Travel

Take The Less ‘Grammed Route With These 3 Magical Mini-Escapes

By Sophie Hart
5th Nov 2019

If you’re anything like us, when planning for your next getaway you’re chasing a unique experience that’ll have your mates green with envy back home. But what often springs to mind are distant, exotic destinations that require a little too much coin and non-existent annual leave.

So, to help you out, we’ve rounded up three iconic holiday destinations for your next mini-break—but not as you know them. From hidden speakeasies to secret swimming holes and neon lighthouses, we’re bringing you all the under-the-radar experiences you need to hit up before they flood your feed. 

And thanks to your hosts at participating voco and Crowne Plaza Hotels, when you book a two-night stay they’ll even give you a free night to use for your next weekend away. 

The Gold Coast

Already high on every traveller’s hit list, the Gold Coast is a dream escape packed with bucket list-worthy things to do. There are the usual suspects like hitting the beach at Surfers Paradise but if you’re looking to escape the crowds and check out the best local swimming spots, head south to Coolangatta’s Froggie Beach. It’s that magical wedge of sand located between Snapper Rocks and Point Danger that’s perfectly shielded from the elements. Another local favourite is Araluen swimming hole, a scenic little spot tucked in the foothills of Springbrook National Park that’s well worth the drive. 

If you’re looking to refuel post-swim, head to Rosellas. Opening up earlier this year, Rosellas has quickly become a local favourite that’s yet to be discovered by tourists. Full of quirky character, this federation-style bar is sending us straight back to our childhood with their menu—but with an elevated twist. Think Vegemite, cheddar and wattle seed butter jaffles washed down with an Ironman cocktail (Beenleigh white rum, Bundaberg small-batch rum, lime, banana and Nutri-Grain orgeat). Be sure to fire up the ‘Gram because you’ve never seen dishes presented like this before. 

For a seaside stay to remember, check into the voco Gold Coast Hotel. Located on Hamilton Avenue in Surfers Paradise this hotel is all things glamour. Depending on your suite, you’ll be greeted with breath-taking glittering ocean or misty mountain views but honestly, either is fine by us. If a night in is on the cards, pop downstairs to Cliffords Grill & Lounge for mouthwatering slow-cooked lamb shoulder followed by Bombe Alaska. The best part, though? When you book two nights or more they’ll give you a free night for your next getaway. 

Auckland

You’ll need to fly across the ditch and use a little annual leave but a trip to Auckland is more than worth it—and let us tell you why. While most travellers come to experience the picturesque beaches and fine Kiwi wine (which we highly recommend too, by the way) it might surprise you to know this cosmopolitan city has so much more to offer. For max convenience, so you can experience it all, check into Crowne Plaza Auckland located smack bang in the centre of the city. They’re also serving up a free night for your next stay. Winning. 

A haven for the food-obsessed, Auckland is bursting with farm-to-fork restaurants, cosy cafes and hidden bars the locals don’t want you to know about. But lucky for you, we’re spilling the tea on one of the best. A chic and cosy restaurant found on Karangahape Road (affectionately referred to as K’Road by the locals), Cotto is dishing up fresh, handmade pasta. For a cheeky post-dinner tipple, pop into Caretaker, one of Auckland’s best under-the-radar bars. Tucked away in downtown Britomart, you could easily miss this New York-style cocktail lounge if you’re not actively looking for it, so keep an eye out for its storeroom-like entrance down a secret staircase. Once inside, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. There’s no set cocktail menus here—just come armed with your flavour preferences and boozy favourites, and their expert bartenders will whip you up something magical. 

Aside from the food, there’s plenty of memorable experiences worth firing up the ‘Gram for in Auckland. It’s a regular on your feed, so you’ve probably seen the pink inner-city light path that runs from Upper Queen Street to Victoria Street, but if you visit at night, you’ll experience the path’s interactive lights (when it’s even more Instagrammable). For another lesser-known Auckland gem, throw ‘The Lighthouse’ onto your itinerary. Not your average lighthouse, rather, it’s a very cool art installation housed within a traditional ‘50s New Zealand home. Created by Michael Parekowhai, inside you’ll discover a steel sculpture of Captain James Cook surrounded by flickering neon lights. 

The Hunter Valley 

Found just three hours from Sydney and dotted with over 120 wineries and quaint vineyards, it’s no surprise the Hunter Valley is a top holiday spot for anyone looking to escape the city. While here, visiting at least one (or a few) of the popular world-class wineries is mandatory (Oakvale, Tyrell’s, and Audrey Wilkinson are some of the most popular) but there’s plenty more places off the beaten track to get excited about.

You’ll need to grab the GPS for this one. Nestled away in a sprawling plant nursery off the highway in Nulkaba, Simply D’Vine Cafe has you sorted for the perfect breakfast and once lunch rolls around, make a beeline for Bimbadgen Winery. The name literally means ‘place with a good view’, so if you like your wine paired with an idyllic backdrop of lush rolling hills, book a table at the Esca restaurant immediately. You can’t go wrong with this menu but if we had to choose, the Rainbow Trout tortellini and maple glazed pork belly always deliver. As for dinner, there’s no better place to be than Yellow Billy Restaurant. It’s a totally unique experience where your food gets cooked over a custom-built fire pit, matched with a progressive list of local and regional fine wines, and served to you in a dreamy setting. You’re going to want to get there before tourists catch wind of this one. 

If you’re looking for a winery experience with a difference, grab a ticket to A Day On The Green. Throughout summer an array of home-grown talent and international acts tour to a number of wineries across the Hunter Valley region for a relaxed and equally delicious gig experience. Bring your own drool-worthy bites, order up some wine from the hosting winery, throw down the picnic blanket and soak up the epic tunes for a day you won’t forget. If you’re looking for somewhere to rest your head, look no further than voco Kirkton Park Hunter Valley. This charming hotel is a bespoke experience in itself. You can enjoy mulled wine in the private gardens, tuck into one of the best high teas in the region and enjoy an indulgent long lunch. Just be sure to check out the veggie garden and bee farm producing honey for local bars and restaurants while you're there. And since they’ll even give you a free night for your next getaway, there’s no better reason to book.  

Ready to take the road less ‘Grammed? In case you’re in need of another excuse, book two nights or more at participating voco and Crowne Plaza Hotels and you’ll score a free night for your next getaway. 

Image credit: Cotto Restaurant, Our Auckland, Tourism and Events Queensland

Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by voco and Crowne Plaza Hotels and proudly endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

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