The land Downunder and its little brother New Zealand are a long way from the rest of the world, and because of that distance most foreigners know very little about these island nations beyond Sydney’s iconic buildings, kangaroos and kiwis.
To show you some of the magnificent places you might be missing we have asked some experienced travellers to let us in on the best places in Australia and New Zealand to get away for a few days.
And in case you missed it, you can find another dozen great suggestions in Part One. Now let’s go exploring, starting with our home town.
Newcastle, New South Wales with Kell from Happy Go Travel.
Newcastle is often overlooked as a holiday destination when compared to its city sister, Sydney. But there are a number of reasons why Newcastle should be your next weekend escape.
Newcastle offers an abundance of sights and activities to suit everyone. Here are some of the best attractions available in Newcastle.
- Beaches – It doesn’t matter if you’re a surfer, swimmer or just enjoy relaxing by the ocean; Newcastle has some of Australia’s best beaches.
- ANZAC Memorial Walk – You cannot visit Newcastle without taking a stroll along the ANZAC Memorial Walk. Soak in the gorgeous ocean views from the bridge overlooking Bar and Merewether Beaches.
- Glenrock State Conservation – The Glenrock State Conservation Area offers a vast array of sights. A moderate hike will give you the chance to explore, discover the bush or enjoy some quiet time at a virtually secluded beach.
- Dining – Increasingly known for good food, Newcastle is expanding on its culinary delights daily. Offering all styles from fine dining, burgers, pub food and more. You will not have a shortage of restaurants and takeaway options to feed your hunger.
Talk to the friendly Novocastrians about other great attractions in the area. You will have endless options to choose from.
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania with Cindy from Free Two Roam.
Our favourite Australian short break was a long weekend escape to the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, just across the Tasman sea from us in Tasmania. An easy two and a half hour drive from Launceston, it is one of Tasmania’s most visited national parks. With its spectacular alpine wilderness featuring ancient rainforests, glacial lakes, and alpine moorland, it’s little wonder it’s so popular.
If you love wildlife, you’ll be in heaven at Cradle Mountain. You’ll often spot Pademelons, Wallabies and Wombats in the park, especially at dawn or dusk. You should also visit the Devils@Cradle wildlife sanctuary at the edge of the park to check out some cheeky Tassie Devils, and to learn about the sanctuary’s breeding program and other conservation efforts.
We love hiking and Cradle Mountain is a hiker’s paradise. It offers many great hikes, ranging in difficulty from easy to very tough. While there we tackled the iconic Cradle Mountain summit itself. It was the most challenging hike we’ve done to date, with lots of clambering over slippery boulders, but we were rewarded at the end with a dazzling panorama of the park.
Cradle Mountain is renowned for its stunning beauty and it’s hard to fully appreciate it without being there. For example, catching the reflection of Cradle Mountain’s rugged peaks on the mirrored waters of Dove Lake was a breathtaking experience that’s hard to put into words. One quick word of advise, keep your camera handy at all times; you’ll need it!
Bright, Victoria with Sally from Our 3 Kids vs the World.
One of our favourite places for a short break in Victoria is Bright in the Victorian high country. Its located at the foot of the Mt Hotham, a very popular and probably our best ski field during winter. During summer Bright is beautiful, there is so much to do especially for kids.
We camp there each Cup Weekend and Christmas and the kids enjoy tubing on the Ovens River or bike riding the Rail Trail which links the local towns. Bright has a great public water hole behind the Bright Brewery that provides loads of fun for everyone and even has a splash park for the little ones.
Bright holds a lot of festivals in particular the Australian Adventure Film Festival in February each year which I always attend. Bright is also the premier cycling destination in Victoria, not only do you have the Rail Trails which provide rides as short as 6kms between Bright and Porepunkah or up to 80kms from bright to Wangaratta. You can also test your cycling endurance by cycling up to the top of Mt Buffalo, Mt Hotham and Mt Bogong.
Bright is renown for its food and wine with plenty of choices in the area, our favourite is Ringer Reef in Porepunkah but there are plenty to choose from. You can pick fruit, my favourite is the strawberries at Christmas time. There are so many things to do in Bright, you’d need a month to do it all. If you haven’t been put it on your bucket list.
Phillip Island, Victoria with Bec from Wyld Family Travel.
Sometimes with our work getting away for a weekend can be hard but we were determined to go somewhere. Phillip Island is just under 2 hours from our home so it was perfect for a couple of nights away.
It was an amazing place to stay as we found out… it is not all about those cute little penguins I can tell you! (Although we did go and see them) We had amazing fish and chips after a walk out to Pyramid rock, Marley milked a cow at Churchill Island Heritage farm, we searched for Koalas at the Koala Conservation Centre, hot chocolate was sipped from the Chocolate shop while it rained lightly outside, Willow fell in love with the Cape Barren Geese and their little babies as they wandered near us, A’maze N things also kept us totally occupied for over 5 hours and we relaxed at the amazing Ramada Resort after all of our fun.
There really is something for everyone on the Island rain, hail or shine!
Canberra, ACT with Christine from Christine Knight.
Canberra, Australia’s capital city, makes for the perfect short escape. It ticks all the boxes: great food, bountiful nature, a rich history and beautiful art and plenty for the whole family.
When visiting Canberra, be sure to have the following attractions on your hit-list:
- The National Gallery of Australia – with its large indigenous art collection.
- Old and new Parliament Houses – a visit to the top of new Parliament House and a roll down the grassed roof is a must!
- Australian War Memorial – at 4:55pm for the playing of the Last Post and the National Arboretum Canberra, a 250-hectare arboretum featuring large-scale art installations dotted among its undulating hills.
- Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre has some fun and educational hands on exhibits and experiments for all ages.
Canberra is also a flat, extremely walkable city, and it’s possible to get between most attractions either on foot or by bicycle. Have a sweet tooth? Don’t leave without trying one of the famous milkshakes served up at Pâtissez, home of the “freakshake”.
Kangaroo Island with Kerrie from Travels With Mum.
With Kangaroo island only being an hour and half from Adelaide, we found it was the perfect escape while travelling in South Australia.
The first thing that grabbed our attention when arriving on the island was its stunning, natural beauty. Rugged cliffs, unusual rock structures, beautiful beaches and abundant native animals…exploring this unique place in Australia was a treat for our senses. Our favourite part of our short 4-night stay on kangaroo Island is hard to pick.
Was it exploring the Flinders chase National park and climbing over million-year-old rock structures at the Remarkable Rocks? Was it finding ourselves driving along back roads and discovering the unbelievable Red Cliffs? Was it watching the vibrant colours of the sun setting over the lagoon from our tent? Was it watching the seals playfully frolic along the beach at Seal Bay? Was it cooking dinner on a secluded beach while enjoying the absolute peace and quiet of our gorgeous surroundings? Or was it flying down the sand dunes on a toboggan at Little Sahara?
While all those experiences were amazing, it was joining the guys at Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures on a dolphin swim that blew us away! Jumping in with those majestic animals in their natural habitat, and having them swim so close to you that you could reach out and touch them was an experience we will never ever forget!
Busselton, Western Australia with Lyn and Steve from A Hole in My Shoe.
2.5 hours from Perth on the Southwest tip of Australia, is the perfect getaway place for a few days. The Mediterranean climate, coastal walking tracks, protected beaches, picturesque forests, rivers and caves make Busselton an ideal location for a short break year round.
The focal point of the beachside town is the oldest wooden jetty in the world. Due to the booming agriculture and timber industries in 1865, this now famous Busselton Jetty was constructed to service exports. At 1.8 kilometres it is the longest in the southern hemisphere and those not wanting to walk to the end can board the train at Roy Morris Platform. Across the clear, calm waters of Geographe Bay near the end is Bovell Platform. Experience the Underwater Observatory, one of Australia’s greatest artificial reefs and view 300 species of corals, fish and other marine life and look back at the waterfront precinct on the tranquil, sandy beach.
Busselton’s calm waters and beautiful beaches are perfect for paddling, snorkelling, swimming or fishing and there are many beachside cycle paths. The shady, grassed areas are perfect for relaxing and are dotted with seaside cafes and kiosks.
Between September and December a charter boat from Port Geographe Marina offers whale watching. Another unique activity in the area is a scenic drive through the only pure tuart forest in the world, enjoying a picnic by day or a possum walk by night. Geographe Bay hosts many local and international events like the Ironman Festival, Busselton Jetty Swim and many others.
Busselton is a biodiversity hotspot and the unique wildflowers are spectacular between August and December. 2,500 species of wildflowers and 80 species of birds can be enjoyed throughout Wonnerup Estuary, Ludlow Tuart Forest, Ambergate Reserve, Whicher Range and Captain Baudin Reserve.
Moreton Island with Jennifer from Travel Bug Within.
Moreton Island – or Moreton as the locals refer to it – is close to Brisbane, only 35 kilometres from the mainland. Moreton is a popular destination for anyone seeking isolation, beach activities and the opportunity to camp in a safe environment.
As the world’s third largest sand island, its 170 square kilometre expanse is 98% national park. And this is what I love about Moreton. Because most of the island is undeveloped, it’s an untouched wilderness harbouring unique native wildlife and diverse vegetation. The perfect location for the nature lover. Access to Moreton is via water (although a landing strip at Cowan Cowan is available for small aircraft.) A ferry departs from Brisbane’s Pinkenba wharf and 90-minutes later drops passengers at the Tangalooma Island Resort.
The resort offers a number of activities to day trippers, or those staying overnight can pace themselves. If you enjoy getting up close and personal to wild dolphins, I recommend the sunset wild dolphin feeding run by the resort’s Marine Education centre.
Alternatively, if you’re an adventure enthusiast and don’t mind beach bashing (4WDing across long stretches of sandy beaches) consider taking your 4WD over to Moreton. All roads on the island are unsealed and some are narrow in parts presenting many interesting 4WD experiences. A car ferry provides easy vehicle access to the island. Campgrounds are easy to find. And if you enjoy snorkelling or diving, the wrecks within easy access of the beach provide unparalleled underwater experiences. I’m so grateful I live in south east Queensland with Moreton on my doorstep.
Shepparton, Victoria with Madison from The Roaming Aussie.
When you think of Shepparton the first thing that might come to your mind is the SPC factory, its been there forever but there is more to Shepparton then the cannery. The Yorta Yorta and Bangarang Aboriginal people call this area home and if you find yourself here during the week then a visit to Kaiela Art Gallery is a must do!
The Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton is located on top of the old rubbish tip site, which makes it unique! The garden showcases everything that this region has to offer such as an Indigenous Garden, a Refugee Garden and a River Garden.
The thing that surprises most visitors is that we have two different types of cows, the normal ones that live in the surrounding farms and the Moooving Art ones that are located around the region. The Moooving art is an art instalment of Fibreglass bovines that are painted brightly and have different designs on them my favourite is the Meteorite Cow and the Clown Fish Cow.
This area is also known as a foodie destination with lots of cafes, restaurants and cafes. There is even a Chocolate Apple Factory on one of the many orchards around Shepparton. Their famous chocolate apples are covered in caramel and chocolate and are then decorated in many ways including with marshmallows and 100 and 1000s. the Shepparton region is home to many great things waiting to be explored is perfect for a short break because there is something for everyone.
Yorke Peninsular, South Australia with Michela from Rocky Travel.
If you are in Adelaide and would like to explore more of South Australia, I would recommend going on a 3-day road trip to Yorke Peninsula. It’s a less known and amazing destination, home to beautiful beaches, a rugged coastline and an impressive landscape brimmed with campsites and natural attractions.
Innes national parks is the highlight of this region, stretching for +20 km along the coast. But Yorke Peninsula is also home to a rich heritage mining and farming history. A road trip between October to November will take you through long stretches of picture perfect golden farmland. Make sure you stop at Minlaton Visitor Centre to learn about the farming history of the region. With 1.3 millions of cereals produced here, Minlaton is the Barley capital, producing the highest quality of barley in the world.
A visit to Yorke Peninsula is not complete with a stop at Ardrossan, the most photogenic coastal village of Australia. Located on top of massive red cliffs, the sunset light creates glowing shades of ochre and contrasts of deep blue ocean. Ardrossan is famous for crabbing, a fishing activity that involves catching the Blue Swimmer Crabs from a boat. Yorke Peninsula is truly a fascinating destination that will delight all nature lovers. You can learn more about road tripping Yorke Peninsula.
Ettalong, New South Wales with Paula from Sydney Expert.
Just under 100km from Sydney and an easy 1.5-hour drive, the Central Coast is an area that has more than its fair share of beauty. With over 25 beaches, many deserted outside holiday periods and three national parks on its fringes it is a spot more than worthy of a weekend escape.
We started coming to this part of the coast as kids and spent many school holidays in the Ocean Beach Caravan Park, but these days we base ourselves at Ettalong Beach which is just a ten-minute drive from Bouddi National Park. The main reason we keep coming back to this part of the coast is a natural beauty, but in recent years the area has developed a really good local food scene with lots of quality local restaurants and cafes.
There are loads of activities to fill your days too.
- Kayak your way around the calm Brisbane Waters
- Track down indigenous rock art in the local bushland
- Feast on fresh seafood from Fishermans Wharf at Woy Woy
- Visit Somersby Falls and have a picnic at the bottom of the waterfall
- Take the 3km hike from Pearl Beach to Patonga
With its proximity to Sydney and the abundance of natural beauty on its doorstep, Ettalong is a perfect place to escape the rat race for a few days and see how the other half lives.
King Valley, Victoria with Jean from Traveling Honeybird.
The King Valley in Victoria offers the time poor traveller some of the best of activities that Australia has to offer. Located in the High Country, King Valley is approximately three hours from Melbourne.
It’s the perfect spot for camping, hiking, mountain biking and horse riding. Not to mention fishing in the summertime or if you are keen to base yourself in and partake in a bit of skiing in the winter.
But no good adventure is complete without some fantastic food. This area of Victoria is world renowned for cheese, wine and all things fine. With a heavy heritage of post war immigration, you’ll soon see the European flair from the buildings to the local produce.