They say it’s the journey, not the destination. But whoever they are clearly aren’t short on time or travelling with tiny people. For those among us who want to spend less time cramped in a plane seat and more time stretched out on a beach, climbing a mountain, or getting lost in a market — here are six destinations near you for a fast escape.
Like its more famous neighbour Fiji, the Kingdom of Tonga is a Pacific Island paradise, surrounded by lagoons and limestone cliffs with some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world. But one thing this archipelago has that Fiji doesn’t? Well, a royal family for one thing!
But Tongan waters are also the birthing and mating grounds for humpback whales, meaning they hang around the islands from July to October every year. And guess what? You can actually swim with them. There is a wide range of tour companies who offer daily trips out to swim alongside the ocean’s most gentle giants, giving you an experience you will never forget.
For those who prefer to remain on dry land, Tonga has some truly fascinating historical sites, including the Royal Residencies, the 22-acre botanical gardens and Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon, the South Pacific’s equivalent of Stonehenge. It won’t be long before this island nation’s tourism boom takes off, so get in quick.
Flight time: Less than five hours from Sydney.
2) Coromandel Peninsula
While most people rave about the South Island of New Zealand — and for good reason, let’s be clear — the Coromandel Peninsula, just an hour and a half from Auckland, is truly spectacular and ticks all the boxes of what one looks for in a mini break.
Beautiful beaches? I mean yeah, if you count New Chum Beach, which is consistently voted as one of the world's top beaches. Excellent walks and hikes? Sure do — from the scenic and easy-grade Coromandel Coastal Walkway, through to the eight-hour slog up to the staggering Pinnacles.
Fun activities for the kids? I don’t know about you but the idea of digging my own natural spa bath at Hot Water Beach would have made all my Christmases come at once when I was a kid. There’s kayaking, snorkelling, diving, skydiving and a geothermal spa for those who don’t equate holidaying with thrill-seeking.
Flight time: Five hours from Australia’s east coast.
There are incredible adventures in our own backyard, including the largest monolith in the world. Uluru holds a special significance for the local Aboriginal people and many visitors say they can feel the powerful spirit of its 550-million-year history.
There’s plenty of ways to experience Uluru, whether it be on foot with a traditional owner, on a camel tour, driving around or kicking back with a glass of wine nearby, taking in the view under a canopy of stars.
The most breathtaking moments of Uluru come at sunset, when the terracotta hue of the rock changes to almost purple, or sunrise when it radiates a flaming red.
Flight time: From Brisbane or Melbourne, approximately three hours.
4) Lord Howe Island
What could be described as Australia’s version of Galapagos Island, Lord Howe Island is a haven for plants and seabirds. Sir David Attenborough once said the island is “so extraordinary it is almost unbelievable… Few islands, surely, can be so accessible, so remarkable, yet so unspoilt.”
And he’s not wrong — you won’t see any powerlines or high-rise buildings on this island and only 400 guests are allowed to visit at the time. With just 300 permanent residents, a holiday to Lord Howe Island is all about taking things slow and enjoying the beauty of untouched nature.
Bikes are the only way to get around the island, or you can take a glass-bottomed boat to explore the reefs. Either way, expect to return home with a “shoes optional” approach to life and a head full of beautiful memories.
Flight time: Under two hours, with flights departing from Sydney on most days, and from Brisbane on weekends. Book well in advance to grab the best deals.
If art, food and breathtaking scenery is your thing, you can’t go past the capital of Australia’s most southern state. Located at the base of Mount Wellington, Hobart is one of the most picturesque cities in Australia, with its incredible heritage sandstone buildings juxtaposed against modern architecture and growing art scene.
Of course, the pinnacle of this scene is the Museum of New and Old Art (MONA), a world-renowned museum full of quirky, interesting and outright insane artworks that you can never get out of your head — consider the “poo machine”, an apparatus that eats, digests and defecates food.
If you love shopping, Saturdays in Hobart are all about the Salamanca Market on the waterfront, where the food and entertainment is second to none.
Flight time: Less than two hours from Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.
A holiday to Queenstown is all about action. Whether it be skiing the world-renowned slopes of Coronet Peak, plummeting headfirst off Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge or jet-boating on the Shotover and Dart rivers — you’ll definitely get the old heart racing in Queenstown.
But it could be for a different reason as well. The beauty of nearby Milford Sound and Lake Wakatipu and the plethora of vineyards and cosy homestays makes Queenstown one of the most romantic places to getaway for the weekend. The kids will be thrilled to experience real-life Middle Earth (yep, The Lord of the Rings was filmed there) and movie buffs will love the guided tours around some the key movie locations.
Flight time: Around 3.5 hours from Sydney and Melbourne.
Planning a fast travel escape? Discover lightweight, adaptable travel gear for your carry-on or the entire family.