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 to save you from severe culture shock we will start off with the obvious, but still truly visit worthy Sydney.
Sydney, New South Wales with Stefano from Mel365.
Sydney is a city you cannot help but fall in love with. I still remember the first time I visited this beautiful corner of Australia. I arrived so early in the morning that I was probably one of the first people at Circular Quay, next to The Rocks, site of the first British settlement back in 1788.
You have here one of the most incredible views in the world, with Sydney Harbour right in front of you, the Opera House on the right side and the Harbour Bridge on the left side. This is the place to start a short stay in Sydney.
Whenever visiting Australia or just for a weekend, Sydney has so much to offer. I live in Melbourne however I fly here at least twice a year. For the newcomer I always suggest to spend time at The Rocks and the iconic sites around the harbour. Then have a day in Bondi, the quintessential Australian beach, for some surfing and a swim in one of the many pools carved into the rocks along the coast.
Wellington, New Zealand with Thais from World Trip Diaries.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. It’s chilly, windy, and rainy, but it’s so beautiful! Even the city sign displays the wind.
I love the food in Wellington – best chocolate ever, plus good coffee everywhere. Fish & Chips is also very serious business there. Every time we go there, there are a few things we always do:
- Te Papa Museum is probably the coolest museum in the world. Highly interactive, enormous, and fun!
- Weta Cave is where our nerdy sides get more excited. Even though we don’t do the tour every time, we do go to the shop just to see stuff. You do need to see the tour at least once.
- Cuba Street is a pretty shopping street with great cafés and awesome shops all around. A few small playgrounds scattered to entertain little humans too.
- A nice walk around the Harbour, with a stop at the Beehive because there’s always something going on, and almost always, fun. Even when there’s nothing, it’s one pretty sight!
Everything is relatively close and you can cover a lot of the touristic spots in a very short period of time. It’s also the departing and arrival point of the ferries between NZ’s two main islands, so it’s handy. And, remember, chocolate.
Wollongong, New South Wales with Paula from Contented Traveller.
The city of Wollongong is 80kms south of Sydney and is the ideal weekend getaway. The name Wollongong means ‘between the mountains and the sea,’ and that is literally what you get.
You can get to Wollongong by taking the Grand Pacific Drive, one of the most stunning roads in the world, which takes you through the Royal National Park, the second oldest national park in the world. You cross the Sea Cliff Bridge before hugging the coastline on one side, and the escarpment on the other and then you will arrive in the City of Innovation, Wollongong.
As a progressive and arty city that thrives on the beach lifestyle, you will also find the largest Buddhist Temple in the southern hemisphere is in Wollongong. As a weekend getaway, you can choose a beach weekend, a bush walking weekend, a street art weekend, or an eating and drinking weekend because Wollongong is the perfect getaway in Australia…and we live here. #you’rewelcome
Bunya Mountains, Queensland with Janine from Families Magazine.
Located approximately 3 hours north-west of Brisbane the beautiful Bunya Mountains are a tranquil slice of Queensland that will have you enchanted from your very first peek. It’s impossible to visit and not be captivated by the crisp clean mountain air, those soaring Bunya Pines and the majestic scenery that can take your breath away.
There is something for everyone at the Bunya Mountains; from bush walks to long hikes, log-fire homesteads to camping grounds and more native wildlife than you could possibly imagine. The birds (king parrots, crimson rosellas, sulphur crested cockatoos) are likely to eat out of your hand, they so used the being hand fed! The wallabies, less likely to be hand-fed, are literally everywhere and slowly bound away if you get too close.
With limited mobile reception, there is no excuse to switch off your devices and soak up the natural environment. If you go on the last weekend of any month you can enjoy the Bunya Mountain Markets. The stalls are bursting with fresh local produce and artisan arts and crafts.
You can buy jewelry, pottery, baby goods, local fruit and veg, specialty teas, and home-made pickles, jams, cakes and more. With a small grocery store, two local cafes and excellent accommodation at really affordable rates (whole houses from $100 a night), the Bunya Mountains should be high on your list of ‘bucket-list’ destinations.
Margaret River, Western Australia with Michele from Legging It.
Living in Perth, the most remote city in the world our choices for a long weekend getaway is limited due to distance. However there are still many places you can escape, luckily we have the Margaret River area practically on our doorstep.
Situated just two hours south of Perth, it is an easy drive (or bus journey) with many beautiful places to stop along the way. We love going down there to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, it offers many choices of accommodation from caravan parks to boutique hotels so you can always find something to suit your budget. Margaret River is a well known wine growing area so it is the perfect place to meander around and try some local wines and enjoy the award winning food available.
There are also some beautiful coastal walks to take in the stunning coastlines and in season the whales migrating are a sight to behold. Whether you are a foodie, a wine buff, a surfer or just enjoy beautiful coastlines the area is a winner for everyone who visits.
Barossa Valley, South Australia with Sandy from Tray Tables Away.
Being time poor with work, teenagers and annual leave restrictions short breaks are often all we can do. But they are better than nothing!
We’ve done so many over the years but a place that really stands out is the Barossa Valley in South Australia. There are so many great wine regions in Australia and we’ve done most of them but the Barossa stands out to us as a destination that ticks every box for the perfect short break – accessible, beautiful, easy to get around, relatively crowd free and, of course, great food and wine !
We stayed in a beautiful chateau style B&B in Tanunda which is central to everything and is home to some of the Barossa’s best restaurants. Within a few kilometers in any direction you can visit outstanding wineries such as Penfolds, Henschke, Jacobs Creek, St Hugo and over 150 more.
There is a great farmers market, Maggie Beer’s gorgeous cafe and store and you can extend your stay to include the Clare Valley to the North or the Adelaide Hills wineries on the way back to Adelaide ( which is only an hour away).
Cruise to Nowhere with Penny from Itchy Feet Family.
Australians love to cruise, if you only have a weekend to get away why not try a weekend cruise to nowhere.
P&O Australia offer short break weekend cruises out of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns and Adelaide that collect passengers for a Friday departure and return early enough on a Monday morning that you can head straight from the ship to the office!
The ship does not port anywhere, it simply sails the seas for a relaxing weekend to nowhere. And many of the cruises are themed either Comedy or Food & Wine.
Spend a weekend of laughter at sea with late night comedy shows, afternoon comedy workshops and open mic nights. On the Food & Wine cruise world class chefs provide cooking demonstrations sharing recipes, tips and tricks, sample wines from some of Australia’s greatest winery regions and relax. Two of the ships, Aria and Eden, even have a cellar door onboard for an afternoon of wine tasting.
Your meals are included and restaurants readily available, no-one needs to drive after a few drinks and your bed is only minutes from the dance floor. And for families, with an onboard kids club included in your fare, everyone is in for a fun weekend.
Broome, Western Australia with Becca from Kanguru Adventures.
Broome is a small town in the upper part of Western Australia and a famous tourist destination in the Kimberly region. I love it for the relaxing atmosphere often called “Broome time” by locals.
It is a great stopover after a long road trip around the West Coast. A lot of attractions and activities are free to visit like watching the sunset at Cable Beach. A great place for a relaxing day at the beach or joining one of the famous camel rides along the 22
kilometres of white sand.
If you visit Broome at the right time, you might be able to see the Staircase to the Moon, a natural phenomenon best seen from Roebock Bay showing the full moon rising. You can also visit the local markets, where artists offer their crafts and stalls are selling food.
At Gantheaume Point you can see the dinosaur footprints or join some young adventurers jumping off the cliffs at high tide. For the fishing enthusiasts join the locals at the wharf and catch some dinner for yourself. Broome is although famous for it’s pearl farming, trips to Cape Leveque and the Horizontal Waterfalls.
Coolum, Queensland with Kathy from 50 Shades of Age.
If you are looking for a less hectic and uncrowded holiday spot on the Sunshine Coast, then the coastal town of Coolum is a great alternative to Noosa or Maroochydore. Just 15 minutes south of Noosa and 1 1/2 hours from Brisbane, Coolum still retains the charm of beach holidays from bygone years.
This is the place where my daughter lives and we like to visit often, sometimes staying in our caravan in the fantastic Caravan Park right on Coolum Beach.
Coolum is made up of literally kilometres of pristine beaches for you to stretch out and have all to yourself. You can also explore the Coolum bays to the south, First Bay, Second Bay and Third Bay, between the scenic lookouts at Point Perry and Point Arkwright for a private beach. Or you can head north to the Stumers Creek end of Coolum Beach, which is a dog friendly area.
Coolum is surrounded by exceptional walking trails and excellent bike tracks. With levels of difficulty ranging from easy to fairly strenuous, there is something for people of all levels of fitness. For those looking for a challenge the Mount Coolum walk to the summit, although challenging, rewards you with majestic views of the Sunshine Coast.
Coolum offers a wide range of cafes and restaurants perfect for a quick bite or a leisurely meal. The newly renovated esplanade on the David Low Way is a lovely shady spot to enjoy a coffee or meal and watch the world go by.
Queenstown, New Zealand with Tom from The Travelling Tom.
Queenstown is perhaps the best place for a short break if you’re on the South Island of New Zealand. The sheer number of things you can do make the journey there and back well worth it!
It is known as the adrenaline capital of New Zealand and it may just be the adrenaline capital of the world as well. Think of any activity that gets your heart racing and you can probably find it here!
The most famous of all is the Nevis Bungy, which is a 134m above ground. Certainly not for the faint of heart. You can go also go jetboating, skydiving, ziplining and skiing if you need another shot of adrenaline.
For those of you that are more relaxed in nature, have no fear, there are plenty of less strenuous activities in Queenstown. You can go on numerous walks around the town. Take the gondola to the hills overlooking Queenstown and admire the view, or you could play frisbee golf in the botanic gardens if you want!
One place you must eat in Queenstown is Fergburger. The burgers here are legendary and they were easily the best that I’ve ever eaten. The seemingly permanent queue outside is testament to this!
Queenstown is small enough that you can see and do nearly everything in one weekend. The only problem is that the beauty and energy of the place will make you want to return asap!
Perisher, New South Wales with Gordy from Short Holidays and Getaways.
Not a lot of people from overseas realise that we ski in Australia, but an excellent short break is skiing at Perisher in NSW. Perisher is located 5 hours from Sydney, and 2 and a half hours from Australia’s capital city of Canberra, which is a great place to stop on the way to the snow fields.
Skiing at Perisher is not cheap, but then again Australia is not particularly cheap. The best thing is, however, that when the snow is good, the skiing is fantastic, and the off-piste activities are fun. People get on well together at the snow fields.
Perisher has some excellent black runs like Olympic, and there are some great intermediate and beginner runs, making Perisher a destination for everyone. A huge advantage to skiing at Perisher is that you can also ski at Smiggins, Blue Cow, and Guthega, so you get four resorts to play in. Having a few days at the Perisher snow fields of NSW is an amazing Winter getaway in Australia.
Rottnest Island, Western Australia with Amanda of Not a Ballerina.
Rottnest Island, or “Rotto” as we locals call it, is my absolutely favourite short break to take from Perth. It’s a quick ferry ride away – less than an hour, shorter if you leave from Fremantle – and it’s like escaping to paradise.
Rotto is a small island, and you can easily ride your bike around it in half a day, except that it’ll take longer when you stop off at all the gorgeous beaches along the way. It’s peaceful because apart from the round-the-island bus and a few service vehicles, Rottnest is car-free so it’s quiet and safe. You’ll compete more with quokkas, our gorgeous local animals who are famous now for the smiles in quokka-selfies (google it!).
It’s traditionally the island we Perthites flee to during the school holidays, and you can stay in simple bungalows and villas and spend your days swimming, snorkelling and cycling. There are also dive sites around Rotto and you can rent dive and bike equipment on the island. It’s a great place to go for a couple of days that will feel like you’ve been away from the big smoke for weeks!