Mates’ breaks: 7 epic weekend trips made for friends
Grab your friends and load up the car for a fun-filled weekend getaway.
By Fleur Bainger
Escape on an adventure with one of these seven epic mates’ breaks in Australia. You don’t have to go far to reach a tucked-away region brimming with natural beauty. So pack up the car – and your friends – and hit the road.
From Sydney: houseboating on the Hawkesbury
If you're ready for a mates' break with a difference, it's time to hop on a houseboat. Hit the road and head an hour north of Sydney, or if you prefer, embrace the beauty of train travel; no one has to drive and everyone gets a view. Arrive at Hawkesbury River and either stroll the short distance from Hawkesbury River train station, or park your car onsite at Brooklyn Marina, to board a self-drive houseboat.
Your home on the water is kitted out with a barbecue and a dinghy. Nudge up to the Refuge Bay waterfall, follow a walking trail through one of the seven surrounding national parks, pick up fresh seafood from the Hawkesbury River Oyster Shed and wind your way upstream to Spencer, where you can all enjoy a beer at the “Dunkirk Hotel” – a local’s favourite found opposite the Spencer Village Store.
From Melbourne: off-grid at Wilsons Prom
Escape the city and get back to basics at the popular Wilsons Promontory. Take the three-hour drive south-east from Melbourne and opt for a rugged adventure, booking one of the national park's secluded campsites.
The Southern Prom Circuit hike is the less-beaten path to pick when exploring the national park. It’s a three-day, two-night hiking trail of off-grid outdoor appreciation (so you’ll have to bring your own equipment). This hiking loop starts and finishes at the Telegraph Saddle car park and includes overnight camps on the secluded east coast. Make friends with the wombats, kangaroos and emus, drift into a meditative state beneath dappled rainforest en route to Sealers Cove, and marvel at the starkly white sand and rounded boulders of Waterloo Bay.
From Adelaide: the locals’ side of McLaren Vale
If your Australian wine stocks are running low, replenish in McLaren Vale – this famed wine region is only 45 minutes from Adelaide, after all. First, restock at Wirra Wirra, Coriole and Alpha Box & Dice. Next, tick the magnificently modern d’Arenberg Cube and its Alternate Realities Museum off your list. Then take your pick of walks along the peacefully secluded coast. The cliffs at Maslin Beach glow gold at sunset, while Aldinga Beach allows cars to drive on the sand. Discover a local secret, the Salopian Inn, for lunch or dinner (bookings essential), and head to Willunga Farmers Market in the morning for a helping of local produce.
From Perth: little-known Bickley Valley
Only half an hour from Perth’s city centre is a little slice of Tuscany. The rolling hills, market gardens, orchards and vineyards of Bickley Valley are delightfully peaceful, and friendly, too. Owners are likely to pause for a chat when you and your pals pop in.
Drop your bags at a gorgeous asparagus farm B&B called Bickley Valley Cottage and check out the wide balcony and gaping valley views you’ll return to later. Wrap in some fitness via a hike along the Piesse Brook interpretive trail before exploring Core Cider on an orchard tour (especially pretty during the spring wildflower season). Appreciate the produce with a tasting paddle on the deck. If you’re visiting in spring, take part in the harvest season and help pick the delicious white asparagus grown at your B&B.
From Hobart: Huon Valley’s best-kept secrets
If you’re Tasmanian, you already know how lucky you are to have the Huon's tasty treasures just 30 minutes from Hobart. But things are constantly changing here, so there’s always something new to fall in love with. Make a beeline for the town of Cygnet, fringed by orchards and berry farms, to wander its quaint streets. Then continue the culinary celebration by settling in for a Friday feast at Fat Pig Farm, run by Gourmet Farmer’s Matthew Evans. His TV series was filmed here, lifting the lid on the beauty and bounty of the Huon; book into a “backstage” farm tour to see it all.
Make an appointment at nearby Tas-Saff, a farm growing some of Tasmania’s most prized saffron. Polish off your weekend with some craft apple juice at the Pagan Cider cellar door. Rest between adventures at Frenchman’s River with accommodation perfect for two couples, offering views of Cygnet Bay and lush, green pastures.
From Darwin: the locals’ pub crawl
It's practically Australia’s national drink, but an icy cold beer takes on a whole new level of enjoyment in the Northern Territory, especially when paired with exploring another classic Territory pleasure: waterholes.
Gather your mates for a pub tour weekend from Darwin, starting at the Humpty Doo Hotel for a trio of burgers (expect some friendly chatter from the bar staff). Continue onwards to Berry Springs Nature Park, an idyllic swimming spot beneath the palms. After you’ve been thoroughly refreshed, grab a classic pub lunch at Berry Springs Tavern.
Your next stop is Litchfield National Park, under a one-hour drive, where the entire group can frolic beneath the spray of a waterfall, snap the magnetic termite mounds and troop along the Tolmer Falls loop walk. Stay overnight at ‘The Homestead’, a private-use property within Litchfield Tourist Park that sleeps up to 15 people. On your return journey, drop into the delightfully old-school Noonamah Tavern, just a 20-minute drive from Darwin.
From Brisbane: the secret side of North Straddie
Pack yourselves into the car, drive onto the ferry to North Stradbroke Island, and within an hour you’ll arrive at Brisbane’s holiday playground. This laid-back isle has beaches galore, crystalline water, curling coastal walks, cute cafés and loads of adventure activities for groups to bond over – even sandboarding.
Veer away from the main hub and explore Amity Point, a little fishing village with daily dolphin visits and all-but-guaranteed koala sightings. It’s also a stunning spot to watch the sunset over the water – residents recommend gazing from the boat ramp or Cabarita Park. Stay right on the beach at Claytons on Cylinder, located halfway between Amity and Point Lookout, and head to Bo Beans Coffee for your morning fix.