Short hop, big reward
When time’s not on your side and you need a break, a spot close to home is the answer. Check out our ‘short’ list and get packing!
Booking long-haul flights and holidays to far-flung destinations is an exciting but big undertaking – best planned well in advance so you can make the most of every dollar and skerrick of time. Less travel time relieves the pressure no end, so we’ve found 10 fun options for quick trips from every part of the country.
Auckland and Waiheke Island, New Zealand
It’s just over three hours’ flight time from Sydney or Melbourne to New Zealand’s largest city and well worth the hop over the Tasman. When the weather is good, Auckland is a delight to walk around. Or to explore on wheels: jump on a local bus to a neighbourhood you’re interested in and stroll about for a few hours, admiring the gardens and diverse architectural styles. The suburbs of Parnell, Ponsonby and Newmarket are popular people magnets. You’ll find good cafes in them and any other shopping district, with lovely wine bars to boot. If you’re up for a memorable experience, climb Mount Eden, an extinct volcano that lies just south of the CBD. It’s quite an easy walk to the top and the panoramic view from the central crater is breathtaking. Accommodation options are plentiful in Auckland, but if you want to treat yourself, book into the Auckland Hilton on the harbour’s Princes Wharf; it has blissfully comfy beds. Also well worth doing is a day trip on a Fullers ferry to Waiheke Island (pictured). The 40-minute boat ride is lovely, and once there you can use the public buses to reach beautiful beaches and wineries (alternatively, bring your own car on a SeaLink ferry). Recommended is Fenice cafe in Oneroa, a short walk from the ferry stop, which serves pretty decent woodfired pizzas and antipasto. Look out for regular airline deals to snap up a bargain. waiheke.co.nz
Great for… making the most of a four-day weekend. John McDonald >
Arkaba Walk, SA
Few things can be more invigorating than an extended walk through some of our most spectacular landscapes. Case in point is the Arkaba Walk in South Australia’s Flinders
Ranges, a four-day, three-night trek that takes you through majestic scenery and varied terrains. It feels so liberating to be disconnected from technology and traffic. The journey is rated moderate to challenging – you’ll be travelling 12-14km per day – so be sure to prepare by walking as much as possible beforehand. Along the way, you’ll stay in private luxury camps and be treated to plenty of delicious and nutritious food. Cost is $2900 per person (twin share) from Adelaide. arkabawalk.com
Great for… health and wellbeing. JMc
Sanctuary, Mount Cotton, Qld
A 40-minute drive from Brisbane, Sirromet winery recently introduced glamping stays on its grounds. Sited for maximum privacy, the tented pavilions are wonderful – the only thing that feels tent-like is their roll-up canvas blinds, which admit the light and sounds and smells of the bush. You’ll be woken with a chorus of kookaburras and a delicious breakfast hamper. The winery also boasts one of the state’s best eateries, Restaurant Lurleen’s, so fine dining is right on your doorstep. From $380 per day for two adults, with a minimum two-night stay. sanctuarybysirromet.com
Great for… reconnecting with nature in comfort and style. Deborah Grant It’s so familiar to Australians, we sometimes need to be reminded that Bali is one of the most fun short hops you can have. Though no more than six hours’ flight time from any mainland capital, it couldn’t be more different to Australia. First-time visitors may be struck by the pure chaos of the traffic, but if you head inland to Ubud (pictured above right) it’s all serenity and relaxation. There you’ll find accommodation for every budget, great yoga retreats and the unmissable sacred Monkey Forest.
Great for… simple R&R. JMc
Jenolan Caves, NSW
A three-hour drive west from Sydney takes you to this world-class system of limestone
caves, which offers various levels of exploration. Most tours involve 1-2 hours of easy-to-moderate walking through amazing chambers with stunning formations. You might opt for, say, the River Cave tour and discover the mystical underground lake, or take a night tour by torchlight. Follow the day’s exploring with a stay at historic Caves
House. And while you’re in the area, visit
Arkaba Walk camp Mayfield Garden (mayfieldgarden.com.au),
Australia’s largest private garden. It’s designed for leisurely strolling, with extraordinary plantings to admire all year round. A cafe and nursery make it easy to spend a day there. jenolancaves.org.au
Great for… wowing people of all ages.
New Norcia, WA
Founded by the Benedictine order, Australia’s only monastic town, 132km north of Perth, is now renowned for its neoclassical architecture and delicious local
food and wine. Retreat there for a short break with pals or check in solo for a spirituality workshop. Down the road is the European Space Agency’s Mars-tracking antenna, but there’s no need to leave town to learn more; discover its work, and the 170-year history of New Norcia, at the onsite education centre. newnorcia.wa.edu.au
Great for… a journey into the past, present and space age. DG
Lizard Island & Resort, Qld
The flight to idyllic Lizard Island from Cairns, in a tiny plane over the Great Barrier Reef, is breathtaking, but the island itself is something else. For many, the big pull is the
ocean experience. You can dive and snorkel to your heart’s content, seeing everything from reef sharks and giant cod to big, friendly eels, delicate corals, nudibranchs and vibrant giant clams. The resort is sublime, with fabulous accommodation.
Try to book a stay of at least five nights to get the most out of this piece of paradise. Rates are from $1949 per room per night, inclusive of fine food, beverages and many of the activities. lizardisland.com.au
Great for… a milestone anniversary treat. Roz Wyatt, Taylor & Turner Travel Associates
Darwin and beyond, NT
Planning a trip to the Top End? Darwin is a culturally diverse tropical city with natural wonders at its doorstep. Litchfield National Park, an easy hour’s drive from
the CBD, offers gentle bushwalking and swimming in brochure-perfect waterholes. Wangi Falls is easily accessible and, if you’re prepared for steep stairs, Florence Falls – where two waterfalls plunge into a clear, deep pool – offers rich rewards. Further afield, Kakadu National Park (three hours’ drive on a sealed road from Darwin) is a World Heritage-listed wonderland. Spend at least two nights (choose from campsites, hotels or architect-designed bungalows) and take a Guluyambi Cultural Cruise of the East Alligator River with Kakadu Cultural Tours (kakaduculturaltours.com.au).
You’ll see prolific birdlife (and plenty of crocodiles) as you learn about the landscape and indigenous culture. For a cultural journey you’ll never forget, take the Arnhemlander full-day 4WD tour of Western Arnhem Land, visiting the community of Kunbarlanja and the Injalak Arts centre (dry season only, MayNovember). APT also has an eight-day
Arnhem Land Expedition Cruise
departing from Darwin (aptouring.com.au). Great for… a once-in-a-lifetime family adventure and cultural experience. EW
Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, NSW
Located in the heart of the Blue Mountains, 190km north-west of Sydney and in a secluded location, this is a destination in itself. With spectacular views and a choice of luxurious villas, Wolgan Valley is the perfect place to relax and unwind or explore the local area and surrounding bushland at your own pace. If you’re after something more vigorous, horseriding, mountain biking and tennis are also available. Meals and beverages are included, so it keeps the cost wonderfully under control. oneandonlyresorts.com Great for… bonding in a bush setting. Kellie Woodward, Reis & James Travel Associates
Murray River houseboat trip, SA
For a relaxing holiday with friends, hire a boat from Kia Marina Houseboat Hire in Mannum and travel 50km up the Murray to Big Bend. The boats are surprisingly easy to drive, considering their size, and all you need is on board. As you pass the small towns and charming shacks lining the river, the landscape changes constantly – from arid farmland to rocky cliffs to stands of gumtrees and wetlands teeming with birdlife. From $1500 for three nights over a weekend (plus bond). kiamarina.com.au Great for… a take-it-easy tour where nature comes to you. Adelaide Bragg H&G
A well-earned rest on the Arkaba Walk. Glamping at Mount Cotton. The green paths of Ubud.
Lizard Island’s aquatic wonder world. East Alligator River in the Kakadu. Scenic luxury at Wolgan Valley Resort.