The top places to escape Australia’s major cities
In McLaren Vale, the vineyards bloom with vibrant colours during early spring. (Diana Mayfield/LPI)
Every so often we all get that unmistakable itch to flee the city and you do not need to stray too far to escape the hustle and bustle. Here are the best weekend breaks and out-of-town getaways within cooee (a local shout) of Australia’s major cities.
Hobart to gourmet Swansea
Tasmania's East Coast seaside town of Swansea, circa 1820s, is an easy 90-minute drive from Hobart or Launceston. Overlooking Freycinet National Park and the stillness of Great Oyster Bay, city-weary folks can stretch their legs exploring curious historic buildings in this pleasant hamlet. For those with energy to burn, there is Swansea Canoe, Kayak & Bike Hire. About 3km south of town, stop off at Kate's Berry Farm - otherwise known as berry-heaven. It is especially idyllic on a sunny afternoon overlooking the verdant vines. Tasmania is so compact that historic towns like Swansea and windswept seaside are never too far away from Hobart.
Melbourne to the simple life in Maldon
Marvellous Maldon is getting a taste for country chic much to the delight of Melbournians looking for a weekend pit-stop in the state's Goldfields region. Amble down the main street and pick up local crafts; while away the hours by the fireside of a country pub; or take a candle-lit tour of 1880s-era Carmen's Tunnel Goldmine. Come early November, Maldon grooves to the annual folk festival. Camping is a goer at the Maldon Historic Reserve, or for those seeking cosy comfort, try one of the step-back-in-time B&Bs.
Sydney's surfing sidekick
New South Wales does good beaches and Avoca, 90 minutes or 100 km from Sydney, is one of the stars of NSW's Central Coast. Bush surrounds meet enviable beach stretches with rock pools aplenty (keeping kids amused for hours). Avoca is the ideal place to get sand between your toes, surf or simply enjoy walks along the headlands without having to deal with Sydney's mayhem. Take a paddle boat at Avoca Lake and marvel at the easy going beauty of the surrounds. Usually it is the afternoon pelican feeding at the waterfront that is a hit with passersby, but come December, the excitement peaks in Avoca when the Pines Charity Surf Classic takes place on the beachfront.
Canberra's alpine favourite
Hit the slopes at Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains, regarded as one of Australia's best ski playgrounds. This is one good-looking resort and you will go ga-ga at Kosciuszko National Park draped in snow. With good skiing and après-ski diversions, many Canberra types are frequently spotted on some of the longest runs in the land. In summer, mountain bikers and hikers are spoilt with alpine flora, top-notch facilities and outstanding views of Australia's highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko. Canberra airport is 2.5 hours away and a number of coach companies run shuttle services. There are also bus services from Sydney.
Brisbane to Southport's iconic theme park
For some old fashioned fun, big kids and littlies will enjoy Seaworld on the Gold Coast. Sharks, dolphins and dugongs compete with rollercoasters and flume rides. And after all the action a theme park brings, the nearby Federation Walk, a 3.7 km rainforest trail, might be just the tonic.
Perth to Rotto relaxation
In a state known for huge distances, it is nice to know Rottnest Island, fringed by secluded bays and beaches, is only about 19km from Freemantle via ferry. Car-free and home to the indigenous quokka, a super-cute marsupial, there is an air of abandon and tranquility on Perth's favourite island. Snorkel in the temperate waters, catch some waves at Salmon Bay or sea-kayak around the shoreline. Just do not time your visit with the annual school leavers who descend on "Rotto" en masse. Accommodation books out months ahead in summer; so it pays to book accommodation in advance if you're planning to stay over.
Spot a croc at Litchfield National Park, a favourite haunt of Darwinites being just 115 km south from the Territory's metropolis. Nothing compares to standing under a waterfall in an ancient rainforest with butterflies darting around you. Expect a bit less serenity on weekends when visitor number peak. But with magnetic termite mounds to ogle, rock pools to submerge your bod, and three famous waterfalls, it is no wonder. For those who want to wear in the hiking boots, the 39 km Tabletop Track circuit takes three to five days to complete, making it ideal for long weekend jaunts from Darwin.