Choose your own long weekend

Posted Date: 27 March 2017
Long weekend adventure

Is there a better way to spend your long weekend than a quick overseas getaway? An international trip may sound like a tall order in a short timeframe, but with so many fantastic destinations within striking distance from home, it’s could be achievable.

Let’s dive into 10 great options for a long weekend overseas, which we think will cater to the tropical travellers, the food lovers, and the adventure junkies alike.

Tropical destinations for the long weekend

1. Nouméa, New Caledonia

New Caledonia’s capital is a buzzing cultural melting pot in a serene tropical setting. Whether you prefer to cruise its crystalline waters, or to spend big on high-fashion, Noumea is the perfect long weekend escape that will appeal to all tastes. Best of all? It’s just a three-hour flight from Australia’s east coast.

But Noumea’s main drawcard is its natural splendour. The city is poised on a peninsula that juts into the sea, creating scenic bays, white-sand beaches and more than a few hidden gems for the adventurous. The Baie des Citrons is the most popular beach in town and lies just 10 minutes from the city centre. Laze in the gentle surf, soak up the sun and refresh with a sunset cocktail. For the snorkellers, nearby Duck Island is suitable for all levels of experience.

There is no visa required for Australians staying in New Caledonia for less than three months.

2. Honiara, Solomon Islands

Much like Noumea, the Solomon Islands offer tropical seclusion with cultural attractions to boot. Its capital city, Honiara, is around a six-hour flight from Sydney and Brisbane, and is renowned for its beauty and historical significance.

For the travellers craving tropical isolation, up-market accommodation like the Coral Sea Resort provides the perfect place to sink into a beachside hammock. For the travellers who also want a dash of culture and history in their tropical cocktail, Honiara also offers humbling WWII tours, including US and Japanese memorials and battle sites. WWII wrecks in the area provide some of the most memorable diving experiences in the world. Just make sure you book any dives with a qualified instructor or hold an open water dive certificate, otherwise you will not be covered for any diving related claims under your TravelCare policy.

You can also visit Melanesian and Polynesian villages, and lose yourself in artisan crafts at the local markets.

3. Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Travellers to the Cook Islands are often baffled that such a small place could boast so many things to do. A six-hour flight from Sydney, Rarotonga is bursting with natural adventure and lively restaurants and bars.

Rarotonga is a haven for keen snorkelers, with sweeping barrier reefs, an abundance of tropical fish, and suitable conditions all year round. For more information on snorkelling safety (including avoiding the infamous Stonefish), you can visit the Snorkel Rarotonga website.

For travellers who prefer land over sea, walking tours and rental mopeds are a popular way to see the island. If you don’t have a motorbike license and want to hire a moped, you’ll need to obtain a Cook Island driver’s license from the police station in Avarua. There, you’ll need to present your driver’s license, pay a fee, get your picture taken and take a practical driving test around the block.

4. Bali, Indonesia

What list of nearby holiday favourites would be complete without Bali, Australia’s tropical neighbour in the north? Just a six-hour flight from Sydney (and under four hours from Perth) the lively island has long been an Australian favourite for its food, culture, and stunning landscapes.

There’s no shortage of things to do and see in Bali, so knowing where to start can be difficult if you’re only travelling for a short time. However, if tropical serenity is your goal, then places like the Bukit Peninsula, Ubud, and Seminyak won’t disappoint. Seminyak is a mere 20-minute drive from Denpasar airport, making it a popular choice for travellers who want to hit the beach without delay. With luxury resorts, fine-dining experiences, and relaxed cafes, Seminyak is the ideal combination of beach-side bliss and comfortable convenience.

It’s important to know the risks facing all Australians who visit Bali. Road accidents are common, drink spiking is a persistent threat in nightlife areas like Kuta, poor infrastructure and substandard rental equipment can prove deadly, rip currents and strong waves can catch even experienced swimmers unaware, and petty thieves and scammers frequently target tourists. For more information on how to avoid these dangers and enjoy a safe Balinese adventure, read our article on safe travel in Bali.

Foodie destinations for the long weekend

1. Bangkok, Thailand

The Australian love affair with Thai food is well-known, however for the real deal, it’s hard to beat a plate from the streets of Bangkok. The street food scene in Bangkok is renowned for its variety and quality, with all the noodle, curry and seafood favourites you’d expect.

A few of the go-to foodie hotspots in Bangkok include the Or Tor Kor markets, the Night Food Stalls, the Lumpini Park Food Stalls and Yaowarat (Bangkok’s Chinatown), where the competition for top food stall is fierce.

Bangkok is only a nine-hour flight from Sydney, making it the perfect long weekend getaway for travelling food-lovers. But be warned, when it says “spicy”, it means it. Also, be sure to be street food savvy and only buy from vendors who serve fresh and well-cooked meals. A good rule of thumb: follow the crowd.

2. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur is perfect for both casual and classy dining experiences, with budget eateries and designer restaurants operating side by side in many parts of town. Malaysia’s capital is under nine hours from Sydney, and a mecca for those who like spending big and eating bigger.

Kuala Lumpur’s fine-dining scene is impressive, with several restaurants serving contemporary Malay cuisine with distinct western influences. For an unforgettable meal (and an unforgettable view), indulge at the rooftop of the The 39 Restaurant and watch Kuala Lumpur bustle below you.

However, enjoying traditional Malay cuisine in Kuala Lumpur doesn’t need to break the bank. The city’s street food scene is well-established, with several street markets operating in different precincts all through the week. The Kampung Baru Sunday Market is a favourite of locals and visitors looking for staples of the Malay diet, like rojak (a spicy fruit and vegetable salad), grilled fish, and meat satays. Visitors should note that although it’s named the “Sunday Market”, Kampung Baru actually runs from Saturday evening to early Sunday morning.

It’s easy to lose yourself among the crowds and stalls of Kuala Lumpur’s markets, especially at busy events like the Wednesday Taman Connaught Night Market, which hosts over 700 stalls every week. Keep your valuables close to your chest to avoid falling victim to pickpockets who may take advantage of the mass of people, and stick to well-cooked food from busy, clean food stalls.

3. Wellington, New Zealand

Believe it or not, New Zealand’s waterfront capital boasts more restaurants per capita than New York. Wellington is quickly emerging as the foodie heart of the “land of the long white cloud”, with more than 300 cafes and restaurants in the inner city alone (an area spanning just 2sq km).

Food lovers will find fresh seafood along the harbour, pub grub at street corner favourites and fine-dining at restaurants like Hippopotamus. For a relaxed meal with a view, the Spruce Goose in Lyall Bay is the ideal place to grab a bite before your flight home. The restaurant overlooks the runway across the water and serves a wide variety of homely fare. For the beer-lovers, the popular Malthouse boasts over 80 brews on tap, which can be complemented with a side of the Malthouse’s famous “ugly bread”.

Adventure destinations for the long weekend

1. Manila, Philippines

The Philippines and its numberless adventure travel possibilities have somewhat flown under the radar. The country is littered with natural attractions, a breathtaking volume of hiking trails, and in the capital Manila, some of the most compelling cultural attractions in the region.

No exploration of Manila would be complete without a visit to the famous Fort Santiago - a winding maze of gardens, fountains, arched gates, lily ponds and plazas. Other cultural musts in Manila include the impressive Chinese Cemetery (with some shrines even including flushing toilets and kitchens for the deceased), the Ayala Museum (with historic Filipino exhibits), the expansive Rizal Park, and SaGuijo Bar for live music long into the night.

Unfortunately, petty theft is common in Manila, particularly in the Tondo and Divisoria areas. Thieves have been known to drive by on motorbikes and snatch valuables from unsuspecting tourists. Poverty is also an unfortunate reality in the city, with beggars often approaching travellers after dark. Brush up on these safety tips if you’re planning a visit.

2. Apia, Samoa

For a remote island experience, few places can rival Samoa’s volcanic grandeur. Whether it’s exploring the Piula Cave Pool, hiking Mount Vaea, strolling hidden beaches or marvelling at cascading waterfalls, travelling through Samoa is a humbling and raw back-to-nature experience.

Apia is the country’s capital and launching pad to some of Samoa’s most stunning adventures. Take Manono Island, a 20-minute boat ride from Apia airport, and home to giant sea turtles, pristine sunsets and even archaeological sites.

If you’re heading out on one of the many tours available around Apia, always ensure you book with a licensed operator and that equipment is up to standard.

3. Raglan, New Zealand

Raglan is the core of New Zealand’s surf scene and proud home to world class waves that roll for hundreds of metres into Manu Bay. Flying into Auckland is only a matter of hours from Australia’s east coast, and from there a scenic bus ride will land you in the rural surfing mecca of Raglan.

However, Raglan isn’t just the playground of serious surfers. There are a number of surf schools in town that offer lessons for first-timers in surrounding waves that are beginner-friendly.

There are also hiking trails like the Karioi Summit Track, the picturesque Bridal Veil Falls, homely country pubs, independent stores like the Raglan Surf Emporium and, of course, the local favourite Raglan Roast for the coffee lovers.

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