The Best Staycations in Every Capital City
If the past few years have taught Australians anything, it’s that our own backyard is a pretty special place to explore. From the idyllic coast to the verdant regions there’s plenty of adventure to be found in every state. But when it comes to the cities, there's no place like home. Here are the best staycations to have in every capital city.
Image credit: Anson Smart
The design lover’s staycay, Sydney1/14
Mascot’s Lunatiques is a veritable treasure trove of incredible items. From textiles to jewellery and furniture, this Aladdin’s Cave is the place to find a unique piece. The new Sydney Modern holds masterpieces but it’s also an architectural one, with its wide, yawning spaces, soaring ceilings and atmospheric bunker area. Spend a few hours here exploring the art – and stop for a coffee at the window-wrapped cafe for exceptional city views.
Dishes at Mediterranean Potts Point diner Parlar are like works of art. Don’t let the construction distract you – plates such as the kingfish crudo with orange and caviar and grilled baby octopus with smoked almond salsa are even more delicious than they look. Few design lovers can overlook the envy-inducing interiors of the Ace Hotel Sydney in Surry Hills, where Flack Studio has perfectly captured both the gritty history and a ’70s-style futurist feel. Book a night (and a dinner at on-site Jatz-spruiker Kiln) to round out the weekend.
Image credit: Comma
The wellness staycay, Melbourne2/14
Start the morning with a pit stop at Brunswick’s Impala & Peacock where tea sommelier Sarah de Witt can fashion a bespoke blend for you to take home to help what ails you, from improving memory to calming anxiety. Next, visit Comma, a tranquil urban space tucked into an alleyway in Cremorne that’s dedicated to recharging. Everything from massages to magnesium soaks and saunas are available here – and all treatments include a snug little linen robe to get around the place in.
Altruism has its own health benefits, too. Stop for lunch at Sibling, an almost completely volunteer-run cafe in Carlton North, where all profits go directly to charity and the majority of produce used is kind on both the earth and you (the menu is roughly 80 per cent vegetarian, 50 per cent vegan and many options are able to be substituted for coeliac-friendly options). Brunswick Aces is the best bar to round out your nourishing weekend. Many of their 100 beers, wines and cocktails are non-alcoholic and they also create a range of zero-alcohol gins at their distillery.
Image credit: Roisin McElwee
The open-air staycay, Darwin3/14
De La Plage cafe, around 25 minutes north of the CBD on the edge of Casuarina Coastal Reserve, opens at 7am and you’ll find locals lounging on the beachside lawns with takeaway coffees on most mornings. Nothing beats the bacon-stuffed breakfast roll with homemade mayo for a pick-me-up.
Forty minutes south of the city brings you to Berry Springs Nature Park and the peaceful 1.4-kilometre Monsoon Rainforest and Woodlands loop. Amid the damp shade of banyan trees and hum of resident insect life, it makes for a cool change from the heat of the city that’s made even better with a refreshing dip in the park’s natural spring-fed swimming pools – so make sure you bring your swimmers.
The enduring goodtime go-to of open-air Deckchair Cinema runs from April to September, so it’s almost time to get to grips with the upcoming program. If you haven’t been already, this is one “cinema” you don’t want to sneak food into – the on-site food offering and is helmed by a daily rotation of epic local producers that’ll blow your supermarket Maltesers out of the water.
Image credit: Oakover Grounds
The wine connoisseur staycay, Perth4/14
With some of the oldest vines in the country, the Western Australia’s landmark wineries often steal the limelight, but the little guys are doing a remarkable job, too. Start with breakfast at Oakover Grounds in the Swan Valley, just a 40-minute drive south of Perth, then when the clock strikes 10am, start trawling the area. There’s a wealth of minimal intervention wineries sprinkled through the Swan – Swan Valley Wines, Chouette, Local Weirdos, Ohkela and Yume for starters – with welcoming cellar doors just a 40-minute drive south of Perth.
Swanbourne’s Vinotto is a light, bright wine bar that’s as breezy as the coastal air that floods in through its front door. On Sunday, they open their doors at lunchtime, with light bites and crisp wines flowing from 12pm. Then, once you’ve dropped your bags at COMO The Treasury back in Perth, check on your booking at fine diner Wildflower, where the wine list is as impressive as the food, with a smattering of French drops along with local producers from Great Southern to Denmark.
Image credit: Mr. Nick’s
The food lover’s staycay, Adelaide5/14
Adelaide is a city that’s known for its playful food scene: so there’s no better time to swing past Frewville’s incredible Foodland, a supermarket of such giant proportions that there are no less than five food bars inside. For breakfast, we’d recommend starting with something from Mr. Nick’s, preferably the Belgian waffles with bacon and Stardust Longevity powder-spiked mascarpone.
Local treasure Ragini Dey harnesses South Australian produce and Indian flavours at her hodge-podge deli in the CBD’s Hutt Street, where she proudly proclaims: “The cutlery might not match, the paintings hang crooked, but the flavours in these walls will excite”. Her street food cooking classes are so popular, they have their own slot for the upcoming Tasting Australia festival in May.
Grab supplies for an early dinner at Pinco, a new deli spruiking old school sandwich goods, from tuna melts to Reubens laced with burger sauce. Pop past LOC Bottle Bar with your spoils and get the staff to help you pair your bites with an exceptional bottle of lo-fi wine, then consume it all on the fluffy green grass of Hindmarsh Square across the road.
Image credit: Spicers Scenic Rim Trail
The adventure staycay, Brisbane6/14
If tackling spreadsheets and sitting in meetings is doing your head in Spicers Scenic Rim Trail provides a refreshing antidote. Offered to guests in two-, three-, four- and six-day portions (how long have you got?), the trail and accommodation package combines the natural beauty of the Scenic Rim region – an hour and a half south of Brisbane – with the bliss of luxuries found only in cushy glamping digs (namely: alcoholic beverages, warming fireplaces and incredible food).
Image credit: Flow Yoga
The Zen staycay, Canberra7/14
Fyshwick’s Flow Yoga takes its sessions to the deck every Sunday; an excellent way to scoop up some vitamin D while making your way through a vinyasa. Offset your work with a little rest. Braddon’s Adytum is an ode to wellness, with a bathhouse of hot rock saunas, cold pail showers and mineral baths, alongside massage, naturotherapy, astrology and acupuncture therapies. You could spend an entire day here (and why shouldn’t you?). Retire to the Brassey Hotel, where you’ll spend your evening leaping between the incredible on-site bars and eateries.
The outdoor staycay, Sydney8/14
You won’t be able to resist the produce at Jack Gray in south Sydney’s Grays Point. Plucked from owner Benjamin Coombes’ family’s Southern Highlands farm, the spoils are plentiful with the delicious results as pretty as a picture.
Keep an eye on the calendar of Diego Bonetto, an expert forager, to see if he’s got any workshops running – there’s usually one in The Royal Botanic Garden that instructs on picking the most worthwhile of weeds for your next meal. Then, spend the afternoon exploring the natural waterholes and stunning coastal paths of Royal National Park, whether it’s a forest wander or a cliffside path. Not ready to leave? You don’t have to – Hilltop Cottage offers heritage accommodation for up to six guests.
Image credit: Heide Museum of Modern Art
The culture hunter’s staycay, Melbourne9/14
Head to Bayside, where a 17-kilometre stretch of sand is dotted with a wealth of contemporary sculptures, First Nations rock art and historical landmarks strung together in an easy walkable trail that skims the shoreline. Then, swing past the modernist Heide, a sculpture museum folded into the peaceful Warringal Parklands in the city’s suburban north-east, where more than 3600 works are woven into the landscape.
When the clock strikes 3pm, Hope Street Radio hits record. Alongside live radio streaming, the space is mixed use in the best way. Expect music, drinks and a menu of pluckable treats from oysters to focaccia. End the day at Prahan’s Art Series – The Cullen, a place that feels more like an art gallery with accommodation than a hotel. Each room is decorated with the vibrant scrawls of artist Adam Cullen and crowned by city views from enormous windows or generous balconies.
The island staycay, Perth10/14
The earliest ferry to Rottnest Island leaves at 7am – you’ll want to be on it. Surf sessions on the island begin well before 9am, so snagging a spot amongst the line-up after your half-hour ride from O’Connor Landing in Fremantle requires an early start. Not a surfer? Stand-up paddleboarding is also popular on Rotty, hireable from Thomson Bay right near the ferry terminal.
Strolling around the atoll on the hunt for quokkas is an essential part of any visit to the isle, but you’ll cover much more ground on two wheels. Paul’s Eco E-Bike Tours has two tours on the roster: a four-hour option during the day that loops in ocean swims, or a two-hour sunset version that’s perfect for a pre-sundowner activity. We recommend following it up with a tipple at the glorious Pinky’s, right on its namesake beach. No need to hurry for the return ferry – Discovery Rottnest Island offers glamping options right in the dunes of Pinky Beach. All you have to do is roll on over from dinner and collapse into sleep accompanied by the ambient sound of the lapping sea.
Image credit: Sarah Jane Van Staden
The creative staycay, Adelaide11/14
Start with the big guns: the Art Gallery of South Australia. At the time of writing, the city’s largest art institution houses art spanning Andy Warhol (3 March – 14 May) to Frida Kahlo (24 June – 17 September), as well as textiles from as far as Sumatra and as close as right here on Country. The city has a healthy sprinkling of small galleries you’ve likely missed, too. There’s always something boundary-pushing at Samstag, the University of South Australia’s artistic outlet, as well as at the intimate ACE, where exhibitions, studios and public workshops combine for an exciting glimpse of local talent.
Want to try your hand at it? Scoot the half hour up to Hanhdorf’s Thiele’s Shop, a cafe and wine bar with art on its walls and in its veins (the owner’s partner’s mother runs the adjoining art supplies store Paint Box). Been a while between sleepovers in the city? Ease yourself in by bunking at Sofitel Adelaide, which has its own contemporary approach to installations (look up in the lobby and admire the red ribbon that twirls around the ceiling).
Image credit: Home of the arts
The arts staycay, Brisbane12/14
Slide down the coast to the rainbow box of HOTA on the Gold Coast, where there are always some treasures to unearth, from cinema to cabaret and beyond. The work of pop art icons including Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat and Damien Hirst will be on show in the gallery until 4 June 2023, including more than 50 pieces that have never been seen by the public before. It’s a visual riot… and it’s a lot of fun. Back in Brisbane, the incredibly vibrant Transitions, running until June, electrifies the white walls of QAGOMA, the city’s beloved modern art museum. If you’ve been before, here’s your chance to go again: it’s a heady mix of materials, textures and colour.
Image credit: Victoria Zwierzynski
The coastal staycay, Sydney13/14
You can’t get closer to the harbour than the tiny tables at Kirribilli’s Celsius Coffee and Dining in the city’s north, a super-cute cafe that clings to the land’s edge and serves a mean brekkie. Around the bend in Balgowlah Heights – around 25 minutes further on by car – a quiet residential street marks the beginning of a bush path that cuts to the heart of the famed Spit Bridge to Manly walk, offering an express route to a local favourite, Reef Beach. Sit in the shade of the towering gums and keep an eye out for the ice-cream boat that rings a bell upon passing. Further north still is the stunning Berowra Waters Inn, a restaurant accessible only by boat.
Image credit: Julian Cebo