52 Weekends Away: The best places to stay in NSW and ACT in 2020

From historical homesteads and wildlife retreats to harbourside views and seaside sanctuaries, there are plenty of ways to discover the charming landscapes of NSW and the ACT.

The Shed 

36 Crooked River Road, Gerroa; 0412 194 101; theshedgerroa.com 

THE LOCATION The Shed is a steel and glass retreat 130 kilometres south of Sydney. It's on the local road between Gerringong and Gerroa, and has a beautiful view of the sea across rolling lawns, lush pasture and a cow or three. 

THE PLACE A modern industrial aesthetic melds with the best of the good old Aussie shed in this building by Sydney architect Alexander Michael, who is known for his unconventional use of steel. The rectangular structure, which sits on a half-hectare paddock, has three concrete-floored bedrooms and two bathrooms at one end, and an enormous open-plan kitchen, living and dining space at the other. Natural materials, neutral colours and nicely chosen retro accents feature throughout. But the heroes are two spectacular cantilevered walls, which can be raised up to the five-metre ceilings, opening the lounge to the plunge pool and deck. 

THE EXPERIENCE Watch the sunset while sipping cocktails, toast marshmallows in the outdoor fire pit or the indoor fireplace, and wander across the golf course to nearby Walkers Beach. There's an outdoor fort for kids, a complimentary bottle of wine, a well-equipped kitchen for cooks, a table tennis table, and lots of board games and books. Two bunks and two trundles in the largest bedroom make this a great stay for a family or group of friends.

DON'T MISS Order locally sourced catering by Dandelion & Mallow, or book a treatment with Soul Revival Spa. Both come to you.

FROM $800 a night; sleeps 8-10; minimum two-night stay. - Amanda Hooton

This luxury glamping brings an experience reminiscent of a African safari close to home.

Boydell's luxury glamping brings an African safari-style experience close to home. Photo: Supplied

Boydell's Safari Tent

65 Allyn River Road, East Gresford; 0400 509 477; boydells.com.au

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THE LOCATION Better known for its access to the Barrington Tops National Park, this quiet corner of the Hunter Valley, 41 kilometres from Maitland and a click or two more than 200 from Sydney, is now home to a luxury glamping experience. 

THE PLACE Named after Welshman Charles Boydell, who planted some of the Hunter's first vines, this 80-hectare boutique winery and Angus cattle farm offers accommodation for two in a lavish 52-square-metre tent imported from Africa. Its canvas walls enclose a sumptuous king bed draped in mosquito netting, a freestanding copper bath and safari-style decorative elements. A kitchenette and barbecue facilitate self-catering.

THE EXPERIENCE Indulge in the alfresco shower, your only possible audience being the cows and kangaroos grazing in the paddocks nearby. Wander through the vines quaffing a glass of complimentary vino. Two bottles are included in your stay, so save some for stargazing around the fire pit. Run a bath and soak up vistas of the Barrington Ranges. 

DON'T MISS A visit to the historic inland port town of Morpeth – which Boydell frequented, often by paddle steamer. There, you can also enjoy a tasting of Boydell's small-batch wines paired with a seasonal menu at its cellar door and restaurant in a restored 1850s slab-hut building. It's about 30 minutes' drive from the tent. 

FROM $475 a night; minimum two-night stay. - Sheriden Rhodes

Connect with nature at the Bangalay Luxury Villas.

Connect with nature at the stylishly serene Bangalay Luxury Villas. Photo: Deanna Gerlach

Bangalay Luxury Villas

30 Staples Street, Shoalhaven Heads; (02) 4448 7729; bangalayvillas.com.au

THE LOCATION Tiny Shoalhaven Heads, a two-hour drive south of Sydney, is all about magnificent Seven Mile Beach – directly opposite Bangalay. Kangaroo Valley, Gerroa, Gerringong and Berry are all a short drive away.

THE PLACE Since opening in late 2018, Bangalay has endured floods, fires and COVID-19 but this stylishly serene resort offers no hint of these recent challenges. Quiet, private and adjoining a golf course, 16 villas fan out from a wooden boardwalk and are wreathed by native gardens. The centrepiece is a swimming pool, surrounded by timber decking with unobtrusive glass fencing affording a seamless connection to nature.

THE EXPERIENCE Neutral tones and restful lines ensure this resort is sympathetic to its surrounds. The lounge in the one-bedroom villa has a large TV and gas fire, but the sun-trap verandah, with its comfy chairs and birdsong, will beckon you outdoors. In the bedroom there's a king bed with a second TV, and the bathroom has underfloor heating and Aspar products. In the breakfast hamper you'll find bread, croissants, yoghurt, muesli and jams. The kitchen is well-equipped and bikes are available for heading into town. What's more, great dining is on your doorstep thanks to Bangalay's chef, Brent Strong, whose menus combine local produce and native ingredients with Asian flair. Try the six-course tasting menu.

DON'T MISS Take a horse for a trot on a windswept or sun-dazzled Seven Mile Beach with Regal Riding School.

FROM $430 a night; minimum two-night stay on weekends. - Jane Richards
 

Dubbo's The Repose is straight out of an interior design magazine.

The Repose is an elegant launching pad for a visit to Dubbo's Taronga Western Plains Zoo. Photo: Abbie Melle

The Repose

263 Darling Street, Dubbo; 0427 830 033; airbnb.com.au/h/therepose

THE LOCATION Oh, Dubbo, we never knew you had it in you. In an inland NSW city, about five hours north-west of Sydney and where the motel traditionally rules, the Repose represents a welcome departure. 

THE PLACE Set on a wide residential street close to the CBD, this meticulously styled and renovated home is straight out of an interior design magazine. Accommodating up to four, the boutique cottage, which opened late last year, is the brainchild of Jemima Aldridge and partner Bede, who run the local Saddler & Co leather goods company. Their partners in the venture are another Orange couple, Ric and Moir Jones.

THE EXPERIENCE There's a choice of two comfortable bedrooms fronting the street, with an included locally sourced breakfast awaiting you in the fully and stylishly equipped kitchen. The Repose is the perfect launching pad for a visit to Dubbo's premier attraction, Taronga Western Plains Zoo. The soon-to-be-restored Old Dubbo Gaol and new Royal Flying Doctor Visitor Experience at the airport are also worth a look.

DON'T MISS Press, Dubbo's best cafe, is open from 8am. Expect to queue for a table inside.

FROM $350 a night. - Anthony Dennis

Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley is all about wildlife.

Usually adored by international tourists, this luxurious resort is all about the wildlife. Photo: Jason Busch Photography

HALL OF FAME - Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley

2600 Wolgan Road, Wolgan Valley; (02) 9199 1811; oneandonlyresorts.com 

THE LOCATION A three-hour drive through the Blue Mountains from Sydney – or a 45-minute chopper ride – this Emirates-owned luxury resort is set on 2800 hectares of wildlife reserve.

THE PLACE It's all about the wildlife – think kangaroos, wallaroos and wombats – which helps explain why, since it opened in 2009, Wolgan Valley has been popular with high-end American and Chinese tourists. Now focused on the domestic market, it has been operating at near-capacity since reopening on July 1. Guests enjoy a private plunge pool in each of the 40 mostly one- and two-bedroom timber villas, plus four-poster beds, separate living areas and warbling birdsong.

THE EXPERIENCE Take a sunset tour around the property and enjoy a glass of bubbly as a mob of kangas graze nearby. Meals – which are included, along with select beverages – are served by staff whose warmth is another Wolgan hallmark, in a dining room overlooking dramatic sandstone escarpments. The menu is being revamped by ex-Biota chef James Viles, whose love of native, hyper-local ingredients has inspired such delights as strawberry gum-infused tea, trout cured in toasted wattle and pork with Bilpin apples. 

DON'T MISS Relax for an hour in the on-site spa while gongs, bowls and other instruments sooth the soul and lighten the psychic load.

FROM $2065 a night. - Kate Simmons

Soma is in between a health spa and a boutique ashram.

.A cross between a health spa and a boutique ashram, Soma offers various programs centred around "transformational experiences".  Photo: Romello Pereira

Soma, Byron Bay

221 Kennedys Lane, Ewingsdale; 0488 062 814; somabyron.com.au

THE LOCATION The sylvan hills of the Byron Bay hinterland, on the north coast of NSW, have long offered refuge for burnt-out city folk and those fleeing the coastal crowds. The tiny hamlet of Ewingsdale is about 30 kilometres' drive north of Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. 

THE PLACE A cross between a health spa and a boutique ashram, Soma is an intimate, upscale sanctuary set on nine hectares of rainforest. The 11-room property was founded by Vedic meditation teacher-to-the-stars Gary Gorrow and investor and entrepreneur Peter Ostick. Its relaxed, mid-century aesthetic comes courtesy of Balinese architect Rieky Sunur in collaboration with Gary's designer and hotelier brother, George Gorrow, co-founder of denim brand Ksubi and creator of The Slow in Canggu, Bali.

THE EXPERIENCE Soma offers four different retreats, where groups of up to 15 guests take part in three- or four-day programs centred around "transformational experiences", whether it be learning to meditate or fostering creativity. Pleasures include the freshwater infinity pool and the yoga sessions, which take place in a 10-metre-high geodesic glass dome surrounded by bamboo forest. There is an ayurvedic chef but no alcohol (so bring your own supplies, if you must).

DON'T MISS Breakfast at Harvest, a cult destination for foodies in the nearby hamlet of Newrybar. Pick up some bread from the bakery next door when you're done.

FROM $1800 a person, depending on the program. - Tim Elliott

The cosy interiors in this converted former convent link to interior to Gundagai's pioneers.

The interior features in this converted former convent link to Gundagai's pioneers.

Flash Jacks Boutique Hotel

18 Homer Street, Gundagai; 0438 390 528; flashjacks.com.au

THE LOCATION Around midway between Sydney and Melbourne, just off the Hume Highway, this hotel is located on one of the picturesque hills surrounding Gundagai, an area that's home to heroes of Australian bush folklore such as the legendary shearer after which Flash Jacks is named.

THE PLACE Owners David and Emelia Ferguson – who also run nearby eco-accommodation Kimo Estate – have converted a former convent, built in 1888, into nine divine suites of various sizes. Glowing red bricks, white-painted verandahs and elegant bay windows marry with modern technology, including digital check-in and a virtual concierge.

THE EXPERIENCE Wood, steel and timber features link the interior to Gundagai's pioneers. Richly coloured pine floors and cosy textiles warm up high ceilings and an otherwise white, minimalist aesthetic. In the minibar you might find a Nick Spencer Gundagai Red and a Borambola Sparkling, perfect for sipping while soaking up the views over the historic town. A white-tiled bathroom with plant-based Leif products completes a heavenly stay.

DON'T MISS Step across the street for breakfast at the Coffee Pedaler, where the bacon and egg roll with Vegemite mayo has a big following. As for that famous dog, it's seven kilometres away on the other side of the Hume Highway.

FROM $180 a night.  - Sue Wallace

The newly refurbished Byron at Byron is a A-list retreat and all about the rainforest.

A forest-bather's paradise: this newly refurbished A-list retreat is only 10 minutes' walk to the beach. Photo: Supplied

Byron at Byron 

77-97 Broken Head Road, Byron Bay; (02) 6639 2111; crystalbrookcollection.com

THE LOCATION An A-list retreat in the bohemian enclave, Byron at Byron inhabits 18 hectares of subtropical rainforest directly behind Tallow Beach.

THE PLACE After a $6 million refurbishment, 32 of the 92 suites have been restyled, and a fresh look given to the on-site restaurant Forest, with its focus on local produce. A brand new Eléme day spa is also opening this month. The redesigned suites feature upcycled materials including log stools and coffee tables made from telegraph poles.

THE EXPERIENCE It's all about the rainforest. Boardwalks lead past bangalow palms, paperbark trees and lily ponds to idyllic spots for "forest bathing". Daily yoga classes run on the deck while rainbow lorikeets swoop overhead. The pool, verandah bar and restaurant overlook the forest while the decks and freestanding tubs of the spacious suites offer their own green aspects. If and when you've had enough foliage, walk 10 minutes through that rainforest to the white sweep of popular Tallow Beach. Byron's best eateries and shopping are only a 10-minute bike ride or short shuttle-bus trip away.

DON'T MISS Go for a horse ride along the beach at sunrise with Zephyr Horses. As a bonus you might spot migrating whales, if the time of year is right.

FROM $495 a night; minimum two-night stay at peak periods. - Nina Karnikowski

The Byng has injected some genuine zing into Orange.

Built partly into a 19th-century homestead, this hotel's a great base from which to explore Orange's gourmet and wine delights. Photo: Pablo Veiga

Byng Street Boutique Hotel

62 Byng Street, Orange; (02) 5317 8200; byngstreethotel.com.au

THE LOCATION The wide and exclusive Byng Street in Orange, around 3½ hours' drive west of Sydney, is flanked by stately historic homes, with this boutique design-style hotel built partly inside Yallungah, a late-19th-century homestead.

THE PLACE The Byng has injected some genuine zing into Orange, with urban dwellers flocking for a stay – when they can snaffle a room, that is. At the rear of Yallungah, the 22 invitingly plush rooms and suites are set inside a slender, sensitively designed modern wing by Sydney architect Peter Mayoh, known for his contextually appropriate work. The international experience in prestige hospitality of owners Kristen and Thomas Nock is obvious in the faultless attention to detail throughout, exemplified by local interior designer Louise Spicer's spectacular use of colour in both the welcoming public spaces and rooms and suites.

THE EXPERIENCE The hotel, dominated by a curved, light-drenched guest lounge with fireplace, has all of the panache, and then some, of any urban boutique equivalent. The advantage is that you're in the midst of Orange's considerable food and wine delights. One of those is the on-site breakfast, included in the tariff and served in the snug, cedar-lined dining room of the original homestead with its shamrock-green interiors and timber floors.

DON'T MISS Ferment Orange Wine Centre, showcasing the region's top local drops, is just around the corner.

FROM $320 a night; minimum two-night stay on weekends. - Anthony Dennis
 

 Soak in panoramic view of the harbour and city as well as glimpses of wandering wildlife below at The Wildlife retreat.

From five-star surrounds, watch wandering fauna at the Taronga's Wildlife Retreat. Photo: Rick Stevens

Wildlife Retreat at Taronga

Taronga Zoo Sydney, Bradleys Head Road, Mosman; (02) 9969 2777; taronga.org.au

THE LOCATION Overlooking Sydney Harbour from leafy Mosman, the Wildlife Retreat at Taronga is 20 minutes by road from the CBD or 12 minutes by ferry from Circular Quay to the zoo wharf, from where guest transfer is available.

THE PLACE Opened last year, the impressive 62-room retreat consists of five separate, place-sensitive, timber-clad lodges covered in lush foliage, designed by Cox Architecture (known for standout large-scale work). Accommodation is plush, in the style of a five-star hotel.

THE EXPERIENCE The true stars, of course, are the animals. At the centre of the retreat is The Sanctuary, the new home for Australian marsupials and monotremes such as koalas, wallabies and echidnas, with platypus housed in a pool at the retreat's entrance. Soak it all in at The Nest, a circular lounge with panoramas of the harbour and city as well as glimpses of wandering wildlife below. The tariff includes immersive, keeper-guided tours within both the retreat and the zoo itself, giving guests the opportunity to commune not just with the rest of the more than century-old institution's captive inhabitants but also their dedicated, conservation-minded custodians.

DON'T MISS A stay at the retreat includes an excellent two-course dinner and breakfast at the in-house Me-Gal restaurant, which boasts glorious harbour views. 

FROM $550 a night. - Anthony Dennis

The restaurant overseen by Italian-born executive chef Matteo Zamboni is a focal point.

Enjoy easy access to a hatted restaurant at this clifftop retreat overlooking Whale Beach. Photo: Supplied

HALL OF FAME - Jonah's Restaurant and Boutique Hotel 

69 Bynya Road, Whale Beach; (02) 9974 5599; jonahs.com.au

THE LOCATION An hour's drive north of Sydney will have you at this landmark clifftop retreat overlooking Whale Beach. For the ultimate rock-star arrival, splurge on a 20-minute seaplane flight from Rose Bay. 

THE PLACE From humble beginnings as a "roadhouse" opened by the visionary Constance Vidal in 1929, Jonah's multiple incarnations have seen it evolve into the much-lauded retreat par excellence it is today. The latest version sees a hatted restaurant, infinity pool and 11 elegant rooms with spa bath, private balconies, Frette robes, high-pressure walk-in showers and A.H. Beard king beds. 

THE EXPERIENCE Be transported by this storied Relais & Chateaux boutique hotel, where guests have included Ava Gardner, Laurence Olivier, Mick Jagger and Bono. The restaurant overseen by Italian-born executive chef Matteo Zamboni is a focal point. With his eatery overlooking jade-coloured breakers where passing whales (in season) entertain diners, the only thing more arresting than the setting is Zamboni's stunningly simple menu, in which local ingredients star. Head sommelier Niels Sluiman pairs dishes with wines from Jonah's renowned list.

DON'T MISS A two-hour Pittwater cruise with lavish picnic lunch is part of the Stay and Play package.

FROM $696 a night. - Sheriden Rhodes  

Relax in a hammock over a rockpool at this opulent and spacious bushland getaway.

These spacious bushland spa cabins make for a perfect romantic getaway. Photo: Paul A.Broben

Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat

201 Booka Road, Upper Crystal Creek; (02) 6679 1591; ccrr.com.au

THE LOCATION Surrounded by bush, Crystal Creek is a 45-minute drive west of Kingscliff, on NSW's north coast. Follow the Tweed Valley through wonderfully named Tumbulgum, past pretty, art deco-heavy Murwillumbah and stop just before you hit Queensland's border.

THE PLACE There are five types of accommodation at Crystal Creek, ranging from spa cabins not far from the eponymous creek to split-level bungalows and architect-designed lodges with expansive valley and rainforest views. All are beautifully conceived, luxuriously equipped and have sunken spa baths and/or freestanding bathtubs with views.

THE EXPERIENCE There's no restaurant at this romantic retreat for couples so it's self-catering, or take advantage of the gourmet hampers and the top-notch in-room dining menu ($88 a couple). Alcohol is BYO, although all guests receive a bottle of wine on arrival. The rooms are spacious, full of elegant furnishings and with all mod cons. As opulent as they are, it's the Numinbah Nature Reserve, Springbrook National Park and the retreat's eight kilometres of walking tracks that are the real drawcard.

DON'T MISS Watch glow worms come out to play from hammocks slung over Crystal Creek's pools. 

FROM $470 a night; minimum two-night stay. - Keith Austin

The handsome accomodation is part of Jugiong's centrepiece.

Jugiong's historic Sir George Hotel has resurrected its 1840s stone stables to create three elegant rooms. Photo: Supplied

The Sir George Hotel

320 Riverside Drive, Jugiong; 0419 098 828; sirgeorge.com.au

THE LOCATION Tiny Jugiong, a village with a population of just 200 or so, is set by the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in an oft mist-cloaked valley, with a shortish track winding back to legendary Gundagai. Just off the Hume Highway, the Sir George is less than four hours' drive south-west of Sydney and more than five hours north-east of Melbourne.

THE PLACE The centrepiece of Jugiong is the historic Sir George Hotel, built in 1852 and restored in 2017. "Eat, drink, sleep, bake, shop" is the motto of the impressive operation at the imposing, white-washed stone pub. It delivers on all counts with a restaurant and bar, beaut beds, a clothing and accessories boutique, and an artisan bakery, all wrapped in one delightful package.

THE EXPERIENCE Separate from the pub, the handsome accommodation consists of resurrected stone stables dating from the 1840s, now comprising three elegant rooms. They're teamed with eight modern-day "Black Barns", inspired by original outbuildings and neatly arranged around landscaped gardens and the bakery building at the rear of the hotel. Wander down to the pub for a tipple or two, while in the restaurant Cooridoone lamb, sourced from a nearby farm, may well feature on the menu.

DON'T MISS Explore nearby Gundagai's heritage main street and the decommissioned timber trestle bridges built high above the floodplains.

FROM $295 a night. - Anthony Dennis

The Tattersalls Hotel's interior designers vigorously embraced the original art deco features in a renovation completed this year.

A comprehensive revamp has embraced art deco detailing in this historic hotel. Photo: Simon Scott

Tattersalls Hotel

174 Beardy Street, Armidale; (02) 6772 2247; tattersallsarmidale.com.au

THE LOCATION Dating back to the mid-19th century, the Tattersalls fronts a pedestrian mall in pretty Armidale, six hours or so north of Sydney in the New England region of NSW.

THE PLACE There are country pubs and then there is this stunningly reborn standout. While the hotel's origins date back to 1854, the building was remodelled in art deco in the 1930s, a style new owners John and Annette Cassidy also pursued in a comprehensive revamp completed earlier this year. Sydney-based interior design firm Luchetti Krelle vigorously embraced the original deco curves and rich timber detailing from the hotel's previous heyday.

THE EXPERIENCE Although some of the rooms are on the snug side and without views, they are beautifully designed and outfitted with small but attractive bathrooms featuring cool mint-coloured vanities and gold-framed mirrors. For more space, lash out on the Governor's or Chancellor's suites overlooking pedestrian-friendly Beardy Street. Downstairs is an excellent French restaurant headed by chef Jean-Luc Morcellet; alternatively, there's a more relaxed bar menu and choice of gourmet pizzas.

DON'T MISS From Armidale, duck off to Coffs Harbour, via Dorrigo and Bellingen, on the Waterfall Way. Among the spots the name suggests is Wollomombi Falls, which, with its 220-metre drop, is the second highest in Australia.

FROM $179 a night. - Anthony Dennis
 

The signature Sydney stay  was an inaugural 52 Weekends Away entry.

This signature harbourside Sydney stay was an inaugural 52 Weekends Away entry. Photo: Supplied

Park Hyatt Sydney

7 Hickson Road, The Rocks, Sydney; (02) 9256 1234; hyatt.com 

THE LOCATION  Set directly across from the Sydney Opera House, there might be better positioned hotels in the world but we haven't stayed in them. You want a bridge view with that? Head up to the arresting rooftop pool deck, where the "coat hanger", in all its riveted steel might, looms directly above. 

THE PLACE  The 155-room Park Hyatt Sydney, now about three decades old, was an inaugural 52 Weekends Away entry. It's had the odd makeover or two but it remains as much the signature Sydney stay as it ever was. Five-star-plus, with giddily high tariffs to match, this low-level harbourside hotel was sensitively designed by the late, great Australian architect Ken Woolley to curl around historic Campbell Cove like a serpent. 

THE EXPERIENCE Although its superb location provides breezy access to attractions such as The Rocks and Circular Quay, the sumptuous hotel is a hard place to leave. Its harbourside restaurants offer stellar vistas similar to those in many of its rooms and suites, while the busy public boardwalk directly outside allows plenty of people-watching.

DON'T MISS The hotel's art collection, easily overlooked, is one of the nation's finest. Dispersed throughout the hotel, it highlights the work of eight Australian painters, sculptors and photographers, some of whom were specially commissioned.

FROM $610 a night. - Anthony Dennis

Take time to wind down in the farm's peaceful surroundings before heading out to discover Tweed's stimulating trove of galleries, distilleries, cafes, museums and beaches.

Soak in the views from this outdoor tub after exploring the Tweed's trove of galleries, cafes, museums and beaches. Photo: Supplied

Mt Warning Estate

953 Kyogle Road, Dum Dum; 0428 795 726; mtwarningestate.com

THE LOCATION This sleepy hollow adjacent to Wollumbin National Park in the Tweed Valley is 10 minutes by car from Murwillumbah, an hour from Ballina Byron Gateway Airport and around 40 minutes from the Tweed's numerous sparkling beaches.

THE PLACE Owners Graham and Helen Dietrich have converted an old shed on their 120-hectare fruit and vegetable farm into a one-bedroom cabin sleeping up to four. Heritage beams and exposed brick are blended with modern touches such as a smart TV, sleek kitchen and wood-burning stove that doubles as a pizza oven. The indoor bathroom is easily eclipsed by the outdoor dunny (flushable, no redbacks) and tub with its view of Mount Warning (Wollumbin). 

THE EXPERIENCE The farm is a peaceful retreat from the Tweed's stimulating trove of galleries, distilleries, cafes, museums and beaches. Pick native edibles from the bush-tucker garden; enjoy the quirky outdoor art installations – a rusty bath once used by banana farmers on a nearby mountain; a Ned Kelly sculpture by Helen's late father – and enjoy drinks by the fire pit while watching the sun set over Mount Warning. 

DON'T MISS Lunch at Mavis's Kitchen and coffee at Art Post Uki, Uki's historic (and still functioning) post office, expanded by owner Gary Wall to include a cafe, coffee-roasting facilities and an art gallery. 

FROM $350 a night; minimum two-night stay. - Catherine Marshall

Barranca's cosy villas are as impressive as the surrounding landscape.

Huge windows and decks blur the line between inside and outside in these architect-designed villas. Photo: Supplied

Barranca Kangaroo Valley

408 Bunkers Hill Road, Kangaroo Valley; (02) 4465 1147; barranca.com.au

THE LOCATION Barranca offers luxury and seclusion within a 400-hectare cattle property in the bucolic heart of the Kangaroo Valley, a two-hour drive south of Sydney and 10 minutes from the historic KV township.

THE PLACE Designed by Sydney's Grove Architects, there are two two-bedroom and two four-bedroom villas, each with an exterior rawness that fits into the dramatic surrounds of pleated escarpments, native bushland and burbling streams. The Australian timbers and upcycled-heritage sandstone speak to sustainability, while huge windows and decks blur the line between outside and inside. An adjacent events facility, Archies, is set to open soon.

THE EXPERIENCE The villas are as impressive as the surrounding landscape, frequented by kangaroos and wallabies and busy with birdlife. Cosy up fireside in the spacious lounge and dining area, create a feast in the kitchen with breakfast goodies supplied, and roast marshmallows in the outdoor fire pit. Follow bush trails for forest bathing, soak in freshwater rock pools and feed the farm animals.

DON'T MISS The 80-metre Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park has a visitors centre that offers culture walks highlighting the area's Indigenous history.

FROM $400 a night; minimum two-night stay. - Sue Wallace

Australian Capital Territory

Lions and Tigers and Bears at Canberra's luxury safari... oh my!

Mealtimes take on a whole new dimension at this wildlife-centric lodge. Photo: Supplied

Jamala Wildlife Lodge

999 Lady Denman Drive, Yarralumla; (02) 6287 8444; jamalawildlifelodge.com.au

THE LOCATION A luxury safari awaits in the nation's capital – inside the National Zoo & Aquarium on the western edge of Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin. 

THE PLACE Among 18 themed rooms, the most interactive are six Giraffe Treehouses, where guests feed giraffes from the balcony at check-in. These are designed for two people but kids can crash on the double sofa bed for an extra charge. The most expensive rooms are the five Jungle Bungalows adjoining enclosures with lions, tigers, cheetahs or sun bears. These also cater for two children on a sofa bed, except the Lion Room, which is adults only. The cheapest rooms are in the uShaka Lodge, where the shark and meerkat rooms sleep up to six. Children under six are not allowed.

THE EXPERIENCE The zoo is impressive, but the overwhelming drawcard is spending the night – safely behind glass – in close proximity to another species. The three-course dinner (included, as is breakfast) is a delight, with a choice of four mains and an extensive wine list (also included). The 21-hour itinerary is jam-packed, but don't miss the 90-minute early-morning tour with a zookeeper, when the animals are most active. 

DON'T MISS Fuel up on shakshuka at Some Cafe in Collector, just off the Federal Highway, 45 minutes from the zoo. 

FROM $1195 a night. - Josh Dye

The eco-friendly urban precinct delivers glorious view of many Canberra's landmarks.

These eco-friendly apartments are in an urban precinct close to many of Canberra's landmarks. Photo: Supplied

Nishi Apartments by Ovolo

NewActon Precinct, 25 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra; (02) 6287 6287; ovolohotels.com

THE LOCATION Overlooking Lake Burley Griffin with views of Parliament House and the distant, sometimes snow-dusted Brindabella Ranges, the 16-storey Nishi Building, with its distinctive crinkle-cut facade, houses Nishi Apartments, operated by the Hong Kong-based Ovolo design hotel group. 

THE PLACE What began life as the hip Hotel Hotel in the ambitious NewActon urban precinct is now Ovolo Nishi. It consists of 85 hotel rooms on the lower levels and 31 serviced apartments on the upper floors. The eco-friendly, hydronically heated and air-con-free apartments have wave-like ceilings and mid-century modern-style furnishings. Unlike the hotel rooms, the apartments deliver plenty of natural light and come with kitchenettes.

THE EXPERIENCE Ranging from studios to three-bedders and lofts, the apartments provide a real – and positive – sense of what it could be like to actually live the good life in the capital. They're an easy walk to Civic, Canberra's CBD, with the option of grabbing one of Ovolo Nishi's house bicycles for a pedal round the lake, perhaps to the nearby National Museum of Australia and back.

DON'T MISS The in-house, Good Food Guide-listed Monster restaurant, with its Japanese-French-influenced menu, continues to delight Canberrans and houseguests alike. Or, if you prefer to stay in, check the availability of the knockout, pandemic-friendly "Restaurant in Room" degustation meal concept.

FROM $229 a night. - Anthony Dennis

Guests will get a sense of the Hotel's art deco history.

Channelling a dignified grandeur, this hotel is a traditional haunt for politicians and powerbrokers. Photo: Supplied

HALL OF FAME - Hyatt Hotel Canberra

120 Commonwealth Avenue, Yarralumla; (02) 6270 1234; hyatt.com

THE LOCATION  This heritage-listed hotel sprawls across five hectares near Lake Burley Griffin. A landmark itself, it's within walking distance of plenty of others, including Parliament House, in the political enclave of Canberra's inner south.

THE PLACE  An art deco beauty that opened in 1924, the Hyatt Hotel, designed by federal architect, John James Murdoch, was once simply Hostel No. 1, a purpose-built refuge for pollies, the first of its kind in the capital. Today's guests still get a sense of its history as they enter through the original wing, where white columns meet rich wooden floors.

THE EXPERIENCE  Once the only five-star hotel in town, the Hyatt, last renovated in 2008, channels a dignified grandeur while nodding to its reputation as a haunt for politicians, powerbrokers, and the diplomatic class. Suites in the old section are named after last century's prime ministers and the corridors are adorned with political memorabilia. The newer wing is where most of the hotel's 252 rooms are located. It has a spectacular glass-roofed atrium, where striking carpeted staircases descend four storeys to the ballroom below. On weekends, the high tea service is typically booked out well in advance by guests and locals alike. In the warmer months, the internal courtyards – part of Murdoch's original design – are the perfect setting for an afternoon tonic.

DON'T MISS It's a short stroll to the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery of Australia.

FROM $270 a night.  - Lisa Visentin

The Weekend and Winch are the perfect travelling companions.

These two novels are the perfect travelling companions.

To read while you are here:

Charlotte Wood's The Weekend is a tribute to lazy days spent with friends in sleepy seaside towns. It is also a smart, engaging exploration of ageing and female friendship – the perfect companion for a coastal getaway.

Tara June Winch's The Yield, winner of this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award, will give you a better understanding of Indigenous history and language in rural NSW. The main character, August, returns from overseas for her grandfather's funeral and embarks on a quest to save her family's property from repossession by a rapacious mining company. - Nicole Abadee

Looking for escapes further afield? We have you covered: VIC, QLD, TAS, SA, WA, NT.

​​To read more from Good Weekend magazine, visit The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times.

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