With most Aussie’s limited to purely domestic travel at the moment, I thought it would be a great opportunity to explore some of the best city breaks in Australia.
Our cities are so varied – some are the more traditional CBDs with sky scrapers, others are less conventional beach-side cities, historic centres or large tropical towns.
I’ve pulled together a few fantastic travel bloggers to share their favourite city breaks in Australia to help you plan your next domestic trip.
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An Adelaide city break is perfect for wine, food, culture and nature lovers – so everyone can find something to enjoy here for a long weekend.
Adelaide is one of the ten Great Wine Capitals of the World, and with three world class wine regions within one hour of the city centre you will be spoiled for choice when discovering why. If you don’t want to leave the city, there is even the famous Penfold’s vineyard at Magill to visit. For wine lovers, this is one of the best city breaks in Australia.
Foodies will love the Adelaide Central Market, the largest undercover fresh food market in the southern hemisphere. Head here for a delicious breakfast before tasting your way through local and rare produce you may not find anywhere else.
If it’s culture you are after there are plenty of museums along North Terrace (and elsewhere), or time your visit with one of the many festivals held in Adelaide each year. The Adelaide Fringe in February/March is the second biggest fringe festival in the world.
Adelaide is sandwiched between the hills and the sea, so getting into nature is not so hard at all. Go hiking in the foothills or visit one of the many beaches along Adelaide’s 70km of coastline. Visit one of the wildlife parks, particularly Monarto Safari Park, to see African animals roaming the plains.
The Adelaide city centre is the best base for your stay. Why not try the brand new Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets, a funky place with the bonus of Adelaide’s highest rooftop bar, Merrymaker.
Contributed by Josie from Exploring South Australia
There are a lot of reasons why you should visit Brisbane. From world-class restaurants, trendy rooftop bars, exclusive exhibitions, impressive parklands, shopping and river adventures – you will not be disappointed.
With so much on offer, it can be hard to decide. So, here are three top things to do in the ‘river city’.
Explore South Bank Parklands, City Botanical Gardens and Roma Street Parklands. These meticulously vibrant attractions are all within walking distance from the CBD and feature stunning displays and walking tracks. Be sure to take a swim at Brisbane’s iconic ‘Streets Beach’ located in South Bank Parklands, then grab something to eat on Little Stanley Street or Grey Street.
Experience the city’s best riverside restaurants and bars at Eagle Street Pier and Howard Smith Wharves. Both of these precincts will spoil you with gorgeous views of the Story Bridge and delicious dining options. Top picks: George’s Paragon, Rico Bar, Felon Brewing Co. and Mr. Percival’s.
Cruise along the Brisbane River. Not only is it a right of passage, but it’s the cheapest and best way to experience the river. Simply jump on the CityCat, KittyCat or City Hopper ferries, which stop off at a variety of riverside locations including Eagle Street Wharf and South Bank Parklands.
And, if you want to top off your visit, Brisbane offers amazing day trips including Moreton Island, Tangalooma, Australia Zoo and the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast beaches. Enjoy Brisbane, one of the best city breaks in Australia.
Contributed by Danielle from DanielleMathie.com
Australian Capital Territory
One of the best city breaks in Australia is its own capital city. The parliamentary triangle is a small area of Canberra that it is governed by the Commonwealth government.
In the triangle are Australia’s cultural landmarks such as is national museums and galleries. The National Gallery and its lakeside Sculpture Garden, National Museum, National Science Museum, Museum of Democracy, Royal Australian Mint, Australian War Memorial and National Portrait Gallery are all located around Lake Burley Griffin.
Canberra is also the seat of Australia’s parliament, and Parliament House is open to visitors and runs regular and specialized indigenous Australian tours.
Lake Burley Griffin has a walking, cycling and running track that hugs the lake for a 5 km circuit across Commonwealth Avenue and King’s Avenue bridges. On a small isthmus on the lake is the National Carillon.
The best times to visit Canberra are autumn (Fall) and Spring when the weather is temperate. In Spring, the area around Lake Burley Griffin is transformed into a giant garden with the spring Floriade festival.
The autumn foliage make Canberra’s many parks and nature reserves a beautiful place to spend time, especially with families. The Balloon Festival begins in March and dozens of balloons take flight over central Canberra early in the mornings. It is a wonderful way to see Canberra at the best time of year.
Contributed by Monique at Trip Anthropologist
As the capital city of the Northern Territory, Darwin is a unique and exciting place to visit in Australia. There are tons of fun things to do in Darwin including visiting the famous Mindil Beach night markets, seeing crocodiles, and swimming in waterfalls. Be sure to venture out on a jumping croc cruise on the nearby Adelaide River where you will get up close and personal to wild saltwater crocs! Also, you can’t miss the Litchfield National Park – the closest national park to Darwin that is just full of stunning waterfalls.
The city center of Darwin is vibrant as well. You’ll want to stay in one of the many hotels here to have the easiest access to attractions. The Travelodge Resort Darwin is a great budget-friendly hotel in the area whereas the Hilton Hotel Esplanade Darwin is a better luxury option with ocean views. Both have pools – an essential amenity in the hot NT heat.
Darwin’s city enter is located right on the ocean’s edge with tons of footpaths to explore various viewpoints. Head to the waterfront near the Darwin Lagoon for a chill place to hang out on a warm afternoon or grab a beer at The Precinct. Wander out on Stokes Hill Wharf for some takeaway food while enjoying the sunset. And if you are after nightlife, Mitchell Street is where you can go any night of the week to find tons of bars and nightclubs.
Darwin is one of the most unique city breaks in Australia.
Contributed by Bailey from Destinationless Travel
Sitting on the shores of beautiful Corio Bay, Geelong is the perfect spot for an enjoyable city break. It has a lot to offer visitors with its natural attractions, vibrant foodie scene, galleries, museums, and award-winning wineries.
Geelong’s spectacular waterfront is the city’s biggest drawcard. Offering views across the bay toward Melbourne, it’s here you’ll find the iconic Eastern Beach sea baths, art deco promenade, and the famous Bay Walk Bollards.
The city is home to a host of festivals and events including the Festival Of Sails, Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Geelong After Dark, and the Pako Festa multi-cultural extravaganza. It’s a great idea to time your visit to coincide with one of these events when the city really comes alive.
Geelong’s location close to the Bellarine Peninsula and Surf Coast makes it an ideal base for exploring the region’s beaches, wineries, seaside villages, and surf towns. Jump in the car and within 20 minutes you’ll be tasting cool climate wine, lazing on the beach, or exploring historic fishing villages.
For those looking for a fun and easy city break in Australia, Geelong is a great choice.
Contributed by Audrey from See Geelong
A fun place for a city break in Australia, is Gold Coast in Queensland! There are plenty of things to do in the city, while still being able to combine it with enjoying the beach or the surrounding nature areas. Surfers Paradise has many different attractions all within walking distance, such as: SkyPoint Observation Deck, King Tutts Putt Putt mini golf and Infinity (an optical illusion, multi-sensory experience!). It’s worth picking up a free Gold Coast guide book, as many of the attractions have discount vouchers!
The Paradise Island Resort is a lovely hotel serving a good breakfast. Many of the rooms have views of the Nerang River and it is less than a 10 minute walk from the amazing Surfers Paradise Beach. For dinner, check out the D’Arcy Arms for great meals.
Within a short drive from the downtown area are Sea World, Warner Bros Movie World and Dreamworld theme parks. They all have a range of thrill rides, family rides and water rides, so it’s best to have a look through which each park offers!
A little further afield (around 50 minutes), Tamborine National Park is a good place to go for a day trip. Being away from the coast and up in the hinterland, the temperature does get cooler. There are various hiking trails and the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk has aerial walkways in the forest canopy!
Contributed by Kylie from Between England and Iowa
Fremantle is a port city in Western Australia with a lot of history and an irresistible vibe that will make you want to visit again and again. It is just a 30 min drive from Perth city and also well connected to direct train line and bus services which makes it the easiest to get to.
With outdoor chairs, thriving live music and performances, never-ending cafes and pubs, beaches, and historical sights, there are numerous reasons to visit Fremantle. The city has something for everyone and one would never experience a dull day in Freo. It is best to explore the city on foot or you can take a tram if you don’t feel like walking.
Some of the top things to do in Fremantle include exploring the Fremantle Markets, picnic at Esplanade Park, visiting Fremantle Prison, Maritime Museum, and Bathers Beach. For people who love to explore and enjoy the cafe scene, a visit to the Cappuccino strip is a must. Some of the other must-do things include pub hopping, sipping a beer at Little Creature’s brewery, and eating fishing and chips at the Fremantle fishing boat harbor.
There are many great accommodations in Fremantle that are centrally located which makes it easy to explore the city on foot. Two of the best are the Esplanade Hotel which is right in front of Esplanade park and the National Hotel.
Contributed by Suvarna from Suvarna Arora
Hobart is a small city that packs a punch with amazing history, natural beauty, great food and some wonderful day trips.
MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, is one of the best art galleries in Australia. There is always something quirky going on there. The Cascade Brewery is just as popular. You can tour the brewery and sample their famous beers. Both are must see city spots.
Mount Wellington towers over Hobart. There are stunning views from the summit, expect snow up there in winter. Another lovely spot is the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens. They’re full of displays that thrive in cool climates. The harbour is beautiful, going on a cruise or a kayak tour is great way to take it in.
Salamanca Place and Battery Point have an eclectic mix of cafes, galleries and shops in beautiful old buildings. The Salamanca Markets held every Saturday are a vibrant place full of local art, craft and produce. From November to April, Streets Eats @ Frank in Franklin Square buzzes with live music and street food.
Foodies should also try Fico for the city’s best Italian, AlØft for its harbor views and seasonal menu and, for a café vibe, Born in Brunswick in North Hobart. There are lots of accommodation options from Henry Jones Art Hotel in an old jam warehouse, the stylish MONA pavilions or, for some Regency charm, The Islington in South Hobart.
Hobart is definitely a must-visit and one of the best city breaks in Australia.
Contributed by Natalie from Curious Campers
A visit to Melbourne is an absolute must if you love sport, culture, coffee, street art and fun.
There are so many things to do in Melbourne that will have you filling your day with memorable experiences and then planning your next trip before you have even left. Melbourne is famous for amazing food and great coffee. You can find a little alley with a trendy cafe where you can watch the world go by as you sip on a world-class cup.
After you have done that you can wander the city for some street art with some of the best found in the CBD like Hosier Land and Ac/DC Lane. If street art isn’t for you can you visit the NGV to see what exhibition they currently have on or you can visit the Melbourne Museum. After you have finished there you can spend some time in the Carlton Gardens and marvel at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building.
If you are visiting Melbourne with kids you may want to spend the day at the Melbourne Zoo. Not only are there native Australian animals there for them to see there are also animals from all around the world. Sealife is also a wonderful experience for kids, especially if the Melbourne weather has turned a little nasty.
For all the big kids you have to head out to St Kilda for a ride on the Scenic Railway at Luna Park. This amazing roller coaster is the worlds oldest running wooden roller coaster and gives just as many thrills as the new, bright ultra-fast ones that are there as well as the fun sideshows.
If you are a sports lover then there always seems to be a sporting event in Melbourne. From soccer to AFL you can easily get tickets to see some of these sports played while you are visiting. Sports fans will definitely think Melbourne is one of the best city breaks in Australia.
Contributed by Bec from Wyld Family Travel
New South Wales
An easy 170 km drive from Sydney or just 2.5 hours on the train from Central Station Newcastle is a fabulous spot for a weekend escape and is one of the best city breaks in Australia.
With dozens of beautiful beaches, a 6km coastal walk that rivals the famous Bondi to Coogee track and wildlife and hiking opportunities a short drive from town, there are so many things to do in Newcastle this is a place you will probably want to return to.
Sites you should not miss include:
- Anzac Memorial Walk
- The Stockton Sand Dunes
- Blackbutt Reserve – a free wildlife park
- The historic Newcastle and Merewether Baths
- The Newcastle Museum
It’s not just the natural beauty that draws people to Newcastle, this historic city also has dozens of great places to eat and some really interesting bars so when the sun goes down you will find yourself spoilt for choice.
Try to get yourself to Surfhouse at Merewether Beach for breakfast, or if you prefer breakfast on the go, then head to the Three Blue Doors kiosk just a few metres up the beach for a great takeaway coffee and bacon and egg roll. When hunger strikes later in the day, take a wander along Darby Street in Cooks Hill and follow your nose. The Autumn Rooms are one of our favourite cafes on this strip, but there are plenty of good options here. Closer to the waterfront, we loved Moor in Newcastle East.
There is accommodation for every occasion and budget here from the city’s brand new and first five-star hotel, the Crystalbrook Kingsley to the perfectly positioned and historic YHA property just 2 blocks from the waterfront. There are also lots of holiday apartment rentals at Honeysuckle Wharf that are perfectly located for exploring the city on foot.
Contributed by Paula from Sydney Expert
Perth is often considered the most isolated city in the world. Located on the West Coast of Australia Perth is an absolute must-visit. This is the gateway to Rottnest Island which is known for its beautiful beaches, incredible beaches and quokkas which are little marsupials that populate the island.
Perth is a large city with plenty to see and do. Head to Heirisson Island which is located in the heart of the city on the Swan River. This is a great spot to see kangaroos and go for a hike with beautiful city views. Perth also has beautiful beaches and is the perfect city to spend time in during the summer.
Cottlesloe Beach is probably the most well-known one. The water is crystal-clear and perfect for swimming or relaxing. Fremantle should be at the top of your list for arts, dining out and live music events. This little beach neighbourhood is perfect to escape the busy city and unwind.
Visit hotspots like the Maritime Museum, the Fremantle Arts Gallery or the Fremantle Markets. Fremantle also has a great selection of breweries where you can try all the best local beers and enjoy the beach views with a cold drink. Definitely add it to the top of your list of things to do in Perth.
Contributed by Victoria from Guide Your Travel
New South Wales
Port Macquarie is a coastal city in New South Wales with a cool vibe. Its location between Sydney and Brisbane makes it a popular stop for road trippers looking for a coastal city break in NSW. The small city has plenty to offer, from a stunning coastline with beautiful beaches, fabulous views, and fantastic restaurants. With plenty of things to do in Port Macquarie, you could easily spend a week and not be bored.
One of the top attractions in Port Macquarie is the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, where you can see koalas up close and learn about these cute and cuddly Australian animals from passionate volunteers. The koalas at the hospital are usually rehabilitated after being injured or orphaned. Some are nursed back to good health and released into their natural habitat.
Port Macquarie was named after Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales, and was once a penal settlement for England’s convicts. History buffs should not miss the Port Macquarie Museum, which is located within a charming 19th-century house and is where you can learn about the history and culture of this beautiful coastal region and take a walk back into history at the Port Macquarie Court House.
Active visitors should plan to visit Port Macquarie’s beaches, some of the most beautiful in Australia. There are many lovely walks in Port Macquarie, including the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk for whale and dolphin spotting.
For a choice of restaurants and cafes, head to Town Square, where you’ll find a good selection of international cuisine. Try The Beach House for modern Australian waterfront dining or Suzu for tasty Japanese.
There’s no shortage of accommodation in Port Macquarie, and the range includes choices for all budgets. Sails Port Macquarie has rooms with water views and Ramada Resort by Wyndham is right across the road from Flynn’s Beach.
Contributed by Christina from Travel2next.com
The Sunshine Coast is just 100 kilometres or an hour’s drive north of Brisbane, making it the perfect destination for a city break in Australia. There are endless opportunities of things to do on the Sunshine Coast including hikes with spectacular views, beautiful beaches, waterfalls, amazing shopping opportunities, and local farmer’s markets.
If you are looking for a relaxing day at the beach, the coastal area offers many beautiful white sand beaches. Bulcock Beach and Kings Beach at Caloundra offer activities to suit everyone from surfing, fishing, snorkelling, or paddling in the rock pools.
A little further north is Mooloolaba where you can easily spend a weekend lazing on the beach, discovering underwater marvels at the Sealife Sunshine Coast Aquarium, strolling along The Esplanade which offers lots of dining and shopping options, or enjoying a behind the scenes river tour on the Mooloolaba Seafood Lunch Cruise.
Heading inland, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland region provides visitors with many choices of activities including Kondalilla Falls, the Botanical Gardens and Bird World in Maleny, and Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve offering a beautiful walk through the rainforest and incredible views over the Glass House Mountains. The small townships of Maleny, Montville and Mapleton are known for their local artists and galleries displaying their wares, as well as cute cafes serving delicious food.
No trip to the Sunshine Coast would be complete without a visit, at least once, to Australia Zoo. Made famous by Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter, the zoo has a strong focus on education and conservation. Get up close and personal with various animal encounters including tigers, meerkats and rhinos. Throughout the day there are also shows in the Crocoseum by the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors providing education on animal conservation.
Whether you are looking for a one day or one week city break, you will love the Sunshine Coast and all it has to offer.
Contributed by Peta and Jonas from Exit 45 Travels
New South Wales
Sydney is famous for its iconic harbour featuring the looming Sydney Harbour Bridge and the white sails of the unique Sydney Opera House complex. Known as the ‘Harbour City’, this beautiful sea side region is Australia’s most populated city and is unparalleled when it comes to scenic beauty, making it hard to pass up as one of the best city breaks in Australia.
There are so many things to do in Sydney even once you’ve climbed the Harbour Bridge and toured the Opera House, though. Once you’ve explored all that Circular Quay and the main tourist sites have to offer, sneak over to stroll the gorgeous historic streets of The Rocks, located just a short walk from the Sydney Opera House.
The city is also famous for the iconic green and yellow ferries that depart Circular Quay for various waterfront destinations throughout the city. Locals and tourists alike love catching the ferry to Watson’s Bay or to Manly for a visit to one of the city’s beaches.
Sydney is also a city famous for spectacular beaches, with the city’s premier beach Bondi a favourite with tourists from all around the world. Bondi Beach is also the starting point for the beautiful coastal trek that runs all the way to Coogee Beach and the home of the iconic Bondi Icebergs seaside pool.
Sydney’s nightlife and foodie destinations come alive in alternative Newtown and gentrified Surry Hills, where pubs and bars serve up cold beers and designer cocktails late into the night.
For iconic views from your hotel, stay at the Shangri-La in The Rocks district and ask for a room with a view of Sydney Harbour. Sydney should definitely be at the top of anyone’s list for the best city breaks in Australia.
Contributed by me (Emma Jane Explores)
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