Just when the humdrum of daily routine is dulling things down, the Queen’s birthday is here to brighten things up. If you’re looking forward to the June long weekend as much as we are, you’re probably thinking of an exciting getaway.
For those of you who haven’t decided the ideal spot, we can help with our list of the hottest holiday destinations. Whether you want to plan a luxury or budget getaway, we’ve listed options (with approximate costs for a holiday for two) that would suit all kinds of travellers.
BUDGET DAY TRIP
Blue Mountains: If you can hear the mountains calling, it’s high time you listened. Winters are a great time to go to the Blue Mountains because the views are just magical. The region hosts a number of events, exhibitions and performances all year, offering a great opportunity to explore the area’s Aboriginal history and culture with guided walks, exhibitions and performances. Or, get that adrenaline pumping with a ride on the world’s steepest incline railway at Scenic World ($35). Less than two hours away, you can conveniently reach the Blue Mountains by car, bus or train.
Under $20: A day trip to the Blue Mountains is really possible on a shoestring, especially if you go on a Sunday when the return train journey will only cost $2.50 (Otherwise, $8.30 for peak hours). Instead of going to one of the touristy restaurants, pack yourself some gourmet homemade snacks and enjoy a picnic in the mountains. If you skip Scenic World, you can totally plan a trip for two for under $20.
Hunter Region: With some of the best wine and cheese you’re ever likely to taste, the Hunter Valley is always a weekend getaway winner. Get a crew together for wine tasting and spend hours literally ‘soaking’ in the beauty or chat with the owners of the boutique wineries who are full of interesting stories about the wines and the vineyards. Just 150 km north of Sydney, you can reach Hunter Valley in less than two hours. You can drive, take a guided tour bus or the train from Central Station. If you are planning to drive though, make sure you nominate your designated driver before you reach the vineyards.
Under $400: If you just plan a wine tasting day trip, you can get bus tours for about $60 per person. But if you want to spend the entire weekend exploring the vineyards, you can stay in a hotel or book a cottage or villa, which can cost you anything from $120 per night. If you are in a group, a homestay always ends up as a cheaper and more fun option.
Auckland: If you want to go a little further afield why not spend a luxurious weekend in NZ? You’ll need to factor in flight times (and the weather) but the volcano walks and all that delicious food and top NZ sauvignon blanc will make it worth it. Check out Auckland Art Museum, visit the vineyards or go to underwater world, there is heaps to keep you occupied. And if you really want to taste luxury, get on a harbour yacht cruise in the evening and enjoy the twinkling night sky.
Under $1,200: If you book now, a return flight from Sydney to Auckland will cost you about $400. As for accommodation, check out last minute hotel deals but depending on the kind of place you have in mind expect to pay anything from $100 upwards a night. Not including the cost of food, wine and all things luxurious (like a day spa visit), a weekend for two at this time will cost less than $1,200.
BUDGET DAY TRIP
Yarra Valley: Plan an indulgent day trip to Victoria’s gorgeous wine region. Yarra Valley may be best known for its red vino, but there’s much more to the place than wines! It’s home to some top notch restaurants celebrating the fresh produce of the region including freshwater salmon, trout and caviar, organic fruits, veggies and handmade cheeses. If you’re more of a beer person head to one of the many microbreweries where you can sample local craft beers and ciders. Whatever you do, don’t forget to visit the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery for that sinful indulgence. For a romantic twist, book a hot-air balloon ride paired with some mouthwatering brekkie and sparkling wine!
Under $150: Don’t argue over who should be the designated driver, let’s face it, you’ll all want to get drunk. Book a wine tasting bus tour for Yarra Valley for about $70 per person. If you do end up driving yourself, check the opening hours for the vineyards you plan to visit - some may charge a nominal fee for wine tasting, but many of them are actually free. If you don’t do the hot-air balloon ride, which can set you back by some $400 per person, you can manage this day trip in under $150 (not counting the number of wine bottles you buy of course!).
Mornington Peninsula: Picture this. Beautiful wineries, waterfront restaurants and cosy cafes in beautifully landscaped gardens. Welcome to Mornington Peninsula. Even though the grand clifftop mansions and the stunning drive are just an hour away from Melbourne, don’t be surprised if you feel like you’ve reached some exotic coast, thousands of miles away. You can stay at a European-style country resort but if you don’t want to spend too much on accommodation, there are plenty of charming cottages and B&Bs as well.
Under $500: You should be able to find accommodation starting from about $120 a night and now that the long weekend is so close, it would be a good idea to check out lastminute.com.au to find good deals.
Hobart: In a short flight of just 1 hour and 15 minutes, you can fly from Melbourne to Hobart. The Tassie capital is a beautiful place with abundant natural beauty, lip-smacking food and wine and a relaxed island lifestyle - just perfect for the long weekend. Some of the most popular things to do around Hobart would be to catch the ferry to explore the absolutely fascinating MONA art museum, drive up to the summit of Mount Wellington for some spectacular views and explore the area’s rich history at Battery Point.
Under $1,000: A return flight from Melbourne to Hobart at this time would cost about $300 and you can find a place to stay for about $100 upward per night.
BUDGET DAY TRIP
Barossa Valley: An all-time favourite with wine-lovers, it only takes one hour to get to Barossa Valley from Adelaide. While you can of course go on a wine tasting spree across vineyards, we suggest you take it up a notch this time and try to blend your own wine from Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre at Penfolds. Put on your white coats, try to remember some chemistry lessons from school, and enter the ‘lab’ to make yourself an exclusive blend. Don’t worry, you won’t be tested! It’s a fun experience and costs only $65 per person.
Under $100: If a low budget getaway is what you’re looking at, book an online deal of a full day wine tasting tour including lunch for as low as $45 per person.
Kangaroo Island: If this has been pending on your list for a long time, we’d say do it now. Go to Kangaroo Island and spot a large variety of native Australian animals including sea-lions, koalas and pelicans. The diverse landscape made up of sand dunes, cliffs, bushland and wetlands will take your breath away. To get here, you would have to take a 45-minute ferry from Cape Jervis, which is about two hours away from Adelaide. You can drive or take a coach. You can also take a 30-minute flight from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island.
Under $500: A return trip from Adelaide to Kangaroo island costs about $148 per person. For a coach service to get around the island, you would spend an additional $40. You can find a nice place to stay for about $120 per night, but if you’re in the mood for backpacking, you could easily find something cheaper.
Flinders Ranges and Outback: So this isn’t your typical luxury holiday, but if you’re a nature enthusiast, this is going to be absolutely grand. While you can take a train or a charter tour, the best way to reach Flinders Ranges from Adelaide would be to drive and really soak in the scenic route. The drive can take 4.5-5 hours, so make sure you have a good playlist for the road trip! One of the top attractions is Wilpena Pound, a huge natural amphitheatre. Spend the day discovering rare wildlife and exploring aboriginal history, and the night gazing at the stars in a campsite. For a luxurious experience, book an eco villa.
Under $1,200: You will need a four wheel drive for this journey, which would cost you roughly $250 for three days on hire. The accommodation costs can vary from $100 for budget hotels to $400 for villas.
*Prices are gathered at the time of writing and given that the long weekend is almost upon us, accommodation and flight prices are subject to change.