We’d all like to hit the road for two weeks or more on an extended summer holiday, but for many of us the annual leave balance just won’t allow it. Keep the boss happy and opt for a quick weekend escape instead. Here’s our pick of the best summer weekenders just a stone’s throw from major capital cities.
Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland
Swimming holes abound in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Photo credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
If waterfalls, rivers and volcanic mountains carpeted in 50 shades of green is your thing, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland might be your perfect weekend escape. Less than two hours north of Brisbane, the Sunny Coast Hinterland is the perfect mix of natural beauty and culture. The quaint, bohemian towns of Maleny and Montville provide ample opportunity to eat amazing food, drink local wine and shop for quirky treasures from local artisans. Further afield, Kenilworth and its surrounds is ideal for campers and four-wheel drivers, with riverside campsites and fun tracks that’ll take you through creek crossings and rainforest, with more than a few places to swim in crystal clear waterholes.
Eat: Kenilworth Bakery or Maleny Hotel
Do: Kondalilla Falls circuit walk or shopping in charming Montville
Yarra Valley, Victoria
Giant tree ferns fringe the road in the Yarra Valley. Photo credit: Visions of Victoria
Famous as a foodie’s paradise with incredible restaurants, microbreweries, farm gates and cellar doors at world-class wineries, the Yarra Valley rates just as highly as a natural wonderland. The 90-minute drive from Melbourne weaves through cool climate rainforest where giant tree ferns adorn the edges of the winding mountain roads. Located in the foothills of Victoria’s iconic High Country, the Yarra Valley is fringed by multiple national parks that provide a playground for hiking, four-wheel driving and camping. But if you’d prefer to be accommodated and fed, the cute town of Healesville provides countless options. Either way, this’ll be one hell of a weekend.
Do: Healesville Sanctuary or tour the cellar doors
Wollongong, New South Wales
Pack the snorkel for your weekend in Wollongong; Bushranger’s Bay is a sheltered paradise. Photo credit: Destination NSW
Once considered a rough blue collar town, Wollongong has evolved in recent years into a cosmopolitan coastal city with beautiful beaches, great food and awesome bushwalking tracks along a dramatic stretch of coastline. This weekend escape will take you an hour and a half to get to from Sydney via the incredible and much photographed Sea Cliff Bridge. Wollongong is guarded to the west by the beautiful cliffs of the Illawarra Escarpment, while at its northern reaches Australia’s oldest national park, the Royal National Park, is a paradise for hikers and campers. Almost every beach boasts a pool carved into the rock shelf for family-friendly swimming, while surfers have no shortage of breaks to explore across the region’s countless beaches.
Yallingup, Western Australia
Digs for your weekend escape don’t get much better than this; a cabin at the Yallingup Beach Holiday Park. Photo credit: Tourism Western Australia
When it comes to weekend escapes to the coast, it doesn’t get much more scenic than Yallingup at the northern reaches of Margaret River, a three-hour drive south of Perth. Home to some of the best surf breaks in the country, Yallingup is also a hub for artists, giving the town a unique creative edge to its relaxed coastal vibe. The glistening turquoise lagoon at Yallingup Beach is the perfect place for snorkelling and swimming in sheltered waters, while the dramatic limestone sea cliffs and jagged coastline beckon to be explored on foot. And if you get tired of all of that saltwater, you’re on the doorstep of the iconic wineries, breweries and restaurants of Margaret River.
Do: Explore Canal Rocks on foot or scuba dive the HMAS Swan wreck
Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Exploring the well-named Remarkable Rocks at sunset.
Kangaroo Island is a pristine wilderness area off the coast of South Australian, a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Adelaide. Its rugged 500km-coastline protects world-class national parks filled with endemic plants and inquisitive wildlife. Visitors can walk amongst Australian sea lions at Seal Bay, spot migrating southern right whales, swim with wild dolphins and watch penguins come ashore in the evenings.
There are great hikes in the Flinders Chase National Park, where you’ll also find the incredible wind-carved Remarkable Rocks. Add to the mix a productive farming community with a ‘paddock to plate’ ethos and a rich colonial history, and you have a weekend escape destination that is in equal parts adventure, indulgence and discovery.
Do: Visit the sea lions at Seal Bay or wander the giant Remarkable Rocks
Bay of Fires, Tasmania
Pack the surfboard or kayak to explore the breathtaking Bay of Fires. Photo credit: Tourism Tasmania & Sean Fennessy
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect destination for a summer weekend escape than the Bay of Fires, on the Apple Isle’s northeast coast. Less than four hours from Hobart, the Bay of Fires stretches for 50km from Binalong Bay in the south to Eddystone Point in the north. Its snowy white sand is offset by crystal clear water that glows vibrant blue in the midday sun, while granite boulders carpeted in red lichen add a rich splash of colour to the landscape. And although there are plenty of great accommodation options nearby, we think you’d be mad not to camp right in the middle of the magic at one of many free campsites nestled against the beach.