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Winter Escapes: 10 Australian holidays

Stephanie Holmes
By
Stephanie Holmes

Editor - Travel


NEW SOUTH WALES

WHAT: A coastal getaway south of Sydney
WHERE: Jervis Bay
WHY: Sometimes you just need to breathe in some fresh sea air, away from the big city. Sydney is a tried-and-true getaway for Kiwis but there's far more to New South Wales than just that famous harbour. Tourism Australia says Jervis Bay is home to some of the whitest sand in the world (go to Hyams, Huskisson and Pebbly beaches to see for yourself) and the region also boasts national parks, botanic gardens, scuba diving and a great chance to see whales and dolphins.
HOW TO GET THERE: It's less than three hours' drive from Sydney - self-drive, or catch the daily shuttle service from Sydney Airport.
TOP TIP: Humpback whale watching season runs from May until November.


QUEENSLAND


The Curated Plate festival gives Kiwis yet another good reason to visit the Sunshine Coast this winter. Photo / Supplied

WHAT: Curated Plate Festival
WHERE: Sunshine Coast
WHEN: August 8-11
WHY: Love food? Love sunshine? Love the beach? Love a winter destination that feels like summer? The Curated Plate ticks all these boxes and many more. The Sunshine Coast is a already a favourite destination for Kiwis looking to get away from our dark winters and this new gourmet food festival gives even more reason to head across the Ditch.
WHO YOU'LL MEET: In attendance will be famous chefs including Raymond Blanc, Peter Gilmore, Matt Stone and New Zealand's Monique Fiso, plus many more local and international names.
HOW TO GET THERE: Air New Zealand's direct seasonal Sunshine Coast service resumes on July 6. 
TOP TIP: Events are likely to sell out so book well in advance.



Tropical North Queensland offers beach, bush and the Barrier Reef. Photo / Tourism and Events Queensland

WHAT: A Tropical holiday in the winterless North
WHERE: Port Douglas and surrounds, in Tropical North Queensland
WHY: Guaranteed warm weather and sunshine have long made Port Douglas a favourite winter destination for Kiwis. Instead of just flying and flopping at one resort, enjoy more of the region's highlights. Spend a night or two in Cairns at Riley, a new five-star Crystalbrook Collection hotel, then drive up the coast to Port Douglas. After a few days poolside, head to the tranquillity of the Daintree Rainforest, where you'll find peaceful retreats and the chance to be immersed in nature. This Unesco World Heritage site is 180 million years old and home to magnificent flora and fauna.
HOW TO GET THERE: Air New Zealand operates a seasonal direct service from Auckland to Cairns through the autumn and winter months.
TOP TIP: Visit outside school holidays to get the best deals.

VICTORIA


Houseboats are a great accommodation option for visitors to Echuca in regional Victoria, less than three hours' drive from Melbourne. Photo / Visit Victoria

WHAT: A regional riverside getaway
WHERE: Echuca, on the Murray River, north of Melbourne, on the south-western NSW border
WHY: Get away from the hipsters of inner-city Melbourne and head to this historic town where paddle-steamers roam the river and the pace of life is a little slower. 
Echuca was once one of Australia's busiest inland ports - now it's a quaint little town with a warm climate and the chance to take it easy and unwind.
HOW TO GET THERE: Drive from Melbourne - it'll take you less than three hours direct, or meander through the cute country towns dotted along the route.
TOP TIP: Stay in a houseboat so you can explore the Murray River.



The 12 Apostles on Victoria's Great Ocean Road - just one of the sights on the Great South Western Touring Route, dubbed Australia's greatest road trip. Photo / Visit Victoria

WHAT: A regional road-trip
WHERE: The Great Southern Touring Route, a round-trip from Melbourne taking in Geelong, the Grampians National Park, the Great Ocean Road, Ballarat and Port Fairy.
WHY: Wineries, waterfalls, the 12 Apostles, lighthouses, indigenous art, historic towns, museums, galleries and great dining - this road-trip has a little something for everyone. Take anywhere from three to six days on this route, which has been described as Australia's greatest road-trip.
HOW TO GET THERE: Fly direct to Melbourne with Air NZQantasJetstar or Virgin Australia, then pick up a rental car from the airport.


WESTERN AUSTRALIA


A True North Adventure Cruise is a great way to see the rugged remoteness of Western Australia's Kimberley region. Photo / Supplied

WHAT: A True North Adventure Cruise
WHERE: The Kimberley, at the very north of Western Australia.
WHY: This untouched region feels almost like stepping back to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, with rock structures dating back billions of years and spectacular waterfalls at every turn. True North Cruises are the best way to see this remote environment - the vessels are purpose-built to go where bigger ships can't, plus the onboard helicopter gives a birds-eye view of this stunning landscape.

WHAT YOU'LL DO: Snorkelling, diving, fishing, hiking, picnics, natural history, culture, scenic flights . . . or pick your own activity and the guides will do their best to make it happen. 
HOW TO GET THERE: Book one of four Kimberley itineraries on one of True North's boats, with departures available throughout the winter (although many are almost booked up so you'll need to get in fast). To meet your cruise, you'll need to get to either Broome or Kununnara - fly with Air New Zealand direct from Auckland to Perth, then connect with one of Qantas' regional services.
TOP TIP: Listen to your guides and swim only when they tell you it's safe - these waters hide saltwater crocodiles.

WHAT: A road-trip along Western Australia's Coral Coast 
WHERE: From Perth to Exmouth, or vice versa
WHY: Fly/drive holidays used to be prohibitively expensive for Kiwis. Not only did you have to pay for your flights and car hire, you also had to pay a huge AU$1000 relocation fee to drive one-way. But now, rental company Avis has released a new pricing structure, with relocation fees of just AU$150 to AU$250, making it a much more affordable prospect.
The 1200km Coral Coast Highway is one of Australia's great drives, taking you along incredible coastline, lakes, national parks, gorges and through true-blue Aussie towns. 
TOP TIP: Plan your journey before you go - travel times and distances between some towns and attractions can be long, and you don't want to get caught out many kilometres from your next fuel or accommodation stop.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA


You'll see few people but plenty of wildlife in South Australia's Gawler Ranges National Park. Photo / South Australia Tourism Commission

WHAT: Seeing stars in South Australia's Outback
WHERE: The Gawler Ranges National Park, on the Eyre Peninsula, about 600km from Adelaide
WHY: With summer temperatures reaching higher than 40C at times, the cooler months (late autumn to early spring) are the best time to head to this stunning piece of Australian Outback. The area is so remote there is absolutely no light pollution, making it a dream destination for stargazing. 
WHO YOU'LL MEET: Not many people, but plenty of red, grey and euro kangaroos, emus and rare southern hairy-nosed wombats.
HOW TO GET THERE: Self-drive (4WD is best) or take a guided tour with Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safaris.
TOP TIP: Winter is peak season, but with the park covering more than 1600sq km you'll still have plenty of space to yourself.


NORTHERN TERRITORY


One of the great natural wonders of the world, Uluru towers above the surrounding landscape. Photo / Tourism NT

WHAT: Seeing an Aussie icon
WHERE: Uluru, and Australia's Red Centre
WHY: You haven't really seen Australia until you've seen Uluru, the 348m-high, 550 million-year-old monolith that is so different up close to how you imagine. Rather than one big rock, straight up and down, Uluru undulates and flows, and is even more impressive because of it. See it at sunset or sunrise and watch as the colours change with every shift in light. 
WHEN TO GO: May to September is the best time to visit the middle of Australia for a warm, dry climate without the unbearable heat of the summer months. 
HOW TO GET THERE: Fly into Alice Springs and road trip from there - it will take about five hours if you go direct. If you have time, take a detour to the impressive Kings Canyon and spend a night there - the canyon rim hike at sunset is well worth the early start.
DON'T MISS: British artist Bruce Munro's installation Field of Light - 50,000 spindles of light spanning an area equivalent to more than seven football fields - which illuminates the desert every night.
TOP TIP: Climbing Uluru will be banned from November this year. But, even if visiting before that ban comes into effect, respect the wishes of the local Aboriginal people and stick to walking around the rock rather than climbing up it.


TASMANIA


Winter Feast, the food component of Hobart's annual Dark Mofo winter festival. Photo / Tourism Tasmania

WHAT: A festive winter
WHERE: Across Tasmania
WHY: This is not a destination that can promise sunshine and warmth, but Tasmania certainly is hot this winter. Rather than hunkering down until spring, this island state puts on some of the country's best arts and entertainment festivals over the winter months, encouraging locals and visitors to get out and enjoy themselves. Highlights include Dark Mofo (June 6-23), Bay of Fires Winter Arts Festival (June 8-10), Festival of Voices (June 28-July 14) and Tasmanian Whisky Week (August 12-18). 
HOW TO GET THERE: Fly from Auckland to Melbourne, then connect to Hobart. Total travel time will take around eight hours depending on time in transit.
TOP TIP: Pack your winter woollies - temperatures drop into single figures for much of May to August.