28 of the Best Long Weekends to Have in Australia
Whether you’re after a lazy getaway with family, or a food and wine adventure with friends, these are the best long weekend ideas for 2023.
Fleurieu Peninsula, SA1/29
Plans for more “Rtreets” augur well if Timba, this luxe off-grid bush escape on the Fleurieu Peninsula, 50 kilometres south of Adelaide, is the blueprint. Set on 40 hectares of vineyards and rolling hills, the main house has three bedrooms, with a fourth occupying a separate studio. The landscape is echoed inside in a palette of mustard, ochre and olive with clean lines, natural fabrics and lots of wood. A-type personalities can book yoga instructors, massages and garden tours through Rtreet, or hike to the hills and go koala-spotting in re-wilded native forest. Everyone else can avail themselves of the pool and its lush surroundings, spend an inordinate amount of time deciding on dinner and even longer lingering over the meal in the dining room.
Bruny Island, Tas2/29
For years, Bruny was a sleepy patch of paradise where Hobart locals escaped their version of the rat-race. And then mainlanders discovered it. That’s had pros and cons. Pros? You can eat and drink well on this 362-squarekilometre island, which can only be reached by ferry from Kettering, 32 kilometres south of Hobart. There are some lovely things to do, beyond appreciating the dramatic landscape, such as dropping into Sprokkelwood, a sculpture garden created by local artists Keith Smith and Grietje van Randen. And the cons? Guilt for sitting in the sun-drenched lounge room of Cloudy Bay Beach House and doing nothing but watching plump pademelons waddle by. Guilt for eating another wedge of Nick Haddow’s epic cheese. And guilt for loving every long, lazy minute of this untamed version of island life.
Base yourself at Darwin’s DoubleTree Hilton Esplanade and you’ll have most of the region's national parks within day-tripping distance. Berry Springs Nature Park is a 40-minute drive away and perfect for kids, with a paddling creek and plenty of shade. The vast Litchfield National Park is just under a two hour drive from Darwin, our recommendation is to head over early to beat the crowds as it's popular for both locals and tourists. Buley Rockhole has shallow pools as well as deep diving – you’ll find the crystalline Florence Falls Swimming hole at the bottom of a 160-stair descent.
Essentials for the ultimate seaside weekend include a beach within walking distance, days that conform to a lazy rhythm dictated by meals and swims, and accommodation that isn’t so precious you can’t hang your cossies on the balcony to dry. Smiths Beach Resort, located in the Margaret River region three hours’ drive from Perth, ticks all the boxes. Sitting alongside the white sand and turquoise water are options from one-bed beach shacks to four-bedroom villas. The property also features Lamont’s Restaurant by chef Kate Lamont and Gourmet Deli & Wine Store. And for burning off energy, Margaret River is packed with options, including fun parks, horseriding, zip-lining, archery, a fudge factory and Aboriginal cultural tours.
Two-and-a-half hours south of Perth, the heritage-listed Busselton Jetty – the longest wooden-pile jetty in the Southern Hemisphere – awaits. Take the train down the jetty to the Underwater Observatory and watch as southern fiddler rays swim through coral in the artificial reef. On Sunday mornings, you’ll find fresh produce at the Busselton Markets which should be followed by an afternoon swim at Meelup beach. The Mandalay Holiday Resort is great for families, offering a range of accommodation options including glamping, self-contained cabins and camp sites for those who like to sleep under the stars.
Image credit: Lizard Island, Qld
Lizard Island, Qld6/29
The House on Lizard Island is nestled on 1000 hectares of National Parkland encircled by beaches on the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. This private two-storey sanctuary boasts three bedrooms, a pool overlooking the Coral Sea, rooftop jacuzzi and three outdoor baths. If you’re not on the deck taking a guided yoga class, a snorkelling trip to nearby North Direction Island on a 56-foot motor yacht is a great way to get the heart racing. When you return from your adventure you’ll be greeted with a bespoke three-course meal prepared by the property’s chef, Kyle Dixon.
Eyre Peninsula, SA7/29
It’s a challenge for any parent: impressing a teenager. Throw everything at it with a weekend getaway to the Eyre Peninsula – the coastal town of Port Lincoln is just under an hour’s flight from Adelaide. Go on a tour with the Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience and see screen-dulled eyes widen and smirks stretch to smiles on encountering bottle-nosed dolphins and sea lions in the waters off Jones Island. Watch the hard-toplease light up when they see Camel Beach House, a chic shack with the best Instagrammable aesthetics, such as edgy art and sculptural succulents, in a remote location. Make sure you take a snap of that smile – not for Insta but for the family memories.
Image credit: Dylan Evans
Scenic Rim, Qld8/29
It may seem immodest of Scenic Rim to include the word “scenic” in its name. But to be fair it could have gone with “charming” and “feast-worthy”, too. Hit the road from Brisbane or the Gold Coast – it’s roughly an hour from either – and explore this ring of mountain ranges and World-Heritage-listed rainforest. Just make sure you take an esky with you. Between the peaks, the valleys are teeming with wineries, dairies, farms and restaurants supplied by local growers, makers and brewers. Stash the goodies acquired en route in your fridge at the sumptuous Beechmont Estate, located on the edge of Lamington National Park, home to the ancient Gondwana Rainforests. Then head for dinner at the estate’s hatted restaurant, The Paddock.
Image credit: Hannah Puechmarin
You can lose track of time watching the mesmerising, ever-changing flood plain from the private verandah of a Finniss River Lodge suite. And that’s kind of the point. The remote location, a 90-minute drive or 20-minute charter flight from Darwin, means once you arrive at the lodge, part of a vast 200-square-kilometre Brahman cattle station, you can relax – there’s nowhere else to go. In addition to six understated suites, the property has a serene infinity pool and an impressive restaurant supplied with local produce. Two daily guided tours – the early morning cloaked in mist and the late afternoon peachy with the setting sun – explore the station’s remnant rainforests, dry savanna and those wetlands with their saltwater crocs and thousands of long-legged birds.
Drift 90 minutes west of Melbourne and into the thermal pools of Alba Thermal Springs in the Morning Peninsula and discover a whole new level of Zen. This $90-million complex has over 30 pools to choose from, including a spa, sauna, cold plunge pool and pools with perfect sunset views over the hinterland. After all, how many places can you walk around 15 hectares of landscape and also go to dinner in a fluffy white bathrobe?
There’s something magical about a zoo after hours, when the animals, performance over, can finally be themselves. What do they get up to after dark? Find out at Australia Zoo by spending the night at The Crocodile Hunter Lodge. Steve Irwin was probably happy to sleep in a swag but don’t worry, things are more lavish at this stay, where eight family-sized cabins are set in a bushland habitat with kangaroos, koalas and emus. Watch their comings and goings from The Billabong, a 25-metre infinity pool, or over drinks and dinner at the Warrior Restaurant & Bar. Unlimited entry to the zoo is included in your booking and once you’ve explored the African Safari Park, cuddled a koala and fed a kangaroo, the beaches of the Sunshine Coast await.
King Valley, Vic12/29
Positioned among the vines, Lancemore Milawa is a 40-room hotel that has recently undergone a $3 million makeover. Across the road, leading Australian-owned family wine company, Brown Brothers host ‘The Slow Lunch’, a meal that has been months in the making uses produce grown on-site – the violet society garlic flower dish paired with a dry chardonnay is a crowd favourite. If you’re peckish, nearby Milawa Cheese Co has 17 varieties of handcrafted cheese to choose from.
Bathurst Island, NT13/29
There are few Australian tropical escapes so gloriously remote as the Tiwi Islands. An archipelago in the Timor Sea, 80 kilometres north of Darwin, the Tiwis are small but diverse with the two inhabited isles, Melville (Yermalner) and Bathurst (Nguyu) boasting dense jungle, rainforest, white-sand beaches and foliage-fringed waterholes. Tiwi Island Retreat is an off-grid oasis of barefoot luxury on Bathurst Island. Activities include helicopter flights to a remote waterhole and buggy rides along Five Mile Beach for wildlife spotting, beach fishing and picnicking on the sand. Two new glamping tents offer the resort’s most sumptuous stay yet, each with a beach-facing deck jacuzzi and space for a family of four.
How to describe the blue of the Indian Ocean? Turquoise? Cerulean? It’s tempting to reach for your phone to share a pic. But don’t bother – there’s no wi-fi here. Made up of 30 glampingstyle Eco Tents, 25 Eco Villas and two Beach Houses connected by elevated boardwalks, Eco Beach Resort is set amid the dunes on Cape Villaret, a 25 minute heli flight or 90 minutes by car south of Broome. Having come all this way, the only thing left to do is immerse yourself in the land – the Mud & Bubbles experience involves being smothered in mineral-rich mangrove mud from nearby Jack’s Creek while sipping champagne. There’s also stand-up paddleboarding, fishing safaris, early-morning beach yoga and bushwalks led by Traditional Owner Neil McKenzie.
Image credit: Greg Elms. Jonathan van der Knaap
For years, Sorrento locals have enjoyed a drink at the circa-1875 Hotel Continental – aka “the Conti” – overlooking Port Phillip Bay. Now, after a glitzy revamp, the venerable limestone pile has been transformed into the InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula. Evoking the seaside glamour of a Mediterranean resort just 90 minutes from Melbourne, the hotel hits the mark for a long, laid-back weekend. There’s a heated pool with a terrazzo deck, a bathhouse and spa, plus a fine-diner called Audrey, helmed by Scott Pickett, and a moody cocktail bar. Not to mention 108 rooms and suites decked out in rattan, blonde wood and pops of green and crimson within the historic building as well as a new addition. Long live the Conti!
Image credit: John Montesi
Barossa Valley, SA16/29
This destination hotel has recently received a $3 million ‘glamover’ with 15 refurbished villa-style suites and an 800-bottle wine cellar in the guest lounge. Overlook the grapevines from the sunny courtyard of The Louise, as kangaroos pass by before taking a dip in the infinity pool while looking out over the grapevines. Hatted Appellation restaurant has you sorted for dinner with an ever-changing four-course dégustation menu that spotlights local produce. The team offer bespoke itineraries for exploring the Barossa, as well as a large list of signature activities for guests that include hot-air balloon rides and pasta masterclasses.
Fans of low-food-mile dining (and everyone else) can live the philosophy on Tasmania’s east coast. Beginning in St Helen’s, a couple of hours drive east of Launceston, and travelling along the rugged coast towards Coles Bay, you can cruise from meal to spectacular meal on an edible adventure. On the way, there’ll be fat briny oysters, superb lobster and scallops every which way – try the pie at Blue Edge Bakery in Bicheno (55 Burgess Street; +61 03 6375 1972). Stomach full, settle in at Rocky Hills Retreat with its ocean views and crashing waves soundtrack. Have breakfast on the deck (provisions provided), wander to the art studio or bathe in the Huon pine outdoor tub. By now, it’s likely been at least 12 hours since
your last oyster. What are you waiting for?
Image credit: Steven Woodburn
Kyah, Blackheath, NSW18/29
Approaching the elegant entrance framed with cacti in pastel pots, it’s immediately obvious that a stay at Kyah, a reimagined 1970s motel in sleepy Blackheath, two hours drive from Sydney, is going to be less Blue Mountains kitsch and more Palm Springs cool. Just under a hectare of landscaped gardens surround the 46-room hotel, which features chic furnishings, plush drapery and killer curves.
Whatever the day serves up, the evening must end at Blaq, the on-site restaurant that offers a garden-to-table philosophy under executive chef Mate Herceg. The eatery plates up the state’s best in seasonal produce, such as Junee lamb, prawns from Yamba and vegies grown on the property, in a sophisticated space with velvet banquettes and flickering fireplaces (all three of them).
Image credit: Hannah Puechmarin
As one of 11 children, Freda Cook didn’t have a private claw-foot bathtub, snug king sized bed or wood-burning stove for chilly nights. But you will in the room named in her honour at Maleny Lodge, which is behind a white picket fence in the picturesque Sunshine Coast hinterland town of Maleny, 95 kilometres north of Brisbane. The lodge comprises Rosedale, a 1905 Queenslander built by Freda’s parents, Ada and Alfred Cook, and four stand-alone suites, and it’s possible to occupy a room, the house or the entire property exclusively. Wake up to birdsong and sunlight filtering through linen curtains then step into the verdant garden to take in the mountain views and paddle in the heated magnesium pool before wandering into town for breakfast.
Cradle Valley, Tas20/29
Co-founder Jessica Collins conceived Tiny Escapes out of a desire to share Tasmania’s wilderness with others. Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park captivates visitors with its alpine heathlands and rainforests, the imposing summit of Cradle Mountain and its furred and feathered denizens, including quolls, Tassie devils and platypus. Tiny Escapes offers six houses, secreted among more than 100 hectares of temperate rainforest, through which the Iris River twists and weaves. More spacious than the rest, Blackjack is a modern chalet that’s exquisitely, if simply, furnished along clean lines. With two bedrooms, heated bathroom floors, an outdoor bath, a two-way fireplace and a campfire, the comfortable little home is a front-row seat to nature’s wonder.
This tranquil escape can only be reached after a 40-minute drive from Brisbane airport to the ferry crossing, where you can take your family and car across to the island. Start with a walk along the quiet Frenchman’s Beach and follow up with a walking culture tour of the island with Yuru Tours – you’ll try native honey straight from the guide's backyard beehive. A stay at Gabura Beach House means thick bush surrounds and kangaroos as your neighbours.
Byron Bay, NSW22/29
Having small children puts the kibosh on some of life’s great pleasures: late nights, white T-shirts, spontaneity. But it need not get in the way of a luxurious escape. Enter Elements of Byron, a sprawling beachfront resort with two-bedroom villas equipped with everything from full kitchens and laundries (maybe you can wear white, after all) to board games. The Lagoon Pool Precinct is for tiny splashers, a sandy log-and-rope playground makes for imaginative games and Azure Bar & Grill has a greatest-hits kids menu. The MVP kids club (school holidays only) will keep little ones entertained while parents escape for lunch, a massage at Osprey Spa or the adults-only pool. Reach town in 10 minutes flat on the solar-powered Byron Bay Train.
Nusa Dua, Bali23/29
For over 30 years the beachfront haven that is Meliã Bali has created the ideal escape for guests to unwind. Spend the day by the pool (yes, adults-only is an option), cycle along the waterfront or indulge in an hour-long foot massage at YHI Spa. Become an all-inclusive guest with exclusive access to a private pool and beach area. There are five restaurants serving everything from Japanese to Spanish cuisine or if you prefer to be more hands-on, there’s even a garden with over 60 varieties of herbs, fruits and vegetables to use in cooking classes.
Northern NSW’s Bangalow is fast becoming a gourmet destination to rival its coastal neighbour, Byron Bay. Drop your bags in two-bedroom cottage Hav’eli House – the luxe Bali-style villa is the ideal retreat for lounging in style – then get ready to eat your way through town. On Saturdays, pick up local produce at the Bangalow Farmers Markets then check into a leisurely long lunch at The Hut Byron Bay for seasonal share plates paired with Italian and French wines. Still got room for dinner? A salami woodfired pizza at hatted Italian restaurant Ciao Mate is the way to go.
Image credit: Parks Australia
Cooinda Lodge, NT25/29
For at least 60,000 years, First Nations people have lived on the land now called Australia, yet our supermarket shelves are filled with the native produce of other nations. In the wilds of Kakadu, Bininj man Ben Tyler is working to introduce the flood-plain flavours of the local Murumburr clan to visitors with a series of Kakadu Full Moon Feasts. Tyler, founder of bush food company Kakadu Kitchen, alongside Cooinda Lodge’s executive chef Philip Foote, creates extravaganzas of four-course menus, stories and music. Expect to sample foods caught and foraged on Country, such as barramundi with finger lime and desert sunrise lime curd. Base yourself at Cooinda and taste the bounty of the Top End’s six seasons.
Image credit: Pew Pew Studio
It began with imaginative menus at the likes of Monster and good times at Bar Rochford. From there, a generation of local hospo talent who might once have decamped to Sydney or Melbourne have stayed to put their stamp on Canberra’s food scene. Hop around the city’s bar scene from Molly to Paranormal Wines. Book a table at Wilma (overseen by James Viles), bistro Onzieme, lauded Pilot, and the Pilot team’s new offering, Such and Such, with its buzzing courtyard spilling onto Constitution Place. In the same precinct you’ll find A by Adina with its 130 studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments.
Image credit: Steve Couper
Taupo, New Zealand27/29
The ancient forests of Taupo sit three-and-a-half hours south of Auckland and offer a myriad of outdoor activities suitable for all ages. The Tokaanu Thermal Walk curves past natural pools while Taupō Sailing Adventures provide tours of New Zealand’s largest lake, showcasing historic 10-metre-tall Māori carvings along the way. Stay in the remote wilderness at Poronui Lodge,a 6500-hectare working farm where the highlight is the rustic-luxe Safari Camp which features two tented cabins on the Mohaka River.
Murray River, SA28/29
Spectacular views from each balcony (see that sunset!) are reason enough to visit this idyll, just three hours drive from Adelaide in Paringa. Comprising three luxurious contemporary retreats built on a clifftop overlooking the meandering Murray River, The Frames invites you to indulge in the on-site hydrotherapy spa (each retreat boasts its own pool, spa and sauna), cook a feast in the gourmet kitchen or pop a cork on the balcony and dine as the sky darkens to mauve. In-villa services include massages and a private chef who’ll create threecourse dinners. If you can bear to leave your riverside abode, guided wetland and wildlife safaris, sunset gondola cruises and cultural tours can all be organised.