May 28, 2021
7 mins Read
The border town of Albury is often mentioned as the starting point for road trip explorations of the mighty Murray River, but there are many reasons to visit that don’t involve leaving as soon as you get there.
Albury’s prosperous history is writ large along its main street where heritage buildings spanning the Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco architectural eras sit proud.
The delightful boutique design hotel Circa 1928 fills a regal 1920s former bank building (complete with an original safe in one of the bathrooms), while a short walk away the modern outline of the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) dominates.
And that’s Albury to a T; the joy of exploring here is in walking its streets, pausing in its parks and gardens, eating at its proudly local restaurants and cafes, and sitting at the edge of the Murray River instead of driving by it.
Just over three hours’ flying time from Sydney and Melbourne, and a short-break-friendly 75 minutes from Adelaide, Broken Hill holds almost mythical status in many people’s minds as the embodiment of what an Australian outback town should be.
Maybe it has something to do with its starring roles in two of the most famous outback movies ever made: Mad Max 2 and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Whatever the reason, the town owns its reputation proudly.
The mining industry still thrives here but the offering for those visiting now includes local galleries, historic walking tours, weekend markets, great eats like those served up at the 1950s Bell’s Milk Bar, tastings at Broken Hill Distillery, the discovery of the area’s rich Indigenous history at Mutawintji National Park and sculptures at Living Desert Reserve.
While Canberra is the Australian Capital Territory’s favourite weekend retreat, filled with museums and attractions befitting a national capital, it’s easy to forget that the territory has other allures to divert visitors.
Namadgi National Park, just under an hour’s drive from the city, stretches over 106,000 hectares, covering nearly 50 per cent of the territory, and offers intrepid weekenders the chance to camp at any number of campsites including the delightfully named Honeysuckle Campground.
The Central Tablelands town of Oberon has always provided visitors with lots of choices to fill their time, from exploring the nearby Jenolan Caves to fossicking for gold to strolling (and glamping) the delightful grounds of Mayfield Garden.
But it is also a burgeoning foodie hotspot where you can hunt for wild mushrooms, follow a winemakers and brewers trail, do a foraging tour during the annual Field to Forest Festival and unearth pungent black truffles at Lowes Mount Truffiere (June to August).
Located on the Sapphire Coast, Bermagui benefits from its sparkling waterfront position, with awe-inspiring scenery, aquatic pursuits and an abundance of fresh seafood on offer.
Qantas and Rex Airlines fly into nearby Merimbula Airport, so you can get straight down to the business of enjoying yourself without delay.
Wonder at Horse Head Rock, estimated to be 500 million years old, the Camel Rock formation (a youngster at 470 million years old) and the town’s most compelling sight: the mesmerising Blue Pool. Take to the water for game and reef fishing and eat your fill at Bermagui Fishermen’s Wharf.
It’s impossible to pick a favourite from the charming towns and villages of the Southern Highlands, so we haven’t.
For a weekend break here, choose to base yourself in Bowral, Berrima or Moss Vale (all have abundant rentals) or head for quieter villages such as Bundanoon or Exeter and then spend your time puttering along country roads and stopping for Devonshire tea (try the scones at Highlands Merchant in Moss Vale) or wine tastings (Joadja Estate and Centennial Vineyards both have cellar doors) whenever the opportunity arises.
Winter is the optimum time to visit, when the air is crisp and the smell of wood smoke hangs in the air.
Affectionately known as Milly and Molly, the South Coast towns of Milton and Mollymook present a two-for-one treat for weekenders, close enough to easily flit between.
You can sample the chic shopping and cafes along the main thoroughfare of Milton, before heading through rolling green countryside to the beaches and whale watching spots of Mollymook.
Enjoy the waterfront glam of Bannisters Mollymook and fresh seafood at Rick Stein at Bannisters, the on-site restaurant co-owned by the celebrity chef.
The city of Grafton, situated in the Clarence Valley, in the Northern Rivers region, has hit a purple patch in the last few years as its annual Jacaranda Festival has become an international Instagram sensation. Having been established in 1935, it’s the oldest floral festival in the country.
Come spring, the wide streets here are painted in a pretty palette of purples and lilacs, and the locals lure visitors with parades, markets, high teas and jacaranda ice-cream.
Book your accommodation well in advance and start practising your best Insta-ready smile now.
A weekend escape in Lismore offers a grab bag of delights that stretch far beyond the limits of the buzzing regional city itself.
Once you have sampled the local art scene here, strike out to the Richmond Valley’s other drawcards, like the alternative living, vivid murals and boho festivals of Nimbin, the laid-back charm of Kyogle and the rural charms of Casino.
Add ancient rainforests and untouched beaches and there is enough to fill short breaks aplenty.
It’s only a two-hour flight to Lord Howe Island from Sydney, but it is a world away from the everyday of the mainland.
Ringed by impossibly clear waters and covered with subtropical vegetation, life here moves at a languid pace. Take up residence at one of its lovely resorts and reset your clock to island time.
Fill your days with swimming off pristine beaches like Lovers and Blinky, feed the fish at Ned’s Beach and spot wildlife from your bike, the preferred mode of transport here.
If you are on the island during the official Bird Week, take the opportunity to do some twitching, and definitely to do a boat tour to see Ball’s Pyramid, the remnants of a long extinct shield volcano, spotting dolphins and whales along the way.
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