Here are 10 towns to take note of for your next weekend escape…
Each year, Wotif pulls together intel from travel-savvy Aussies to spotlight trending towns on the rise. 2023’s winners have been announced, revealing the places that should be on your radar when you’re planning your next weekend getaway. We’ve rounded up this year’s top ten towns – and why each one is worth lingering in.
1. Albury, NSW
The vibe: A cosy country getaway full of arts, crafts and artisanal products made with heart.
This NSW border town nabs the top spot on the list. Sitting pretty on the banks of the Murray River, Albury encapsulates all the joys a country town has to offer.
Albury is known for its thriving arts scene and is home to one of Australia’s best regional galleries, The Murray Art Museum, which collates contemporary and local art. You’ll find lots of buzzy whiskey and wine bars peppered across the town, adding a cosmopolitan flair to the beautiful backdrop of green, velvety hills.
If you’re in the mood for a road trip, Albury is the starting point for the Mighty Murray River Drive. In the past years, Albury has been relegated to a rest stop on the drive between Sydney and Melbourne, but the quintessentially quaint town is finally coming into its own.
The border town of Albury has been named Australia’s #1 town.
2. Bundaberg, QLD
The vibe: A laidback, cruisy town where you can experience sub-tropical nature, wildlife and food at its most vibrant.
Known for its iconic rum distillery, the sun-drenched town of Bundaberg comes in second. However, you’d be mistaken to think that Bundy Rum is Bundaberg’s only foodie offering.
The area surrounding the town is one of Australia’s most abundant fresh produce regions, having been dubbed the ‘Bundaberg food bowl’. In the locality, you’ll find distilleries, breweries and a lively cafe scene, all 15 minutes from beautiful beaches bursting with wildlife.
Tip: the nearby Mon Repos beach supports the largest concentration of turtles in eastern Australia. We’ve put together a guide to Bundaberg, so you’ll know where to eat, sleep and play in this sub-tropical paradise.
Although it’s mostly known for its rum, the town of Bundaberg has plenty more to offer. (Image: Jeremy Somerville)
3. New Norfolk, TAS
The vibe: A cosy heritage town where you can get lost in a treasure trove of antiques and vintage wares.
New Norfolk – one of Tasmania‘s oldest towns located in the heart of the Derwent Valley – closes out the top three entries. If you enjoy getting thrifty, you’ll certainly enjoy New Norfolk’s antique scene, which has earned the town the title ‘antique capital of Tasmania’.
There are plenty of things to do in New Norfolk – don’t miss the Willow Court precinct, where you’ll find Sunday markets with plenty of trinkets to peruse. Those feeling brave can opt for a ghost tour of Willow Court Asylum to uncover its intriguing past.
Chock-full of character, dotted with heritage buildings and surrounded by scenes of rural bliss, New Norfolk is the perfect escape for lovers of all things quaint.
Perched on the Derwent River, the town of New Norfolk is chock-full of character.
4. Port Lincoln, SA
The vibe: All things oceanic. Beautiful beaches, sumptuous seafood and wonderful wildlife encounters.
Seafood lovers take note – Port Lincoln earns a spot on the list for its foodie offerings alone. Eat your way to the heart of this fishing village perched on one of the world’s largest protected harbours, where you can feast on freshly-shucked oysters and A-grade fisherman’s catch.
A range of gastronomic tours offers visitors a behind-the-scenes peek into sea-to-plate dining, from oyster farm excursions to culinary cruises. You’ll have the wonderful Eyre peninsula at your doorstep, great for spending lazy days ambling along the coast. Adrenaline junkies can opt to swim with great white sharks – the only place in Australia you can do so.
Port Lincoln has carved out a reputation as one of the best seafood destinations. (Image: City of Port Lincoln)
5. Ballarat, VIC
The vibe: A heritage highland town packed with natural, cultural and gastronomic offerings.
Australia’s largest inland city is bursting with character and creativity. Taking a cue from its coastal sister city Melbourne, Ballarat is on the rise as the cultural hotspot of regional Australia. The recent opening of the Australian Centre for Rare Arts & Forgotten Trades makes for a unique addition, where visitors can take workshops from armourers, natural dyers, wood carvers and more. Flush with heritage buildings, Australia’s largest regional gallery and plenty of gastronomical experiences that draw on fresh local produce, there are many reasons to make tracks for Ballarat.
The regional town on Ballarat combines historic heritage with contemporary cultural flair. (Image: Visit Victoria)
6. Merimbula, NSW
The vibe: A surfy beach town surrounded by abundant nature and great wildlife.
The colours of Merimbula are arresting, from the glittering sapphire ocean to the red rocks that frame the shore and swathes of verdant national parks that surround the town. Merimbula is on the rise for its foodie scene and culinary experiences like oyster shucking (the town is known for some of the best oysters on the south coast).
The town is also in a prime position to catch the whale migration which happens during the cooler months of the year. We’ve put together a guide on where to grab a bite, bed down, and things you shouldn’t miss while you’re in Merimbula.
Enjoy a slice of carefree coastal life at Merimbula. (Image: David Rogers)
7. Toowoomba, QLD
The vibe: A historic town packed with colourful gardens and parks.
The charming town of Toowoomba is putting itself on the map as a springtime must-see, with its brilliant array of gardens and famous carnival of flowers that brightens up the streets each year. There is a multitude of public parks that highlight the richness and beauty of Australian botanicals. Paired with a quirky rail museum and lots of heritage, Toowoomba is a picturesque country escape of dreams. We’ve put together a few more recommendations for things to do while you’re in town.
Toowoomba is known for its beautiful gardens and colourful flowers.
8. Dunsborough, WA
The vibe: Sparkling coastline that meets natural wonders and geological gems.
When it comes to beaches, the West Coast is garnering a reputation as the best coast. The town of Dunsborough certainly makes a case for it, epitomising laid-back coastal living with proximity to glittering waters, underground caves, and blankets of beautiful wildflowers in the spring. Dunsborough is a doorway to the Margaret River, but a splendid destination in its own right. The town is home to a lively cafe and restaurant scene – we’ve got you sorted with a round-up of all of the top picks.
Dunsborough is surrounded by natural splendour like crystal-clear waters, wildflowers and caves.
9. Orange, NSW
The vibe: The ultimate regional foodie destination set among picturesque vineyards.
Orange is a Mecca for cool-climate oenophiles. As the highest-altitude wine region in Australia, Orange is renowned for its next-level pinot noir and chardonnay made with artisanal flair. We strongly recommend you make a beeline for a winery cellar door – we’ve selected our top picks here. In addition to great wine, Orange has carved out a reputation for its foodie offerings. A range of casual eateries and upscale restaurants spotlight the region’s abundant produce, and Orange F.O.O.D week festival calls attention to the triumphs of local growers and artisanal producers.
Orange is one of Australia’s best cool-climate wine producers.
10. Echuca, VIC
The vibe: Think lazy days meandering on the Murray aboard a vintage paddle steamer.
Echuca is Australia’s oldest inland port, ripe with history and exuding heritage charm. But at the heart of it is the beautiful Murray River, lined with magnificent redgums and sandy beaches. Cruise along the river and take in the sights aboard a vintage paddle steamer like the PS Emmylou, or explore the multitude of vineyards and distilleries nearby, just a few of the magnificent things to do.
Take to the Murray River on a vintage paddle steamer.