Looking to unwind for a few precious days with the family far from the hustle and bustle? Here are our top picks in each state for a long weekend getaway.
Bellingen, NSW North Coast
On the October long weekend, this idyllic country town hosts its annual Turtle Festival, a three-day event aimed at fund-raising to save the endangered snapping turtles that inhabit the Bellingen River. Enjoy music and exhibitions from contemporary Australian performers and artists, and broaden your mind with presentations from eco-scientists and activists. This family friendly affair is ideal for camping, with serviced sites available at the local showground. In the town centre, just a five-minute walk away, you’ll find funky cafes, often serving incredible organic food and coffee, and unique fashion and jewellery stores. Take advantage of healing centres offering a range of alternative therapies, as well as artisan markets, a dedicated eat street, and side show alley, and make sure the kids check out the turtle hatchling zone.
North Stradbroke Island, QLD
Just a 45-minute Big Red Cat ride across Moreton Bay, North Stradbroke Island boasts the truly spectacular 32-km Main Beach, plus at least four other beaches perfect for swimming or poking around in rock pools. For outdoorsy types, take the family on a 4-wheel-drive adventure, and get some fresh air and exercise with a walk to Point Lookout. If you’re there from May to November, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see pods of whales passing by on their migration path. The Straddie Pub is the stuff of local legend, while the fish and chips from the Fishes at the Point Café and Restaurant are a must. Accommodation suits every budget, from self-contained units to higher end resorts and luxury beach houses. Visit Accommodation Stradbroke to find something that suits your family’s hip pocket.
Better known as the gateway to The Pinnacles, Cervantes, is a coastal paradise of tropical beaches and natural wonders. About two-hours’ drive north of Perth, you will find plenty to do in this perfect spot for getting away from it all. Fishing at Hangover Bay and Kangaroo Point (especially for rock lobsters from November to June!), swimming, long walks in the Nambung National Park, and hanging with sea lions are just some of the things the family will love. In Spring, the area blooms with carpets of colourful wildflowers. There are plenty of quaint places to eat and enjoy a laidback coffee on the beachfront, or you can tackle the sweeping sand dunes in a 4-wheel-drive. You can also take home some of the region’s finest seafood in the takeaway Eskys on offer at the Indian Ocean Rock Lobster Factory.
Phillip Island, VIC
Get back to nature and enjoy a long weekend of family bonding on Phillip Island, 136km south of Melbourne, and famed for its penguin, koala and seal colonies. The island is comprised of four natural park areas: Penguin Parade, Nobbies, Churchill Island Heritage Farm, and the Koala Conservation Centre. Churchill Island Heritage Farm is a rustic attraction where the kids can have a real farm experience that includes milking cows, sheep shearing, whip cracking and watching working dogs rounding up the sheep. The property also features an old-fashioned blacksmiths and grinders. Nobbies Centre, meanwhile, is a tourist information hub with a great café, kids play area and stunning coastal views. But by far the most incredible attraction is the nightly penguin parade where you can watch over 1000 fairy penguins waddle up the beach from the water to settle down for the night in the scrub. The kids will never forget it.
Seafood, cheese, wineries, markets, music and stunning colonial scenery are just some of the reasons to visit the nation’s southern-most state. Spend a lazy Saturday morning strolling through Salamanca Markets, 300 stalls and buy local handicrafts and sample delicious food. There are plenty of pubs, galleries and shops nearby, too. On Sundays, embark on a Tasmanian Seafood Seduction Cruise and spoil your taste buds with a whole day of eating the finest ocean fare in Australia, as well as cold climate wines, and craft beers and ciders for mum and dad. Back on dry land, you can wander the streets lined with sandstone buildings, and soak up the city’s history in any one of half a dozen eclectic museums.
The Flinders Ranges, SA
A weekend in the Outback will detox the family from technology and connect you with some the country’s most spectacular natural wonders and wildlife. Hire a Land Rover – but watch out for troops of kangaroos and flocks of emus – and get up close and personal with the ancient rock formations that dot the vast landscape. The area also teams with bird life and reptiles, as well as the sea lions and dolphins you can find at the Eyre Peninsula. Experience Indigenous culture at Arkaroo Rock, a sacred site of the Adnyamathanha tribe. A two-hour hike to the rock encompasses a shelter that features ancient Aboriginal paintings depicting The Dreaming. Then, at sunset, take in the breathtaking view of the Chace Range. Accommodation ranges from hotels and inns to stays on sheep stations, homesteads and private wildlife sanctuaries.
A long weekend in Darwin is an exciting family adventure that can include anything and everything from croc feeding and Indigenous culture experiences, to exotic food and more outdoor fun than you can handle. Visit the Berry Springs Wildlife Park and cool off with a dip in the invigorating rock pools after you’ve seen the goose lagoon, the billabong and the aquarium. Or, take the 2.5-hour cruise from Corroboree Billabong through the Mary River Wetlands, where you can get close enough to take a selfie with a crocodile – from the safety of the boat of course. Visit the Pudakul people and get a lesson in bush tucker, Aboriginal medicine, the digeridoo and dilly bag making, then spend the evening wandering the Mindil Beach Markets. Enjoy buskers, massages and exotic cuisine as you enjoy the sun dipping below the horizon on the sand. Perfect!