You guys -- the October long weekend is here! At this point in the year the June one is a distant memory, yet Christmas is too scary to even think about.
So, how do you make the most of three days off? Here’s a slew of mini getaway suggestions, with the help of the very well traveled Lisa Perkovic, Expedia blog editor.
Spa country. Just an hour and a half away from Melbourne, Hepburn Springs is the little sister often sitting in the shadow of the well-known township of Daylesford. Just a few minutes’ drive from Daylesford’s pretty shops and award winning restaurants, Hepburn Springs has charm in spades and a few hidden gems. Make a beeline for Hepburn at Hepburn, home to a handful of uber-luxe villas. We’re talking enormous bathtubs in glass-walled bathrooms, electric fireplace, super cool lights and a velvet lounge you’ll want to sprawl out on and never move. But you will, because the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa is just across the road. Dating back to 1895, the bathhouse draws mineral waters straight from the spring out back into a series of pools and spas. The main pool’s modern makeover sees you soaking and looking straight out the floor to ceiling windows into a little patch of rainforest.
90 minutes’ drive North West on the Calder Highway and you’re out of Melbourne and into gold mining country. Bendigo had its boom back in the 1870s when the Sandhurst mines were pumping, and after a lull, the town is making a comeback. The Colonial buildings give the town an old world feel but there’s plenty of new activity around the place. The Brewhouse Coffee Roasters take their coffee seriously – with a graffiti art, exposed brick walls and roasting on site, you could be in a Melbourne café. The high ceilings and dramatic arches of the Wine Bank on View’s original building (as the name suggests, it was originally a bank when built in 1876) alone are worth a visit -- a glass of wine from one of the local Victorian wineries is the cherry on top. Take the kids to Bendigo Pottery, Australia’s oldest working pottery, where they can get their hands dirty in clay sculpting classes. Then check into The Schaller Studio, the brand new Art Series hotel in town. As the name suggests, this boutique hotel takes its design theme from artist Mark Schaller, with 240 original works on display throughout the public spaces and rooms.
Emerging from the devastation of the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, Marysville is somewhere to put back on your bucket list. Base yourself at the Vibe Marysville for a few days exploring the Yarra Valley or head up into the Lake Mountain ski region. The brand new Vibe Marysville opened early this year, with more than 20 million dollars spent on producing a state of the art conference centre, gym, tennis court, pool and spa. It’s a commitment to a community who was ravaged but not defeated by the raging inferno of bushfires. You’ll find friendly locals, a mean Banoffee pie at Fraga’s Café and plenty of nearby hiking trails to help work off the cake.
Just southeast of Melbourne, Dandenong is far enough from the big smoke to be blissful but close enough that you don’t spend a lot of your long weekend in the car. And it’s not all twee cottages and motels. The brand new Atura Dandenong is bringing cutting edge design to the Dandenongs – Atura is the cool little sister of the QT hotels around the country. With a more industrial vibe and a lower price point, the Atura is a fun spot for a few days away. The Roadhouse Bar & Grill’s wine list has a few regional gems and the burgers have a big reputation. Just down the road is the Sandown Raceway Motor Racing Circuit, where you can head out on the track for a spin or watch the professionals at work. Slow down your pace by heading further into the mountain ranges for a day trip on the Puffing Billy. This steam train runs along a scenic track through the mountains – sit down the back in the open air carriages or ride up front and treat yourself to high tea or a champagne lunch.
Hawkesbury River region
The rivers of Hawkesberry, Wisemans Ferry and Brooklyn are some of Sydney’s best-kept secrets and they’re just 90 minutes’ drive north west of the CBD. Picnics, kayaking, water skiing, fishing and spas await. Whether you’re a family after an action-packed weekend, a couple looking for a few nights by the fireside at a hotel or an adrenalin junkie wanting to get out on the water for a few hours, the region has options for everyone spread out over five rivers. The Sebel Hawkesbury Resort & Spa is tucked into Windsor, a quaint township with a main street that’s worth perusing. Fireplaces, antique furniture, blue and white pinstripe awnings – it’s small town chic.
Mount Tomah, Blue Mountains
You’ve probably been to the Blue Mountains before but have you been beyond Katoomba, the Three Sisters and the antique shops? We’re not talking about driving through Blackheath and across to Orange. Head out of Sydney through the North West and skirt up the side of the Blue Mountains via Richmond. You’ll pass apple orchards where you can stroll the rows of trees plucking fruit straight from the branches into a bucket for later, or stop at roadside Fudge stands to stock up on sweet treats. Save room for lunch because the Tomah Gardens Restaurant has a new chef and his dishes are worth waiting for. Sean Moran from Sean’s Panorama in Bondi left his lofty beachside pad for a treechange years ago but in the past 18 months has put down roots at this small café inside the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden. Make a beeline for the restaurant and then work off lunch with a stroll through the sprawling gardens. Spend the night just down the road in one of the Love Cabins in Bilpin – these quirky yet beautiful cabins are hidden in the trees, caves and bushlands of a local property.
Haven’t you heard? The gong is the new cool kid on the south coast. This university town gets a new influx of fresh hipsters each time term starts but the difference is these cool kids are staying on. And bringing their cold drip, filtered coffee with them. Emerging designers, budding chefs and boutique cafes are cutting their teeth in this friendly seaside satellite city. Swing by Lee & Me for a killer burger and a Snickers milkshake or a quinoa salad and an espresso. They play both sides of the fence. Three Chimneys has Veuve Clicquot Fridays – a $15 glass of French bubbles is a great way to start the long weekend – and is housed in a converted warehouse on its own laneway. Like we said, the gong has street cred. Make sure you save time during your long weekend to visit the Foragers Market – held every Sunday at the Bulli Showground. You’ll find everything from terrariums and vegan pancakes to vintage Tupperware and gelato carts. Check into the Novotel and look straight out at Northbeach and the harbor.
An hour drive is all that lies between you and the picturesque scenery of beautiful Mt Tamborine, in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Clean mountain air, breathtaking scenery and cute Australian wildlife await. There’s plenty of cafes and art galleries in the area but make a beeline for the famous Granny Macs Fudge Store at the north end of Gallery Walk. The chocolate and macadamia fudge is a local favourite. Work off the fudge on the Tree Top Challenge – you’ll jump, slide and climb through the tree tops. After a day a big day out in the mountain air, wind down at the adults only Pethers Rainforest Resort where you’ll find big bath tubs, floor to ceiling windows looking straight out at the rainforest and an open fireplace for when the sun sets.
This sunny, seaside on the Sunshine Coast is your gateway to some of the best beaches in Queensland. Start the day off at Kings Beach before moving on to the untouched sand at Shelley Beach. After a morning in the waves wander up to The Sand Bar Café Kiosk for a burger or check out the stalls at the Sunday Street Fair. If you’re with the family, check into the Oaks Oasis, whose water park playground is legendary. If it’s just the two of you, the rooftop pool at Pumicestone Blue should be your go to spot for a few days r&r.
From the hustle and bustle of high end shopping to the soothing sound of waves crashing on the shore, Noosa will appeal to every city beach lover. Be sure to book a table at the local Aromas Noosa, where their breakfast, lunch and dinners are infused with a taste of Parisian cuisine. If the sea air leaves you with a craving for fish and chips, look no further than Noosa Boathouse, where the local battered delicacies are legendary. Once you’ve spent some time at Noosa’s main beach and main drag, hide away at the Noosa Springs Golf Resort and Spa. The hotel’s golf course, spa and restaurants will keep you occupied.
Let your inner hippie run wild as you wind down the highway just an hour and twenty minutes north of Brisbane to the small town of Maleny. This town is bursting with creativity. Be sure to pay a visit to the local Maleny Dairy to sample their pure cream, A2 milk and natural yoghurts, all made on site thanks to their Guernsey girls. The Maleny Botanic Gardens is a must-visit for hobby horticulturists and the bird sanctuary will be a hit with the kids. Couples will love Spicers Tamarind Retreat -- the big outdoor hot tubs are perfect for a long soak as the sun sets.
From its classic seaside charm to the sensational swells off Boomers Beach, Port Elliot is an ideal place for a family getaway. Just over an hour’s drive from Adelaide, a visit to this small town is like a step back in time. As the oldest seaport for the Murray River Trade, Port Elliot has plenty of history to explore. The Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail offers insight into the town’s role during the development of the Murray and offers the perfect educational trek for the little ones. If history doesn’t tickle your fancy then embark on a walking trip along the Harbourmasters Walking Trail, soak in the beautiful panoramic views out to sea and pick up a snack or two from the famous Port Elliot Bakery. After a long day out in the sun, relax and unwind in one of the character-filled suites at the Trafalgar Premium Vintage Suites.
Situated on the Murray River, the town of Mannum is a little over an hour’s drive from the Adelaide CBD. As the home of Australia’s first paddle steam boat, a paddle ride is a must when you’re in town. Back on dry land, find out more about the area’s history at The Maritime Dock Museum before wandering down the town’s beautiful main street. You’ll find a unique mix of antique and specialty stores to peruse before settling down for the night at the Riverview Rise Retreats.
If you want to minimize travel time and maximize relaxation, the Adelaide Hills are just 30 minutes from Adelaide’s CBD and have plenty of vineyards, long lunches and stunning views of the countryside to keep you occupied. Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, Hahndorf, should be at the top of your to do list – the quaint village is home to plenty of European delicacies, along with fare from local providores. Stock up on a few goodies to take back to your balcony of The Stirling Hotel for snacks as the sun goes down.
With more than 150 wineries and 80 cellar doors, your agenda for a weekend in the Barossa Valley needs to consist of nothing more than sampling great food and premium, Australian red wine. From Penfolds to Elderton, most wineries are open seven days a week and even offer masterclass tasting sessions. If your stomach starts to rumble, and you’re looking for something other than a cheese board, start strolling along Murray Street. You’ll be in foodie heaven soon enough. Stop in at 1918 Bistro Grill, which as the name suggests, is housed in a beautiful sandtone building dating back to 1918. Pair local wines with dishes showcasing the local produce. For the full winery experience, book a room at the exceptional Barossa Shiraz Estate.
Not to be confused or outdone by the Italian town with the same name, the seaside town of Sorrento is a quiet beach side getaway 20 minutes from Perth. It offers all the luxuries of a weekend getaway without the big car trip. Check into the Sorrento Beach Bed and Breakfast and you’ll be strolling along the beach within ten minutes. The Quality Resort Sorrento Beach is another great choice with a more family friendly feel.
Whether it’s swimming with dolphins at Koombana Bay, exploring the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery or getting out on the water on a jet ski, this seaside town has something for everyone. Head out to the Bunbury Wildlife Park where the kids can get up close and personal with some of Australia’s most loved animals or check into the Mercure Bunbury Sanctuary Golf Resort for a round of golf on the 56 hectare property.
The laidback fishing village of Cervantes is the perfect location to explore some Australia’s most remarkable scenery. Pay a visit to the famous Pinnacles at Nambung National Park, check out the rare living stromatolites at Lake Thetis and end the day with a stroll along the jetties of the quiet fishing town. The Pinnacles Edge Resort is a great base for a few days exploring the region – the team have plenty of suggestions for sightseeing activities, especially during the famous wildflower season from July through to October.
A 20 minute car trip is all that’s standing between you and the crystal clear waters of Scarborough Beach. Known to be one of the best white sand surf beaches in Western Australia, Scarborough is the ideal location to relax and enjoy a swim in the Indian Ocean. The city center is home to numerous alfresco dining hot spots for all budgets – splash out on dinner overlooking the beach at glassed-walled Straits Café. The Sunmoon Boutique Resort is a great option for couples and families looking for proximity to the beach and self-catering facilities.
The Southern Highlands (NSW)
If you’re after country chic rather than country twee, the Southern Highlands is your go-to place. From spas and shops, to top class cafes and restaurants, the Highlands has it all. Make Bowral your base for a few days – the Milton Park Country House Hotel & Spa offers the ideal Highlands lifestyle. Four poster beds, open fireplaces and a full service spa will have you never wanting to leave. Make the effort to head into town to check out the Bowral Public School Markets – pick up local cheeses and freshly baked bread for a picnic on the hotel grounds.
The Snowy Mountains
You don’t necessarily need snow or a pair of skis to enjoy the best that the Snowy Mountains has to offer. With the snow season wrapping up for another year, Spring is the perfect time to get out doors and take advantage of the region. Whether it’s hiking up Australia’s highest mountain, fishing by the lakes or sampling the delicious Wild Brumby Schnapps, The Snowys are the ideal base for those looking for fresh, crisp air and adventure. The Man from Snowy River in Perisher has the mountain range views and a spa to keep you busy.
Kangaroo Valley (NSW)
The rich green pastures, sparkling creeks and lush rainforests of Kangaroo Valley are just two hours drive from Canberra. Well away from the hustle and bustle of politics, without a traffic light or roundabout in sight, the hardest decision you will face all weekend will be what to do... from tucking into the world famous pies at the Kangaroo Valley Pie shop or taking in the stunning views at Gerringong Falls. Enjoy the luxury facilities at Kangaroo Valley Golf & Country Resort or choose a quaint cottage room at Crystal Creek Meadows Luxury Cottages.
At just over an hour’s drive away from Hobart, Tasmania’s most southern town is just waiting to be discovered. Nestled within the Huon Region, the tiny fishing town is a hidden gem offering sand, sun and spectacular scenery. Head over to Hartz Mountains National Park for easy bushwalks or bliss out on your outdoor Jacuzzi at Driftwood Cottage.
Homemade breakfasts from freshly picked produce makes Woodbridge on the Derwent a great base for a few days in New Norfolk, just half an hour away from Hobart. The private beach and spa are an added bonus. Soak in the country atmosphere and sample some of the finest local cheese made fresh at Grandvewe Cheese then stop by the Woodbridge Hill Hand-Weaving Studio to pick up something special to keep you warm.
Located a few kilometers away from the start of Litchfield National Park, the town of Batchelor holds the key to an adventurous gateway. The small town has a unique piece of Top End history, with the Batchelor Museum Development Association providing an insight into Australia’s mining and farming beginnings. The Litchfield National Park is the main drawcard of the town, with fresh springs and picturesque scenery offering adventurer’s unlimited opportunity to explore. Stay minutes away soaking up the colourful, quirky atmosphere at The Batchelor Butterfly Farm.