From wine tasting to wellness escapes, here’s how to make Australia Day count
It’s a great feeling when Friday rolls around, but those precious two days can often fly by in the blink of an eye. So when we are treated to an extra day off, stretching out the weekend feels all the more special.
Whether you fancy a day out wine tasting or a scenic road trip along the coast, we’ve pulled together a genius list of fun things to do, to fill your long weekend with endless fun. Here's how to make the most of your extra day of freedom this Australia Day.
1. Book a stay at a beach house
Plain and simple — booking a beach house with a partner, a group, or, with family is always a good idea. Luckily here in Australia we’re surrounded by beautiful oceans and an abundance of charming coastal homes. Take the Sea Ranch for example – a holiday home along Victoria’ Wye River, boasting 180-degree beach views that stretch from Wye Point to Kennett River and beyond.
Or there's Salt at Shoal Bay, a chic beachside retreat on the Central Coast, and Fishcakes, one of just a handful of homes overlooking the white sand cove of Seal Rocks, a small coastal town of NSW. This quintessentially Australian beach house is the stuff that summer dreams are made of.
2. Camp under the stars
Fancy a weekend camping? Three days is the perfect amount of time to spend a few nights sleeping underneath the southern stars. For white sand and dolphins, head 190 kilometres south of Sydney toward Booderee National Park, home to two basic campgrounds – Green Patch and Bristol Point – both front Jervis Bay where dolphins are known to regularly frolic. Or, if you prefer not to leave the city at all, you can always book a ‘glamping’ experience on Cockatoo Island – here there’s no need to bring your own tent, as a full camping set up will be ready and waiting for you. All you have to do is relax and take in the waterfront views.
3. Go on a hike
Just 90 minutes from Sydney, the Central Coast is a renowned paradise for hikers, rewarding those who decide to trek by foot with some of the most breathtaking scenery Australia has to offer. We’re talking rugged coastline, cliffs, and dense bush, all forming a spectacular, natural playground. And there’s something for all fitness levels too; you can take the 8.5-kilometre long Bouddi Coastal Walk which will take you to beautiful beaches and inlets. Or, you can take the 2-kilometre journey along the Maitland Bay track and treat yourself to a dip in the ocean.
In Victoria, there are a plethora of beautiful hikes to satisfy your sense of adventure. The Mornington Peninsula's 6-kilometre Bushrangers Bay Trail begins on the well-appointed boardwalk to the famous Cape Schanck and its lighthouse, and spoils hikers with sweeping ocean views over the wild coastline. For something a bit more relaxed, the 1.2-kilometre Sherbrooke Falls Walk guides walkers past mossy river banks and lush ferns along the path to the gently trickling falls.
With the terrible fire season we're experiencing across the country, make sure to check the relevant regional warning site before setting out on your journey.
4. Chase waterfalls
Speaking of waterfalls — whether you fancy sightseeing or you’re keen to take a dip, stumbling upon a cascading waterfall is a sight that never tires. If you’re a Sydneysider, head to the Royal National Park, which is less than an hour’s drive from Sydney’s CBD. Here you’ll find the splendid seven-metre-tall Wattamolla Falls, which trickles from a rock ledge near the picnic area into the lagoon below. For Melbournians, take a trip toward the Great Ocean Roadand make a stop at the seaside town of Lorne where you'll find Erskine Falls, a 30-metre-high waterfall set in a dreamy fern-filled rainforest.
5. Take a coastal drive
If you prefer to admire the ocean, sand-free and from the comfort of your air conditioned car, why not take a coastal drive along a scenic and sea-friendly road? After all, Australia's coastline has some of the most picturesque driving routes in the world. Just an hour south of Sydney, drivers can head to the Grand Pacific Drive to discover the famous Sea Cliff Bridge that curls around the cliffs over the sea. Or, if you’re a Queenslander who also happens to own a 4WD, the Great Beach Drive never disappoints. BetweenNoosa and Hervey Bay, there’s a 200-kilometre stretch where the beach acts as the road – you won’t find a coastal drive closer to the ocean than this.
6. Plan a wine-filled weekend
Whether you fancy yourself a wine connoisseur, or still learning your Pinot Noir from your Pinot Gris, Australia’s vast wine regions tick every box for a long weekend getaway. For a taste of Italy, head to the High Country of north-east Victoria toward King Valley. Over the past 30 years, this destination has become renowned for its celebrated wines, crafted by Italian families that have lived in the region for generations. Just some of the go-to wineries here include Pizzini, Dal Zotto and Chrismont.
As for a NSW option, a trip to Orange will not disappoint. Home to a celebrated wine industry, Orange is the perfect place to swirl, smell and taste some of Australia’s best cool-climate drops. Our recommendations for wineries here include Rowlee Wines & Vineyard, Philip Shaw Wines, and Nashdale Lane. Or if you're keen to stick closer to Sydney, the stunning Hunter Valley region never disappoints.
7. Take a wellness retreat
If the start of the New Year hasn’t quite been as healthy as you’d planned, a long weekend spent at a wellness retreat may just be the reset button you need.
An oldie but a goodie, Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa has been attracting visitors to its healing waters since 1895. Located within Victoria's spa country, this beloved bathhouse features communal bathing in mineral relaxation and salt therapy pools, as well as private tubs and spas. Alternatively, you can of course count on Byron Bay’s Gaia Retreat & Spa to nurse you back to health. With 14 treatment rooms and more than 35 healers and therapists, you’ll head back to the city completely refreshed and ready to start your New Year health kick on a high.
8. Head to Hobart
Never been to Hobart? Perhaps it’s about time to visit the oft-forgotten island of the south. From its flourishing food scene to the city’s rich history — it’s no wonder Hobart is becoming a popular tourist spot. First, there’s of course MONA – once described by the Lonely Planet as the ‘best modern art gallery in the world’ – as well as an array of trendy restaurants like Ettie’s and cool bars like The Den popping up in every nook and cranny. The city’s stunning architecture is also a huge draw – the pretty streets of Battery Point are lined with quaint cottages, harking back to Australia’s rich colonial history.
9. Have a true outback experience
Discover the ruggedness and history of Australia’s iconic outback. Nitmiluk Tours offer a range of adventurous activities. Cruise, canoe, hike, walk or swim, or even take a scenic helicopter tour of the magnificent Nitmiluk (Katherine) National Park in the Northern Territory — a great way to discover the culture of the Jawoyn people.
Alternatively, Lord’s Kakadu and Arnhemland Safaris run private luxury tours from Darwin to Arnhem Land and Kakadu National Park. Here you can explore the stunning red gorges and waterfalls of Kakadu, or the vast and remote wilderness of Arnhemland. The tours are tailored for small groups, with friendly and knowledgeable guides on hand to teach about the abundant, flora, fauna and extensive cultural heritage of the area.
10. Be a tourist in your own city
Playing tourist in your own city might seem like a silly idea, but if you look deep enough there are plenty of attractions and activities you’ve probably never tried, right in the place you call home.
If you want to go all out, why not book a night’s stay at that stylish hotel you’ve been eyeing up for a little staycation! Go, on treat yourself.