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13° & CLEAR SKY ON WEDNESDAY 17 JULY IN SYDNEY
TRAVEL & LEISURE

Ten Winter Weekenders in Australia That Don't Involve Skiing

Swap the snow for a getaway dedicated to truffle hunting in WA, wine tasting in the Adelaide Hills or dark arts in Tasmania.
By Jasmine Crittenden
June 14, 2019
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Ten Winter Weekenders in Australia That Don't Involve Skiing

Swap the snow for a getaway dedicated to truffle hunting in WA, wine tasting in the Adelaide Hills or dark arts in Tasmania.
By Jasmine Crittenden
June 14, 2019
  shares

Truffle hunts, hot spas, roaring fires, incredible sunsets and pinot noir — there are so many reasons to take a winter weekender that aren't skiing. And, although Australia is synonymous with sun and surf, we're not short on mountain villages, cool climate wine regions and indulgent retreats. If you're ready to embrace the cold (but not so ready to throw your body into the snow) here are ten getaways to try — from hiking around the Blue Mountains to visiting the mineral springs capital of Australia and visiting the Adelaide Hills, where you can count on days filled with excellent wine, long lunches and vineyard strolls.

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Lowe Wines, Destination NSW

WINE TASTE YOUR WAY AROUND MUDGEE, NEW SOUTH WALES

This pretty country town, which lies a three-and-a-half-hour drive northwest of Sydney, is home to experimental wines, friendly cafes and cosy stays. Head to Huntington Estate for big reds, Lowe Wines for spectacular views and Heslop Wines for small-batch drops in a 100-year-old cottage. The best spot for a long lunch is Pipeclay Pumphouse at the Robert Stein Vineyard & Winery. But, if you're looking for casual cafe fare, there's Alby & Esthers or Artisan on Lewis, where you'll eat surrounded by local artworks. When the time comes to rest your weary head, check into Perry Street Hotel, which is built within the converted 19th-century Mechanics Institute building that takes its design cues from Berlin, or sink into luxury at Sierra Escape, a luxe glamping retreat just outside of town, with phenomenal rural views, fire pits and outdoor baths.

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Evans Lookout Blackheath, Destination NSW

HIKE AND CAFE HOP IN BLACKHEATH, NEW SOUTH WALES

Get stuck into some invigorating mountain air, epic views and decadent dishes in Blackheath. This 5000-person village is in the Blue Mountains, one hour-and-forty-five minutes' drive west of Sydney. At 1000 metres above sea level, it occasionally gets snow, so pack your parka. Start by heading to Evans Lookout, where you'll find spectacular vistas and the starting point for a three-kilometre clifftop walk to Govetts Leap. Then it's time to eat. You'll find Campos coffee, an extensive tea menu and tasty brekkies at Anonymous Cafe, plus Asian-inspired hatted fare at Fumo Restaurant. If you're looking for a luxe sleepover, check into Parklands, where you'll wake up to 28 acres of landscaped gardens. For more local tips, see our weekender's guide to the Upper Blue Mountains.

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Hepburn Bathhouse, Visit Victoria

SOAK IN MINERAL HOT SPRINGS IN DAYLESFORD, VICTORIA

Swap skis for springs in Daylesford. Found a 90 minutes' drive northwest of Melbourne, in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, this 2500-person town is home to the biggest concentration of mineral springs in Australia. That means there are plenty of places to kick back in a piping hot, nutrient rich bath and soak your winter worries away. Get started at the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa, where Victorians have been blissing out since 1895, or the Japanese-inspired Shizuka Ryokan. Other adventures to add to your itinerary include hot chocolate at The Chocolate Mill, mulled cider beside the fire at Daylesford Cider Company, a multi-course feast at Lake House and a stay at Clifftop at Hepburn.

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Keppel Lookout, Visit Victoria

WANDER THROUGH ELEVATED VILLAGES IN MOUNT DANDENONG, VICTORIA

Dead keen to getaway, but not so keen on a long drive? Make Mount Dandenong — just one hour's drive east of Melbourne — your destination. You'll be out of the big smoke before you know it — and wandering through mountaintop villages, magical forests and frost-kissed gardens. To reset as quickly as possible, head to the Japanese Mountain Retreat in Montrose, for hot springs and spa treatments. When you're brave enough to face the great outdoors, make tracks to Olinda's RJ Hamer Arboretum, where there are more than 150 types of trees, or the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden. Meanwhile, there's a cracking Devonshire tea — beside a crackling fire — to be enjoyed on at Ripe Cafe, Sassafras, and craft brews galore at Oscar's Alehouse, Belgrave. Still more time to kill? Get more ideas over here.

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Fortitude Brewing Co.

SAMPLE LOTS OF CRAFT BREWS IN MOUNT TAMBORINE, QUEENSLAND

Queensland is best known as a destination to escape winter, but the state isn't all tropical climes. And, among its most scenic cool spots is Mount Tamborine, in the Gold Coast hinterland, around an hour's drive south of Brisbane. Launch into your weekend with a wine tasting at Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard & Winery or a beer sampling at Fortitude Brewing Co, before tucking into a comfort food feast at Three Little Pigs Bar and Bistro. In between eating and drinking, you'll be journeying through ancient rainforest, getting to know glow worms and snuggling up in a cottage or chalet.

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Ridgemill Estate

STROLL THROUGH IDYLLIC COUNTRYSIDE, WINE IN-HAND, IN STANTHORPE, QUEENSLAND

If your favourite winter warm-up is a good glass of red, then you ought to head to Stanthorpe. This riverside town — located three hours' drive southwest of Brisbane — is in the heart of Queensland's Granite Belt, an area of the Great Dividing Range known for its idyllic countryside, striking granite formations and wines. Visit Ridgemill Estate for shiraz, Whiskey Gully for malbec and Colombard, and Savina Lane for single vineyard drops, plus the occasional snowfall. Cheery cabins and cottages abound.

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Dark Mofo's Winter Feast, shot by Rémi Chauvin.

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE DARK ARTS IN HOBART, TASMANIA

Ever since Dark Mofo — MONA's annual festival of darkness, death and change — launched in 2013, Hobart has been a firm favourite for winter weekenders. If you're in town in June, you should definitely immerse yourself in some dark arts. If not — or in addition — there are stacks more adventures to be had, from whisky tasting at Lark Distillery to lunch by the water at Aloft Restaurant to local art, objects and food at the Salamanca Market. Hobart's watery surrounds are magical in winter, so try to sleep with views — both The Henry Jones Art Hotel and MONA Pavilions have them.

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Grindelwald Swiss Village.

TAKE A PRETEND TRIP TO SWITZERLAND IN TAMAR VALLEY, TASMANIA

Take a mini-trip to Switzerland in Tasmania's Tamar Valley. Just 15 minutes' north of Launceston, you'll find Grindelwald, a village modelled on a Swiss one, complete with gable roofs, paddle boats and an 18-hole mini-golf course. Beyond that, Tamar Valley is a world of winding rivers, green valleys and rolling farmlands that produce a cornucopia of cheese, truffles, walnuts, cherries, ciders and beers. There are also plenty of wineries to hit up here, too. Don't miss brekkie surrounded by wetlands at Stonesthrow, dinner at Stillwater Restaurant or an evening in front of your own sandstone fireplace at the Red Feather Inn.

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Karrawatta Wines

MEANDER THROUGH THE VINEYARDS IN ADELAIDE HILLS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Every year, the Adelaide Hills welcomes winter with lazy lunches, wine-inspired events and festivals, including Winter Reds: a celebration of red wine, open fires and rustic fare, happening from July 26–28, 2019. Meanwhile, in Hahndorf, Australia's oldest surviving German settlement, you can do winter as the Deutsche do: with baked goodies, chocolates and craft beer. Other spots to visit include the quirky Uraidla Hotel, built in the 19th century; Karrawatta Wines, where wine tasting takes place beside an outdoor (or indoor) fire; and Hardy's Verandah Restaurant, for hearty fare with panoramic views.

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Truffle Kerfuffle, Jessica Wyld Photography

GO TRUFFLE HUNTING (WITH ADORABLE DOGS) IN MARGARET RIVER, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Like Queensland, Western Australia is famous for its warm retreats. But, stick to the southern part of the state, and you'll discover charming wintry destinations a-plenty. For lovers of wine and good food, the Margaret River is the place to go. You'll avoid summer crowds, while making the most of winter festivals, like Truffle Kerfuffle, from June 21–23; Cabin Fever Festival, going down from July 19–28; and CinefestOZ, from August 28–September 1. Plus, even when there are no special events happening, there are bucketloads of drops to drink and, on the coast, whales to watch.

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Top images: Hepburn Bathhouse; Truffle Kerfuffle by Jessica Wyld Photography; Sierra Escape.

Published on June 14, 2019 by Jasmine Crittenden

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