The latest easing of restrictions allows those of us in Queensland and New South Wales to travel within our own state, and we’re already planning our next getaway.
Here are the wanderlust destinations topping our list for our NSW + QLD readers (check your own state for easing travel restrictions.)
Tranquil and scenic, Toowoomba – aptly named ‘the Garden City’ – is home to over 150 picturesque gardens and parks. Enjoy a stroll through the Ju Raku En Japanese Gardens, picnic by the fountains of Lake Annan Park or (literally) stop and smell the roses of the Newtown Park State Rose Garden, some of which have been growing since 1912. Day trips are easy when you stay in Toowoomba, with the wonders of the D’Aguilar National Park and towns like Dalby and Warwick right next door. On the cusp of the Great Dividing Range and overlooking the Lockyer Valley, Toowoomba’s crisp country air and panoramic views can’t be beaten – nor can its grape growing climate. There are quaint stores, larger shopping centres and plenty of great places to eat. It’s hard to say what’s better at the Picnic Point Café and Restaurant: the food or the view? Plus, the surrounding Picnic Point Park is an ideal spot for a family picnic or scenic walk. Let the kids explore Toowoomba’s fascinating history at the Cobb & Co. Museum or take yourself on a trip down memory lane on the Russell Street Historical Walk. Toowoomba has it all, from beautiful landscapes, vibrant culture and country charm – and it’s all just 90 minutes from Brisbane.
BUCKET LIST STAY: This beautifully-furnished farmhouse AirBnB
The quiet coastal town of Newcastle offers the perfect seaside escape with all of the conveniences of city life. From the moving Stockton Sand Dunes – perfect for racing down – to the Blackbutt Nature Reserve – complete with native wildlife and picnic spots – you’ll be hard-pressed running out of things to do in ‘Newy’. It’s also a magnet for history buffs, with an impressive collection of heritage-listed spots ranging from beautiful Cathedral Park or Ocean Baths to the fascinating story of the shipwrecked Adolphe off the Stockton Breakwall. It’s just a 2.5-hour drive from Sydney through the Central Coast region that is famous for creatures that love to migrate during winter, making Newcastle the perfect spot to witness whales of all shapes and sizes as they make their magnificent journey towards warmer water. Beyond the nature, Newcastle is also home to a great food and bar scene, both on the main drag – Hunter Street – and throughout the back alleys.
BUCKET LIST STAY: The picturesque waterfront Rydges Newcastle
Sunshine Coast Hinterland (QLD)
We all know that the Sunshine Coast’s beaches are second to none (okay, maybe ‘second to one’… our beloved Gold Coast!) but it’s the hinterland that’s calling us this winter. Specifically, Montville! Perched high on the Blackall Range in the Sunshine Coast’s hinterland, a walk down Montville’s Main Street feels like a step back in time. Rich mountainous farmlands and a temperate climate create the perfect conditions for local farmers to grow the freshest, tastiest produce and Montville’s many restaurants certainly make the most of it. A rainforest mountain range, a stunning dam and a national park complete with a cascading waterfall are just some of the natural wonders that are easily accessible from Montville. Hikers can find adventure along the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk (a range of experiences can be enjoyed along this 58km trail, from half-day walks to three-day walks with camps), day trippers will love Kondalilla Falls, while art-buffs will gravitate to the various Montville galleries. Take in all that the region has to offer with a short drive from Maleny to Mapleton, via Montville. It’s a country lovers’ dream, and there’s plenty to see and do along the way, too – from the Maleny Botanic Gardens to the plethora of quaint, homey cafes and stores.
BUCKET LIST STAY: These panoramic apartments with a stunning swimming pool
Forster (pronounced ‘Foster’) sits on New South Wales’ mid-north coast, south of Port Macquarie and about a three-and-a-half hour drive north of Sydney. Rock pools, white sandy beaches and panoramic lookouts about in Forster, but there’s more to explore in this seaside escape. Perched on the oceanic inlet of the Coolongolook River, Forster may be known for its stunning water and natural surrounds, but it’s also a hub for delicious food, too. Traditional Forster flavour is home-grown and hearty, and there are plenty of places to grab a mouth-watering bite around town. Wallis Lake is your portal to Forster’s surrounding towns and islands, including Green Point – which is right on the doorstep of beautiful Booti Booti National Park – Coomba Bay and Whoota. To Forster’s north, Darawank Nature Reserve offers untouched beaches, calm, clear waters and hiking trails. Closer by, there are plenty of hidden beaches and pristine bushland to explore. McBrides Beach offers rock pools and grassy campgrounds, while a visit to The Tanks – on Forster’s main coastline – isn’t just a natural playground for locals on-land; there are plenty of fish, and even sharks, to say hello to if you take the plunge.
BUCKET LIST STAY: This classic family beach house on the headland
With beautiful beaches, quaint cafes and roughly the same latitude and tropical climate as Hawaii, the sleepy seaside town of Bargara is one of Queensland’s best kept secrets. Make the most of the stunning scenery and temperate climate with Bargara’s number of walking paths and swimming spots, or stop in at the Mon Repos Turtle Centre to learn about the conservation and research programs protecting the endangered marine turtles, and maybe even take a tour to see them for yourself! For those keen to explore Bargara’s natural surrounds, there is a bevy of reserves and nature parks around town – not to mention picturesque beaches. And, for the brave few keen to float around with some 450 manta rays, why not hop across to Lady Elliot Island for a day trip? Bargara really does have everything – close proximity to the birthplace of Australia’s favourite spirit included. Pop into Bundaberg during your stay to pick up your own bottle of Bundaberg Rum for your bar cart or next festive baking recipe.
BUCKET LIST STAY: This gorgeous beachfront apartment on AirBnB
THE ULTIMATE ‘BUCKET LIST STAY’… ON WHEELS!
Keen to turn your next adventure into a road trip? Rent a van! Wake up to the sound of the ocean and stop off wherever you like – it’s the ultimate escape from reality. Little Camper Co. is a Gold Coast business putting the power of your holiday in your hands. They’re fitted with a completely self-sustainable solar power system so you can travel off the grid and avoid campsite fees, and come equipped with a functioning kitchen, tables, chairs, awnings, pots, pans… you name it! They’re also crazy cost effective, especially with their current ‘End of Rona’ sale – they’re offering 15% off all trips booked between June 12 and August 13, 2020, when you book before June 12. Use the code CORONA15 at checkout.