16 Short Road Trips Perfect For Last-Minute Long Weekend Plans (2024)

Make the most of your upcoming long weekend with these short road trips from Australia’s capital cities.

With a long weekend almost upon us, it seems that it has snuck up on so many of us without a single plan. But it’s not too late. There are so many incredible short road trips from Australia’s capital cities that allow for last-minute, impulsive getaways. Whether you’re a foodie, hiker, cosy book reader or a mix of all the above, we’ve got a long weekend suggestion for you.


1. Central Coast

Distance: One hour drive.

The Central Coast might be the epitome of a relaxed beach lifestyle, but it’s just as relaxing in the winter. The food scene here is top-notch, and only getting better. The national parks are gorgeous and have easy paths to wander along the coast, up to intense day-long hikes. Not to mention, there’s nothing better than staying inside cosy coastal accommodation all weekend with a good book and/or food, while the weather creates the mood outside. We’ve rounded up the best luxury options here.

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Explore Broken Bay Pearl Farm.

2. Southern Highlands

Distance: 1.5-hour drive.

Or, settle in for some country charm that punches well above its weight with a long weekend in the Southern Highlands. Bowral is probably the best-known town in this area (as it should be; the restaurants are delicious (and let’s not forget the famous doughnut van), the accommodation is the definition of charming and the country vibes are warm and welcoming), but don’t forget about the other charming towns nearby. Try our Braidwood guide for a weekend steep in history, nature and fabulous local cuisine. Or just pick your stay depending on this list of our favourite Southern Highland wineries.

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The Bendooley Estate kitchen offers some incredible dishes in Bowral.


3. Fleurieu Peninsula

Distance: 45-minute drive.

From Willunga with its cosy pubs, bakery, microbreweries, cellar doors to Mt Compass with its rolling hills, popular golf course and country aesthetic to the famous wineries of McLaren Vale to the incredibly unique and beautiful beach of Port Willunga: there really is something for everyone. To find some cute, winery-adjacent accommodation, check out this guide. And treat yourself to these restaurants that will blow you away.

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Find natural beauty, award-winning wine and incredible food. (Image: Elise Cook)

4. Limestone Coast

Distance: Three-hour drive.

Some of Australia’s most unique natural formations can be found along the Limestone Coast. Named for the limestone that created it, find sunken secret gardens, the striking Blue Lake of Mount Gambier and even ancient fossils in Naracoorte Caves. The best part is, that while it’s a bit of a longer drive for the weekend, but the drive is the journey – like this road trip we’ve laid out.


5. Bruny Island

Distance: Two-hour drive.

Let’s be honest, there’s not really anywhere in Tasmania you couldn’t reach over a long weekend. But to leave it all behind on Bruny Island is a long weekend dream. A paradise for foodies, many of the restaurants source most of their ingredients from the island itself – from whisky to cheese to chocolate. Add to that accommodation options that set you down in the middle of nature without another soul in sight and you have a weekend of rejuvenation. Here’s our guide to the best things to do on Bruny Island.

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Eat and drink your way through the best of Tasmanian produce. (Image: Tourism Australia)

6. Cradle Mountain

Distance: Four-hour drive.

You don’t have to do the full Cradle Mountain hike to engage in some of the best star gazing in the world. Thanks to 40 per cent of Tasmania being forested national parks and reserves, there is plenty of space away from light pollution to enjoy a gorgeous night sky. The region around Cradle Mountain just happens to be one of the most popular. This is also meant to be the year of the strongest aurora australis, which is best seen in Tassie as well. So find a place to stay and start looking up.

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See the aurora australis over Cradle Mountain. (Image: Pierre Destribats)


7. Orange

Distance: 3.5-hour drive.

Orange is not the same place today that it was 10 years ago, in all the best ways. Now, there are endless things to do: from shopping arts and crafts to top-tier dining options that source ingredients regionally to amazing winery tours. You could even make it a romantic getaway for twoif the mood takes you. The large country town is steep in historic architecture and natural beauty, as well.

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Enjoy the spoils of Orange with a wine tour. (Image: Destination NSW)

8. Crackenback

Distance: Two-hour drive.

Sure, you might be too late to book a ski resort stay, but there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the snow season in Australia. Grab your warmest outfits and head to Crackenback, nestled between Thredbo and Jindabyne. From here you can enjoy day passes to big ski fields, but not be fighting for a hotel room or dinner booking. Not that this means it doesn’t offer restaurant options to rival any nearby towns – the French-inspired menu at Crackenback Farm is particularly popular. Or, just make this road trip the journey.

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Enjoy many ways to explore around Crackenback. (Image: Destination NSW)


9. Toowoomba

Distance: Two-hour drive.

Toowoomba has a charm all of its own. As the largest inland city of Queensland, it boasts its fair share of attractions and events throughout the year, public parks and nature reserves, a local arts scene and even fabulous accommodation. Start packing the car and check out our round-up of the best (and super unique) things to do in Toowoomba.

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Find the vibrant Ju Raku En Japanese Garden in Toowoomba.

10. Granite Belt

Distance: 2.5-hour drive.

The Granite Belt is considered Southern Queensland Country’s food bowl – need I say more? Take this road trip around the whole area to see the best of its wineries, breweries and distilleries, food producers, nature and more. Or settle in one of its charming towns (like Tenterfield, Walcha and Stanthorpe). Beyond food, there’s a great arts scene and plenty of other surprising things to do.

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Roam the sculptures of Walcha’s Open Air Gallery. (Image: Destination NSW)


11. Mandurah

Distance: One-hour drive.

If you live in Perth, and you haven’t seen the incredible Giants of Mandurah yet, consider this your sign to make weekend plans. These statues are not only fun to find and impressive to behold, but the whole intent behind them is to help visitors explore the canals, wetlands, and gaping bays of this gorgeous part of Australia. There’s a reason it took out last year’s Top Tourism Town Award. Besides the Giants, go fishing, find experiences that will help connect you to Country and maybe even spot dolphins. Find our favourite things to do here.

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Marvel at the Giants of Mandurah. (Image: Visit Mandurah)

12. Green Head

Distance: Two-hour drive.

Or, head in the opposite direction to the seaside haven of Green Head. Here, you’ll find a haven of 820 native flowering species – best seen from winter to early summer – including grevillea, leschenaultia, orchids, banksia and pearl flowers. Head east to Lesueur National Park to see them in bloom, woven between tall eucalypts. Later, head towards the local beach where a colony of Australian sea lions are often playful and outgoing. Get a closer look at them on a boat tour of the surrounding islands.

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See the wildflowers of Lesueur National Park. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)


13. Lake Bennett

Distance: One-hour drive.

For a weekend of nothing but switching off and enjoying a slow (but beautiful) pace, Lake Bennett is the getaway for you. The lake itself is peaceful and perfect for a picnic, edged with thick greenery and occasionally spotted with lily pads. But it’s also large, and a popular place for fishing and boating. Follow easy walking trails around the water’s edge, or grab your more serious hiking gear and drive the short distance to Litchfield National Park.

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Picnic by the lily pads of Lake Bennett. (Image: Tonal Luminosity)

14. Mataranka

Distance: Four-hour drive.

Gaining worldwide recognition after Jeannie Gunn’s novel, We of the Never Never, was written about nearby Elsey Station, Mataranka is a friendly town perfect for weekend explorations. Hike into Elsey National Park then relax in the natural Bitter Springs thermal pool. Or stay in town and discover the rich Indigenous and European history of this region during a self-guided tour of the Never Never Museum. Later, contemplate what you’ve just learned over coffee and scones.

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Float in the cobalt aquamarine waters at Bitter Springs. (Image: Lets Escape Together)


15. Bendigo

Distance: Two-hour drive.

For a fairly small town, Bendigo provides serious bang for its buck. There are already so many things to do here, from tours of the town on historic trams to watching local artisans at work to fun, interactive exhibits at the Discovery Science & Technology Centre– but this long weekend is a particularly good time to visit. No one does a festival like Bendigo, and right now you can join in Paris: Impressions of Life 1880 – 1925 and get an all-encompassing trip to Paris without leaving the state.

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Step into the Bendigo Art Gallery. (Image: Two Palms Australia)

16. Birregurra

Distance: One-hour and 45-minute drive.

The historical (it was booming in the 1900s) town of Birregurra is the perfectly quaint long weekend away of your dreams, without compromising on dining options. In fact, there’s even a hatted restaurant in town, Brae, although you’re lucky to nab a spot last minute. As is the nearby, much-lauded Royal Mail Hotel‘s Wickens (although you have a better chance at their more casual Parker St Project. Luckily, there are plenty of delicious and popular options in town to make the trip worth it. Treetops Adventure Park is nearby to get your heart pumping or check out the thriving local arts scene.

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Treat the tastebuds in Birregurra. (Image: Brae Restaurant)

16 Short Road Trips Perfect For Last-Minute Long Weekend Plans (2024)


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