While it doesn’t look like international travel will be on the cards anytime soon, there are countless amazing spots to explore right here in our own backyard. It’s not surprising that you’re probably feeling in need of a luxurious escape (because let’s face it, it’s been a bloody exhausting year) not too far from home to take advantage of the glorious weather. Plus, we’ve got a feeling that a scenic drive, fancy digs, and a cocktail or two, will cure any travel-ban blues, and make this the best summer yet! A match made in luxe heaven, we’ve partnered with Pure Origin, the handcrafted Tasmanian vodka made from the purest water on earth, to compile a guide to the best, bougie weekends away that are right on your doorstep. Because come on, you deserve it.
East Gippsland, VIC
Dairy cows dotted through plush green paddocks, forests of red gums and expansive waterways joining the deep blue ocean are what greet you upon entering the East Gippsland region. On a nice day, it’s magical to hop on a ferry to Raymond Island and play eye-spy with some cuddly locals on the Koala Trail, and afterwards, make your way to the nearby Sardine Eatery and Bar, whose name kind of gives away what they’re all about. You’d be hard-pressed to find seafood much fresher, or more beautifully prepared – aside from the sardines, there are prawns and octopus from the lakes entrance, jumbo pippies and an abundance of fish varieties. For a farm stay that is more about indulgence than finding your inner country bumpkin, try Rivendell Farm Cottages, where you’ll be surrounded by cows, goats, dogs, chickens, peacocks and horses as you eat your brekkie (sourced from the garden of course) on the wide, shady deck. With luxury amenities, quirky décor, a hot tub and terrace with a daybed, you won’t ever want to leave.
Margaret River, WA
Three hours drive from Perth; this gorgeous wine region has something for every kind of traveller. Fine dining, you ask? Foodies will be overwhelmed by the options, but our top picks are White Elephant, a casual café with million-dollar views across Gnarabup Bay, Vasse Felix, a fine dining institution nestled amongst rolling hills and vineyards and serving modern Australian fare such as kangaroo pastrami, and Arimia, an exceptional, sustainable, off-the-grid restaurant with a biodynamic garden and its own trout raised in the nearby creeks. For a nature fix, take a stroll on the fine white sand of Smiths Beach, or delve underground to admire the seemingly impossible stalactites in the Jewel Cave. Catch some zzz’s at one of the 11 lavish private suits at Empire Retreat, treat yourself to a facial or massage at the on-site spa or simply soak in your bath, vodka on the rocks in hand. Lush.
Mornington Peninsula, VIC
While this gorgeous stretch of coastline only an hour from Melbourne has been an obvious spot for a weekend away for a long time now, since Jackalope Hotel, in all its 28-acre glory first opened its impossibly chic doors in 2017, there’s now a whole other reason to visit. For an extravagant adventure that feels a bit like running rampant in a modern art gallery, it doesn’t get much better than this – aside from the gorgeous rooms, there’s an infinity pool, spa and two world-class dining options, Doot Doot Doot and Rare Hare, as well as a bar serving classics alongside inspired creations. If you feel like venturing outside the grounds, head to Sunny Ridge Farm to pick all the succulent strawberries you can carry, or let someone else do the work, and simply sample the goods at their café – strawberry waffles, anyone? Top it off with a leisurely bushwalk from Sorrento to Portsea followed by a swim in the pristine ocean.
While it’s renowned for its wineries, there’s so much more to Orange than just cellar doors. Four hours drive from Sydney you’ll find this country town that’s really come into its own in recent years. While the vineyards are hard to avoid (and why would you want to, anyway?) hipster cafes and restaurants are cropping up right, left and centre. Feel good food, with a touch of fancy is being served at Charred, and to really get in the holiday spirit, make sure to check out Spilt Milk Bar – a gelateria with a focus on totally natural local ingredients, and a sustainable, transparent ‘cow to cone’ policy. Stay on the bustling main drag at Byng Street Boutique Hotel, where the rooms are refined, yet cheerful, with colourful accents scattered throughout. Before heading home, stock up on summer fruit like cherries, figs and yeah, maybe even an orange or two.
McLaren Vale, SA
Can’t decide between a beach holiday and a boozy tour around the vineyards? Do both at McLaren Vale! And since it’s less than an hour from Adelaide, you’ll be able to come back more than once. If you’re there on a Saturday, don’t miss the Willunga Farmers Market to cram your car full of local produce and delicacies. Indulge in an hours-long lunch at one of the tables that spill onto the luscious grass under shady trees in Pizzateca’s garden. It could be the best woodfired pizza you’ve ever tried, and we won’t even begin to describe the mouth-watering tiramisu made from nonna’s recipe. For accommodation that’s sleek, sophisticated and something a bit different, stay in either the Cadole Avalon or Cadole Sierra at The Vineyard Retreat. While reminiscent of an (albeit very luxurious) shipping container, the self-contained buildings have their own wood fireplaces, deck overlooking the vines, and access to a Jacuzzi that sits at the highest point of the vineyard. You know where you’ll find us…
South Coast, NSW
Heading south from Sydney, you’ll discover that there’s an absolute bounty of little gems dotted along the coastline. From seafood king Rick Stein’s restaurant Bannisters at Mollymook, where you can feast on oysters with Charentaise sausage, to the sweet town of Berry, where we’ll recommend you skip the queue to the infamous donut van, and instead gorge on light-as-air pastries from Milkwood Bakery. Hop in the car to unearth a well-kept secret tucked away at Shoalhaven heads, right beside the wild and windswept Seven Mile Beach. The secluded oasis that is Bangalay Villas features a Bali-esque pool with sunbeds to wile the day away, and 16 self-contained apartments will all the trimmings. You don’t have to trek far to find a good meal either – the adjoining restaurant offers three-course meals with an emphasis on native Aussie ingredients and an inspired cocktail list that’ll have you heading home to make your own version of their wattle vodka martinis and salt bush margaritas. Feeling adventurous? You can even pre-order a take away gourmet picnic hamper if you’d rather dine alfresco.
Desperate for some pampering? Look no further than Daylesford. This unassuming region harbours some of the richest soil in Australia thanks to the volcanoes that once sat here. And given that it’s where the majority of Australia’s mineral springs are located, if you’re after a spa day surrounded by spectacular natural beauty, this is it. Seriously. Just an hour and a half away from Melbourne and you can be submerging yourself in the unspoiled, healing magnesium, calcium and iron-rich waters of the mineral pools. Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa has been relaxing residents since 1895, or check in to unadulterated indulgence at Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel where other spa offerings include a detox box and lavender sauna. With all that relaxing, don’t forget that the region also boasts some of the best restaurants around, so munch on meals at Lake House cooked with veggies picked fresh from their own Dairy Flat Farm, or sign up for a decadent masterclass to learn the tricks of the trade at their on-site cooking school. Feasting and floating- don’t you feel calmer already?
East Coast, TAS
Just over two hours drive from Hobart; Tasmania’s East Coast offers visitors a luscious smorgasbord of options for those looking for a swanky weekend away in a spectacular environment. First stop is at the casual, but can’t-get-fresher Freycinet Marine Farm to have oysters barely out of the ocean, rock lobster, and sea urchin roe. Set up camp at one of the picnic tables, or get the grub to-go, and take your spread to one of the many magnificent vantage points, where you can really revel in the natural wonder. Our hot tip? BYO Bloody Mary. For dinner, head to The Homestead Restaurant at Piermont, for grass-fed Cape Grim eye fillet or pepper-crusted kangaroo served in a beautiful space from 1838 on the edge of Oyster Bay’s rugged coastline. Let your head hit the pillow at the ultimate in opulent accommodation, Saffire Freycinet. With an emphasis on wellness, each room comes equipped with a yoga mat, and personal classes can be arranged too, should you feel inclined to work off the rich food you’ve no doubt consumed.
Did reading this make you want to pack your bags immediately? If so, we’d suggest starting the indulgence early by sitting down to plan your itinerary over an ice-cold Pure Origin Tasmanian vodka and tonic.