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‘City Escapes’: Weekends Away from our Capitals

There are a myriad of destinations in Australia where you can escape from the hustle and bustle of the rat race, and feel a world away.

Do I hear camping and glamping, epicurean-style fine dining, wineries, bushwalking, cycling, fishing etc?

Well, surprisingly, many of these are not far from the madding crowd of our biggest cities – but far enough away to take a proverbial “chill pill”.

Here, we select one place within reach of each capital city in Australia where you can retreat from the daily nine-to-five grind!

MACEDON (Approx. 60kms from Melbourne CBD)

The Macedon Ranges sits right on Melbourne’s doorstep. And at the base of Mount Macedon’s southern slopes is the quaint country village of Macedon.

Obviously tourists are enraptured with its pure mountain air, quality eateries, fresh produce, and an array of accommodation from guesthouses and country estates to cottages and hotel/spas.

Popular activities include climbing Mt Macedon, enjoying the view from the Memorial Cross, exploring gardens, walking the boulevard, and shouting “Miranda” from nearby Hanging Rock.

ADELAIDE HILLS (Approx. 30kms from Adelaide CBD)

The Adelaide Hills is renowned for being a peaceful country retreat.

It’s a region to tempt your taste buds courtesy of wineries, craft breweries and cider houses. And you can sample the best local produce from the farm gate or farmers market or fine food from providores, restaurants and cafes.

The Adelaide Hills also offers beautiful driving experience, and you can also peacefully explore the region by foot, on horseback or cycling to engage more fully with nature and the landscape and it boasts an eclectic range of accommodation. Visualise waking up in a cosy cottage, historic pub, luxury manor or private villa.

MOUNT TAMBORINE (Approx. 70kms from Brisbane CBD)

Located in the peaceful and picturesque Hinterland, where you can put your head in the clouds, Mount Tamborine is the perfect year-round destination.

Swathed in beauty and tranquillity, Mount Tamborine dishes up a multitude of award-winning wineries and top-class restaurants, country markets, festivals and events, and a whole host of accommodation choices including romantic couples’ cottages and chalets, camping and cabins, and B&Bs.

The more adventurous will delight in exploring Tamborine, Springbrook or Lamington national parks, and even O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. You can go underground at Glow Worm Caves, and also admire the rainforest canopies at the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk.

Another popular pastime is strolling up and down famous “Gallery Walk” with its 60+ boutiques, cottage industries, cafes, art galleries etc.

PORT ARTHUR (Approx. 100kms from Hobart CBD)

The self-drive from Hobart to Port Arthur (once a penal colony) is majestic, taking in heritage-filled Richmond which is also home to Australia’s oldest bridge and Australia’s oldest gaol.

Nearby are the vineyards of the Coal River Valley, while at Copping there’s an extensive collection of convict artefacts.

And once at Eaglehawk Neck, you can explore the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur Historic Site, Australia’s most intact and evocative convict site with more than 30 buildings, ruins and restored period homes dating from the prison’s establishment in 1830 until its closure in 1877.

Meanwhile, a short drive south is the impressive coastal rock formations of the Devils Kitchen, Tasman Arch, the Blowhole and Remarkable Cave.

BLUE MOUNTAINS (Approx. 60kms from Sydney CBD)

The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, is a World Heritage-listed region recognised for the natural blue haze created by vast eucalypt forests releasing tiny droplets of oil that mix with water vapour and sunlight.

At Katoomba, you can enjoy stunning panoramas and the Three Sisters at Echo Point Lookout. Nearby is Scenic World, where you can experience the world’s steepest incline railway into ancient Jurassic rainforest and ride in a glass-floored cable car suspended 270m above a steep gorge.

You can also explore Katoomba Falls and Jamison Valley, and the wonderful Jenolan Caves, among the world’s oldest cave systems.

The Blue Mountains’ dynamic dining culture means you can fine dine in award-winning restaurants, or opt for a funky hangout serving, wine, tapas and pizza.

Accommodation in the Blue Mountains ranges from backpacker hostels to luxury motels.

SWAN VALLEY (Approx. 15kms from Perth CBD)

The Swan Valley is the oldest wine region in WA, home to over 40 world-class wineries, six boutique breweries, cideries and distilleries.

And it’s full of heritage and history… Exquisite colonial architecture is just the tip of the iceberg – there are also fascinating museums, churches, and theatre houses.

In the Swan Valley, you can explore the Cider & Ale Trail, which takes you to the region’s nine specialty ale and cider producers. You can take a boat cruise from Perth City along the Swan River to the Swan Valley. Or even take a wander around Guildford’s historic shopping precincts.

From exquisite fine dining restaurants to salt-of-the-earth pub grub, the Swan Valley will keep your bellies full.

Accommodation-wise, there is something to suit all tastes and budgets from five-star resorts, caravan parks, farm stays or chic boutique guesthouses.

LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK (Approx. 115kms to Darwin CBD)

At just over an hour from Darwin, Litchfield National Park is a favourite day trip with its waterfalls and waterholes, bushwalks, four-wheel drive tracks, birds and wildlife.

And the activities seem endless – including plunging into the crystal clear waterholes beneath the magnificent spring-fed waterfalls of Florence and Wangi; bushwalking the epic 39km Tabletop Track; 4WDing to explore the sandstone relics of the Lost City; appreciating our early pioneers at the ruins of Blyth Homestead; and taking the boardwalk to a ‘graveyard’ of two-metre tall headstones.

One of the easiest ways to see Litchfield NP is on a day trip from Darwin. There, you can relax in five-star luxury. Or you can choose a homestead, tourist park, safari camp, basic tent setups, camp or caravan site nearby to Litchfield NP.

MEET THE AUTHORPeter Quilty

Peter Quilty
With more than 30 years’ journalistic experience, Peter’s brief predominantly centres on editorial reviews for Caravan World and Camper magazines. A relative late starter to the trials and tribulations of the RV industry, Peter has been making up for lost time caravanning and camping with his family around Victoria. Initially, Gippsland was the primary stamping ground free camping in idyllic bush settings such as Dargo and Licola, beside the Wonnangatta and Macalister rivers respectively. Other favourite haunts also became ensconced on the family camping itinerary – Jamieson in Victoria’s High Country, Whitfield in the King Valley, Princetown on the Great Ocean Road, and Bright in the Ovens Valley.

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