Destinations / Travel

Bliss out with these Australian summer destinations

Best Australian destinations for a summer holiday

If you're reading this, you probably missed the boat for a European summer. No shade, I did too. I know the point of that particular kind of holiday is to you remove yourself from your own backyard, especially since we've been ringing it dry of things to do all throughout lockdown. But the Tourism Australia campaigns really aren't lying when they say, "There's nothing like Australia" (except if you're from the US, then maybe New Zealand).

As work winds down over December and January, at least for the corporate cats, many of us plan to make the most of empty inboxes and bask in the sun like the rogue lizard hanging out in by bathroom. Be it the desert, hanging out on a vineyard or keeping it classic beachside, there's plenty of summer holiday destinations to explore in Australia, whether that's in your own state/territory or another.

From the more obvious Sunshine State to those secret spots not dotted along the east coast, below we bring you the best Australian destinations for a summer holiday.


Read the RUSSH editors' guide to a weekend away in NSW, here.

Byron Bay


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Byron Bay has built a reputation as the premier summer holiday spot for good reason. A hub of wellness, the region provides sun, nature, good food and ample opportunity for swimming, all in equal measure. There's a million different reasons to spend the warm months just below the Queensland border. If you want to avoid the crowds Byron Bay attracts during the holidays, drive 30 mins in either direction (we like Brunswick Heads) and you'll find all the bohemian coastal charm, albeit without the high-octane (sometimes stressful) energy. For a guide on where to stay, where to eat or the best spas in Byron BayRUSSH fashion and brand features editor, Ella O'Keeffe will steer you in the right direction, being a local herself.



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Anyone that's ever lived or spent time in Bellingen will know that it's a truly special place. My first memory of the mid-north coast destination, was seeing children laughing and swimming in the Bellinger river, which cuts through the guts of the town. It was something out of a fairytale; and the local names like the Never Never River and Promised Land, as well as its wealth of waterfalls only add to this visual. If you like hiking, this is the place for it with Dorrigo Rainforest and Bongil Bongil National Park close by. Be sure to check out Qudo Cafe while you're there.


Jervis Bay


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Home to dreamy Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay is always a delight whether your summer holiday spans a weekend or stretches out even longer. Take a choose-your-own-adventure approach to this place, doing as little as possible, or setting out to snorkel, swim, surf, fish, hike – you name it, the area provides. It has a gentle rhythm, desirable among those from bustling capital cities like Canberra or Sydney.



If your ideal summer holiday involves plonking yourself in the ocean until your skin is wrinkled, then Merimbula is the place to do it. Situated on the Sapphire Coast on Yuin Country, this is oyster town, so prepare to eat nothing else but these briny bivalves, even as you flit across to neighbouring suburbs like Pambula (Merimbula's Shelbyville), Tathra and Wapengo. Dulcie's Cottage is an essential stop for burgers and cracking drinks, while dinner is served best at Valentina, a neighbourhood spot pushing Italian.

Other NSW destinations: Yamba, Mudgee, Bowral, Port Stephens, Milton.



Port Douglas

You could drop anchor almost anywhere along the coastline in Queensland and have yourself a memorable summer holiday. But for lush rainforest, stretches of highway lined with sugarcane farms and roadside fruit stalls with honesty boxes, we always love the tropical feeling of Far North Queensland.

Although it technically is, Port Douglas feels like anything but a small town. A walk across four mile beach offers a stellar view of the sloping, mountainous hills slipping into the ocean. It's just a short drive into to Mossman Gorge and the Daintree Rainforest - the oldest rainforest in the world. As a town along the Great Barrier Reef, you'll have access to plenty of diving and snorkelling tours. And you're just an hour from Cairns and Kuranda's attractions like the bird sanctuary and the koala gardens.


While a trip to K'gari requires a certain amount of organisation – the island is only accessible by 4WD, you'll need a permit to camp and must familiarise yourself with tide times – the payoff is worth it. If you're looking for wildlife, the island is home to a healthy dingo population, known in the language of the Butchulla people as Wongari, more than 354 species of bird and that's before we even touch on the sealife. Although you can't swim in the open ocean because of box jellyfish and sharks, there are a handful of freshwater lakes, like the crystalline Boorangoora, to plunge into when the weather reaches boiling point.

The best thing is K'gari is that the influence of its Traditional Owners, the Butchulla people, is felt across the island, where the history, knowledge and values of caring for country are signposted across sacred sites and landmarks. If you're heading to K'gari, you might as well stop at Hervey Bay or Noosa while you're in the area.

Other QLD destinations: Noosa, Brisbane, Coolangatta, Whitsundays, North Stradbroke Island.



Mornington Peninsula

When you want to cut down on the drive time, but still put enough kilometres between you and the bustling city, the Mornington Peninsula is your friend. For those who's idea of a summer escape is dripping in luxury and natural vistas, look no further. Begin your trip with a flat white at Commonfolk or Store 360 before making your way to Portsea Hotel for an al fresco lunch. Drop into the Mornington Peninsula Brewery for an afternoon pint then end your day at Polperro for dinner. Throw in some oceans swims between and you're set.



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For the water obsessed, little else will conjure up more excitement than a road trip along the Great Ocean Road with Torquay as the final destination. As we all know, real surf is hard to come by in Melbourne, so when a good dose of salt water is the only medicine, zoom over to Torquay, stat. In between fish and chips and bouts of Mexican fare, drop in to Samesyn for a dining experience that spotlights the best in local and Indigenous ingredients.

Other VIC destinations: Port Fairy, Lorne, Bells Beach, Daylesford.



Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island may be little but it has over 500 km of pristine coastline. The water is blue, the bushland is thick and the wildlife is plentiful. If you love beaches, then you'll know that Kangaroo Island is home to the unbelievable Vivonne Bay among other natural wonders. You can get to Kangaroo Island in 30 minutes by plane from Adelaide or take a 45 minute ferry ride from Cape Jervis – which is 2 hours south of Adelaide by car.

This beautiful piece of Australia was unfortunately devastated by the 2019/20 bushfires, so it would certainly appreciate your tourism.

Fleurieu Peninsula


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This hidden, intensely beautiful coastline is South Australia's best kept secret, next to their world class vineyards, of course! Explore the beaches by day – Sellicks Beach, Port Willunga and Horseshoe Bay come to mind – and when you're too sundrunk, taste your way through McLaren Vale. We would stay at Esca in the Inman Valley, replete with outdoor baths, hiking trails and sumptuous king-sized beds, but really any place will do. Remember the best time to visit the Fleurieu Peninsula is around January to April, as the weather exits the unbearable heat and enters the slightly more cool and relaxing warmth

Other SA destinations: Murray River, Port Lincoln, Limestone Coast, Clare Valley.





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To be completely honest, heading up to the Northern Territory is not for the faint-hearted. December through to April is considered wet season, that being said, Katherine is the more temperate spot in the Top End.

Northern Territory tourism says it best with the sentiment that Katherine is where the "outback meets the tropics." Situated directly south of Kakadu National Park, Katherine is well known for the Nitmiluk National Park (also called the Katherine Gorge). Housed inside is a treasure trove of sites and experiences to explore with guided cave tours, outback experiences and easy walking trails. A boat trip through the gorges – which can get up to 100 meters deep – is one of the most popular activities.

In addition to the Nitmiluk National Park, you can also visit Elsey National Park; which is home to the famous Mataranka Thermal Pool. A site that needs to be seen to be believed.



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The area is most well-known for its national park, which is listed as a World Heritage site. The site is Australia's largest national park and encapsulates all of the country's incredible landscapes in one place.

On the north coast you will find the tidal zone, with river estuaries, mangrove swamps, and tall monsoon rain forests. Whereas inland, you'll discover the flood plains that eventually lead out into the sea. Of course, this is also one of the many Northern Territory holiday destinations known for its incredible waterfalls. Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are two of the most famous and are definitely worth a visit, although crocodiles are about, so if you're looking for a refreshing dip, try your luck at the recommended Gunlom Falls.

Other NT destinations: Uluru, Darwin, Arnhem Land, Litchfield National Park.

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