Weekends away

Photography: David Hannah

Take a tour of some of the nation's most picturesque regional areas, or stay closer to home and sample the hidden delights on your doorstep. 

Mornington Peninsula
The Australian bush has never seemed more bountiful than at Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, the coastal playground about an hour's drive due south from Melbourne. Premium wineries are its strong suit, as is a refined sense of taste that makes this one of the country's most cultivated regional dining scenes. Try Polperro, Montalto Estate and Ten Minutes by Tractor, for starters, but leave ample time to explore the dramatic peninsula coastline. 

The bushrangers and gold diggers are long gone but Beechworth retains its quaint 19th century character, complemented these days by an elite wine-making culture, great food and an autumnal blush, worth visiting on its own. Just 40 minutes further north, Rutherglen is famous for fortified wines but visitors can sample drops of any ilk here - pop into the new wine bar and store Thousand Pound on Main Street, which has a drinks list worth driving for. 

Gold Coast
Queensland's glitziest beach strip has much to recommend it beyond meter maids and surf lifesavers. The bling strip has a burgeoning dining scene, some snappy accommodation options (hello QT and Soul Surfers Paradise) and the eternal promise of sun and sand. But there's also Lamington National Park, theme parks, watersports and wildlife - something for everyone, in other words. 

If it wasn't for the politicians, Canberra would be a pretty hip place by now. On the one hand it has impressive cultural attractions and monuments (the National Gallery, the War Memorial, the National Portrait Gallery), as befits a national capital. On the other it has found its hipster groove in accommodation like Hotel Hotel and QT Canberra, and its dining mojo in Temporada, Monster and Eightysix. 

The central tablelands of NSW have a deserved reputation as a food and wine trail, with dozens of cellar doors in the Mudgee region and winning cool-climate wines from nearby Orange. There's a charming country cottage and B&B accommodation, a quality food culture and winning breakfasts at the likes of Market Street Café and Butcher Shop Café in Mudgee. 

The SA capital has shrugged off its 'city of churches' tag and is busy reinventing itself as a dynamic destination that's perfect for a city break. Check into the brand-new Mayfair Hotel, explore the vibrant laneways around Leigh and Peel streets for hidden bars and happening restaurants, and follow the crowds to the revitalised Adelaide Oval and riverside precinct. 

Margaret River
Known for its big-flavoured wines, there's much more to Margaret River than cabernet merlot. Surfers flock here for the 40 or so reliable reef and beach breaks; coastal townships like Yallingup and Gnarabup offer laidback living and seaside cafes, and the scenery at beauty spots like Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste will soothe the most stressed big-city dwellers. 

The opening of MONA, the groundbreaking art museum by the Derwent River, has placed Australia's second oldest city firmly on the weekend escapes radar. Besides avant-garde art there's exciting dining options (including Franklin, Betsey, Pigeon Hole cafe), gorgeous Georgian architecture, unique accommodation (check out the Islington Hotel, Henry Jones and the Mona Pavilions) and, just 15 minutes from the CBD, the cool-climate wines of the Coal River Valley. 

Barossa Valley
Best known for its big-name winemakers such as Penfolds and Henschke, there's a renaissance afoot in the Barossa Valley with new-age vignerons challenging the old order and a seriously impressive dining scene to match. Fino at Seppeltsfield is the latest fine diner to join a line-up that includes Hentley Farm, Appellation at The Louise and FermentAsian, among other delicious diversions. 

With direct flights to Ayers Rock Airport from Melbourne and Sydney it's easy for east-coasters to grab some instant zen in the Red Centre. A visit to Uluru is a transformative experience - it has a spiritual presence that's impossible to ignore. And the reinvigorated Ayers Rock Resort now brims with indigenous cultural activities, from dot-painting classes and traditional dance to interpretative tours of Australia's sacred heart. 

This article is brought to you by Penfolds

This article is brought to you by Penfolds

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