Beaches for days
This is a gentle reminder that while you’re hunkered down in your winter layers, summer is in full swing over in the Southern Hemisphere. Now that Turo is available in Australia, there’s no reason not to give yourself the gift of a second summer. These are some must-visit getaways that you can take from Australia’s largest metropolitan areas, which are, conveniently, coastal cities close to a plethora of incredible beaches.
You don’t have to go far from Brisbane to find fun, sun, and entertainment. The Gold Coast, just south of Brisbane, is one of the most popular summer destinations in the country. Think pristine beaches, sleek skyscrapers, designer shops, and fine eateries, plus a greatest hits set of theme parks with water rides, movie characters, wild animals, and more.
For equally exciting beaches and animal encounters, with a bit more of a laid-back vibe, follow the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane, from Caloundra up to Noosa Head. Hike around the Noosa National Park — the headlands are a beloved spot to take in views of the emerald sea — or relax on the Noosa Main Beach, a popular place to learn how to surf in the gentle waves.
Head out west to Beerwah for wildlife adventures at the Australia Zoo, where the family of late legendary crocodile keeper, Steve Irwin, continues to run a conservation-oriented park that offers special experiences, like cuddling koalas and red pandas, or hanging with a komodo dragon.
Those looking for a grander journey, can head further north to the Whitsunday Islands on the Great Barrier Reef (a boat or plane ride will be required) for excellent snorkeling and sailing, or drive past Cairns to the tropical Daintree Rainforest, which is over 100 million years old, and which people believe inspired James Cameron’s “Avatar.”
Sydney, New South Wales
As the most populated city in the country, Sydney is itself an enormous tourist draw, and no visit would be complete without taking in the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Despite the bustle, it’s still easy to make a quick escape. Drive north a few hours to hit the famous sand dunes of Port Stephens, Anna Bay, and Worimi National Park — sandboarding, ATV rentals, and cultural heritage tours of the conservational lands are all available.
Just south of Sydney, Royal National Park is tucked along the shore and packed with extraordinary sights, including the remarkable Figure Eight Rock Pools, Wedding Cake Rock, and Wattamolla Beach, and many hiking trails. Don’t miss Dharawal National Park, traditionally land of the Dharawal Aboriginal people, which protects culturally important and ancient sites.
For spectacular views, take a drive south of the park on the cantilever Sea Cliff Bridge that hugs the escarpment along the Tasman Sea. Following the shore further south a few hours delivers you at Jervis Bay, where you’ll spot pods of dolphins and whales, revel in the dazzling white sand and aqua waves of Hyams Beach, and explore Booderee National Park, home to the aptly named Cave Beach and kangaroos. If kangaroos in the dunes are what you seek, make the drive just further south to Murramarang National Park’s Pebbly Beach to see them chilling by the water.
While Australia’s capital city is full of attractions to enjoy, including Phillip Island’s penguin colony, you’ll also find an abundance of great summer getaways just outside Melbourne.
On the eastern peninsula of Port Phillip Bay, Mornington Peninsula is a favorite seaside destination and boasts the swanky European settlement Sorrento, the Peninsula Hot Springs, as well as the Enchanted Adventure Garden theme park that offers aerial obstacle courses for kids and adults.
Escape inland into the rolling hills and pastures of the Yarra Valley for a taste of Australian wine country. You’ll find plenty of artisan treats to eat and drink, and you’ll want to climb aboard a hot air balloon ride for spectacular views.
If the journey itself is your destination, take the Great Ocean Road, a classic Aussie coastal highway that you’ll pick in Torquay and take four hours west to Warrnambool, with plenty of breathtaking beaches along the way, and the prominent limestone rock formations called the 12 Apostles.
For a rugged outdoors adventure, head several hours west to Grampians National Park, a section of the Gariwerd Aboriginal cultural landscape, renowned for magnificent views along its hiking trails through a series of sandstone peaks.
Perth, Western Australia
While perhaps not as flashy as its Eastern counterparts, Perth is the hub of Western Australia, and its relatively remote location means there is no dearth of great summer getaways. To begin, while Rottnest Island requires a ferry ride, you’d be remiss not to visit the largest population of quokkas in their natural habitat!
One of the most popular destinations from Perth is the Margaret River, three hours south. Here, the sparkling beaches and great waves draw surfers, the limestone caves impress hikers, and the local galleries, wineries, and eateries offer locally made delicacies. For those who enjoy natural springs, make a stop for the Injidup Natural Spa tucked into the ocean rocks just north of town.
Driving the Coral Coast Highway north from Perth to Exmouth is a scenic 13-hour route that, while not short, takes you to more than a few excellent destinations. Geraldton is a trendy, artsy surf town, where the crystal clear water also makes it a popular locale for any number of water sports. Just north, you’ll find the astonishingly pink Hutt Lagoon, one of the many salt lakes in Australia that are home to carotenoid-producing algae. Driving east takes you to the tremendous Murchison Gorge at Kalbarri National Park, and after several more hours, leads to Ningaloo Reef Marine Park & Turquoise Bay, known for the teeming sea life that you can snorkel and swim among, from turtles and manta rays to whale sharks.
When you can find the right car to explore everything from the picturesque highways and surf towns to the distinctive gorges, rainforests, wildlife, and indigenous heritage sites that exist nowhere else except Australia, there’s no excuse to let the winter blues catch you.