Long weekend road trips you can plan right now

Kristine Tarbert
Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

Nothing says freedom like the great open road and with intrastate travel restrictions starting to ease across Australia, now is the time plan and book your trip to explore your region's hidden gems and local towns. 

Managing Director of Tourism Australia Phillipa Harrison says the process of rebuilding tourism is going to be gradual starting with day trips and weekend getaway. But can’t stress enough their importance.

It's finally time to head off on a road trip. Photo: Getty

“While taking a road trip to a local region might not seem like much when compared to big extended break, each time you choose to explore and spend locally you’ll also be helping regional tourism businesses and communities to get back on their feet after what has been perhaps the most challenging period the industry has ever faced,” she said.

Not to mention it gets us out of the house! So with the long weekend coming up, here are some Aussie road trip ideas to get you started.

New South Wales & Australian Capital Territory

NSW residents are now able to take a holiday anywhere in NSW with intrastate travel restrictions officially lifted from Monday June 1.

Expedia saw a massive 600 per cent increase in searches in the week following the announcement of restrictions easing compared to the previous week, with NSW travellers top picks for the June long weekend being Sydney, Hunter Valley and the Blue Mountains.

The famous Hunter Valley - what better way to spend time with the family or friends, than in the beautiful Hunter Valley. With plenty of open space and fresh air, you can get outside and enjoy the great outdoors and road trip your way through the local vineyards that occupy the region.

If you need a basecamp the Leisure Inn Pokolbin offers individual stand-alone and self-contained villas on 25 acres in walking distance to local attractions, cellar doors and some of the regions best food options.

Hunter Valley Vineyard. Photo: Getty

Explore the Blue Mountains - a short one hour’s drive from Sydney, the Blue Mountains is the perfect place to spend the weekend. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parts of the country, the Blue Mountains is renowned for its world-heritage charm and is boasting with natural scenery - perfect for getting outside and exploring.

Earlier this year over 80 per cent of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area burned in Australia’s summer bushfires but since the area has started to burst to life with new greenery as the bush regenerates. A great day trip it is about an one hour drive from Sydney before you start to climb up the mountains. Locals know that the most scenic trip up the mountain is via Bells Line of Road stopping in at Bilpin for friendly faces and 100% mountain-grown apple ciders.

Further along, visitors can get back to nature at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden before choosing from a plethora of quaint towns to stop into. Also don't miss the Three Sisters which is usually the highlight of any Blue Mountain trip and a must see stop.

View from Echo Point lookout in the Blue Mountains. Photo: Getty

Head out of Sydney to the beach - Depart the city and drive for an hour northeast to Palm Beach, situated at the top of a long peninsula and surrounded by clear waters and leafy, mansion-studded streets. At the far end of the beach, take the 800-metre (0.5-mile) walking trail to Barrenjoey Lighthouse and lightkeeper’s cottages for panoramic views over Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Drive another 2.5-hours to Newcastle, Australia’s second-oldest city. See why it’s a world-famous surfing destination with a swim at Merewether Beach, or enjoy some more leisurely laps at heritage-listed ocean pool, Bogey Hole

A taste of the NSW outback - A 12-hour road trip from Sydney, Broken Hill is about as far as you can go in NSW without crossing into another State. In fact, the remote destination is so far west it even uses the South Australian time zone (30 mins back) to make life more practical. 

Now is also a perfect time to explore the crowd-free outback of NSW with the storied Darling River flowing for the first time in years after recent rains, flourishing the ochred plains with colour and birdlife. A scenic journey can be taken along the river from Walgett to Wentworth For a taste of the outback without leaving NSW, outback tourism company, Out of the Ordinary Outback, has released special accommodation offers to help cooped up travellers enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, big skies, vast spaces and endless horizons of far west NSW.

Sunlit stone sculpture in Broken Hill. Photo: Getty

Canberra to Southern Highlands roundtrip - There is something distinctly ‘old England’ about the Southern Highlands, where pretty towns modelled after quaint English villages are set amid green landscapes. Drive out of Canberra for a round trip, visiting the quaint small towns filled with quirky antiques and historic buildings. Stop in at Bungendore known for its art, craft, antiques and restaurants. Continue north to Mittagong in the heart of the Southern Highlands and check out the town’s famous antiques and art and craft stores before driving the short distance to Bowral, at the foot of Mount Gibraltar.

Stretch your legs in Moss Vale with a walk around Leighton Gardens and Australia’s oldest jail. Stop by the award-winning Gumnut Patisserie, before cricket buffs visit The Bradman Museum, or visitors go to spot platypuses on the river in Boorowa. Learn about the town’s Irish history on the Shamrock Heritage Trail before heading back to Canberra.

Mountain peaks in the snowys - The Snowy Mountains are a year-round paradise for enjoying the outdoors. Take a road trip from Canberra to one of the region’s towns, like Jindabyne, Thredbo, Tumut and Perisher. Tumut, a 2.5-hour drive from Canberra, is the perfect mountain escape where visitors can explore the mountainous terrain as they bike, hike, fish and golf. Don’t miss a stop at Tumut River Brewing Co for a range of local craft beers and pub-style meals (booking essentials or take-away is available). 

Thredbo River in the Kosciuszko National Park, Snowy Mountains. Photo: Getty

Queensland

In the sunshine state recreational travel of a maximum of 150kms within your region for day trips is currently permitted so here are a few ideas.

The sunny city of Cairns - undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parts of the world and the ultimate Australian getaway, Cairns offer an amazing tropical climate, and is in close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. With ample opportunities to get outdoors, when visiting Cairns you can explore the world-heritage Daintree Rain Forest or spend the day visiting Port Douglas. 

If you’re from Cairns, take a day-trip to Mission Beach, and on the way stop for breakfast at the legendary Babinda Bakery ready to welcome hungry guests on their journeys. Once you’re at Mission Beach, take a dip in the swimming hole at Josephine Falls, or trail through the picturesque 750m rainforest walk. On the way home, spend the afternoon exploring the Babinda Boulders scattered across Babinda Creek. 

Port Douglas beach is a gem on a sunny day. Photo: Getty

Escape Brisbane for the rainforest - For those based in Brisbane, a quick play around with Google Maps will reveal that the countryside is within less than 100-kms reach including Lamington National Park. For an area so deliciously named, we hate to let you down – there are no actual lamingtons here. Instead, you’ll find a rainforest worthy of World Heritage-listed status. This is Gondwana country. In the Binna Burra section of the park, the walks range from short 30-minute circuits, right through to 8-hour treks – catering to bushwalkers who are as green to hiking as the landscape here. Find more day-trip from Brisbane inspiration here.

Victoria

There are no current restrictions on the distance you can travel within Victoria. From June 1 restrictions on travel within Victoria will be eased further and travellers will be able to stay in a holiday home or private residence, as well as tourist accommodation, including caravan parks and camping grounds, where there are no shared communal facilities. 

Explore the coastline from Wangaratta - Visitors can wind their way along Victoria's Great Alpine Road, from Wangaratta in the north-east across to Metung on the jaw-droppingly beautiful Gippsland Lakes. The 340-kilometre adventure along Australia's highest year-round accessible sealed road leads visitors through diverse landscapes, from lofty mountain ranges, down plunging valleys, into lush forests, and past rolling vineyards to sparkling coastal waterways. Dine on fresh local produce and award-winning cool-climate wines, or catch lunch by a mountain stream or lake. 

Spa centre within hours from Melbourne - Take an hour-and-a-half drive from Melbourne to Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges for a relaxing weekend away. Slow down, unwind and be sure to take in the natural surroundings of Victoria's spa centre. Watch native wildlife at play and fill up a bottle with the local mineral water down at Lake Daylesford, paddle around in a kayak on Jubilee Lake, or get the blood flowing with a walk to the top of Wombat Hill.

Get out of the city and on to the open road. Photo: Getty

South Australia

Adventure out from Adelaide - Travel to nearby regions for short overnight stays is now allowed in South Australia, so hit the road and enjoy the journey. Drive to Flinders Ranges which takes you into the heart of this dramatic mountain range. From Adelaide it takes five hours to reach Wilpena Pound, a natural phenomenon that looks like a giant crater in the heart of the Flinders Ranges. If you have a 4WD vehicle of your own, explore the network of gravel roads through ancient gorges and over rocky, weathered peaks.

World’s away from city living - Tucked away on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, just an hour’s drive from Adelaide’s airport and CBD, lies the quaint town of Goolwa. Despite its proximity to a major city, this coastal town feels worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of city living. With its unpretentious beauty, historic charm and seriously easy-going locals, Goolwa became known for its leisurely lifestyle and laid-back culture when it was titled the first ‘Cittaslow’, or ‘Slow Town’, outside of Europe in 2007. It’s the only place in the world where you can board a steam train on Australia’s oldest railway and ride a steam powered paddle-boat that is over one hundred years-old.

Australia’s oldest railway in South Australia. Photo: Facebook

Tasmania

Tasmanians are permitted to take day trips within the state though will not be able to take overnight trips until 15 June.

Cross the whole island of Tasmania - Visit Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay on a day trip from Hobart, where visitors can take in stunning views and enjoy scenic walks in the world’s cleanest air. Drive through the seaside towns of Orford, Triabunna and Swansea enroute to Freycinet National Park. Savour fresh oysters or abalone for lunch from Freycinet Marine Farm (open for takeaway), or at the dockside seafood punts at the fishing centre of St Helens. 

The spectacular Wineglass Bay in Tasmania. Photo: Getty

Western Australia

Regional travel restrictions in WA are now lifted, excluding travel to biosecurity zones within the Kimberley region, parts of Shire of East Pilbara and the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku and remote Aboriginal communities.

Esperance to Kalgoorlie - is a four-hour drive. Starting in Esperance, take a long walk along the white-sand beaches of Lucky Bay and see the local kangaroos lazing on the beach, then stop in to see the famous pink lake, Lake Hillier. Drive on to Kalgoorlie to witness the sheer size of the Super Pit, the biggest open gold mine in Australia which is right next to the town. Continue another hour to the salt plain of Lake Ballard to see the largest outdoor art gallery made up of sculptures, representing each local resident. 

Rugged coastline from Exmouth to Geraldton - While in Exmouth, hike the Mando Mando Gorge track in the Cape Range National Park, cool off in the turquoise waters of Ningaloo Marine Park where you only have to swim (or snorkel) a few metres off the shoreline to see the tropical fish and multi-coloured coral of World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. Drive through to the spectacular Carnarvon blowholes, where the ocean jets up to 20 metres (66 feet) high. Stop in at Kalbarri National Park, a dramatic terrain of winding gorges and wind-carved cliffs that are 400 million years old, then hike to Nature's Window, a natural rock arch that frames breathtaking views of the area. 

Scenic route from Perth to Albany - If you’re into art, drive along the PUBLIC Silo Trail, to view a series of world-class murals. Head to Rockingham, about 45 minutes south of Perth, for a close-up encounter with resident bottlenose dolphins. Stop in to explore the Margaret River Region, nip into a whisky distillery or sip your way around a few wineries. Stretch your legs with a walk through Torndirrup National Park, and see the spectacular wave-carved rock formations including Natural Bridge. Alternatively, stop for a walk along Little Beach at Two People’s Bay Nature Reserve - regularly voted one of Western Australia’s best beaches.

A winery in Margaret River, WA. Photo: Getty

Northern Territory

The designated biosecurity areas in the Northern Territory will be lifted for residents on 5 June 2020, including East Arnhem Land. However, there are still travel restrictions in place for interstate and overseas visitors. 

Outdoor adventure loop from Darwin - Take your time exploring the Greater Litchfield Loop to discover its incredible landscapes, cascading waterfalls and tropical walking trails. Starting in Darwin make your way to Litchfield National Park, known as the ultimate outdoor playground. Most areas in the park are open so make sure you check out Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole for a swim amongst the cascading pools and if you’re keen on camping, pitch your tent at Wangi Falls. For a rewarding detour, stop in at Dundee Beach for world-class fishing and great camping options before heading back to Darwin

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