It’s the Holy Grail of Holidaying: finding time for a couple of quick but great nights away, with money left over for food and a few fun things to do.
A fully self-contained, chic, one-bedroom apartment at The Miro is an affordable $155 per night. Even more amazing, it’s in Fortitude Valley.
A cool, inexpensive breakfast at Buzz Bistro, a Parisian-style café right around the corner, is a great way to start the day.
A local secret, Oxford St Bulimba is a great place for lunch after wandering the boutiques. King Crab Co. is our pick for a trendy beer and all the seafood you can eat, without busting the wallet.
Bohemian West End is the next suburb. A cocktail at the quirky Lychee Lounge is a great pre-dinner experience. Finish the day off at Eagle Street Pier and the Helm Bar and Bistro. Big flavour, big value, big jugs of beer, big tables and big views – what better way could there be to end your day?
The best thing to happen to Brisbane since Macarthur left town is the Gallery of Modern Art in Southbank. It’s an awesome experience.
For a bit of history (yes, Brisbane does have some), get to St John’s Cathedral on Ann Street. Amazingly, it’s under construction and will be the last Gothic cathedral to be completed in the world. Take a free guided tour at 10am or 2pm daily.
Glass house Mountains
The sound of serenity is all you’ll hear at Glass House Mountains Ecolodge. High above and far from the bustle of Brisbane, the mountain retreat is great for a bit of downtime.
Go bush without sacrificing flushing toilets, showers and heating – rooms at The Orchard are just $98 and have queen beds, ensuites and balconies. Ninety minutes out of Brisbane, that’s still a bargain.
The National Park is at your doorstep, so go bushwalking on the trails in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland or drive half-an-hour to Maleny and wander through the art galleries around town.
Finish off the day with a beer and schnitzel at King Ludwig’s Restaurant & Glasshouse Mountains Tavern. It’s hard to pass on the traditional Weisswurst sausage at this Bavarian beer hall, but the Ecolodge does have a guest kitchen in an old train dining car.
Save an entire day for Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. You’ll need it to catch the croc shows and explore the 70-acre site.
In the same block as the pricey, hit-and-miss Royce Hotel, Albert Park Manor will keep you under budget and in style. Four-poster beds and wrought-iron furniture outfit standard doubles starting at $125.
All this sexy city has to offer is just a quick tram ride up St Kilda Rd, but get your day started with an espresso at Grossi Florentino. Mains here cost $50 a pop, but breakfast eggs in the Cellar Bar come in at under $15.
For dinner, set your eyes to Gazi, George Colombaris’ modern Greek restaurant sitting sleek and sexy in the CBD. The $17 souvlaki is cheaper than a lot of pub grub around town, and is served under one of the most architecturally fascinating roofs in the city.
End the evening with a nightcap in a big comfy couch by the fireplace at LaLa Land.
Head back towards the hotel for a wander through the Ian Potter Centre at Fed Square – a mostly free cultured couple of hours surrounded by great Aussie art.
While you’re there, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) has $8 screenings of silver screen classics.
A land of plenty, the produce driven community of Daylesford has providores on almost every corner and is perfect for a hunt and forage kind of weekend.
Spend the day gathering ingredients for the perfect antipasti plate before retreating to Station House, a renovated gold rush manor with doubles from $140, open fires and claw-footed bathtubs.
Pick up prosciutto cured the Croatian way from Istra Smallgoods in Musk, (our No. 12 Greatest Australian Gourmet Experience) and cheese from local dairy farmers like Holy Goat (No. 5 Gourmet Experience) at Cliffy’s Emporium.
For champagne treatment, take the Silver Streak, a vintage diesel train journey made the first Saturday of the month. For just $25, with champagne and canapés, sit back and enjoy the scenic Daylesford Spa Country Railway, slowly re-opening after 2009 fire damage.
The Hepburn Springs-Daylesford area is littered with natural mineral springs; wander through open fields and forests and fill up your drink bottle at an old-fashioned hand pump.
Yes, it’s Australia’s most expensive city. But it is possible to spend two nights at a sought-after Sydney address for under $500. A room at The Russell in the shadows of The Bridge with Opera House glimpses is just $125 a double. Shared bathroom, but small sacrifice for having everything on your doorstop for a weekend limited only by your imagination, not your budget.
Start with cheap and cheerful breakfast at La Renaissance, meander to the affordable Rocks markets and pop into the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) for a bit of free culture.
For dinner, visit one of Sydney’s best restaurants.
A real hidden gem and great value is the Opera House tour, just $29 for online bookings. A great way to see out the sunlight and a Sydney weekend institution is a drink at the Opera Bar soaking up one of the greatest views in the world.
Just 90 minutes drive southeast from Sydney, the relaxed seaside town of Kiama – famous for its blowhole – is an easy, stress-free weekend.
It’s also damn affordable at The Sebel Harbourside on Shoalhaven St − king bed, buffet breakfast, BBQ area and waterfront views from $120 a night. The heritage-listed property dates back to 1871, was once an Infants’ School Building, and is mercifully under ten stories high.
The most expensive thing you should buy in town is a waffle cone from The Ice Creamery.
Grab a scoop and wander up to the Blowhole. If the sea’s a little on the rough side, head further south, just around the bay to the Little Blowhole – which often spouts more impressive sprays anyway. We recommend brekkie at The Little Blowhole Café on the way.
Just out of town and inland, the Illawarra Fly Tree Top Walk is great for a birds’ eye view of the coast. It consists of 500m of walkways, suspended fully 25m up in the air, for a treetop trek at just $22 an adult.