Zoe Naylor’s Guide to the Best Girls Getaways, Mothers, wives, workaholics and genuinely worn down women . . . Did we miss anyone? Time to put it all aside, grab the gal pals and return to sanity on a Girls’ Getaway!

SYDNEY

A Sydney girls’ weekend favourite is to meet at Icebergs in Bondi and walk Australia’s shorter version of the Cinque Terre – the Bondi to Coogee walk – a manageable, easy stroll.
To make it even more enjoyable, I usually do the Bondi to Bronte walk, stop for a coffee, then head back; all up, that’s one hour of leisurely sightseeing and chatting.
It’s even better during the crisp spring months, when the wonderful Sculptures by the Sea are installed. During winter, I’ve been lucky enough to catch the magnificent sight of a pod of dolphins and breaching whales, and every time I return from that simple one-hour stroll I feel more alive than when I began.

After the walk, I go to Icebergs pool to jump in the sauna. I’ve never experienced a view from a sauna quite like it. It’s as though you’re in Greece, and it’s only a measly $5 a steam.
Across the road from Icebergs is one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney. I’ve lived in Bondi several times over the years and tested all of the restaurants. The Bondi Trattoria (or the Bondi Tratt, as it’s affectionately known) is always my first choice for breakfast lunch or dinner. If Billy, the crazy American is working, ask him politely if he’ll share a balloon trick with you.

“Our model wasn’t exactly Brad Pitt but it didn’t take long for us to crack open a cheeky conversation.”

I love having my nails done with gal pals, and after many false starts, I’ve found the best place in Sydney for convenience, large squawking groups, affordability and service. Le’s Nails in Cross Street, Double Bay, only costs $40 for a mani-pedi. That’s a bargain in my books. Even better, it’s the perfect warm-up to a lunch at Catalina’s in Rose Bay. Another favourite. It has a relaxed atmosphere and the food is sublime.
After lunch there are three options for the girls. A nana nap, a spot of shopping anywhere on Oxford Street, or a nude life-drawing class.
Opt for the latter. It’s the perfect environment to explore your inner Van Gogh and have some uncontrollable belly laughs. The Artful Hen hosts girls’ weekends and hen’s nights in Darlinghurst. In my attempt our model wasn’t exactly Brad Pitt but it didn’t take long for us to crack open a cheeky and naughty conversation.

I adore a pre-dinner drink at The Winery in Crown Street, a fantastic wine bar with amusing, eclectic décor. You can either stay on here to eat (if you can get a table), head to North Bondi Italian, or sit in front of Percy, the head chef at Sushi e in Hemmisphere. All these restaurants are fashionable and fun.

Sydney has one huge flaw in the girls getaway department for me: the perfect place to dance the night away. When Mr Wilson is playing at Piano Room in King’s Cross, it’s impossible to stop your heels from taking control of your feet. But the infamous Ivy in the city has recently proved disappointing. The place just reeks of insecurity and pretentiousness.

Bondi Trattoria // 34 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach, (02) 9365 4303, bonditrattoria.com.au
Le’s Nails // Shop 5a, 20-26 Cross St, Double Bay, (02) 9328 4539.
Catalina’s // Lyne Park, Rose Bay, (02) 9371 0555, catalinarosebay.com.au
The Artful Hen // (Life drawing) 77-83 William Street, Darlinghurst, 0412 179 357, theartfulhen.com.au
The Winery // 285a Crown Street, Surry Hills, (02) 9331 0833, thewinerybygazebo.com.au
North Bondi Italian // 118 -120 Ramsgate Ave, North Bondi, (02) 9300 4400, idrb.com/northbondi
Sushi e’ in Hemmisphere // 252 George Street, Sydney, (02) 9240 3000
Piano Room // Cnr King’s Cross & Darlinghurst Roads, Potts Point, (02) 9356 8238.
Sculpture by the Sea // Oct-Nov, Bondi to Tamarama walk, (02) 8399 0233, sculpturebythesea.com

GOLD COAST

I have always had a great time on the Gold Coast. From my first surf lesson to shockingly blistered and deformed lips at schoolies, sedate hinterland drives and a brief stint living in Currumbin, I love the Coast.
For the girls’ getaway, the beauty of “The Goldie” is that all options are covered, from the wild and outrageous, all the way through to sedate surfs-up retreats and more nature-based tofu and yoga experiences.

The southern suburbs, from Burleigh Heads to Tweed Heads, are very laid back – and home to some of the most famous surf breaks in the world. Accommodation around here is cheap yet stylish, and – even better – right on the beach. It’s where I like to go with the girls these days, since the heady days of Surfers Paradise are behind us – most of the time.

I had my very first surfing lesson from a great man called Crazy at Green Mount beach along here. It’s a picturesque beach with a quaint, forgiving wave, perfect for female beginners.
These days we head out for a day on the lush and tropical scenic drive that winds into the hinterland behind Currumbin and ends with a light lunch at Springbrook. On the way, the waterholes beside the road are an unexpected delight (and very much a closely guarded local secret).

 A slightly different experience a few years ago was when I celebrated a birthday at Palazzo Versace and embraced my inner child on the Movie World rides. Remembering that sweet mix of terror and adrenalin always brings a huge smile to my face.

The natural arch in Springbrook National Park and Springbrook town itself are tranquil and grounding. The town is apparently home to a Yeti; locals love to fill your head with tall and furry tales. If you’re there at the right time you can also participate in a Rosella hand-feeding frenzy that looks like a rainbow exploding.

There are some great waterfall walks up here, as well as the “Best of All” lookout (yep, that’s its name), with views from the Gold Coast to Byron that are simply breathtaking.
The Gold Coast can be many different weekends in one. A slightly different experience a few years ago was when I celebrated a birthday at Palazzo Versace and embraced my inner child on the Movie World rides. Remembering that sweet mix of terror and adrenalin always brings a huge smile to my face.

Palazzo Versace // Seaworld Drive, Main Beach, (07) 5509 8000, palazzoversace.com
Movie World // Pacific Motorway, Oxenford, 133 386, www.movieworld.com.au

ADELAIDE

During my time on McLeod’s Daughters, the girls from Drovers and I spent a load of time in South Australia. I’ve come to appreciate what most of the country doesn’t; South Australia is a great destination.
Although there are several fantastic places to visit in Adelaide, Central Market takes the cake – it is the best food market in Australia. We grab supplies at the market before heading to McLaren Vale for the weekend.
The Blessed Cheese cycling tour is great fun. From the Blessed Cheese shop in town, you ride from vineyard to vineyard where they arrange matching cheeses with the wines you’re going to sample. My favourite on the tour is the Coriole Vineyard – divine rosé and a wonderful garden.

The Star of Greece restaurant hanging over the cliff tops at Port Willunga is apparently one of Kylie Minogue’s favourites. This quaint little restaurant serves simple Greek-inspired cuisine that is privy to one of the best sunsets in the country.

We stayed once in the most glorious little B&B in the region. I think it was called Willunga House. A funny couple cooked us the best omelette with eggs from the onsite chooks.

Writing this has prompted so many wonderful memories I wish I could share; drives through the Adelaide Hills to Hahndorf, Cosmo’s and Oysters from The Oyster Bar, shopping in Rundle Mall, the annual horse race through the city parklands, The Fringe Festival, lunch at Bridgewater Mill . . . and that’s before I’ve even thought about Clare Valley and the Barossa.
I hope AT gives me another opportunity to write more about this wonderful city another time.

Central Market // Gouger Street, Adelaide, (08) 8203 7203, adelaidecentralmarket.com.au
Blessed Cheese Shop // 150 Main Road, McLaren Vale, (08) 8323 7958
Coriole Vineyard // Chaffeys Road, McLaren Vale, (08) 8323 8305, coriole.com
The Star of Greece // The Esplanade, Port Willunga, (08) 8557 7420
Willunga House // 1 St Peter’s Terrace, Willunga, (08) 8556 2467, willungahouse.com.au
Hahndorf // Around 30mins drive southeast of the Adelaide CBD,  southaustralia.com
The Oyster Bar // 14 East Terrace, Adelaide, (08) 8232 5422, adelaideoysterbar.com
Bridgewater Mill // Mt Barker Road, Bridgewater, (08) 8339 9200, thebridgewatermill.com.au

MELBOURNE

What is it that makes Melbourne such a sexy city? The men, for starters, would sure give Matt Damon a run for his money. I’ve always found Melbourne to be much more than meets the eye and so much more than just shopping. One visit is never enough.

It’s a rich multicultural city that’s far more integrated than Sydney, and I think that’s part of its appeal. Without local knowledge Melbourne’s hidden treasures are extraordinarily difficult to stumble upon.
Chapel Street is a great example. Any concierge will generally tell you to head here, but whatever is on Chapel Street is also on Sydney’s Oxford Street, or, dare I say it, in Westfield’s Bondi Junction.
Little Collins St and Flinders Lane are better places to shop and both lead to intimate shopping discoveries like Howey Place, QV laneways and Block Arcade.

Melbourne’s food is like its shopping: the secret spots are the best. Degustation at Ezard in the Adelphi Hotel is my favourite of its kind in Australia. It’s also a great place to stay the night and lounge at the lap pool hanging over the laneway.

The authentic Ciccolina’s in St Kilda is a fantastic cheap’n’cheerful joint. New Gold Mountain is located in the CBD laneway labyrinth. I go there for a drink before heading on to dinner in the next laneway at Gingerboy. It’s hard to find, so I get directions every time.

I recently stayed at the newly refurbished Prince Hotel, which was an affordable, groovy boutique spot right in the heart of it all on Acland Street. The amenities were so good that it almost tipped my luggage into excess baggage.

The Crown complex is like your one-stop party shop, particularly around Logies time. Just make sure you fill that massive bubble bath until it’s almost overflowing and spend a good 30 minutes soaking in it before you leave. It’s pure bliss.

Ezards in the Adelphi Hotel // 187 Flinders Lane, ezard.com.au
Ciccolina’s, St Kilda // 130 Acland Street, St Kilda, (03) 9525 3333, cicciolinastkilda.com.au
New Gold Mountain // 21 Liverpool Street,(03) 9650 8859, newgoldmountain.org
Gingerboy // 27-29 Crossley St, (03) 9662 4200, gingerboy.com.au
Prince Hotel // 2 Acland Street, St Kilda, (03) 9536 1111, theprince.com.au

PALM BEACH

It’s a complete change of pace to Sydney city. A lot of people turn their noses up at Palm Beach as being only for the rich and famous. But, through local real estate agents or a holiday rental site like TakeABreak.com.au, it’s actually not too expensive to rent a house here for the week/end. When there are a number of people to split the bill, it becomes very affordable, if not downright cheap. It’s my little pocket of paradise!
I’ve had some wonderful long lunches at Barrenjoey House before drinking delicious cocktails and eating oysters at dusk watching the setting sun disappear over Pittwater.
Less posh and more laid back is grabbing some fish and chips on a picnic rug where the ferries come in. The Beach Road Café serves great food, and on a lazy summer Sunday afternoon they often have a jazz band on the front lawn.

Across the road is a public nine-hole golf course. I love a casual stroll around the course while playing a few non-competitive, poorly executed, mostly-hit-and-giggle holes with the girls.
The lighthouse walk on Barrenjoey head is non-negotiable when I’m in Palm Beach. At the top there are several places off the path that are fantastic for a picnic, with the most glorious 180-degree views out to Lion Island.
I have also found a great alternative descent winding down the path on the front side of the lighthouse. It’s a secret adventure I’ve taken with friends many times over the years, and the pathway is becoming clearer with time. With a bit of Leyland Brothers-style navigation you can actually find your way down the rock face. The path pops you out on top of the sand dunes.
Around the corner at Whale Beach, Jonah’s Restaurant is spectacular. It’s a very special meal when you’re on the balcony gazing out to sea.

Where the sea planes land at Palm Beach marina, they’ve developed a newish café called The Boathouse. The scenery and Provence décor add to a great breakfast and coffee.
On your way out of “Palmy”, the legendary Pronto’s serves a mean sandwich. Pop next door for a spot of shopping at Bow Wow. I used to work as a sales assistant there and Susie, who used to be a designer on big feature films, owns the shop and has a great eye for style.

Barrenjoey House // 1108 Barrenjoey Rd, (02) 9974 4001, barrenjoeyhouse.com.au
The Beach Road Café // 1 Beach Rd, (02) 9974 1159, beachroad.com.au
Jonah’s Restaurant // 69 Bynya Rd, Whale Beach, (02) 9974 5599, jonahs.com.au
The Boathouse // Governor Phillip Park, (02) 9974 3868, theboathousepb.com.au
Pronto’s Creative Foods // 1095 Barrenjoey Rd, (02) 9974 5695.
Bow Wow // 1093 Barrenjoey Rd, (02) 9974 1762, bow-wow.com.au

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