Australia best holiday destinations for a short break: Two, three, four and five-day trips

What could be better, after all we've been through - and, let's face it, are still going through - than a weekend away? We think we have the answer.

That would be a short break of between two and five days incorporating weekdays, which are usually more serene and less crowded in holiday hot spots and also offer more competitive rates - even at the ritzier places.

By taking a mid-week escape you'll not only directly benefit yourself but also your accommodation provider and all of the other operators you patronise at your chosen, pandemic-weary destination.

In this exhaustive guide, which left Traveller's writers rather pleasantly exhausted, we've provided a range of easy short breaks across a variety of states and territories that are long on enjoyment, relaxation and experiences.

So take one, two, three, four or five. You know you deserve it.

Writers: Belinda Jackson, Julietta Jameson, Brian Johnston, Ute Junker, Catherine Marshall, Julie Miller and Sheriden Rhodes

TAKE TWO DAYS

MORNINGTON PENINSULA, VIC

Laura at Point Leo Estate
satmar5cover
TRAVELLER 
Belinda Jackson
supplier name
pic supplied by journalist please check for reuse

Laura at Point Leo Estate, Mornington Peninsula. Photo: Jason Loucas

THE LOWDOWN

Only an hour south of Melbourne, the clear waters of Port Phillip Bay sparkle in the sun like an Italianate jewel. Now that the summer holiday rush is over, you'll find a beach or rockpool for yourself on the beloved Peninsula (visitmorningtonpeninsula.org)

SEE + DO + EAT

To stretch the legs, set aside a morning to walk Bushrangers Bay, near Cape Schanck, for windswept views: take the longer one-way walk to Cape Schanck lighthouse with a picnic lunch from Johnny Ripe bakery (johnnyripe.com.au) in Main Ridge, or prune it back to a two-hour loop from Boneo Road so you can nip back to Merricks General Store (mgwinestore.com.au) for lunch on the terrace. The Peninsula Hot Springs (peninsulahotsprings.com) remain a hot favourite, thanks to a constant stream of new experiences, while Alba Thermal Springs (albathermalsprings.com.au), just across the road, is tipped to open this year. Book a table at Montalto (montalto.com.au) or Point Leo Estate (ptleoestate.com.au), for fine dining and walks among sculptures, or dial it down a notch and discover the warm, Greek hospitality of little Abelli Estate (abelliestatewinery.com.au) at Red Hill.

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WHERE TO STAY

Everyone's been waiting for the rise of The Continental (thecontinentalsorrento.com.au) to glory once again in Sorrento where it's been a landmark since 1875. It's due to reopen mid-year. Meanwhile check out the luxe family-friendly apartments of Carmel at Sorrento, (carmelatsorrento.com.au). Rates from $550 a night for a one-bedroom apartment.

DON'T MISS

Take a cruise through Dromana's industrial estate to say hello to two distilleries: Jimmy Rum (jimmyrum.com.au) and the gin-tastic Bass & Flinders (bassandflindersdistillery.com). You'll also find a vegan dairy, a gluten-free brewery, coffee roaster and a cidery.

CENTRAL COAST, NSW

Patron ordering food and drink at Burnt Honey cafe, Copcobana on the Central Coast. SatMar5cover Short Breaks cover story ; text by Sheriden Rhodes
(handout image supplied via journalist, no syndication) 
cr: Destination NSW

The Burnt Honey cafe, Copacabana, on the Central Coast, NSW. Photo: Nikki To

THE LOWDOWN

An hour's drive from Sydney or a short ferry hop from Palm Beach, the Central Coast (visitnsw.com) offers a string of 41 beaches, chic coastal eateries, distilleries and a wave of makers, creators and innovators.

SEE + DO + EAT

Stroll the new Terrigal Boardwalk suspended above the crashing waves and huff and puff your way up local landmark The Skillion (lovecentralcoast.com) for million dollar ocean vistas. Reward yourself with a salted caramel doughnut at one of Bouffant's (bouffant.com.au) four outlets or make for Copacabana for a lazy brunch overlooking crashing waves at Cabana Café (cabanacafebar.com). Pick something up for afternoon tea from Burnt Honey then head to the little known Spoon Bay for a dip. Post swim, cocktails beckon at the new Terrigal Beach House (terrigalbh.com.au) – sandy feet welcome.

WHERE TO STAY

Mix yourself a G&T then head for the upstairs balcony of the striking new Binburra House (centralcoaststays.com.au) with vistas of the Norfolk pine-lined Toowoon Bay. This custom built four-bedroom, two-bathroom holiday property has every conceivable luxury. From $1600 a night, minimum two-night stay (sleeps eight so spread the cost).

DON'T MISS

New life is being breathed into Gosford, the coast's formerly down-at-heel CBD. Have brunch at Bon Pavilion (thebonpavilion.com.au), enjoy coffee with the locals at South End Social (southendsocial.com.au) and take a squiz through the Gosford Regional Gallery (centralcoast.nsw.gov.au) on the shores of Caroline Bay with its Japanese garden.

GOLDFIELDS REGION, VICTORIA

SatMar5cover Short Breaks cover story ; Goldfields Victoria - text by Julietta Jameson
(handout image supplied via journalist, no syndication) The Mill Castlemaine

The Mill, Castlemaine, Victoria. Photo: Shayne Hill

THE LOWDOWN

At about two hours from Melbourne, Bendigo and Ballarat get all the attention but the little hamlets and towns surrounding them in Victoria's goldfields are full of gems just waiting to be mined by visitors.

SEE +DO+EAT

Coming from Melbourne, stop in Kyneton to visit the Country Cob Baker (countrycobbakery.com.au) where two baking brothers regularly sweep national pie awards. Take your time travelling through the Heathcote wine region. The panoramic views from the Peregrine Ridge Cellar door are spectacular as are the high-end reds (peregrineridge.com.au). Hit up the convivial 1855 Axedale Tavern for an excellent pub meal (axedaletavern.com.au). Rest and revive and then head through Bendigo with a breakfast or morning tea stop at The Good Loaf (thegoodloaf.com.au), an award-winning bakery in an old tyre depot with cool mid-century architecture, before heading for the village of Inglewood (inglewood.vic.au), where the historic streetscapes are home to several excellent vintage and antique stores.

Stop in nearby Bridgewater-on-Loddon for the legendary vanilla slice (bridgewaterbakehouse.com.au). Head slowly back to Melbourne via Harcourt where you can sample intriguing ciders at Henry of Harcourt (henrycider.com). Stroll the streets of Maldon that look much like they did in the gold rush days, and stop in Castlemaine to explore The Mill, (millcastlemaine.com.au) home to food, art and collectibles

WHERE TO STAY

Base yourself at Heathrow at Heathcote (bendigoregion.com.au), a new farm-stay holiday house built amid paddocks surrounded by state forest. There's a fully equipped kitchen and it's dog-friendly. Rates from $300 a night for a minimum two-night stay.

DON'T MISS

Every third Sunday of the month, the pretty town of Talbot (talbotfarmersmarket.org.au) is taken over by an extensive farmer's market that feels like a festival.

THE BLUE MOUNTAINS NSW

THE LOWDOWN

Explore a mist-shrouded world where nature is ever present and only an hour from Sydney. Hike deep canyons, take high tea and wine and dine fireside at lauded restaurants (visitnsw.com.au).

SEE + DO + EAT

Can you say you've visited the Blue Mountains without seeing its famous Three Sisters (visitbluemountains.com.au)? Admire these weather-chiselled sandstone turrets before enjoying a well-earned latte at Frankly My Dear Coffee (franklymydearcoffee.com.au) in Katoomba Street. Grab a loaf of Hominy Bakery's legendary potato sourdough (no website) then press on for the bohemian village of Blackheath. Have lunch at the newly opened Ates (atesblackheath.com), take a stroll around the Campbell Rhododendron Gardens (rhodogarden.org.au) and mosey through the Victory Theatre Antique Centre - the largest antique centre west of Sydney. At the foothills of the Blue Mountains, Karu Distillery (karudistillery.com.au) offers the chance to taste its award winning small batch spirits.

WHERE TO STAY

Art deco meets Palm Springs at Blackheath's newly-opened Kyah Boutique Hotel (thekyah.com.au). The 46-room Kyah has recast itself as a pastel hued retreat with an elevated food and wine offering in onsite restaurant Blaq helmed by Mate Herceg (formerly the Hydro Majestic) who also wears the general manager's hat. The menu showcases hyper-local sustainable ingredients, many picked fresh from Kyah's own veggie garden. Rates from $210 a night.

DON'T MISS

Blaq's fire-licked 450 gram Rangers Valley Bistecca. Touted as a shared dish this is one omnivores may want all to themselves.

YARRA VALLEY, VIC

THE LOWDOWN

Just an hour north of Melbourne, this is a Euro-calibre escape without the jetlag or RATs. The gardens of the Dandenong Ranges glow in their autumnal finery, and it's harvest in the vineyards of the Yarra Valley (visityarravalley.com.au) which means abundance on the wineries' dining tables.

SEE + DO + EAT

Lush and green, the pond at the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Garden in Sherbrooke is the iconic garden shot in the Dandenong Ranges, which the Yarra Valley encompasses, while lovers of structured greenery will find their heartland at Cloudehill Gardens (cloudehill.com.au) in nearby Olinda. The season has also brought a rush of activity amongst the chefs of the Valley, with big-name takeovers of some of its top kitchens: Maurizio Esposito (formerly of Melbourne's Cecconi's, Stokehouse and Otto) hits the pans in kitchen at De Bortoli (debortoli.com.au) this month while Joel Alderdice (ex Union Dining) is now at Tarrawarra Estate (tarrawarra.com.au). Yarra Glen's Fergusson Winery (fergussonwinery.com.au) has taken an Italian turn under chef-owner Paul Cooper and ninth generation winemaker Dominique Portet (dominiqueportet.com) has lured chef David Ball from Hobart to his winery's French-inspired kitchens in Coldstream. To wind down, book a treatment at Il Massagio, the new offering from Meletos' 22-room farmhouse hotel (meletos.com)

WHERE TO STAY

Chain hotels are not the name of the game in this valley; find your Tuscan cottage among the olive groves at Stefani Estate (stefaniwines.com.au) or perhaps, Larnook (larnook.co), an off-grid, luxury converted shipping container set on a dramatic ridge. Rates from $365 a night for a two-night minimum stay at Stefani Estate and $395 a night at Larnook.

DON'T MISS

The new $6 million extension gin bellwether Four Pillars (fourpillarsgin.com) has made to its Healesville property. It now offers gin-licious dining and a gin garden.

NEWCASTLE, NSW

Crystalbrook Kingsley hotel Newcastle, for story by Stephen Clark 2022 AFR Life & Leisure

Crystalbrook Kingsley, Newcastle, NSW.

THE LOWDOWN

The historic city by the sea just over two hours from Sydney was forged by fire and steel and continues to shed its industrial past, reinventing itself as a cool coastal metropolis with a burgeoning food scene (visitnsw.com).

SEE + DO + EAT

The city's first five-star hotel, Crystalbrook Kingsley (crystalbrookcollection.com.au), opened its revolving doors last June; next month sees the arrival of QT Newcastle (qt.hotels) in the revitalised East End precinct. The 104-room hotel (the designer hotel collection's first regional Australia property) occupies part of the former 113-year-old David Jones department story building and while retaining the heritage facade, service and design will be in QT's luxurious, quirky and contemporary style. Feel the salty breeze on your face on a stroll or cycle out to Nobbys Breakwall (visitnewcastle.com.au) watching tug boats guide monster carriers in and out of port, have coffee at Mr Sister (no website) then browse boutique stores including Honest Paper (honestpaper.com.au) and Mrs Woo X Studio Melt (highteawithmrswoo.com.au). Tuck into turmeric tempura cauliflower and yakitori at Oh My Papa (ohmypapa.com.au) and end the day with cocktails at the prohibition style speakeasy Coal and Cedar (coalandcedar.com) or the award-winning Earp Distillery (earpdistillingco.com)

WHERE TO STAY

Until the arrival of QT and also Little National (another newbie set for 2023) lay your head at the aforementioned Crystalbrook Kingsley now offering Dutch-made Lekker bicycles hire. Rates $225 a night.

DON'T MISS

Newcastle Food Month (newcastlefoodmonth.com.au) is in April and showcases the city's culinary talent. The Parisian-style signature event Le Diner en Blanc (newcastle.dinerenblanc.com) returns for its second year.

 

TAKE THREE DAYS

THE BAROSSA VALLEY, SA

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The Barossa Farmers Market, South Australia. Photo: Sven Kovac

THE LOWDOWN

Thanks to a relatively new motorway, the Barossa is easier to reach than ever before, just a 50-minute drive from Adelaide (southaustralia.com)

SEE + DO + EAT

Get ready for a deep dive into some of the best food and wine in the country. With 80 cellar doors, many producing award-winning wines grown on some of the oldest vines in the world, the only challenge is deciding what to leave out. Your itinerary should include some of the area's big names – both Henschke (henschke.com.au) and Seppeltsfield (seppeltsfield.com.au) offer a range of memorable tasting experiences – and some less well-known wineries such as Krondorf Creek Farm Wines (krondorfcreekfarm.com.au).

The food scene is equally vibrant. Top tables include lunch at Elli Beer's The Farm Eatery (thefarmeatery.com.au), which offers relaxed dining with farm-fresh ingredients, and a meal at one of the area's destination diners such as at Hentley Farm (hentleyfarm.com.au) or Fermentasian (fermentasian.com.au), which not only serves up sophisticated north Vietnamese but also has one of the best wine lists in the area. If you love tapas-style dining, the David Franz cellar door (david-franz.com) offers a range of small bites that you can assemble into your own platter. Don't miss the Barossa Farmers' Market (barossafarmersmarket.com) on Saturday mornings at Angaston, where you can feast on anything from sausages to Eleni Barossa's famous pastries.

WHERE TO STAY

The villas at The Louise (thelouise.com.au) have always offered a soft landing. There is an outdoor pool for hot days, open fires for chilly nights, and a good chance of finding kangaroos meandering past your sun-drenched back deck. From $745 a night

DON'T MISS

Too few visitors take the time to discover the Barossa's wild side. A hike among the ghost gums of the Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park (parks.sa.gov.au) is a great way to work off all those meals.

THE GRAMPIANS, VIC

GPT Southern Section 3 Handout image supplied by Parks Victoria for use in Traveller
https://parksvictoria.imagegallery.me/
xxGrampians
Grampians Peaks Trail Victoria Grampians National Park ; text by Justin MeneguzziWalking up lower slopes Signal Peak, Grampians Peaks Trail, Grampians National Park
cr: Belinda van Zanen / Parks Victoria

Hiking the Grampians Peak Trail. Photo: Belinda Van Zanen

THE LOWDOWN

Breathe in the scent of the Australian bush, 3.5 hours' drive north-west of Melbourne or almost 11 hours south-west of Sydney, after the heat of summer. Those cooler days are ideal for bushwalking in Gariwerd-Grampians National Park.

SEE + DO + EAT

The new Grampians Peak Trail (visitgrampians.com.au) cuts north-south through Gariwerd-Grampians National Park. In its entirety, it spans 160 kilometres and takes 13 days to complete, but is sectioned off for day walks and scenic short walks to local beauty points, some even catering for kids in gumboots. For the quickest panorama hit that's accessible by car, watch the sun rise at Boroka Lookout, then fuel up at buzzy Livefast Lifestyle Cafe (livefast.com.au) in the heart of Halls Gap.

Tap into Gariwerd's strong Indigenous history at Bunjil Shelter (visitvictoria.com) near Stawell, one of the most significant sites in the region. To soak up its wine culture, drop into super-friendly Pomonal Estate (pomonalestate.com.au), on the outskirts of Halls Gap, for a beer from its micro-brewery, a cider or wine tasting – ask for the sparkling riesling. Can't leave? They also have accommodation among the vines. If you're around between April 29 and May 1, walk through the one-stop shop that is the annual Grampians Grape Escape (grampiansgrapeescape.com.au), with music, local food and wine from the Grampians region.

WHERE TO STAY

With acclaimed restaurant and onsite rooms with panoramic views, the Royal Mail Hotel (royalmail.com.au) is understandably rated as one of Victoria's finest and most spectacularly situated country gourmet stays.

DON'T MISS

If you're in the southern section of the Grampians early in the morning, beat off the locals for a bag of croissants and a lamb ragu pie fresh from the 135-year-old oven at Dunkeld Old Bakery, (dunkeldoldbakery.com.au).

THE POACHER'S WAY, NSW/ACT

THE LOWDOWN

Tourist route The Poacher's Way (visitnsw.com) skirts the northern edge of the ACT through the Yass Valley and onwards to Lake George. The scenery is plump and pretty as you meander from colonial-era pub to providore, vineyard to chocolatier. It's a getaway for unwinding, indulging and avoiding long drives.

SEE + DO + EAT

Yass (yassvalley.com.au) has some fine colonial-era buildings, cafes and boutique shops, while National Trust-listed Gundaroo (yassvalley.com.au) takes you back into the gold-rush era. Follow the Gundaroo Heritage River Walk and you'll cover the highlights. Really, though, this break is all about the countryside. Two must-stops deep in the hills are Robyn Rowe Chocolates (robynrowechocolates.com.au) for Belgian-style gourmet goodies with fillings such as salted caramel, hazelnut or walnut fudge, and the garden-nestled Poacher's Pantry (poacherspantry.com.au) for a long lunch of smokehouse charcuterie, organic kitchen produce and matching peppery shiraz.

Cellar doors, clustered particularly around the village of Murrumbateman, highlight the cool-climate wines of the underestimated Canberra Wine Region, especially notable for shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. A tasting at Eden Road Wines (edenroadwines.com.au) or Clonakilla (clonakilla.com.au) takes you through the chief grape varietals plus more unusual alternatives such as Mourvedre and Cinsault. Shaw Wines (shawwines.com.au) has wine and chocolate matching, and its Olleyville Restaurant serves scrumptious rustic, seasonal dishes cooked in a wood-fired oven. If you have kids in tow, distract them with a visit to one of several alpaca and llama farms such as Alpaca Magic (alpacamagic.com.au), which hosts a variety of tours.

WHERE TO STAY

Tallagandra Hill Winery (tallagandrahill.com.au) has three self-contained, one-bedroom cottages with chic Nordic-style interiors and decks where you can gaze over rolling countryside within earshot of rustling vines. While here, try varietals such as vermentino, tempranillo and viognier at the cellar door. Cottages from $225 a night with a two-night minimum stay.

DON'T MISS

The restored colonial-era Royal Hotel, with its rust-red roofs and climbing roses, houses the Canberra hinterland's best fine-dining restaurant, Grazing at Gundaroo (grazing.com.au). Its seasonal menu showcases regional produce and wines. Be sure to allow for the plum frangipane tart with ricotta gelato.

PORT STEPHENS, NSW

THE LOWDOWN

Home to the southern hemisphere's largest moving sand dunes and a harbour twice the size of Sydney's, Port Stephens now offers swanky seaside dining and cool coastal stays to rival its natural beauty.

SEE + DO + EAT

Beautiful beaches and waterways hemmed by national parks offer endless outdoor pursuits: slide down sand dunes, take a camel ride, snorkel at Fly Point and trek to the top of Tomaree Mountain. Now visitors can also wake up with koalas in four-star glamping tents at the new Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary (portstephenskoalasanctuary.com.au), take a cruise to Broughton Island with Moonshadow-TQC Cruises (moonshadow-tqc.com.au) or learn to free dive with Salty Pilgrims Freedive (saltypilgrimsfreediving.com) in the clear waters of Nelson Bay, home to turtles, fish and playful dolphins. Murray's Brewery (murraysbrewingco.com.au) also offers new reasons to stop enroute to the bay with regional-focused dining at Restaurant William on weekends and five-star tea parties at the whimsical Agnes High Tea Pavilion.

WHERE TO STAY

The latest in a slew of motel makeovers shaking accommodation up along Australia's east coast, Nelson Palms (nelsonpalms.com.au) opened on January 1. Strolling distance to three of Port Stephen's most beautiful beaches, the low-set 12-room motel has had a Hamptons -inspired makeover complete with floral and palm wallpaper, manicured gardens, swaying palms and drive-up rooms. From $185 a night, minimum two-night stay.

DON'T MISS

Lining the languorous shores of Shoal Bay new Greek restaurant Atmos (shoalbaycountryclub.com.au) transports you to Mykonos minus the jet lag. Designed by Athenian architects, the authentic Greek restaurant completes Shoal Bay Country Club's four-year makeover, paying homage to owner Peter Lazarus' Greek heritage.

TAKE FOUR DAYS

GREAT SOUTHERN DRIVE, HUON VALLEY, TAS

Australia s first organic Cidery from the Huon Valley, where William Smith first planted his orchard in 1888.<br /><br />Four generations of Smith family experience goes into producing the very best tasting apples, hand-picked for this cider.<br />Crafted and matured in French oak vats to deliver a truly distinctive farmhouse style, full of character and flavour in the traditional method.
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Willie Smith's Apple Shed, Tasmania. Photo: William Smiths & Sons, Ali Nasseri

THE LOWDOWN

Cooler weather is just around the corner, and nowhere offers a cool-climate experience like Tasmania (discovertasmania.com.au), with its crisp mornings, its crackling wood fires and its warming pinots.

SEE+DO+EAT

Some people head to the Huon Valley solely for the food and wine, and none of them leave disappointed. As you'd expect from the spot that was once the centre of Tasmania's apple industry, artisanal cider is a big thing. Stop in at Willie Smith's Apple Shed (williesmiths.com.au) for a tasting, and grab a bite to eat while you are there. If your tastes lean more towards wine, the Huon is Tassie's southernmost wine region. Try pinots, rieslings and other cool-climate varietals at Home Hill Wines (homehillwines.com.au) or the more rustic Kate Hill Wines nearby (katehillwines.com.au). Add some adventure by taking a stroll along the Tahune Air Walk (tahuneadventures.com.au) for a canopy-level view of the native forests or, if you would rather keep your feet on solid ground, pay a visit to Hastings Caves (parks.tas.gov.au), where you can discover dazzling dolomite formations including columns, flowstones and stalactites before soaking in the nearby thermal baths.

Some of the best views in the area can be enjoyed from the water: a kayaking trip with Esperance Adventures (esperanceadventures.com.au) is a chance to paddle past sea eagles standing sentry, learn some of the area's history, or just feel your stress levels sink as you drift along the river. Don't forget to pay a visit to some of the area's artists and artisans, many of whom open their studios by appointment with some even offering lessons, including spoon maker David Rauenbusch (phoenixcreationstasmaniashop.bigcartel.com).

WHERE TO STAY

The low-key charm of the Huon extends to its accommodation offerings, which are mostly stand-alone properties. Villa Talia (villatalia.com.au) at Wattle Grove, has glorious views, a fully kitted-out marble kitchen, floorboards protected by Persian carpets, sofas to stretch out on – and an outdoor bathtub. From $880 a night for between two and three bedrooms, minimum two-night stay

DON'T MISS

The end of the world is just two hours' walk away. The South Cape Bay Walk (parks.tas.gov.au) is glorious in its own right – passing alternately through tall forests and wide-open marshlands – but this journey is all about the arrival. When you hear the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore, you know you've reached your destination: the southernmost point of Australia. Drink in the wild beauty of the Great Southern Ocean before you hit the return trail.

SAPPHIRE COAST NSW/VIC

Wharf to Wharf Walk is a 27 km coastal walk that crosses the ancient lands of the Yuin people, between two historic wharfs on the Sapphire Coast.  SatMar5cover Short Breaks cover story ; text by Julie Miller 
Sapphire Coast NSW
(handout image supplied via journalist, no syndication) 
cr: David Rogers Photography, courtesy Sapphire Coast Destination Marketing

Wharf to Wharf Walk on the Sapphire Coast, NSW. Photo: David Rogers

THE LOWDOWN

Windswept beaches, sparkling waterways and remote tracts of wilderness mark this dazzling region on NSW's far south coast (visitnsw.com), about halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, its unpretentious vibe conjuring barefoot beach holidays of yesteryear.

SEE + DO + EAT

Meandering from emerald hinterland to beach is the key to experiencing the rich tapestry of the Sapphire Coast. Break the long-haul from Sydney with a visit to Mogo Wildlife Park (mogowildlifepark.com.au); or browse the vintage stores of Cobargo to support recovery after the devastation of the 2020 bushfires. Swing east towards Bermagui, plunging into its legendary Blue Pool, before taking the scenic route to Tathra and a meal-with-a-view at the heritage-listed Tathra Hotel (tathrahotel.com.au).

Salute the dawn with a bracing swim at Tathra Beach – a polar plunge comes to mind – or the sheltered inlet of Kianinny, where resident stingrays greet the local fishing fleet returning with the catch of the day. Tathra's historic timber wharf (thewharflocal.com.au) marks the start of the Sapphire Coast's newest long-distance hike, the 27-kilometre Wharf to Wharf (wharftowharf.com.au) that hugs the coast through Bournda National Park before ending in Merimbula. Potter around delightfully hip Pambula, taking in its cafes, boutiques and the lively Longstocking Brewery (longstocking.com.au) before feasting on obligatory fish and chips or local oysters at Wheelers (wheelersoysters.com.au).

Count the shades of blue at Merimbula's Bar Beach Kiosk (barbeachkioskmerimbula.com); or sip on award-winning gin made from oyster shells at North of Eden Distillery (northofeden.com.au). Immerse yourself into the region's fascinating whaling past at Eden's Killer Whale Museum (killerwhalemuseum.com.au), before scanning Twofold Bay for telltale "blows" during whale season (June to November) from nearby Rotary Lookout. A drive through the soon-to-be-renamed Ben Boyd National Park (nationalparks.nsw.gov.au) to Boyd's Tower gives further insight into a history as volatile and dramatic as this rugged, wave-pummelled coastline.

WHERE TO STAY

Old-school beach houses, apartment rentals and holiday parks come into their own on the Sapphire Coast with an outdoor shower to wash off salt and sand the only prerequisite. For an unexpected slice of sophistication, the historic newly-renovated Seahorse Inn (seahorseinn.com.au) in Boydtown offers the most upmarket digs in the region, served with a generous slice of history and intrigue. Built by the contentious rogue Ben Boyd in 1843, this elegant secluded sandstone structure occupies absolute beachfront. From $208 a room per night

DON'T MISS

There's few delicacies more divine than a plump Sydney Rock Oyster plucked straight from its lease in Pambula Lake during a Captain Sponge's Magical Oyster Tour (magicaloystertours.com.au), freshly shucked with a squeeze of lemon to enhance the brine.

TAKE FIVE DAYS

TWEED VALLEY, NORTHERN NSW

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Mount Warning, Tweed Valley. Photo: Ryan Fowler Photography

THE LOWDOWN

Tucked into the Southern Hemisphere's deepest caldera and made lush on rainfall and remnant lava fields, this now peaceful (geologically and temperamentally) hinterland is draped in rainforests, dotted with whimsically-named villages and flowing with curiosities both natural and handmade.

SEE + DO + EAT

Follow the Tweed River inland from the coastal gateway of Kingscliff to Tumbulgum, where a cruise with Tweed Escapes (tweedescapes.com.au) will introduce you to this jurassic wonderland. Afterwards take a tour of Husk Distillers (huskdistillers.com), creator of Australia's fabled "Ink Gin" (gin spritz is on the menu during an al fresco lunch at the distillery's cafe). It's a short drive from here to Murwillumbah, the art deco-heritage town on which the valley is centred. Day-trips radiate in all directions; orient yourself with a visit to the Tweed Regional Museum (museum.tweed.nsw.gov.au) where the area's geology and Aboriginal heritage come to life in an interactive exhibition.

While there, pick up a copy of the Facade brochure (museum.tweed.nsw.gov.au) and follow its walking trail past some of the town's exemplary architectural treasures. Set aside hours for the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre (gallery.tweed.nsw.gov.au), a fabulous modern repository for local artists, travelling exhibitions and the painstakingly recreated Sydney home studio of the Tweed-born artist. Set off up the winding road to Carool where you can take in views of the distant Pacific Ocean along with a crop-to-cup tour of a working coffee plantation at Wirui Estate (producer of Zeta's Coffee); extend the bliss with an overnight stay at Zeta's Origin House (zetascoffee.com.au).

For a quirky coffee experience head south-west to Uki where owner Gary Wall has expanded the town's 1909-built post office to include a roastery, cafe (bastionlane.com) and art gallery (artpostuki.com), without interrupting postal services. Take your coffee to go on the Uki Village Centre Heritage Walk, which showcases such treasures as a butter factory and its churn, believed to be the last of its kind in Australia (map available from Tweed Regional Museum).

If you're visiting on a weekend, head west to Tyalgum – heart of the caldera – for a treat at Tyalgum Gelato Shop (no website) and a browse of the town's vintage stores. On Friday nights Tyalgum's Flutterbies Cottage Cafe (flutterbies.com.au) is the place to be with live music, artisanal pizzas and a gin bar. You'll be accompanied on your Tweed Valley exploration by the looming, omnipresent Wollumbin (Mount Warning), a remnant of the Southern Hemisphere's largest extinct shield volcano and sacred site for the Bundjalung people and other Aboriginal nations. The world heritage-listed landmark is in Wollumbin National Park (nationalparks.nsw.gov.au). However, the park is currently closed to visitors.

WHERE TO STAY

Wollumbin gazes down on you as you soak in the outdoor tub at Mount Warning Estate (mtwarningestate.com), a luxuriously converted dairy shed on a fruit and veggie farm in the hamlet of Dum Dum. The hideaway accommodates up to four people and is equipped with mod-cons including a pizza oven. Cabins from $395 a night.

DON'T MISS

A post-meal stroll through the charming garden and orchard – once a dairy farm – in which Mavis' Kitchen (maviseskitchen.com.au) is set. This beloved institution serves beautiful dishes made from produce grown in the garden and supplied by local farmers.

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