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Spring short break and day trip ideas – seven of the best for your city

We’ve rounded up a few of the best ideas for short breaks and day trips from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, to get you out and making the most of this glorious, too-brief season.

Shannon Barker
Image credit: Mark Donoher

Cure your Spring fever with some time in nature

You know the feeling.

You wake up on a morning that’s almost too bright and blue and breezy to believe.
The sky is brighter and bigger than it has been for months. The world seems full of possibility, and you want to head off on an adventure.

It’s a day to see something new, be out in nature, explore, shake off a bit of this Spring fever that's all too common when you live in the city. But where should you go?

We’ve rounded up a few of the best ideas for short breaks and day trips from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Canberra and Perth to get you out and making the most of this glorious, too-brief season.

1: Flower festivals

There’s no avoiding all of the budding, blossoming and bursting with colour that goes on at this time of year. Here are a few suggestions for places to soak in the scents and stroll under the blossoms:

Sydney/Canberra: Late September is Tulip Time in Bowral. It’s also time for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival (complete with Japanese cultural events) at Cowra Garden. Floriade gives flower-lovers a reason to explore Canberra (though who needs a reason?). A short drive for Sydneysiders is the gardens at Wildwood on the Hawkesbury – take a drive through the surrounding apple orchards of Bilpin for all the blossom you can handle.

Melbourne: Choose from the Tesselaar Tulip festival at Silvan, the Daffodil festival at Kyneton, the spring flowering at the National Rhodedendron Gardens in the Dandenong Ranges, or the fields of flowering bulbs at Mount Macedon’s historic Forest Glade gardens or Tieve Tara.

Brisbane/Gold Coast: Take a trip west to the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers or head north for a wander through the Maleny Botanic Gardens. For something a little closer to home discover (or rediscover) one of the city's botanical gems, like the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha or the City Botanic Gardens on the edge of the river.

Perth: See the best of Western Australia's wildflowers without leaving the city at the Kings Park Festival. For a longer trip, head to the Nannup Flower and Garden Festival for magnificent displays of tulips, a wander through open gardens, and talks from expert gardeners.

2: Long lunches and perfect picnics

Lunch by the water on a Sunday: it’s a nice, slow way to wind down at the weekend. Make it feel like a little holiday by going somewhere you haven’t been before.

Sydney: You could book a table overlooking the beach at Freshwater and settle in for some serious Sardinian feasting at Pilu. Or get the ocean views at a lower price point by taking your picnic basket to one of Sydney’s many beautiful tucked-away harbour beaches: here are 12 hidden gems to try.

Melbourne: If you’re lucky enough to snag a table at Brae at Birregurra, then book a hotel make a country weekend of it. Closer to home (and easier on the wallet), you can get your fish and chips right on the beach at the lovely old Rickett’s Point Teahouse – or try one of these other beachside cafes along the bay between Brighton and Beaumaris. And if you’ve never yet picnicked at Hanging Rock, you really must.

Brisbane: Grab a table at Lokal + Co for a Nordic experience, or head to Riverbar & Kitchen if waterfront views are what you're after. Get even closer to nature with a picnic at the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, or enjoy a good bottle of wine at Roma Street Parklands in Spring Hill, one of Brisbane's two licensed parks.

Gold Coast: Snag a table at Glass Dining and Lounge Bar for a really special seafood lunch, or head to Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Life Saving Club for something simpler without compromising on the views. As you'd expect, there are plenty of beachside dining options in the Gold Coast – choose from one of these 11 of the best.

Canberra: It might be landlocked, but Canberra still has plenty of restaurants with waterside views. The Boat House sits right on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin and offers a true fine dining experience. Also around the lake, try Waters Edge or The Deck at Regatta Point.

Perth: Long lunch venues don't get much better than Il Lido in Cottesloe, combining Italian food with a beachfront location. Head to Fremantle for a lunch and drink (or two, or three) at Little Creatures Brewing, or get a table on the deck of The Shorehousein Swanbourne.

3: Spring races in the country

Horseracing somehow seems more wholesome in a country town. Get the heart racing with the thundering hooves at the spring country races in Victoria, head to one of the “Saddle Up Sunday” events around country NSW, visit a race in the Queensland Country Cups Challenge, or find a Country Racing Western Australia event.

4: First ocean swim of the season

For some, the first dive into the ocean in Spring is something of an annual ritual. You have to be brave (especially if you’re in Victoria), but the zing on your skin is worth it.

Sydney, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches. You’re sure to have your favourites: for this first swim of the season, though, make a day of it. Try heading up to Palm Beach or down south to the beautiful Hyam’s Beach.

Melbourne dwellers can head to the Mornington Peninsula to have the choice of the calm, clear waters of the bayside beaches at Portsea or Sorrento, or the wilder surf across the other side of the peninsula. Or if you’re looking for long, open beaches to stretch your legs before plunging in, head down the coast to Anglesea (an easy day trip) or try Lorne for a weekend away.

Brisbane/Gold Coast: With dozens of amazing beaches just a short drive away, it's not hard to find somewhere for a quick dip. Try one of the beaches on Bribie or Stradbroke Island, or Miami Beach or Main Beach in the Gold Coast.

Canberra: Drive down to the NSW South Coast for a dip at South Broulee Beach, Guerilla Bay or Cunjurong Point. Or if you prefer your ocean swims to be in the ACT, make the trip out to Jervis Bay for an official nation's capital dip.

5: Spas and hot springs

Icy water not your thing? Victorians can try a little hydrotherapy at the historic hot springs at Daylesford or Hepburn Springs; or relax under the open sky in the thermal mineral waters of the Peninsula Hot Springs on the Mornington Peninsula. Near Sydney, escape to the Japanese gardens and bathhouse in the Blue Mountains, or try one of the many other day spa retreats dotted around the Blue Mountains. Brisbanites can head to Stephanie's Mountain Spa in Clear Mountain, or stay closer to home with a treatment at Sakura Day Spa or Dome Spa Retreat. If you're in the Gold Coast, pay a visit to The Bath House in Burleigh or Halcyon House Spa in Cabarita. In Canberra, relax at Jindii EcoSpa in the Australian National Botanic Gardens, or relax in the thermal pool at Yarrangobilly Caves. Perth residents are spoilt for choice when it comes to natural hot springs and pools. Try Black Diamond Lake, Honeymoon Pool, or Indijup Natural Spa.

6: Wineries

There are plenty of cellar doors to explore within a couple of hours Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Here are 11 of the best in the Hunter Valley, the Yarra Valley’s top 10, 8 wineries within driving distance of Brisbane, 8 within day tripping distance of the Gold Coast, 6 of the best near Canberra, and 10 great wineries near Perth. Remember to designate a non-drinking driver and enjoy responsibly!

7: Snowshoeing and bushwalking

There’s still some snow up in them thar’ hills. Not enough to ski on, really, but enough to pad across in snowshoes, watching the icicles melt, the green emerge through the snow, and experiencing the perfect peace of the mountains in springtime. Mountain accommodation prices fall back from the stratosphere at the end of the season, so you can squeeze in a few days without breaking the bank.

From Melbourne, Lake Mountain summit is an easy day trip; while Mount Hotham is a long weekend away (but has the best chance of late snow on the high plains). From Sydney, it’s a long haul down to Thredbo – maybe combine it with a quick stop at Canberra’s Floriade? Just remember to pack a spare pair of warm socks.

Over cold-ness in all its forms? Then try a day walk or ride in the Royal National Park near Sydney, visit the Sherbrooke Forest or 1000 Steps near Melbourne, or get the blood pumping with a bushwalk through Mt Coot-tha or some Koala spotting in the Brisbane Koala Bushlands. From Canberra, head along The Centenary Trail or up to the Summit of Mount Ainslie, and if you're in Perth you can't go past the Bungendore Bridle Trail in Wungong Regional Park.

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