Out of ideas for a quick break? Here are our top experiences for a long weekend. You deserve it.
1. Glide on water in the Top End
Kakadu National Park, NT
Bamurru Plains coined the term ‘wild bush luxury’ to describe their accommodation; a down-to-earth camp with a focus on fine details, designed to draw your attention to the surrounding environment rather than the distractions of modern life.
There are a host of activities to get you out and about to explore the wildlife, but we recommend starting with a morning glide on the wetlands on board a fan-propelled airboat (specially for shallow waters) – a unique way to view the birdlife native to the area. At night, retreat back to camp for a hearty meal cooked with local ingredients, before falling into a deep sleep to the sounds of Kakadu silence: croaking frogs and local owls. Sounds like a bloody good long weekend to us.
Location: Bamurru Plains is a three-hour drive or 20-minute flight from Darwin. Swim Creek Station near Point Stuart in the Mary River Region, 10 kilometres from Kakadu National Park’s western boundary.
2. Unwind in one of three award-winning properties
Two kilometres up a dirt road brings you to the secluded and stunning Avalon Retreats. Set on 250 acres of dry bush, the property overlooks a valley and out towards Maria Island. Have a bath on the deck and watch the sun go down, flanked by views of Sullivans Cove, Salamanca, and Mount Wellington. Within walking distance is the waterfront, MONA ferry, seaplanes, restaurants and the CBD.
Location: Avalon Retreats is 1.5 hours from Hobart. 11901 Tasman Highway, Rocky Hills, Swansea
3. Take a private seaplane to a secluded getaway
Whale Beach, NSW
Jonah’s boutique hotel, on Whale Beach just north of Sydney, offers an idyllic getaway without really getting away at all. Kick back on your private balcony and simply admire the 180-degree views of the ocean… and imagine previous guests Sir Anthony Hopkins, Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger doing the same. To really knock your socks off, we recommend arriving in style by private sea plane – you can transfer direct from Sydney’s Rose Bay, as part of a hotel package including a three-course dinner at their hatted restaurant and brekky. Now that’s how a long weekend should be spent (if you’re comfortable with spending, that is).
Location: Jonah’s is a 50-minute drive from Sydney or 20 minutes by seaplane. 69 Bynya Road, Whale Beach, Sydney
4. Soak it up on a private rooftop spa
Perched on the highest point of Noosa’s Sunshine Beach Esplanade is a not-so-average retreat, complete with four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a gourmet kitchen, media room, billiards room, pool and yes, a rooftop spa overlooking the Coral Sea. Turn on the bubbles, pour some bubbles and toast to the Queensland winter sun with a few of your favourite friends, before a barbecue on the deck. Winter warming at its best.
Location: The Beach Shack is two hours north of Brisbane. 19 The Esplanade, Sunshine Beach, Noosa. Book through R&W Noosa Holidays
5. Retreat to a weekend of relaxation and pampering
Byron Bay, NSW
Sometimes, the best kind of indulgence is a break from indulgence. Whether you want to detox, de-stress, lose weight or simply gain some peace, the sprawling hinterland of Byron Bay, home to Olivia Newtown-John’s eco-retreat Gaia, is a beautiful place to do it. With activities like yoga, tai chi, meditation, body balance, cooking classes, art and sculpture classes, and a multi-award winning day spa – your mind, body and spirit are covered. Leave your mobile phone at home… we dare you.
Location: Gaia Retreat & Spa is two hours south of Brisbane. 933 Fernleigh Road, Brooklet
6. Luxury beyond words in a picture worth a thousand
Wolgan Valley, NSW
Brush up on your photography skills and capture the beauty of Wolgan Valley with a guided photography tour. The six-star Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort is a beautiful 4000-acre property with 40 luxury suites boasting a private pool and terrace, and double-sided fireplaces. Step out from behind the lens to enjoy the other onsite activities including hiking, mountain biking, 4WD tours and horse riding. Then return home with your stunning photos to prove that yes, you were indeed at Wolgan Valley. Lucky you.
Location: Wolgan Valley is a three-hour drive from Sydney. 2600 Wolgan Road, Wolgan Valley, Lithgow
7. Take a bush bath
Barossa Valley, SA
An elegant country manor located on a 225-acre estate… sounds like an idyllic place to rejuvenate. And what better way to do that than running yourself a soothing bath and soaking to the sound of silence in the middle of the bush? (Yes, it fits two.)
The all-inclusive two-night stay at Kingsford Homestead includes drinks and canapés served on the verandah as the sun goes down, cooked breakfast, complimentary wines from the cellar, a five-course degustation one night and a three-course dinner the other. The 1856 homestead may look familiar: it was the previous home to McLeod’s Daughters, but now it can be yours.
Location: Kingsford Homestead is 45 minutes from Adelaide. Kingsford Road, Kingsford
8. Fresh oysters and champagne for breakfast
Coles Bay, TAS
Imagine standing knee-deep in a stunning wetland sipping champagne and tasting prized Pacific Ocean oysters. Guests at Saffire-Freycinet can opt to don a pair of waders and do just that. Have a go at shucking and gain an understanding of the local ecology. But if oysters aren’t your thing there’s a bevy of other experiences where you can wine and dine – learn the art of winemaking, watch a cooking demonstration or join a mixology cocktail class. And, with contemporary furnishings, generous views, plush bedding, locally-sourced gourmet cuisine and a delicious spa menu, if you just want to hibernate inside for the weekend, we don’t blame you.
Location: Saffire-Freycinet is just over two hours from Hobart. 2532 Coles Bay Road, Coles Bay
9. From French bubbles to natural springs
Mornington Peninsula, Vic
Tussie Mussie is a Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vineyard with beautiful boutique accommodation hidden up a long driveway flanked by olive trees and vines. Spend two nights in The Old Laundry wrapped in luxe sheets, or by the cosy wood burner, and enjoy the local produce. An iced bottle of French champagne will greet you on arrival, followed by a gourmet breakfast basket each morning, then indulge in a three-course dinner with matching wine at the hatted Lé Patanque French Restaurant. A double pass to the Peninsula Hot Springs will give your palate a rest… for a couple of hours anyway.
Location: Tussie Mussie Vineyard Retreat is located one hour from Melbourne. 206 Bittern-Dromana Road, Merricks North, Victoria
10. Sauerkraut, chocolate and wine… oh my
Australia’s oldest living German settlement, Hahndorf, is a quaint village located in the Adelaide Hills. The town retains its German heritage with many historic ‘Fachwerk’ buildings (with traditional German timber frames) lining the main street – one in particular is the 1839 German Arms Hotel; a great spot to feast on German fare and a stein of beer. And for a fully indulgent experience, The Manna of Hahndorf, a boutique hotel right in the heart of the town, offers a package including breakfast, a cheese platter and a ChocoVino experience at Hahndorf Hill Winery, where you match wine to chocolate. An extra hole in the belt is probably a necessity by the end of the weekend.
Location: Hahndorf is 35 minutes from Adelaide
11. Pub grub like no other
The Royal Mail Hotel is not your average country pub – this one wears three well-deserved hats. The award-winning tasting plates should definitely have you rethinking pub food. To truly appreciate the first-class cuisine – which is created from local organic produce collected straight from the kitchen garden – the hotel offers a ‘Dine and Unwind’ package that includes a tour of the garden with accommodation, handcrafted chocolate, dinner for two with matching wine, breakfast and a late check-out. And to work it all off, you can explore the many walking trails leading to the nearby Grampians National Park.
Location: The Royal Mail Hotel is 3.5 hours from Melbourne. 98 Parker Street, Dunkeld
12. Have your own private whisky tasting
Margaret River, WA
The Grove is a winery, distillery, brewery and accommodation all in one. Located in the beautiful Margaret River region, the three simple and self-contained accommodation options come with private jacuzzis and gas log fires; a great option for a get-together with a group of friends. Why not add a private whisky tasting to your stay… set up in the Whisky Room, you will be expertly guided through the one-hour tasting of The Grove’s own whisky and a single malt selected by the The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Finish off with a freshly roasted coffee – you may need it.
Location: The Grove is three hours from Perth. Corner Metricup and Carter Roads, Wilyabrup, Margaret River
13. Follow the Strange Bird
Granite Belt, Qld
For wine tasting with a difference, take the Strange Bird trail in the Granite Belt boutique wine region. The trail is dedicated to alternative grape varieties like Petit Verdot, Viognier and Barbera. To be considered ‘alternative’, a variety must not represent any more than one per cent of the total bearing vines in Australia, according to the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, so you know these drops are pretty unique. Located near three of the wineries on the trail (Tobin Wines, Ballandean Estate and Golden Grove) is Azjure Studio Retreat; modern, self-catered accommodation with a beautiful backdrop.
Location: The Granite Belt region is three hours from Brisbane
14. Hold a dinner party to remember
Always wanted to throw a dinner party but not so sure about the actual cooking part? No worries – the Blue Bowl Brown Sugar Cooking School in Bowral offers experiences where you host a dinner party, and they teach you and your guests how to cook each course. They will help you design a menu and will bring the ingredients and equipment to your chosen venue.
Location: Bowral is 1.5 hours from Sydney
15. Compete in your own amazing race
Swan Valley, WA
The Swan Valley is a great – and very quick – getaway from the city with a premium food and wine trail featuring excellent wineries, breweries, distilleries and a huge range of eateries. So that’s the adults covered for the weekend, but what about the kids? Get them running around and exerting some energy with The Great Valley Rally, aimed at families with children aged from five to 12 years. The race takes three hours and involves hunting for cryptic clues along a route in the valley. They are rewarded at the end with a certificate and a small prize. The Vines Resort is a good accommodation option for families, offering two- and three-bedroom apartments.
Location: The Vines Resort is 25 minutes from Perth. Verdehlo Drive, The Vines
16. Be a reptile keeper for a day
Central Coast, NSW
A family weekend away where the kids will have a ball and you can have a relaxing day to yourself? Yippee! Head to the Central Coast where The Australian Reptile Park offers a pretty special experience for little and big kids alike. The Kid 2 Keeper program is a fully escorted workshop where kids gain an insight into the life of a keeper, study animal behaviour, learn how to handle the animals and visit some behind-the-scenes areas like the reptile room. Children over six can attend without you – so we recommend treating yourself at the Endota Spa at the Crowne Plaza Terrigal while you have some quiet moments.
Location: The Crowne Plaza is 1.5 hours north of Sydney. Pine Tree Lane, Terrigal
17. Make your own chocolate
Phillip Island, Vic
Phillip Island is famous for its penguins, but for something a little different we think Phillip Island Chocolate Factory is an afternoon that all chocolate lovers, young and old, will enjoy. Learn about the story of chocolate, play games of skill to win chocolate, produce your own chocolate bar filled with any flavour, and see the gallery of vintage advertisements for, you guessed it, chocolate. When you’ve had enough Augustus Gloop fun, Silverwater Resort is a fantastic resort for families – a contemporary retreat for adults, with lots of fun for kids. There is a heated indoor pool, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, billiard and tennis tables, a children’s playground and hours-of-fun bouncing pillows on their lawn.
Location: Silverwater Resort is two hours from Melbourne. 17 Potters Hill Road, San Remo
18. Go on a ZooVenture
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the National Zoo in Canberra. Feed a 110-kilogram Sumatran tiger, let Brown bears lick honey from your fingers and tickle the scaley skin of a python. A ZooVenture will certainly give you a thrill; experience up-and-close encounters with these beautiful creatures. The simple and modern Pacific Suites on Northbourne offer one- and two-bedroom apartments and several packages suitable for families.
Location: Pacific Suites is three hours from Sydney. 100 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra
19. Explore Margaret River by horseback
Margaret River, WA
The scenery of Margaret River during the autumn and winter season is certainly a sight for sore eyes – and what better way to enjoy it than on horseback? Losari Retreat, set within 66 acres of stunning landscape, offers a Horsemanship Package that includes accommodation in their lovely villas, gourmet breakfast and a two-hour horse riding experience through the nearby national park – a great package for a family to get outdoors and explore together.
Location: Losari Retreat is 3.5 hours from Perth. 498 Osmington Road, Margaret River
20. Run away with the circus
Sunshine Coast, Qld
Ever wanted to experience the whimsical world of the circus? (Well, the kids probably have…) As well as offering a fantastic kid’s club with craft and cooking lessons, movie nights, discos, face painting and an outdoor play centre, the Novotel Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast also has circus classes. Kids can learn juggling and balancing acts, the flying trapeze, the bungee trampoline and aerial tricks. But if you are happy to leave the circus tricks up to the children, head into Maroochydore for a long lazy lunch on the waterfront.
Location: Novotel Twin Waters is located 1.5 hours from Brisbane. Ocean Drive, Twin Waters, Sunshine Coast
21. Float on Cloud Nine
Hawkesbury Valley, NSW
Make like a bird and float amongst the clouds in a hot air balloon over the picturesque Hawkesbury Valley – a great way to see the sprawling landscape. Retreat back to the Crowne Plaza where there is plenty to do for restless travellers; set on eight hectares of manicured landscaped gardens, there is a golf course, tennis courts, a heated pool and day spa.
Location: Crowne Plaza is 45 minutes from Sydney. 61 Hawkesbury Valley Way, Windsor
22. Get culturally rich in the Tiwi Islands
From Darwin, NT
Munupi Wilderness Lodge is located on Melville Island, part of the Tiwi Islands group – a culturally rich region with a thriving Indigenous art scene. The simple lodge is offering packages including airfares from Darwin, a guided fishing tour, picnic at the local swimming hole, a tour of the arts and craft centre, a trip to Fort Dundas, and a cultural tour including hunting for traditional foods, spear crabbing and gathering mud mussels. The lodge has been praised by the likes of Rex Hunt and Andrew Ettinghausen… and you’ll get permission from the Aboriginal elders to throw a line too.
Location: Munupi Wilderness Lodge is a 30-minute flight from Darwin. Lot 288 Pularumpi, Melville Island
23. Explore Rotty on two wheels
Rottnest Island, WA
Rottnest Island is better known as a typical summer getaway… but during winter, it’s just as beautiful and much quieter. And whilst the water is a bit fresh, on-land cycling is the perfect winter activity. With over 1300 bikes available for hire and an easy pick-up/drop-off system, exploring the island by two wheels is easy. Rottnest Express also provide helmets, locks, island information and cycling advice. Rottnest Island is a car-free island so you can travel over 50 kilometres of road and cycle ways and discover the stunning bays, beaches and the wildlife on the island, including the native quokkas.
Location: 40-minute ferry from Perth
24. Hit the slopes
Mt Buller, Vic
For an action-packed winter escape, you can’t go wrong with Mt Buller – there is something here for everyone. Spread out over 300 hectares of terrain, there is a range of runs from beginner to experienced, 22 lifts and two toboggan parks. Off snow, there is plenty to do as well: arts and artefacts walk, a spa retreat, cinemas, 30 bars and restaurants.
Location: Mt Buller is three hours from Melbourne.
25. Be with nature in the mountains
Lamington National Park, Qld
Located in the World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park, O’Reilly’s is all about the outdoors. They offer a huge selection of activities including rainforest walks, eco talks, 4WD excursions, a Bird of Prey show and complimentary wine tasting at nearby Canungra Valley Vineyards. Inside you’ll find all the creature comforts you need: a range of guest rooms in the Rainforest Retreat as well as the more luxurious Mountain Villas.
Location: O’Reilly’s is two hours south from Brisbane. Lamington National Park Road, Canungra
26. Learn to fly a glider
Scenic Rim, Qld
Located at the very heart of the Scenic Rim and surrounded by 100 acres of bushland, the Bunyip Retreat is set amongst an amazing landscape. View it from a different vantage point: the resorts owner Rob offers flying lessons in his sleek modern fibreglass aircrafts. Climbing to over 1200 metres, you can see the city skyline, Stradbroke Island and the top of Mt Warning on a clear day.
Location: Bunyip Retreat is one hour from Brisbane. 139 Lutter Road, Charlwood