The Best Weekend Destinations That Don’t Involve Days of Driving

The Best Weekend Destinations That Don’t Involve Days of Driving
Aerial View of Moreton Island, Brisbane, Australia (Photo by Reinhard Dirscherlullstein bild via Getty Images)

So, look. Travel as we know it is kind of done for the moment. You may have dreams of jetting off to Croatia to live your best GoT life, but right now, that just isn’t on the cards. Lucky for us, however, we live in a pretty gorgeous country and there is a whole lot out there waiting to be explored.

And before you ask, no you don’t need to hop on a plane to get the very best of Australia. In fact, there are loads of options that you can see in the space of a long weekend (here’s when all the public holidays fall in 2021). All you need is a car, some solid tunes and a few ideas.

I’ve sorted out the ideas part for you by chatting with Tourism Australia. The tourism board has shared its thoughts on the very best options for curious Aussies hoping to plan a weekend away in 2021.

Obviously, with ever-changing rules around travel and events, it’s important that you plan any upcoming adventures with some added flexibility. Rules may change, so be cautious and be sure to keep health advice in mind. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start working on your options for a beautiful, fun and quirky weekend away.

Here are some thought-starters, broken up by state or territory:

Australian Capital Territory’s long weekend destinations

National Arboretum Canberra:

Just 6km out of Canberra’s city centre, you’ll find the National Arboretum Canberra. Tourism Australia recommends you “Start with brunch at Discovery Garden, followed by a stroll around the grounds.” Just be sure to book your meals in advance, or back a blanket and set up a picnic.

Blue Range Hut in the Uriarra Forest:

“Centred around the heritage-listed remains of a World War II Italian internment camp, the Blue Range camp is a very popular camping location for families and history buffs,” Tourism Australia shares. Set up camp here and take a hike along one of the alpine walking trails of northern Namadgi National Park.

Canberra District Wine Region:

Within a 35 minute drive of Canberra, you’ll find more than 30 cellar doors, ready to serve you a tasty pour.

According to Tourism Australia, “Sangiovese, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo and rare varieties such as Grüner Veltliner are all produced in this region”.

New South Wales’ long weekend destinations

Bilpin:

Take a 90-minute drive towards the mountains and you’ll land on a sweet little gem known as Bilpin. The “Land of the Mountain Apple’ is a haven for cosy B&Bs, apple orchards, open gardens and organic produce”.

Artesian Baths, Lightning Ridge:

This a longer trek (about 8 hours out of Sydney), but it can certainly be managed over a four-day weekend if you’re a road trip fan.

Lightning Ridge is best-known for its opal mining, but if you’re headed to the quirky town it’s worth checking out the Artesian Baths. They’re said to hold water that’s “approximately two million years old and have therapeutic qualities that relieve muscle aches. Take a dip with locals and enjoy the balmy 41.5 degrees celsius temperatures all year round.”

Southern Highlands:

If you’re planning a trip over the Queen’s birthday long weekend, the Southern Highlands is running a month-long pie festival called Pie Time. The celebration, which kicked off on June 1 for National Pie Day, includes activities like Pie-cycle tours and a Pie Drive where you can tour the area and its best pies.

The area is about a 2 hour drive from Sydney, and is also home to beautiful natural sites like Fitzroy Falls.

Victoria’s long weekend destinations

While we know travel is not on the cards for our friends in Melbourne right now, there are plenty of exciting options once life returns to normal once again (hopefully sooner rather than later).

The Macedon Ranges:

A short drive out of Melbourne will bring you to the charming villages of the Macedon Ranges. Tourism Australia suggests you “Stop in at The Wine Collective for panoramic views and a glass of Chardonnay which the region is known for. Drive another 15 minutes and reach Kyneton,” where you can indulge in a little shopping.

Mira Mira, Crossover:

The “fantasy-style retreat of Mira Mira” is found just 90 minutes out of Melbourne. Its otherworldly ambience will offer a weekend like no other. From fairy-tale comparable cottages to rooms that emulate a “Hobbit-style underworld” it’s about as Instagram-worthy as you can get.

Queensland’s long weekend destinations

Tropical Northern Queensland:

Take a drive through North Queensland and see spots like the Waterfall Circuit from Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands. The lookouts, historic towns, waterfalls and dairy farms will keep your long weekend loaded with options to keep you busy.

Moreton Island:

If you’re living near Brisbane, in particular, this is an easy weekend trip to take with just a ferry ride. Dive in for some snorkelling around the man-made reef Tangalooma Wrecks, where you may see green turtles, wobbegong sharks, hundreds of fish and maybe even a dugong. Tourism Australia shares that for food you should “Call in at Suttons Beach Pavilion for a takeaway seafood feast and walk down to the secluded beach for an iconic Aussie lunch”.

South Australian long weekend destinations

Drive along part of Explorer’s Way:

This road trip can take you all the way to Darwin if you so choose, but for the sake of a short weekend, there’s plenty to see within a short distance of Adelaide. From Adelaide to the Clare Valley is under two hours, and the striking Flinders Ranges sits just over five hours away from the city.

Yorke Peninsula:

Innes National Park is a 3.5 hour drive from Adelaide and offers some incredible surfing sports. Set up camp at Cable Bay Campground and wander over to “the rusty remains of the wreck of the Ethel”.

Oodnadatta Track:

This one is another longer drive (close to 9 hours), suited to road-trip lovers. But the Oodnadatta Track, set in “some of Australia’s most significant parts of The Outback” is a truly unique experience. As Tourism Australia writes, it’s “the world’s largest art installation. Featuring countless exhibits along its ever-changing and rugged landscape, it’s truly an outdoor museum like no other in the world!”

Tasmanian long weekend destinations

Lake St Clair:

2.5 hours our of Hobart, you’ll find the snow-capped peaks of Lake St Clair. This destination, Tourism Australia shares is the perfect place to “grab a canoe and a thermos of hot chocolate and drift along without a care”.

Town of Murals, Sheffield:

Did you know Tassie had a town of murals? Now you do. It’s just 30 minutes from Devonport and contains “a collection of 100 murals painted on the walls of buildings, created by local artists which depict local history and it’s characters”.

Western Australian long weekend destinations

Augusta:

This quaint town is about 3.5 hours out of Perth – the perfect length drive for a long weekend. Stop by Lake Cave “a stunning crystal chamber deep beneath the earth (bookings essential)” and prepare to be stunned.

Urawa Nature Reserve:

According to Tourism Australia, “The historic location of Perkins Well #2 is a great viewing spot” for folks hoping to view the Milky Way. Spend a weekend stargazing here, staying in Mullewa and perusing the many Astrotourism Towns nearby.

Northern Territory’s long weekend destinations

Kakadu National Park:

Spend a weekend in the Cooinda Camping Ground close to the Yellow Water Billabong where you can board a cruise and look out for crocodiles and birds.

Litchfield National Park:

Just under 1.5 hours drive from Darwin, you’ll find Litchfield National Park where you can explore 4×4 tracks and “experience challenging terrain, big rivers and wildlife”. Be sure to check in and see which part of the parks are open at the time you hope to visit, however.

This article has been updated since its original publish date.

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