Reliving those long summer days and balmy nights with nothing to do except whatever you want? Summer in Australia might be over, but there’s no reason not to keep the holiday vibe going with a short break to New South Wales (NSW).
There are many advantages to taking an off-peak summer holiday. Prices are lower, destinations that are packed over Christmas are less crowded, and it is easier to book a hotel room or a table at a restaurant. With temperate weather continuing throughout the state, here are five destinations worth considering for short breaks in NSW:
1. Port Stephens
With beautiful beaches, calm turquoise bays and an abundance of waterside eateries, Port Stephens is an ideal holiday destination. Around two and a half hours north of Sydney, there are plenty of things to do. Book a dolphin watch cruise from Nelson Bay, hike to the top of Mt Tomaree Head Lookout to take in the view of distant islands, and go sandboarding down 50m-high dunes (below) at Anna Bay.
The Nelson Resort is a short walk from Nelson Bay’s main street and D’Albora Marinas, where there are several eateries overlooking the water. Little Beach Boathouse, at the old Little Beach Marina, serves modern Australian cuisine with a focus on local produce, Hunter Valley wines and beer from Murray’s Craft Brewing Co. The brewery is based at nearby Bobs Farm and well worth a visit.
A few minutes’ drive away at Anna Bay, Crest Birubi Beach is a lovely cafe beside the beach at Birubi Point Surf Life Saving Club. It is a great place to sit back and watch surfers as you eat breakfast or lunch, while reading the weekend papers.
2. South Coast
Spend a relaxing weekend in a convict-built cottage, the old servants quarters or restored stables at the historic Coolangatta Estate at Shoalhaven Heads, using it as a base to explore the spectacular South Coast. Dine at a table on the grass outside at on-site restaurant Firegrill and taste wines grown on the estate at the cellar door.
Take a drive to swim at one of the gorgeous beaches nearby, which include Werri Beach, Seven Mile Beach at Gerroa and Culburra Beach, before heading to the famous Kiama Blowhole (above) to see water spray up to 25 metres into the air. Little Blowhole Art Bar in Kiama has a Spanish tapas menu designed for sharing, while the Hungry Monkey offers everything from salads and smoothies to burgers and craft beer.
On another day, drive to the quaint town of Berry and stroll the boutiques and antique stores. Pause for scones and tea at The Berry Tea Shop and dine at one of the many great restaurants, which include South on Albany, Leaf in Berry and The Silo’s Restaurant.
3. Byron Bay
The hippie haven of Byron Bay has long been a popular summer holiday destination, with visitors enticed by its golden beaches, surf breaks and shopping. In more recent times, its reputation as a foodie hub has also flourished.
A short drive outside town at Ewingsdale, The Farm Byron Bay has fast become the area’s “must-visit” attraction. Enjoy breakfast or lunch al fresco at the on-site restaurant Three Blue Ducks before taking a tour of the property, which is home to vegetable and flower gardens, Scottish Highland cattle and chickens.
Back in town, sip on cocktails and indulge in oysters on the verandah at Balcony Bar and dine on Spanish tapas at St Elmo. Walk to Cape Byron Lighthouse (above) and take in the view from the deck at the Lighthouse Cafe, and drive into the hinterland to the quaint Newrybar village to dine on fresh, seasonal produce at Harvest, in a lovely weatherboard cottage.
Opened in early 2016, Elements of Byron has a range of accommodation including garden, lagoon and beach villas. Start the day with a sunrise yoga class at the easternmost point of Australia, relax on a day bed which hangs suspended over the pool or go horse riding through the bush and along Belongil Beach with Zephyr Horses, based in a restored shack built for a film set across the road. In the evening, enjoy a drink by the fire pit before dining in the on-site restaurant, Graze.
4. Hunter Valley
As Australia’s oldest wine growing region, the Hunter Valley makes a great weekend getaway. At Polkobin, boutique hotel The Convent Hunter Valley (below), is a Victorian-style manor surrounded by beautiful gardens and vineyards. The property is also home to Pepper Tree Winery and hatted restaurant Circa 1876. Housed in a historic cottage overlooking the organic garden, it has a focus on “farm to fork” dining.
Get out on the trail and soak up the fresh air with Hunter Valley Horse Riding and Adventures, which caters to beginners and experienced riders alike, and book on a tour with Hunter Valley Boutique Wine Tours. The full-day Boutique Gourmet Wine and Food Trail Tour visits four to five cellar doors offering a variety of wine styles, from sparkling to fortified, with cheese, olive and chocolate samplings en route.
Dine on the local, seasonal menu at Margan Restaurant at Broke and contemporary Australian cuisine at Muse Restaurant at Hungerford Hill Winery.
5. Kangaroo Valley
The lush green Kangaroo Valley abounds with cabins, cottages and bed and breakfasts that beckon visitors looking for a quiet escape. The charming Barrengarry Boutique Farm Cottages has three accommodation options, with a small farming museum on the property.
Go bushwalking, fishing or kayaking along the pristine Kangaroo River and stroll across Hampden Bridge (above), which is the oldest suspension bridge in Australia. Check out the homewares boutiques, galleries and antique stores in town, peruse the exhibits and early settlers hut in the nearby Pioneer Village Museum and enjoy a meat pie from the Old Barrengarry Store, followed by a treat from Kangaroo Valley Fudge House and Ice Creamery.
Dine on local, seasonal produce on the verandah at Bistro One46. On the return drive to Sydney, stop for lunch at Biota Dining in Bowral, which has a barbecue in the courtyard every Sunday throughout summer, with local roast chickens, homemade smoked sausage and salads on offer.
PHOTOS: DESTINATION PORT STEPHENS, DESTINATION NSW, DEE KRAMER PHOTOGRAPHY, CONVENT HUNTER VALLEY FACEBOOK
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.