A list of the best places I escaped to in Australia last year…
So I know we’re now entering the third week of January, which means most people have moved on from end of year reflections and pledges for the new year. Does that mean it’s too late to share a reflective post on 2017?
I hope not, because I’ve gone ahead and written one anyway.
For me, 2017 was the year I dedicated to exploring and appreciating more of the world around me. Unlike in previous years, I didn’t take any big, overseas holidays in 2017. But in a way, I feel like I’ve seen and done more this year than any other year before. Instead of staying inside dreaming of and planning one big trip, I just woke up on a Saturday morning, got in the car, and found out where the road could take me.
So, because it ties in with 2017 and it’s my favourite number, I’ve put together a list of seven of my favourite escapes from 2017.
It’s amazing how much you can see and do in just three days. That’s what I learned during one long weekend in Hobart, Tasmania. With the help of a zippy hire car, some good walking shoes and a well-planned itinerary, Sam and I explored Hobart, took in incredible views from Mount Wellington, drank our way through wineries in the Coal River Valley, climbed 279 steps on Bruny Island, consumed our weight in cider in the Huon Valley, and discovered a new definition of green in Hartz Mountain National Park.
It was an incredible three days and something I would recommend that all Aussie mainlanders put on their bucket list.
Mount Wellington, Tasmania
Another lesson in how much you can fit into a short period of time. This time, it was 48 hours in Melbourne, Victoria, and it was filled with dumplings in Chinatown, frolicking amongst Autumn leaves in the Carlton Gardens, unlocking a new level of hipster at the Rose Street Artist Market and Hosier Lane, and consuming enough warming alcoholic beverages to make this North-coast girl fall in love with the cold weather.
Drinking wine at Riverland Bar: bliss
3. Hunter Valley
I was lucky enough to visit the Hunter Valley twice in 2017. The first time was to see the Christmas Lights Spectacular at the Hunter Valley Gardens, something I’d highly recommend if you are as crazy about Christmas carols and flashing lights as I am. Of course, both trips included tasting copious amounts of wine at some incredible wineries – my favourites being Krinklewood, Keith Tulloch, Tyrell’s, Tempus Two, Hungerford Hill and Peterson House. Safe to say I came back to Sydney with a lasting supply of Hunter Valley wines (some of which are still hiding in my cupboard – excuse me while I fetch one now).
Exploring vineyards in the Hunter Valley
4. Barren Grounds
I stumbled upon the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve by mistake one weekend, and it quickly became one of my favourite walks of the year. Tucked away in the Southern Highlands, it’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Bonus points for the incredible views of the South Coast and the gorgeous, native wildflowers growing all along the track.
Griffiths Walking Trail, Barren Grounds
Audley in the Royal National Park is another one of my favourite places in the world, thanks to the perfect serenity and the fact it’s only an hour’s drive from the centre of Sydney. I love the birds, the bridge, the bush walks – for such a small place in the world, there’s certainly lots to do and see. And I’ll keep coming back for the exceptional coffee and brunch from Audley Dance Hall Cafe.
Autumn in Audley
6. Bouddi National Park
Not to exclude the Central Coast, this time I drove one and a half hours north of Sydney to the coastal playground that is Bouddi National Park. In one morning I managed to squeeze in part of the 8 km (16 km returning) coastal trail, and the stunning beaches and sweeping ocean views have put the full trek squarely on my list for this year.
Overlooking Maitland Bay
7. Malabar National Park
The final escape on my list, which just so happens to be a 20-minute drive from my apartment. Perfect for those blue-sky Sydney days where you only have a morning or afternoon to spare, the Malabar to Maroubra Coastal Walk earns its place on the list with its incredible ocean panoramas and sprawling views of the eastern suburbs coastline. If you’re a Sydney-sider, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Malabar to Maroubra Coastal Walk
The best part of all of these escapes is that they happened over regular weekends, public holidays and well-chosen single days of annual leave. It’s a nice bit of proof that you don’t have to save up all your money and annual leave for one big holiday every year. With the right attitude, you can make any day feel like a full-blown holiday.
With so much to explore in our own backyard, I’m already plotting and planning all the new places to escape to in 2018. Any suggestions for me? Let me know in the comments!