If you are hankering for a long weekend away, your options are now a lot more interesting. New flights have made it easier to access destinations such as Merimbula, Wagga Wagga, Broken Hill and Newcastle from Melbourne and Sydney– and with Qantas now offering unlimited date flight changes at not charge, you can book with piece of mind. To help inspire your holiday planning, we asked locals in each of these destinations for tips on how to make the most of a flying visit.
SYDNEY OR MELBOURNE TO MERIMBULA
Flying time 1 hour 20 mins with Qantas
Driving time 5.5 hours from Sydney, 7 hours from Melbourne
What it's known for The perfect seaside playground, Merimbula and its neighbouring towns are blessed with a profusion of beaches and lagoons perfect for swimming, surfing and splashing around.
What's new Visitors are increasingly looking beyond the beach and exploring the area's national parks. "Our most popular hike is the three-day Light To Light Walk, from Boyd Tower to Green Cape Light House, which is an incredible experience," says Cam Read of Sapphire Coast Guiding Co, "but we have a number of amazing walks through the various national parks. Each one is different but they all have amazing views and lots of opportunities to spot wildlife, from goannas and wallabies to black cockatoos."
Local secret "Not many people realise how many artists live here," Read says. "Virtually every café in the Bega Valley has work by local artists on the wall, and there's a beautiful gallery in Pambula called Artessence."
Where to get a good cuppa "I love Mormors Café, for its courtyard setting, its great vibe and its great coffee," Read says.
SYDNEY TO BROKEN HILL
Argent Street, Broken Hill.
Flying time 3 hours 15 mins with Rex
Driving time 13 hours
What it's known for Australia's most famous mining town, Broken Hill has reinvented itself as a tourist destination. With a lively arts scene and spectacular surroundings, including the nearby ghost town of Silverton. "Broken Hill always surprises visitors," says Tara Callaghan, gallery and museum manager with Broken Hill Council.
What's new Accessing the area's Indigenous culture has never been easier. "Mutawintji Heritage Tours runs these guided heritage tours where you can see rock art and learn more about the culture," Callaghan says. "For the last four years we have also been prioritising Indigenous artists at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, both in our permanent collection and in our exhibitions. You can also buy works from local Indigenous artists in our shop."
Local secret "The quality of light out here is simply stunning – that's why so many films are shot here," Callaghan says. She says that savouring a desert sunset is a must-do experience. "Whether you're on the Mundi Mundi Plains past Silverton, out at The Living Desert on top of the Line of Lode where the Miners' Memorial is, watching the sun fall down over the horizon is absolutely stunning."
Where to get a good cuppa "There are so many places to choose from," says Callaghan. "My favourites are The Deli, The Gourmet Cribtin and The Silly Goat, which also does great vegetarian and vegan food."
SYDNEY AND MELBOURNE TO WAGGA WAGGA
Flying time 1 hour with Qantas
Driving time 4.5 hours from Sydney, 5 hours from Melbourne
What it's known for Perched on a curve in the Murrumbidgee River, Wagga Wagga is the biggest city in the Riverina and home to the National Art Glass Collection.
What's new "The city has really gained momentum in recent years," says Jenni Riethmuller of Belisi Wellbeing & Equestrian Centre. "The Riverina Outdoor Trail is a really cool collection of sculptures and murals on silos, and the backstreets of Wagga now also have plenty of street art too."
Local secret Riethmuller nominates the walk to The Rock, at 364 metres and half an hour out of town. "You can see parrots and rock wallabies along the way; on a clear day, you can see the Victorian alps from the top." She also enjoys floating down the river where it curves around the heart of town. "Just grab any flotation device, and a life jacket, of course. We hop in up near Bunnings; it takes about an hour to reach Wagga Beach, which was picked as the ninth most beautiful beach in Australia."
Where to get a good cuppa "My pick is The Deck at The Oak Room, which has a good vibe, great cocktails, and they do food really well."
If you are hankering for a long weekend away, your options are about to get a lot more interesting. Among the new Qantas itineraries coming in March are flights from Melbourne to Newcastle, Wagga Wagga and Merimbula. To help inspire your holiday planning, we asked locals in each of these cities for tips on how to make the most of a flying visit.
MELBOURNE TO NEWCASTLE
Newcastle's Merewether Baths. Photo: Destination NSW
Flying time 1 hour 30 mins with Qantas
Driving time 10 hours 30 minutes
What it's known for Once known as Steel City, the industrial port of Newcastle has reinvented itself as a creative hub. "It's starting to develop its own identity," says Ben Ogden of bike tour company, Newy Rides. "It is surrounded by great beaches, national parks and wine regions. We also have a great street art scene with murals everywhere."
What's new "One of the things that always surprises people on my tours is how hip the old working-class neighbourhoods have become," Ogden says. "Step away from the harbour and you find these neighbourhoods filled with terraces that are emerging as artist havens, with lots of coffee dens, small bars and distilleries. You will find plenty of small bars and restaurants, as well as the great old pubs that have been here forever. The music scene is really cool, and you can always get parking!"
Local secret "There's a 15-kilometre cycleway that stretches from Adamstown to Belmont along the old rail line – you can go the whole way into the national park and pop out onto a stunning cliff face with this expansive view of the coast. I can do that within 25 minutes of my house."
Where to get a good cuppa "I really like Good Friends in The Junction: it has really good coffee."