BREAK AWAY FROM SYDNEY
The Hunter Valley
In a nutshell:Much more than just vineyards
Tell me more:The Hunter Valley is best known as one of Australia’s greatest wine-producing regions. Whilst wine and cheese tours are more than enough to keep you occupied, you may have time for some of the other activities on offer. You can relax on the beach, go horse riding or play a few rounds of golf. There’s also a variety of bush tracks to explore. Whatever you get up to though, make sure you don’t miss out on the local produce.
How do I get there:Although it’s only
a couple of hours drive north from Sydney, some of your best options are organised tours, especially if your main motivation is obligation-free “tasting”.
The Blue Mountains
In a nutshell:Up there with the very best of Aussie bush, snuggled around charming mountain towns
Tell me more:The Blue Mountains have some of the best scenery available in New South Wales, from rocky gorges to breathtaking cliffs to towering waterfalls. The Katoomba Scenic Railway, the steepest cable-run railway worldwide, takes you up a mountain to fantastic views (although the downward trip is much more fun). You can also see the Three Sisters – a 900m tall rock formation with great cultural significance to the Aboriginal people. Plus, there’s trekking, abseiling and rock climbing, while at the Jenolan Caves, you can explore a mystical limestone underworld.
How do I get there: From Sydney it’s a two hour drive. If you’d rather catch the train, Cityrail has special ticket deals like the ExplorerLink. There’s also plenty of tours from Sydney.
In a nutshell:A natural wonderland of beaches and national parks
Tell me more:Magnificent national parks, secluded bays, waterfalls and hidden creeks make this a nature-lover’s paradise. The renowned clear blue waters and white beaches are home to dolphins and whales which you can regally gaze upon from a triple-deck catamaran cruise. If you’re the adventurous type, kayaking, scuba diving and horse riding are available, and you can even visit an emu farm.
How do I get there: Two and a half hours drive from Sydney via the Princes Hwy. If you jump on the South Coast train line at Sydney and change trains at Kiama, it should take about three and a half hours.
BREAK AWAY FROM BRISBANE
In a nutshell:A secluded island getaway – like Lost, without all the freaky stuff
Tell me more:This quiet, all-natural island is 98 per cent national park. You can dive and snorkel amongst the Tangalooma Wrecks, hand-feed dolphins at Tangalooma Resort, 4WD along the sand or go walking through beaches, a small desert area, and swamps.
How do I get there:There are a few ferry and bus options departing Brisbane for Moreton. Once on the island, it’s pretty hard to find transport and most tourists opt to walk. If you are bringing a vehicle, make sure to get the proper permits for it first, as the island is a protected reserve.
BREAK AWAY FROM CANBERRA
The Snowy Mountains
In a nutshell:Australia may not be renowned for its skiing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not available
Tell me more:Although it can’t really compare to the snow in Europe and much of it comes from a machine when the cover isn’t deep enough, if you’re a hardcore skier or boarder, that shouldn’t deter you. Mount Kosciuszko, part of the Snowy Mountains, is Australia’s highest point and hosts a number of ski fields like Thredbo and Perisher.
How do I get there: You can get a bus from Canberra, Melbourne or m Sydney to Jindabyne (the main accommodation hub of the mountains) from any of these places with relative ease.
BREAK AWAY FROM PERTH
In a nutshell: A lively magnet for city-dwellers seeking good wine and good food
Tell me more: Margaret River is an upbeat town boasting wineries and all the amazing scenery you’ve come to expect from Australia, but with some cosmopolitan café culture thrown in for good measure. There’s also some great unique shops so bring the credit card. And in case you need another reason to go, the annual Wine Festival is coming up in April.
How do I get there:Margaret River is three hours’ drive from Perth. There are daily bus services running between the two.
BREAK AWAY FROM PERTH
In a nutshell:Dazzling beaches – a true island getaway
Tell me more:This island is perfect for the tan-conscious, exotic island holiday lover. There are 63 beaches and you can swim, snorkel, surf or dive. Visit 100-year-old shipwrecks, bike ride around the island and enjoy a champagne on a sunset tour. Look out for a quokka, a strange marsupial which looks like a kangaroo but is the size of a cat.
How do I get there:Ferry rides take 30 minutes from Freemantle, 45 minutes from Hillarys, 90 minutes from Perth, or hop on a plane from Jandakot and be there in 15 minutes.
BREAK AWAY FROM ADELAIDE
The Barossa Valley
In a nutshell:Heaven for the tastebuds.
Tell me more:The Barossa boasts that it was the only Australian winery region to be listed in TripAdvisor’s Top 10 wine destinations of 2008. It’s definitely the place to be if red wine is your thing. The Barossians also appreciate good food, and enjoy putting on the odd festival or cycling event here and there.
How do I get there: It’s an hour’s drive from Adelaide. There are a number of coach services that will take you there, or you could opt for a winery coach tour.
In a nutshell:Kangaroos and more…
Tell me more:As the name suggests, Kangaroo Island is a great place to see kangaroos. In fact, if you’re keen to see any of the obscure animal residue of Australia’s evolution process, this is the place. More than one third of the island is covered by natural parks giving you a great chance of seeing possums, bandicoots, koalas, platypus and fur seals in their natural habitat (as opposed to squashed on the road where they’re found elsewhere). There are many scenic drives to choose from and you’ll need at least a week to explore the whole island. You can visit little penguins, surf down sand dunes or explore the Kelly Hill Caves.
How do I get there:From Adelaide you can get a 45 minute ferry ride or a half an hour flight.
BREAK AWAY FROM MELBOURNE
In a nutshell:Get back to nature in this serene national park
Tell me more:The Grampians is advertised as “a place to breathe”. Despite the sappy tourism campaign, this national park is actually a brilliant place to relax and enjoy the serenity of nature away from the city. There’s plenty of scenic walks to explore, places to camp, paths to cycle and rocks to climb. The Mackenzie waterfall is fabulous for a picnic and the rock shelters have some of the oldest surviving Aboriginal paintings covering the sandstone walls.
How do I get there:Approximately three hours drive from Melbourne along the Western Freeway. If you’d prefer a scenic drive, the Great Southern Touring Route follows the Great Ocean Road.
The Reserve List
There are a few places worth noting that just missed out on making our Top 10 City Breakaways. Wilsons Promontory National Park is a spectacular coastal wildlife sanctuary inVictoria. The Yarra Valley is famous for wine tasting and is only a short drive from Melbourne. Port Stephens offers a great relaxing escape from Sydney, and the Great Ocean Road is an essential Aussie scenic road trip along the coast of south-west Victoria. Finally, Mornington Peninsula is a classy and conservative getaway from Melbourne.