Short holidays within Australia: The 20 best places for five, four, three or two-day breaks

Many of us stood by watching helplessly as apocalyptic bush fires, ongoing drought and then floods devastated Australia. We've all felt despair for those caught up in a summer of extremes we'll never forget.

But with the bush fire crisis behind us, now is the time to show support for fellow Australians by taking a short break at home. Fire affected or not, many regions have also suffered a double whammy of mass cancellations from Chinese tourists following the outbreak of coronavirus.

With losses expected to spiral into the billions, Tourism Australia managing director Pip Harrison says any downturn in tourism's contribution of $3 billion a week to the economy is going to hurt. Helping the industry get back on its feet as soon as possible is critical, she says

If people spend just a couple of days in a regional area, and it doesn't even need to be bushfire affected, they're going to help out an industry that's really struggling."

The national tourism body, in tandem with state and regional organisations, is calling on Australians to take a holiday at home this year: staying local, spending local and helping hurting destinations recover. Tourism Australia's Holiday Here This Year campaign taps into the overwhelming support for local communities impacted by the recent bushfires, spreading the message that Australia is open for business and eager to welcome visitors.

"Tourism has such a multiplier effect on the wider economy. For every $1 spent in tourism, 81 cents is spent in the wider economy. That's why it's imperative to get tourism up and running again in many regional areas where it is the lifeblood of the community," Harrison says.

The good news is you, the traveller, will benefit enormously, too. Not only can you bask in the feel-good factor of helping fellow Australians down on their luck, a short break – even two or three days – can help you reboot and recharge the batteries.

"The perks of having multiple quick trips scheduled throughout the year are undeniable as they can be easier on the wallet and simpler to plan," says Wotif travel expert Chris Milligan.

NSW tourism minister Stuart Ayres agrees and adds that local short breaks are convenient and destinations are easily accessible by road, train or plane. A new community driven campaign, Now's the Time to Love NSW, urges travellers to take a #Recovery Weekend, take photos showcasing NSW to share on social media with the #LoveNSW tag.

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"Communities across NSW are hurting and many tourism businesses and attractions missed out on the busiest part of the summer holidays because of the bushfires. Others have been under pressure for months, if not years, because of the ongoing drought."

Likewise, travellers are encouraged to visit Victoria's bushfire affected communities. Visit Victoria chief executive Brendan McClements says it is vital all support possible goes regional locations that have taken a hit this summer due to a downturn in tourism. "In regional Victoria you'll find world class food and wine, natural and cultural brilliance, vibrant events and some of the warmest hospitality you'll ever experience."

It's fitting then that Traveller's annual short breaks cover is dedicated entirely to Australia, featuring 20 incredible destinations worth staying home for.

FIVE DAYS

THE PLACE Snowy Mountains, NSW

sunmar1cover short breaks australia ; text by Sheriden Rhodes and Sue Wallace ; SUPPLIED via journalists ;
Snowy Mountains family explore credit: Luke Hanson.

GOOD FOR The great outdoors, soaring peaks and goldrush towns.

WHY WE LOVE IT Alpine air, wildflowers, rivers filled with trout, stand up paddle boarding on languid lakes and mountain bike trails are just some of the reasons the Snowy Mountains is more than a winter pilgrimage. Hike to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, the top of Australia, soar over snow gums during a scenic chairlift ride at Thredbo and Charlotte's Pass or take in the alpine grandeur from horseback. Foodies can experience truffle hunting and tuck into hearty European fare and schnapps tasting at Wildbrumby Distillery.

DON'T MISS Spot platypus at Bombala, swim in the Yarrangobilly Caves and Thermal Pool (reopening Easter) and visit a new interactive exhibition and flyover through the mountains at the Snowy Hydro Centre in Cooma. Bunker down at one of two Scandi-style properties with spectacular Mount Kosciuszko vistas at The Eastern Thredbo Village.

MAKE IT HAPPEN The Snowy Mountains is about six hours' drive from both Sydney and Melbourne. Rex Airlines flies from Sydney to Jindabyne six times a week. A park entry fee is required for the Kosciuszko National Park. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au; snowymountains.com.au; theeasternthredbovillage.com

THE PLACE The Coral Coast, WA

sunmar1cover short breaks australia ; text by Sheriden Rhodes and Sue Wallace ; SUPPLIED via journalists ;No credit specifiedfile name: Coral Coast WA_Indian Ocean Drive_Jurien Bay, Marine Park, Sea Lion, People (1).jpg

Jurien Bay.

GOOD FOR An old-school road trip

WHY WE LOVE IT Carefree road tripping can be had along the unspoilt and the little known Coral Coast stretching for more than 1100 kilometres north of Perth. The World Heritage listed Ningaloo offers golden desert sand, pink lakes, the outback and the world's largest fringing reef. Tackling it all in five days would be madness so set your compass for Kalbarri and make your first stop Jurien Bay, an easy two-hours' drive along the scenic Indian Ocean Drive. Camp at the stunning Sandy Cape, a haven for snorkelling and four-wheel driving. Arrive early or go off peak as you can't pre-book this popular campground. Other highlights include the dreamy Hutt Lagoon (pink lake), snorkelling in the Blue Holes at Kalbarri and rum tasting at the award winning, small batch Illegal Tender Rum Company.

DON'T MISS Nambung National Park, home of the extraordinary Pinnacles Desert with enormous limestone pillars rising from a stark landscape and encounters with playful sea lions at Jurien Bay.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Australia's Coral Coast enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate year-round however for optimum wildlife encounters visit between March and October. See australiascoralcoast.com

THE PLACE Sapphire Coast, NSW

GOOD FOR Beach walks, coastal wilderness and great oysters

WHY WE LOVE IT It's that inky blue sea that dazzles, plus you can make the first tracks on pristine beaches at Bermagui, Tathra, Merimbula, Eden and Pambula. Insta-worthy coastal views are everywhere and if you throw in a line at the historic Wharf you may snag a flathead. Tathra is a hub for mountain biking with extensive trails for all ages and abilities. Stock up on freshly harvested fruit, vegies and produce at the bustling Bermagui Growers Market every Thursday afternoon (closed June to August).

DON'T MISS Stride out on the new 300-metre Tathra Headland Walkway from near the historic Tathra Hotel. The viewing platforms are made from reclaimed wharf timber. Sydney rock oysters star on the Oyster Trail from Bermagui to Wonboyn Lake. The Narooma Oyster Festival is on May 1 and 2 this year. Tathra Beachhouse Apartments has villas, townhouses and apartments from $145. Tathra's Fat Tony's Bar & Grill, located in a renovated 1905 house, serves great seafood and a local favourite, Chicken Little. See tathrabeachhouse.com.au; fattonys.com.au

MAKE IT HAPPEN It's a six-hour drive from both Sydney and Melbourne. Rex Airlines flies daily from Melbourne and Sydney to Merimbula. See rex.com.au; sapphirecoast.com.au

THE PLACE Kangaroo Island, SA

sunmar1cover short breaks australia ; text by Sheriden Rhodes and Sue Wallace ; SUPPLIED via journalists ;No credit specifiedfile name: Kangaroo Island Pennington Bay.jpg

GOOD FOR Wildlife spotting, coastal wanders and great gin

WHY WE LOVE IT Your heart beats a little faster as you spy on seals and pups having fun on the beach at Seal Bay Conservation Park. Australia's third biggest island, KI, in the local lingo, boasts nature's handiwork. Catch the crimson and golden sunset as you sip a good local vino at Dudley's Clifftop Cellar Door while debating which is the best beach – there's a choice of 50.

DON'T MISS A gin tasting at KIS Distillery and then savour a famous honey ice-cream from Clifford Honey Farm which is home to rare Ligurian honey bees. The circular designed Dunes Villa at Emu Bay sleeps five and has a five kilometre white beach on its doorstep from $1200 a night. Sunset Food and Wine overlooks American Beach and showcases seasonal produce and great seafood. See hamiltondune.com.au; sunsetfoodandwine.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN From July, Qantas will increase return flights from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island to 12 weekly. Direct Qantas flights from Melbourne operate during summer months. Sealink and Kangaroo Island Connect operate ferries from Cape Jervis, two hours' south of Adelaide. See southaustralia.com

THE PLACE Upper Murray, VIC

GOOD FOR camping, pubs and Aussie yarns

WHY WE LOVE IT You can't beat fresh mountain air, bucolic views and the meandering Murray River where you can fish, swim and go white water rafting. It's also the resting place of the legendary horseman, Jack Riley, who inspired famous Australian bard, Banjo Paterson to pen The Man from Snowy River in 1890. The cold beer and country hospitality at the Jingellic, Walwa, Tintaldra, Corryong, Tooma and Khancoban pubs are pretty good, too. For coffee and treats try Corryong Cafe Brew and Black Sheep.

DON'T MISS Celebrate 149 years of country racing under century-old elm trees at the Towong Cup on March 7, 2020. The 25th Man from Snowy River Bush Festival is on April 2 to 5. The iconic Stockmen's Challenge decides the modern-day "man from Snowy River". Sleep under the stars at Clarke's, Neil's and Towong Bridge Reserves or go upmarket at Milton Boutique Accommodation. See bushfestival.com.au; miltononhansen.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN … It's a 90-minute drive from Albury where Rex, Qantas and Virgin fly in from Sydney daily; Rex from Melbourne. Check out the wildlife sculptures by Benjamin Gilbert along the 155kms Great River Road from Bellbridge-near Albury to Khancoban. See visituppermurray.com.au

FOUR DAYS

THE PLACE north-west, Tasmania

GOOD FOR blustery walks, wilderness and charming stays

WHY WE LOVE IT The wild north-west coast of Tasmania makes for one incredible road trip. Think coastal towns, historic lighthouses and astonishing landscapes of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. You can either head inland first for Cradle Mountain, one of the state's best known natural attractions, or for the wild and woolly coastline. At picturesque Stanley you can scale the imposing volcanic Nut or be whisked by chairlift to the top. Further along the Cradle Coast, take an invigorating stroll along Boat Harbour, one of Tassie's most desirable stretches of sand. See fairy penguins at the namesake town of Penguin, and detour inland for a guided tour of the ancient Tarkine Wilderness with its colourful funghi and incredible waterfalls.

DON'T MISS A bracing cliff top walk from Table Cape lookout to the 1888-built Table Cape lighthouse, with the ocean – whipped up by the Roaring Forties – crashing below. Hole up in one of seven suites at the new boutique Ship Inn Stanley with designer interiors, boutique yoga studio and curated library. See shipinnstanley.com.au

MAKE IT HAPPEN Cross the Tasman on the Spirit of Tasmania alighting at Devonport. From there Stanley is a 90-minute drive. Alternatively fly into Devonport (QantasLink flies direct from Melbourne) or Launceston. Stanley is 2.5 hours' drive from Launceston. See tourismtasmania.com.au

THE PLACE Noosa, QLD

sunmar1cover short breaks australia ; text by Sheriden Rhodes and Sue Wallace ; SUPPLIED via journalists ;No credit specifiedfile name: Noosa River - SUP.jpg

GOOD FOR Wellness, foodies and beach junkies.

WHY WE LOVE IT Once you've been bitten by the Noosa bug it's a habit that's hard to break. Wake early for a swim at Little Cove, spot sleepy koalas in Noosa National Park and sip a perfectly crafted flat white with sandy feet at a beachside cafe. A jam-packed events calendar including Noosa Eat and Drink and Noosa Triathlon, , colourful markets, stellar restaurants, your pick of beaches (from languid coves to rolling waves) and a burgeoning wellness scene make Noosa one of Australia's most desirable short break destinations.

DON'T MISS A plethora of superlative holiday homes and apartments to rent, however the five-star Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort, with its white exterior, luxe poolside cabanas and Peter Kuravita-run Noosa Beach House Restaurant, places you in the thick of things. See sofitelnoosapacificresort.com.au

MAKE IT HAPPEN Fly direct to Sunshine Coast Airport from Sydney and Melbourne or it's a 90-minute drive from Brisbane. See visitnoosa.com.au

THE PLACE Norfolk Island, NSW

GOOD FOR history and nature buffs.

WHY WE LOVE IT With a fascinating back-story and an overabundance of natural assets, this South Pacific island is a complete surprise. Savvy seniors have been on to this island paradise, once home to a harsh penal colony, for some time now. But now the younger generation is cottoning on. Crowd free, with no traffic, a pristine lagoon, stunning walks and empty surf breaks, this island's natural beauty, incredible history – Norfolk Islanders even have their own language known as Norf'k – and relaxed pace make it a fabulous short break destination. Pick up a rental car at the airport and you'll be giving the one fingered Norfolk wave to passing vehicles by the time you can say watawieh (hello).

DON'T MISS Take a tour of Hilli Goat Farm followed by a memorable lunch and enjoy a whisky flight at the new Black Anchor Bar. Tintoela offers luxury self-contained accommodation in a six-bedroom homestead or one- and two-bedroom cottages overlooking a dreamy valley from $485 a night including rental car, airport meet and greet, Wi-Fi and generous fruit bowl. See tintoela.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Air New Zealand flies to Norfolk Island from Sydney on Mondays, Fridays and selected summer Sundays, and from Brisbane twice weekly. See airnewzealand.com.au; norfolkisland.com.au

THE PLACE: Metung, VIC

GOOD FOR fishing and water sports

WHY WE LOVE IT It's all about the serenity at Metung, a chilled village perfect for ambling scenic walks, boating and fishing. Get used to the sound of lapping water – not traffic. Located on a peninsula that extends into the tranquil waters of the Gippsland Lakes, it's a great place for a few days' break. You don't have to be a skilled mariner to head out onto the water where the birdlife is abundant so hire a boat or if you prefer,jump aboard a tour.

DON'T MISS Hang out with the locals at the waterfront Metung Hotel overlooking Bancroft Bay. Pelicans are pub fans, too and are fed daily at noon. Bag End is a cute cottage for couples with an outdoor cedar hot tub, pretty garden, vinyl collection and cracking views of the Tambo River. From $380 a night. See metunghotel.com.au; rivendelleastgippsland.com.au

Nearby Paynesville is great for water activities and you can catch the five-minute ferry to Raymond Island and follow the 1.3 kilometre koala trail to spot the furry favourites in the trees.

MAKE IT HAPPEN East Gippsland is a 3.5 hour trip from Melbourne and seven hours from Sydney. See visiteastgippsland.com.au

THE PLACE King Valley, VIC

GOOD FOR prosecco and pedalling

WHY WE LOVE IT Bushrangers, gold diggers and Italian immigrants took a liking to this pretty valley years ago, and no wonder. It bares a resemblance to Italy's north and prosecco, nebbiolo, sangiovese, pinot grigio, dolcetto, arneis and barbera wines are nurtured here. Authentic dishes from Italy's north and south star at Chrismont Cellar Door, Restaurant and Larder where the goats' cheese and pesto ravioli is a standout. Learn to make perfect gnocchi at A Tavola Cooking School. See chrismont.com.au; pizzini.com.au

The quiet scenic roads are great for cycling. Try the gentle Cheshunt Cruise ride to Lake William Hovell. See ridehighcountry.com.au

DON'T MISS Follow the Prosecco Road Experience including a stop at Dal Zotto's, home of the Australian pioneer of prosecco, Otto Dal Zotto. Nonna Elena serves rustic Italian dishes at the on-site trattoria. La Dolce Vita, Dal Zotto Wines' annual prosecco festival, is on November 21 and 22. See dalzotto.com.au

MAKE IT HAPPEN King Valley is a seven-hour drive from Sydney and three hours from Melbourne. Stop at Mansfield Coffee Merchant and Mansfield Produce Store on the way. Casa Luna Gourmet Accommodation provides warm hospitality and delicious dining including woodfired pizzas. See mansfieldcoffeemerchant.com.au; casaluna.com.au; kingvalley.com.au

THREE DAYS

THE PLACE Shoalhaven, NSW

sunmar1cover short breaks australia ; text by Sheriden Rhodes and Sue Wallace ; SUPPLIED via journalists ;
file name & CREDIT: Bannisters Mollymook Headland - Ben Mack.jpg.

Bannisters Mollymook.

GOOD FOR A coastal foodie road trip.

WHY WE LOVE IT Rolling hills and bucolic countryside falling down to a spectacular coastline are hallmarks of this region getting back on its feet after the fires. There are mist-filled valleys, charming seaside villages, pristine beaches, generous hearted locals and old school charm. Wend your way through Kangaroo Valley where you can kayak the beautiful Kangaroo River, mosey around Berry's arts, craft and antique stores, take a surf lesson at Gerringong Surf School and squelch some of the world's whitest sand between your toes. Be sure and visit local wineries including boutique family run Cupitt's Winery, set in the lush hills behind Milton.

DON'T MISS Take a dolphin or (seasonal) whale watching cruise with Jervis Bay Wild, enjoy freshly shucked oysters at Greenwell Point and tuck into Singapore chilli crab and legendary fish pie at Rick Stein at Bannisters Mollymook.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Kangaroo Valley and Gerringong are just over two hours' drive from Sydney. Sleep in one of 34 stylish rooms including Collette Dinnigan designed penthouses at Bannisters Mollymook. Alternatively check into Bangalay Luxury Villas at Shoalhaven Heads or Soul, the ultimate beach house at Gerringong. See bannisters.com.au; bangalayvillas.com.au; soulofgerringong.com.au; shoalhaven.com

THE PLACE Newcastle, NSW

GOOD FOR Urban coastal cool

WHY WE LOVE IT, Newcastle is fast becoming one of Australia's coolest coastal cities. Landmark buildings are being converted into luxury apartments, hotels and hip eateries while warehouses now house gin distilleries, chic homewares stores and luxury apartments. The old contrasts cleverly against the new, high rise buildings reach for the sky while a brand new light rail whisks passengers from the CBD to the beach. Three new luxury hotels including the Doma Group's Little National, Crystalbrook's Kingsley and QT Newcastle is opening this year. While its coal and steel roots lend Australia's second oldest city, "Newie", a gritty edge, its coastal locale (flanked by two beaches and a bustling working harbour) means it's also blessed with a laid-back feel.

DON'T MISS A walk along the glorious six-kilometre Bathers Way and dinner at Flotilla co-owned by former Silverchair bassist Chris Joannou, where executive chef Paul Niddrie bridges the gap between Sydney and Newcastle dining.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Newcastle is a 2.5 hour drive from Sydney. You can also catch the train (the XPT is quite civilised) or fly direct to Newcastle Airport from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Canberra. See visitnewcastle.com.au

THE PLACE Central West, NSW

GOOD FOR Food, wine and historic towns

WHY WE LOVE IT Cosy wine bars, outstanding food and wine, boutique hotels and historic towns are just a few reasons to head west young man (or woman). Stretching about 300 kilometres from Oberon to Condobolin encompassing Bathurst, Mudgee, Orange, Cowra and Dubbo, you'll find the world's second largest canyon Capertree Valley, country markets, world-class produce, restaurants and cellar doors. Enjoy a drink with the locals at the Arthouse Bar and Courtyard, visit more than 40 cellar doors and dine at Mr Lim Korean and Chinese Diner in Orange. Just outside of Mudgee stop in at the Bank Corner Wine and Gelato Bar in historic Gulgong where bush poet Henry Lawson spent his childhood. Afterwards enjoy a long lunch nearby at the Zin House with gorgeous sweeping vistas of its certified organic-biodynamic farm.

DON'T MISS The fascinating new Royal Flying Doctor Visitor Experience at Dubbo allows visitors to see live operations unfolding on giant control screens and hear real rescue stories. The boutique Byng St Hotel in Orange and the boutique Perry St Hotel, housed in Mudgee's former Mechanics Institute, both offer a fabulous place to lay your head. See byngstreethotel.com.au; perrystreethotel.com.au

MAKE IT HAPPEN Two hours' drive west of Sydney will have you at the gateway to this vast region but if time is short fly direct from Sydney to Bathurst, Orange (Qantas has direct flights), Dubbo or Parkes and pick up a rental car. See visitcentralnsw.com.au

THE PLACE Canberra, ACT

sunmar1cover short breaks australia ; text by Sheriden Rhodes and Sue Wallace ; SUPPLIED via journalists ;
no credit specifiedCanberra Balloon Spectacular.

Don't miss the Canberra Balloon Spectacular. Photo: Adam McGrath

GOOD FOR culture, stellar eats and urban green spaces

WHY WE LOVE IT Glorious views are the reward after a strenuous hike up Mount Ainslie hemmed by Scribbly Gums where striking rosellas dart around. A cycle, stroll or jog around Lake Burley Griffin clears the head after culture overload visiting museums and galleries.

Canberra has earned its stripes as a gourmet capital with innovative cafes and restaurants such as Braddon Merchant, a cool in-house eatery with a salumeria selection at Midnight Hotel, on the doorsteps of the buzzy Braddon precinct. Ovolo Nishi hotel boasts an Insta-worthy wooden staircase, dramatic lobby and Monster Kitchen and Bar. You can also fall asleep at Jamala Wildlife Lodge with a bear on your doorstep.

DON'T MISS the Canberra Balloon Spectacular, March 7 to 15 best viewed from the lawns of Old Parliament House. The National Gallery is exhibiting 150 works for Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now, May 30 to September 13. Meanwile National Museum Australia has a tour of its purpose built storage facility and the intriguing pieces it contains called Out To the Shed; the 3.5 hour tour includes lunch. It also has In, Above and Behind the Scenes, a four-hour experience which includes a balloon fight, a behind-the-scenes tour and a champagne breakfast. Both opearte from April 1. See nga.gov.au; nma.gov.au

MAKE IT HAPPEN It's an easy 3.5 hour road trip from Sydney and four hours from Melbourne, or fly Qantas and Virgin. See visitcanberra.com.au

THE PLACE Bellarine Peninsula, VIC

GOOD FOR pinot noir and water views

WHY WE LOVE IT Cool climate wines and quirky wineries such as the Upside Down cellar door at Oakdene Vineyards, near Ocean Grove, make this a great part of the world. Part of Victoria's Pinot Coast, the food and wine trail boasts 50 farmgate producers, provedores, eateries and wineries. Mussels are the big thing at Portarlington which celebrates its bounty at an annual festival in January. Jack Rabbit has plenty of mussels on its menu. The eatery is set on rolling hills overlooking the mussel farms. If biking is your passion, the 32 kilometre Bellarine Rail Trail stretches from South Geelong to Queenscliff. You could even try an ebike. See bellaebikehire.com.au

DON'T MISS Rock and roll on the iconic Blues Train which features four acts, dinner and dancing. The Lon Retreat and Spa at Point Lonsdale sprawls over 80 hectares with on-site mineral springs and seven boutique suites, from $350 a night. See thebluestrain.com.au; lonretreat.com.au

MAKE IT HAPPEN It's a 90-minute drive south-west of Melbourne. Port Phillip Ferries' new Geelong Flyer goes from Docklands to Geelong, $36 return for adults. A twice-daily service links Docklands with Portarlington. See portphillipferries.com; visitgeelongbellarine.com.au

TWO DAYS

THE PLACE Central Coast, NSW

GOOD FOR Old-school seaside holidays

WHY WE LOVE IT Unfairly referred to as "God's waiting room", the Central Coast nowadays has cool cafes, sophisticated dining, rooftop bars, vintage and bohemian shopping. Blessed with a magnificent coastline, secluded inlets, coastal villages and spectacular national parks, the Central Coast's proximity to Sydney makes it the perfect destination for a weekend reboot. Enjoy beachside dining at outlets including Box at Ettalong and Bon Pavilion at Gosford, tuck into punchy Asian street food at Lucky Bee at Hardys Bay (or sister outlet Frankies Rooftop Bar, Woy Woy), enjoy great coffee at Ettalong Beach Cafe and enjoy classic cocktails with a twist at the Boathouse Hotel at Patonga.

DON'T MISS The Boathouse Hotel Patonga offers new luxe accommodation with the bonus of being able to arrive by vintage wooden ferry from Palm Beach. The Hamptons-style Bells at Killcare, meanwhile, has unveiled a new culinary direction with executive chef Sean Connolly at the helm. The former adults only retreat has also opened up its two-bedroom cottages for families. See theboathousehotelpatonga.com.au; bellsatkillcare.com.au

MAKE IT HAPPEN The Central Coast is just over an hour's drive north of Sydney. Catch the train to Woy Woy or Gosford or arrive in Ettalong or Patonga by a ferry service from Palm Beach. See visitcentralcoast.com.au

THE PLACE Southern Highlands, NSW

GOOD FOR Garden lovers, fans of country life

WHY WE LOVE IT The Brits have the Scottish Highlands, the French have Provence. Australians? We have the glorious Southern Highlands. With a European climate, rolling hills, good food, cool climate wines and an abundance of charming accommodation options, an escape from the city never looked so inviting. Hit the road with your favourite playlist blaring and you'll be browsing antique stores, homeware stores and book barns, stopping for a cold ale at a country pub and dining at hatted restaurants by lunch time. In cooler months get cosy by an open fire nursing a local whisky (visit Joadja Distillery set in a ghost town). You'll find family vineyards, spectacular wineries, craft breweries, olive groves, waterfalls, picturesque mountain ranges and verdant valleys, all a short drive from Sydney and Canberra. See joadjadistillery.com.au

DON'T MISS Acclaimed theatre director John Bell performs pieces from some of the great works, including Richard II and Hamlet, in A Few of My Favourite Things an intimate show at the Loch, Berrima. Two shows, April 24 and 25, includes a three-course feast with craft ales and local wines. Afterwards stay in one of the Loch's four suites. See theloch.net.au

MAKE IT HAPPEN Download a touring map and explore one of the region's nine local food and wine clusters. See southernhighlandsfoodandwineclusters.com.au; visitsouthernhighlands.com.au

THE PLACE Adelaide Hills, SA

GOOD FOR wine and culinary adventures

WHY WE LOVE IT Meandering drives through a patchwork of rolling hills dotted with historic towns and villages plus winery hopping between 60 cellar doors. Travellers will receive a warm welcome at hip country pubs and enjoy slow walks around Aldgate, Stirling, Oakbank, Birdwood, Crafers and Hahndorf. Free guided walks to see cool climate plants are held every Thursday at 10.30am at the 97-hectare Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens. See botanicgardens.sa.gov.au

DON'T MISS Sip on good reds around a roaring fire at the Winter Reds Festival, July 24 to 26. Mount Lofty House offers boutique accommodation, panoramic views and pretty gardens or commune with nature at Jude, one of Cabn's tiny eco houses which sleeps four; from $190 a night. See cabn.life

Pike and Joyce at Lenswood and The Lane Vineyard in Hahndorf offer fine dining and try the handcrafted gin at Lot 100. Learn about artisan cheesemaking at Udder Delights in Hahndorf and Woodside Cheese Wrights in Woodside.

MAKE IT HAPPEN It's a 30-minute drive east of Adelaide's CBD. See adelaidehills.org.au

THE PLACE Daylesford, VIC

GOOD FOR regional produce, spas and chilling

WHY WE LOVE IT It's spa heaven in this trendy country area where folk have been dipping into the famous mineral waters since the late 1800s. It's perfect for an indulgent break with fabulous regional produce, wine and lots of pampering. Tensions float away as you soak in the waters at Hepburn Springs Bath House or indulge in pampering at The Spa at Lake House. Stride out around Wombat Hill and Lake Daylesford where inquisitive ducks and swans parade and check you out. See lakehouse.com.au

DON'T MISS Daylesford Farmers Market is on the first Saturday of the month at Daylesford Primary School from 9am to 1pm. The latest project of gourmet food and tourism dynamo Alla Wolf-Tasker of Lake House fame, is the organic Dairy Flat Farm, set on 15 hectares with a vineyard, orchard, herb garden, bake house and luxe lodge sleeping 12. Cabn's first Victorian tiny house, "Sadie", is near Daylesford and sleeps four; from $209 a night weekdays. See dairyflatfarmdaylesford.com.au; cabn.life

MAKE IT HAPPEN It's a 90-minute drive from Melbourne. V/line has several train lines that service the area. See visithepburnshire.com.au

THE PLACE Scenic Rim, QLD

GOOD FOR ancient rainforest wanders and country hospitality

WHY WE LOVE IT It's laid-back but the food isn't, with country cafes and slick restaurants serving local produce and treats. Kooroomba Kitchen serves fabulous lavender scones and gourmet dishes. Do a pub or winery hop with a difference: Pterodactyl Helicopters stops at five watering holes on a day trip, from $995 a person. The Scenic Rim stretches from Tamborine Mountain to Lake Moogerah and Mount Barney to Boonah.There are six national parks and World Heritage listed rainforests in the region, so pull on your boots and get out. See kooroomba.com.au; pterodactylhelicopters.com.au; visitscenicrim.com.au

DON'T MIS Spicers Scenic Rim Trail offers two-, five- and seven-day walks staying at eco cabins, glamping and retreats. Nightfall Wilderness Camp, Branell Homestead and Mt Barney Lodge has rustic cabins, glamping and homestead stays, plus walks and activities. Meet local producers and feast on regional produce at the Scenic Rim Winter Harvest Festival on July 4. See spicersretreats.com/scenic-rim-trail; eatlocalweek.com.au/winter-harvest-festival/

MAKE IT HAPPEN The region is an easy one hour's drive from Brisbane and the Gold Coast. See visitscenicrim.com.au

FIVE MORE SHORT BREAKS TO CONSIDER

BRISBANE, QLD

Brisbane has morphed from big country town to cool metropolis. Explore the new Howard Smith Wharves and chic James St precinct where you'll find Australia's first urban resort The Calile. Meanwhile, the newly reopened Adina Apartment Hotel Brisbane is an ideal base for exploring the city's arts, culture and riverside eateries. visitbrisbane.com.au

ULURU, NT

A weekend getaway to Australia's red dusty heart has never been easier with direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane delivering travellers for dinners under the stars, monoliths, Dreamtime stories and Bruce Munro's Field of Light. discovercentralaustralia.com

GRANITE BELT, QLD

Pack the stretchy pants for a trail of palate-popping goodness just 2.5 hours' drive south-west of Brisbane. From (arguably) the world's best apple pie at Sutton's Juice Factory to micro cellar doors, you'll find honest food, unusual wine and old-fashioned country hospitality. See granitebeltwinecountry.com.au

MARGARET RIVER, WA

New direct flights from Melbourne to Busselton (Margaret River Airport) starting next month make taking a short break in one of Australia's preeminent food and wine destinations easier than ever. Hemmed by rolling waves, and abounding in vineyards, soaring karri trees and abundant wildlife, it's arguably Australia's ultimate coastal wine region. See margaretriver.com

LAUNCESTON, TAS

One of Australia's oldest cities, "Launnie" continues its transition from quiet country town to cultural and foodie hotspot. Home to great food and wine, a thriving cafe culture, home grown design and events such as Festivale, Effervescence and MONA FOMA, it's also a gateway to the Tamar Valley and Pipers River wine regions. See destinationlaunceston.com.au

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT POST BUSHFIRES – FIVE MAYORS TELL THEIR STORY

Michael Pengilly, Kangaroo Island, SA

"Kangaroo Island is a big island and the eastern part remains unaffected and a beautiful place to holiday. It's a mecca for wildlife and you'll see a lot of animals in the wild, at the KI Wildlife Park and on a guided tour. There are wildlife habitats across the whole island, including the eastern areas which are open. There's still so much to see and do over a three or four-day itinerary on Kangaroo Island. There are wineries, distillers, honey farms, fishing charters, wildlife tours, lavender farms, pristine beaches, lighthouses and Seal Bay, not to mention the incredible accommodation. Locals are welcoming visitors with open arms."

David Wortmann, Towong Shire, VIC

"The Upper Murray has endured a lot since the bushfires and nothing would lift our community more than seeing visitors returning to our local towns, villages and pubs. This is an area characterised by its stunning mountain backdrop, and it is encouraging to see signs of regrowth in parts of the Upper Murray. There's so much to see and do up here at any time of the year and the Great River Road drive that follows the Murray is so scenic. We are very proud of our high country heritage and we hope the Man from Snowy River Bush Festival is well attended to support bushfire recovery."

Carol Sparks, Glen Innes Severn, NSW

"Come and stay overnight, eat in our restaurants and shop at stores like The Book Market and Carelles toy shop. Try the strawberry milkshakes at Super Strawberry, check out the produce at Sage and Clover and tuck into yummy meals at the Furry Cow and The Railway Tavern. Our unique Minerama gem show, held at the 150-year old showgrounds, is on March 13, 14 and 15, the Australian Celtic Festival runs April 30 to May 3, and walk or cycle our parklands. See the Standing Stones, Mining Museum and the Heritage House and the Emmaville Mining Museum is a must-see."

Liz Innes, Eurobodalla Shire, NSW

"Green shoots are bringing life back to Eurobodalla's landscape and there's still so much to do here. Kayak to oyster sheds for a tasting, hike Gulaga, our mother mountain at Tilba, glide over the coast in a sea plane or sky dive, cycle Narooma's coastal trails, visit Mogo Wildlife Park, cruise to Montague Island or hire a fishing charter. Taste our beautiful produce, either fresh from the grower, at markets or on your plate at fabulous cafes and restaurants. And don't miss the River of Art or Narooma Oyster Festival (May 1 and 2). We'd love to see you."

Tracy Dobie, Southern Downs, QLD

"The Southern Downs and Granite Belt region is ready to welcome you. As blossoms bloom, grape vines begin to bud we have an amazing line up of events, including the Apple and Grape Harvest Festival (until March 8).The best way you can help is to visit and bring your friends too. There are also fabulous wines, local delicacies, preserves and craft beers that you can purchase online today through our various local suppliers. The region's businesses, including accommodation, dining, wineries, attractions and raring to go."

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