By Shell on Jun. 14, 2022
Is there anything better than waking up to misty fields, spending days hiking through alpine forest and soaking in thermal springs before settling in beside a fire, glass of shiraz in hand? With winter upon us, we reveal five of the best east-coast destinations to do just that, from snowy mountains to wine country and hinterland rainforest. The best bit? They’re all within easy driving distance of major cities, making your next weekend road trip a breeze.
Getting there: 250 kilometres west of Sydney (4-hour drive)
With the last leaf-pepper departing Orange – this part of NSW is known for its fiery autumnal colours – a stillness descends over the countryside. Frosted mornings bring sprinklings of snow, burnt off as bright sunshine days unfold and filter rays through crisp mountain air. Hiking trails carve through powdery fields around Mount Canobolas, where early-morning walks reward with sightings of wombats and kangaroos. Freshen up at your base – try Byng Street Boutique Hotel, set in a historic 1896 building – before setting out for an afternoon of grape grazing. One of Australia’s highest wine regions doesn’t disappoint when it comes to cosy cellar doors; the kind you could hibernate in throughout the season. Its vintages, and produce, are celebrated at the annual Winter Fire Festival (5-7 August 2022), where wood-fired ovens and barbecues send an intoxicating aroma over the rustic countryside. All you need now is a shaving of Orange truffles.
Hepburn Springs, VIC
Getting there: 115 kilometres north-west of Melbourne (1.5-hour drive)
Hepburn Springs sits in the middle of the largest concentration of mineral springs in Australia. Unsurprisingly, winter visits here revolve around limb-reviving soaks in thermal pools packed with magnesium, calcium and silica. Believe us, this is doing you good. Take your pick of places to bliss out, not least of which is the heritage Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa, where you can also polish, buff, moisturise and steam winter skin. Cabins at Peppers come with fireplaces to warm up beside before your dinner booking at Lake House. Menus here are a true expression of the season, with much of the produce that turns up on your plate sourced from kitchen gardens at the property’s nearby farm – if it’s not grown, raised or made here, chefs turn to local purveyors for inspiration.
Lake St Clair, TAS
Getting there: 180 kilometres north-west of Hobart (2.5-hour drive)
One of east-coast Australia’s last wilderness frontiers, Lake St Clair is a beguiling union of mirror-like waterways and enchanted forest, all part of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park – the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Many visitors end the epic six-day Overland Track trek here. But there are plenty of shorter walking trails weaving between ancient glacial lakes, myrtle beech forest and tall pines; a natural magnet for Bennett’s wallabies, wombats, echidnas and platypuses. This part of the state has some of the cleanest air in the world, especially invigorating over the cooler months. Reward your efforts beside the fire at Pumphouse Point, where hearty meals are served family style.
Snowy Mountains, NSW
Getting there: 210 kilometres south of Canberra (2.5-hour drive)
While many people descend on NSW’s Snowy Mountains to strap on ski boots and ride the gondolas of Perisher or Thredbo, many more come to chill out amid alpine scenery so pretty you’d swear postcards were invented just to show it off. Kosciuszko National Park sprawls south of Australia’s capital, Canberra, its towns linked by one of Australia’s great road trips: the Kosciuszko Alpine Way. Call into the Kosciuszko Brewing Company for a tour, then visit the Wildbrumby Distillery Door & Cafe to stock up on boutique schnapps, gins and vodkas to take back to Nimbo Fork lodge. Style and sustainability unite across this estate, not only in the country-style cottages but also in the dining room where the Three Blue Ducks team offer a taste of place in their paddock-to-plate menus.
Springbrook National Park, QLD
Getting there: 50 kilometres south of the Gold Coast (1-hour drive)
The Mouses House Rainforest Retreat appears to have slipped from the pages of a fairytale, its chalets enveloped by magical ferny groves and mist-shrouded waterfalls – this is your soundtrack as you fall asleep beside your cabin’s fire, while native birds and the pad of wallabies are your alarm clock. Book a Stream Chalet for the added bonus of an alfresco hot tub, particularly inviting after days hiking through Springbrook National Park in the Gold Coast hinterland. Being amid nature this ancient makes you feel good; it’s at once humbling and inspiring, a salve for the soul. Just what you need to get through winter. The other thing you need is good food. Drive to nearby Hazelwood Estate for an inspired meal that utilises the Scenic Rim’s finest produce, much of it grown on-site.