Summer is right around the corner, which means holiday season is just a hop on a plane, a skip to a hotel and a jump into a pool away. However, if you just can’t wait for your chance to escape, there are plenty of bite-sized breaks around Australia that take hardly any time to plan and are ideal for a cheeky weekender. We’ve selected 40 of the easiest quick jaunts around the country that won’t eat into your annual leave and deliver maximum enjoyment in a minimal amount of time.
Image credit: Jackson Arkadieff
Lord Howe Island, NSW1/41
This lush yet rugged island is a 14.5-square-kilometre speck in the middle of the Tasman Sea. Lying 780 kilometres north-east of Sydney, it’s known for its biodiversity, which ranges from abundant birdlife to incredible corals and marine animals.
Margaret River, WA2/41
Western Australia's Margaret River region is know for fantastic wineries and cellar doors – but there's so much more to experience. Plan a stay at this incredible spa retreat, which makes the most of its location by incredible beaches, for the ultimate wellness experience.
Image credit: Stu Gibson
Lake St Clair, Tasmania3/41
Arriving at Lake St Clair from the big smoke – in this case, Hobart, 180 kilometres away – it seems like nature has hit the mute button. Tucked into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, this pristine lake is a vision of untrammelled beauty – and then there’s Pumphouse Point, a frontrunner for the title of world’s most improbable hotel.
Image credit: Getty Images/EyeEm
Hyams Beach, NSW4/41
Beaches are often described as having white sand and turquoise waters, but in the case of Hyams Beach it's actually true. Add the two beaches hemming it at either end and the two national parks and Hyams Beach is a natural wonderland. It’s a pleasant 2.5-hour drive south of Sydney.
Image credit: Hilary Bradford
The Riverina, NSW5/41
In-the-know wine lovers are heading to the southwest plains of country New South Wales to try world-class Italian varietals and indulge in a vibrant wine and dining scene. The Riverina wine region may not be a household name just yet but its food and wine pedigree, classic wineries such as De Bortoli and luxury country accommodation are compelling reasons to visit before word gets out.
Blue Mountains, NSW6/41
An easy drive west of Sydney, the Invisible House is the perfect accommodation option to forest bathe in style in the Blue Mountains National Park, near the Three Sisters and Jenolan Caves.
Litchfield National Park, NT7/41
Kakadu National Park may get all the glory but Litchfield National Park, 90 minutes from Darwin in the Northern Territory, certainly deserves its share of the international spotlight. Discover its incredible walking trails, majestic waterfalls and the best accommodation option nearby.
Fraser Island, QLD8/41
While this unique island is a packed album of natural wonders, its numbers are also impressive – at 123 kilometres long, it’s the biggest sand island in the world; back in 1992 it was the tenth Australian site included on the World Heritage list; it contains half of the world’s 80 perched sand-dune lakes, capturing pure rainwater.
Yorke Peninsula, SA9/41
More rustic than the state’s famed wine regions and wilder than neighbouring Fleurieu Peninsula, “Yorkes” may be relatively unknown beyond its state’s borders but it’s been a favourite family getaway for generations of South Australians.
Flinders Ranges, SA10/41
Experience an overnight guided camping escape in the Flinders Ranges, about five hours drive north of Adelaide, for incredible views of time-worn rock faces known as the Elder Range and the sheer bluff of geological amphitheatre Wilpena Pound.
Red Hill, Victoria11/41
Tedesca Osteria is a singularly charming restaurant tucked into the Mornington Peninsula’s hinterland. Located just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne, Tedesca is chef Brigitte Hafner’s passion project in Red Hill where vineyards tumble prettily down hills and orchards look as though they were planted for the benefit of passing Impressionists.
Southern Highlands, NSW12/41
Long the go-to easy getaway for Sydneysiders, the Southern Highlands made its name with bed-and-breakfast stays, bakery cafés, antique stores and cheerful gardens. Charming, yes. But cool? Now, with its growing community of big-city expats and a spate of new offerings, this misty mountain region is redefining country comforts.
Just a two-hour drive from Melbourne on the majestic Great Ocean Road, Lorne (with a permanent population of about 1,100) is the man-made divide between the lush rainforest of the Great Otway National Park and shipwreck-strewn Bass Strait.
Port Stephens, NSW14/41
An easy two-and-a-half-hour drive north of Sydney, Port Stephens offers a harbour twice the size of Sydney’s, the largest sand dunes in the southern hemisphere and a plethora of beaches, waterways and national parks.
Exuding a laidback, unpretentious bonhomie, the Shoalhaven town of Mollymook is both a tight-knit community and holiday destination, almost equidistant from Sydney and Canberra. Indeed, with cellar doors, incredible dining experiences and, of course, the beach, a weekend here hardly seems enough.
Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria16/41
A cruisy 90-minute drive from the Victorian capital, this pretty hamlet on Port Philip Bay charms with countryside-meets-coast vistas, laid-back seaside towns and a locavore food scene. Base yourself at family-run Lon Retreat & Spa, a boutique adults-only property set on 80-or-so secluded hectares with private access to the beach at Point Lonsdale.
Byron Bay, NSW17/41
A weekend getaway in the northern NSW town is very manageable – take a quick flight into Ballina Byron Airport, pick up a hire car and hit the road. You’ll be enjoying the charms of Byron within 40 minutes – or you could live like a local by taking your time and stopping off at the small coastal towns along the way.
Berowra Waters, NSW18/41
An hour or so by car from the Sydney CBD (maybe two hours on Friday afternoons), this could be the perfect weekend escape. Sitting on Berowra Creek – a tributary of the mighty Hawkesbury River – the settlement is surrounded by the majestic Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
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Geraldton's location right on the glittering Indian Ocean, 420 kilometres north of Perth, makes it a drawcard for all things in, on, above and below the sea – think kitesurfing, crayfish, coral reefs and shipwrecks.
Image credit: Rozenn Hamoniau
Eagle Bay, WA20/41
A little over three hours' drive south of Perth, Eagle Bay sits on the tip of Cape Naturaliste in Geographe Bay, with the delights of Dunsborough, Yallingup and Busselton on its doorstep. With luxury beachfront holiday homes to let and situated just a short distance from the Margaret River wine region, you can enjoy golden beaches, dramatic forests, ancient caves, delectable wines and bracing surfing, all in a single day.
This corner of Canberra has swapped car yards for cafés and resurfaced as a hub for seriously savvy diners. Barrio Collective, Tipsy Bull and Eightysix will entice you with their hearty menus, while Londsale Street will entice you with its stores.
Pottering is to a relaxing weekend what a good swell is to surfing: essential. And there’s no more agreeable place to spend time in the slow lane than Berry, a charming town in the NSW South Coast’s Shoalhaven region, just two hours’ drive from Sydney’s CBD, with glimpses of ocean and lush dairy farms flashing past.
Port Macquarie, NSW23/41
Forget the sleepy town where you spent the summers of your youth because you’re not the only one who’s grown up since then. Today’s Port Macquarie is full of surprises – not least the hyper-local dining scene and bohemian Byron Bay vibe.
Lockyer Valley, QLD24/41
Heading westward on the Ipswich Motorway the Brisbane cityscape quickly recedes, revealing the rugged, natural beauty of the Lockyer Valley at the foot of the Great Dividing Range. As the sun begins to set, the vast blue skies fade and golden light bathes the rich red earth, fertile farmlands and mountainous terrain, home to abundant native wildlife.
Snowy Mountains, NSW25/41
Drinking from the Snowy River, camping in the mountains – when it's not snowing, the time is right for an overnight adventure to Australia's highest point.
Gold Coast, QLD26/41
Australia’s sixth-largest city has come of age, maturing into a cosmopolitan community with an entrepreneurial spirit, a burgeoning food scene and renewed appreciation of its natural surrounds.
Tamar Valley, Tasmania27/41
Lush hills, picturesque vineyards and winding roads and rivers make northern Tasmania’s Tamar Valley one of Australia’s most breathtaking wine regions. It is also a surprisingly convenient weekend destination to reach, just a short flight from mainland Australia’s east coast to the sleepy town of Launceston.
Central Highlands, Victoria28/41
Besides being home to Australia’s first pasta factory and the country’s highest concentration of natural springs, Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are as pretty as a picture and have a European appetite for the good life. Gastronomy, healthy living and Instagram-friendly interiors are all defining traits of spa country, as are English gardens, native forests and the loveliest lake in the state.
Image credit: Destination NSW
The sea is central to life in this charming coastal town on the rugged Sapphire Coast. Easily reached in little over an hour by air from Sydney, visitors should arrive hungry and in the mood for the plumpest, freshest Sydney rock oysters in the state – the oyster fields here are amongst the most fertile in Australia. The town is a perfect base for exploring the rust-red rock pools and dramatic coves nearby as well as whale watching between August and late November.
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria30/41
With laid-back coastal towns, creamy beaches and imposing mansions that could throw shade on the Hamptons, the peninsula has been the go-to playground for generations of Melburnians. In 2017, architecturally sensational boutique hotel Jackalope opened, ticking the only box the peninsula lacked – premium, purposeful accommodation.
McLaren Vale, SA31/41
Until now, the Fleurieu Peninsula has largely been a tightly held secret among local holiday-makers. But the opening of the d’Arenberg Cube – a show-stopping five- storey Rubik’s cube-like cellar door rising from mourvèdre vines – put McLaren Vale on the map of quintessential Australian weekend destinations.
Hunter Valley, NSW32/41
Up for a gourmet wine weekend? Taste the wine and check out the cellar doors, sample the food and bed down for a night or two in NSW's Hunter.
Two days is just a tease in Orange – but you can still uncover some of its best wineries, accommodation and top-notch restaurants. Check into The Byng Street Boutique Hotel before setting out to explore the region's more than 60 fantastic wineries.
Camp Island, QLD34/41
You've heard of Hayman, Hamilton and Daydream but you'll need to travel to the northern edge of Queensland's Whitsundays to find Camp Island, an under-the-radar private stay.
Adelaide Hills, SA35/41
With rolling hills, pretty vineyards and old villages, this wine region has never been short on charm. A recent raft of openings has added exciting new eateries, unique cellar doors and fascinating attractions – all just 30 minutes from Adelaide’s CBD.
Barossa Valley, SA36/41
When you’ve had your fill of wine at the Barossa – if that's even possible – spend your time sampling the incredible local produce before bedding down in a stunning lodge.
NSW’s second city, 160km north of Sydney, may not immediately spring to mind when you think of a luxury getaway. However, this historic port town is in the throes of a tourism boom which has furnished it with not one but two new five star hotels: the Crystalbrook Kingsley and the QT Newcastle. There’s also been an influx of superb restaurants to the area, including top-shelf fine diners like hatted The Flotilla, Meet and Humbug.
While history is still its strongest suit, with majestic churches, intricate fountains and stately 19th-century architecture, Bendigo's broad boulevards are also dotted with innovative cafés, restaurants and watering holes.
A 90-minute drive from Melbourne, the former gold-rush town offer rich pickings for thrifters, trail riders and coffee lovers.
Yarra Valley, Victoria40/41
Trace the Yarra River’s course upstream, through the north-eastern suburbs to its upper reaches, and you’ll find its heartland – the bucolic Yarra Valley wine region, just an hour’s drive from Melbourne but worlds away from city life. There are more than 70 cellar doors, with many more vineyards selling grapes to local and national producers.
Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto