa has just opened new, luxury family rooms. If you book quickly, you can get the introductory bed and breakfast package for F$450 ($270) a night, for travel from now until the end of March. sofitel.com/gb/hotel-5706-sofitel-fiji-resort-and-spa.