With a never-ending range of ultra-cheap tickets and airline sales, weekend escapes of two or three nights are fast becoming an affordable way to explore Australia.
Although a nice long holiday of at least a week or more is great, modern life (work, kids, work, family, money, work) means these time-consuming trips are best reserved for annual leave. Shorter breaks allow you to experience all the benefits of a holiday, without all the hassle of an extended vacation. You can still escape the daily grind, and return a few days later feeling refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated.
One of our favourite destinations for a quick break is Hobart. As Australia’s second-oldest city, Hobart is full of historical charm and boasts awe-inspiring natural attractions, as well as some of the best cuisine in Australia. Staying at Ramada Resort by Wyndham Seven Mile Beach puts you in close proximity to some of Hobart’s best attractions; art galleries, museums, bars, restaurants, cafés and wineries are all just a short drive away.
Even those who aren’t generally interested in arts or culture will get a kick out of a trip to the world-famous Museum of Old and New Art. Situated on the Derwent River, it’s accessible via car or the Brooke Street terminal ferry. The MONA doesn’t resemble your average painting-hung art gallery. The displays are contemporary (and often controversial), and visitors are encouraged to interact via a touch-screen device that you take around with you, voting for works you love or hate.
If you’d like to spend a little time outdoors, pick up some local produce from Salamanca Marketplace, pack yourself a picnic and head up Mount Wellington. The 21-kilometre drive to the mountain’s peak will take you through varied landscapes, from temperate rainforest to sub-alpine flora and rock formations. The view from the top is magnificent, with panoramas over Hobart, Bruny Island, South Arm and beyond. Just be aware that, even in summer, temperatures can get quite low – it’s not uncommon to see snow in December or January!
Our Tip: Avoid the tourist traps and eat like a local to experience the true taste of Tasmania. Battery Point, a picture-perfect township situated right behind Salamanca, boasts a number of quaint cafés offering spectacular artisan foods. Our pick is Jackman & McRoss, a bakery offering a huge array of freshly baked goods. Keep an eye out for the pie special – when we visited, it was a scallop and wakame pie that was nothing short of mind-blowing! Eat in or get your order to go and explore this beautiful area on foot.
Back on the mainland, another one of our favourite places for a weekend away is Ballarat in Victoria’s Goldfields region. Famous for its gold rush heritage, Ballarat is home to many historic attractions, including Sovereign Hill and The Eureka Centre – both offer a fascinating insight into life from yesteryear. If you’re looking for a way to explore Ballarat’s heritage that’s a little outside the box, you can’t go past Eerie Tours. A great mix of history and mystery, this walking tour covers many old-timey points of interest in Ballarat, with detailed descriptions of buildings’ history and stories of their invisible inhabitants! There’s also a dinner and tour package available, with a choice of dining venues.
In addition to its historic offerings, Ballarat also serves more modern pleasures, with an abundance of wineries and day spas available. The region’s cool climate provides ideal conditions for producing world-class pinot noir and chardonnay, with its sparkling wines, riesling and shiraz also garnering great reputations.
There are a number of beautiful boutique wineries you can visit to sample a top drop or two; our favourite is Captains Creek Organic Wines. This small family-owned vineyard specialises in premium, handcrafted, certified organic wines. Grown in the rich volcanic soil of the Great Dividing Range’s northern slopes, Captains Creek Organic Wines are noted for producing delicious chardonnays and pinot noir, free from synthetic chemicals or pesticides. No chemical additives are used throughout the winemaking process and the natural preservative essential in winemaking, sulphur dioxide, is kept to a minimum by limiting physical movement and treatment of the wine during the aging process.
Captains Creek Organic Wines also offer a range of beers and apple cider, Goldfields Farmhouse cheese platters and seasonal lunch and dinner options utilising farm fresh, organic produce, all of which can be enjoyed by an open fire. You can even purchase produce to take back and cook at your Ramada Resort by Wyndham Ballarat apartment.
For some therapeutic indulgence, head to Daylesford, a 35-minute drive from Ballarat. Home to the largest concentration of natural mineral springs in the country, Daylesford is Australia’s spa capital. An array of over 200 therapies are available through the numerous day spas; choose from relaxing massages, facials, mud baths and more, or partake in some holistic healing with reiki, naturopathy and astrology sessions. No matter what treatment you choose, you’ll return home feeling like a brand new you!
Travelling north, our final recommendation for a mini-break is Flynns Beach at Port Macquarie. Situated on the New South Wales Mid-North Coast, Port Macquarie is a family-friendly holiday destination suitable for any season. Its beautiful beaches and laid-back lifestyle make it a great place for a weekend of relaxation, but, if you’re willing to explore further, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its eclectic variety of attractions.
Head to the hills to the west of Port Macquarie, and you’ll find quaint villages, rural towns, waterfalls, bush walks, rainforest walks and swimming holes. Pack a picnic and set off on a day of exploration, stopping at Wilson River Reserve for lunch and a refreshing swim. Wilson River Reserve also offers three scenic walking tracks through rainforest, which meander along the river and to a foaming waterfall and natural plunge pool.
Botanic Walk is an easy 300-metre loop, ideal for a short stroll with the kids. Palm Grove is also an easy walk, but stretches a little further at just over one-kilometre long. Beginning at the scenic Wilson River picnic area, this hike takes you through lush green ferns and blue gum trees – you might even be lucky enough to see pot a wallaby or spotted quoll. Spring and autumn are the best times of year to visit, as the temperatures are low enough to make your walk comfortable, but still warm enough to enjoy a refreshing dip in the pristine waters.
Waterfall Walk is a moderate track spanning 3.5 kilometres, and is best suited for those seeking something more challenging. This picturesque trail will take you through beautiful rainforest up to a waterfall and natural pool, where you can enjoy a picnic lunch and a swim before heading back to Ramada Resort by Wyndham Flynns Beach.
If you’d prefer a guided rainforest experience, look no further than Sea Acres Rainforest Centre. Elevated above the mud-soaked loam, the 1.3 kilometre boardwalk is accessible to strollers and wheelchairs, meaning absolutely anybody can partake in this beautiful eco-adventure. Take a tour with the Rainforest Discovery volunteers, or, for a truly unique experience, book in for a guided meditation walk led by a local yoga instructor on the first Saturday of every month. Enjoy morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea at the Rainforest Café and then visit the gift shop for an environmental product, gift, craft, educational toys or game that’s out of the ordinary.
Our Tip: Make time for breakfast at Milkbar Town Beach at 38 William Street. With a great view, fantastic coffee and delicious food, you won’t be disappointed. Try and leave some room to sample their famous caramel tart!