Travel

Last-Minute Holiday Destinations You Should Book a Trip to

Get off-the-beaten-track.

where to book holiday
Photo: John Crux Photography

If you’ve tried to book a holiday, or even just a weekend away, you might notice most places are booked until February. Popular holiday destinations including Port Stephens, Coffs Harbour, and Jervis Bay are booked out, but fear not, we asked Airbnb to reveal the destinations that still have availability. 

Their flexible date and -destination search tool is also a great way to book a spontaneous holiday in a destination you might not have been to before. 

where to book holiday australia
Photo: Surapong Tanachotrungruang / EyeEm

Destinations in New South Wales with greater availability:

Armidale
Armidale is a small city surrounded by awe-inspiring natural sights from forests to winding roads hugging waterfalls. Explore Armidale Pine Forest, spread over 170 acres or take in the towering Wollomombi Falls, which also offers views of other waterfalls in the area. Stay here

Blue Mountains
It would take years to cover every inch, but there are plenty of hiking trails and iconic sights that help you discover its best parts. Set out on a trail to find waterfalls and rivers to cliffs with sweeping views of the mountains. The Three Sisters is an iconic rock formation and easy to get to. The scenic skyway gondola is also a great way to get an eagle-eye view. Stay here

Dubbo
The Western Plains Zoo is a must-do when in Dubbo. Although, you will find other great adventures here including the Flying Doctor Visitor Experience, Great Big Adventure Pass, Wellington Caves, and more. Take a 4WD tour, visit a distillery or discover the bakeries and local produce of Dubbo. Stay here

Hunter Valley (Pokolbin)
The Hunter Valley is home to more cellar doors than any other wine region in Australia, which makes it a destination as well as a beautiful place to visit. Other beautiful places in the Hunter, besides the wineries, include the Hunter Valley Gardens, and Yengo National Park. At Barrington Tops National Park you can hike through a rainforest, chase waterfalls, and take in the mountain views. Stay here

Orange
Orange is perfect for foodies and those who enjoy elevated country life. There are cellar doors to visit, and bakeries to sample. Be sure to head to Racine Bakery for all your baked good cravings, and book in at Lolli Redini, a three hat restaurant inside a heritage cottage. Birdy Noshery is also worth a stop for their cocktails, and breakfast in the morning. Stay here

Southern Highlands
If you’re looking for a getaway but don’t want to travel far, the Southern Highlands is where you want to be. The region is brimming with fine food, a wine region, beautiful cottages, and restaurants. Visit a farm and pick fresh eggs, shop until you drop on the main street, or wander around the area and try all the pies you can physically consume in a weekend. You will also find plenty of hidden gems here from a French bakery to a homewares store and more. Stay here

Tamworth
Tamworth is Australia’s Nashville. Here, country music thrives, along with farming communities and a rodeo. If you’re looking for a true country escape with horses and cowboy boots, then this is the place to be. Apart from the music festival and the Big Golden Guitar, you can make the most of the wide-open spaces by hiking the national parks, horse riding, fishing, canoeing, and camping. Stay here.

Upper North Coast
The Upper North Coast encompasses the coastal towns of Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, and other family-friendly communities. These towns are great for a family holiday, with caravan parks, hotels, motels, and resorts to choose from. You will find beaches, great fishing spots, and parks for the kids. You can enjoy the best of the coast, or travel inland to escape to farms and cottages. Stay here or here.

Wagga Wagga
Wagga Wagga is a vibrant regional centre on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in the heart of the Riverina. With four distinct seasons, there’s always something new to explore. Discover the delicious food and wine scene, wonderful galleries, tranquil riverbank walks, gorgeous gardens and parks, and fascinating heritage. Stay here.

where to book holiday australia
Photo: Josh Berry-Walker / EyeEm

Destinations in Queensland with greater availability:

Brisbane
Brisbane has it all from heritage rainforests to mountain peaks and glorious islands, only an hour from the CBD. Eat, drink, shop, and play here. Discover its thriving dining scene, luxury hotels, or pick an adventure for an action-packed day. Stay here

Cairns
In recent years, Cairns has established itself as an up and coming destination. Even with its laid-back city, you will find plenty to do and see. New hotels have popped up including Crystalbrook’s, Flynn. You will also find an exceptional dining scene, and a world of tropical rainforests and islands, waiting to be explored. Stay here

Gold Coast-Tweed
The Gold Coast is most known for its surf beaches, but if you look closer, you will find quirky cafes, alfresco wine bars, dedicated cultural spaces with dedicated weekly gigs, humbling wildlife encounters and more. Stay here

Innisfail
At the tip-top of Queensland, also known as far north Queensland, you will find Innisfail. Look beyond the sugarcane fields and you’ll find a tropical town that is bustling with adventure, arts, great food and the friendliest locals going. You can explore an ancient Spanish castle in a rainforest, soak up the sun at a beach, or hike the misty mountains. Stay here

Mackay
Home to Australia’s longest stretch of subtropical rainforest, Mackay presents no end of opportunities to explore untouched nature and the region’s multitude of breathtaking and pristine national parks. Stay here

Port Douglas
This relaxed seaside village offers access to the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef, so you can get the best of both worlds. You can snorkel or dive, hike or walk, and most importantly, disconnect from the digital world entirely. Stay here

Sunshine Coast
Frolic at the beach in the morning and enjoy the afternoon in the lush hinterland, just a 45-minute easy drive away. Savour the fresh and bountiful local produce through a paddock to plate and trawler to table dining experience. There’s a lot to do on the Sunshine Coast, so stay here

Toowoomba
Toowoomba is Queensland’s largest inland city. Breathe in the fresh country air, check out the urban art scene, and fill your trip with food and drinks from local producers. Queens Park is a must-visit, especially if you love gardens. Don’t forget to sample some wines. Stay here

Townsville
Townsville is home to most of Australia’s iconic landscapes including Magnetic Island, Palm Island, Airlie Beach, and more. Within an hour you will find yourself near the ocean, the outback, a rainforest, and an urban city. Stay here.

Whitsundays
The Whitsundays is the gem of Queensland. There are pristine white sandy beaches, turquoise waters surrounding, and luxury accommodation options. You can take a scenic flight to the famed heart reef, have a picnic on a sand cay, hike the peaks. Stay here

where to book holiday australia
Photo: Andrew Smith / EyeEm

Destinations in Western Australia with greater availability:

Broome
One of the most iconic experiences you can have in Broome is to ride a camel on Cable Beach. Marvel at the tangerine sunset, before hitting the town for a gastronomy adventure. You can also join a pearl farm guided tour, or visit Australia’s most remote brewery. The idea here is, you can do everything in Broome and only Broome. It’s truly a unique destination like no other. Stay here.

Bunbury
Just a 2hrs drive south from Perth will land you in the heart of Bunbury; a seaside city that offers protected beach bays mere minutes from budding local bars, trendy restaurants, boutique shops and alluring coffee houses and cafés dotting street art corners and hidden alleyways. Stay here

Busselton
In Busselton’s calm turquoise bay you can take a 1.8-kilometre stroll or train ride over the Indian Ocean on the longest timber-piled jetty in the southern hemisphere. And below the waves, Australia’s best artificial reef can be viewed by stepping into the Underwater Observatory or getting suited up for a diving tour. Stay here

Mandurah
Mandurah is WA’s largest regional city less than an hour from Perth. It’s set against a backdrop of magnificent beaches and an estuary twice the size of Sydney Harbour. Originally known as Mandjoogoordap, Mandurah means ‘meeting place of the heart’. Once you’ve arrived here, you fall in love with this place. Enjoy waterways for days and much more. Stay here

Perth
Perth needs no introduction. It’s an urban oasis where soft-sand beaches and scenic parks meet. Discover its culinary delights, take a day trip to Rottnest Island to snap a photo with a quokka, or peruse neighbourhood markets. You can go wine tasting in Swan Valley, wander through Fremantle’s historic streets, and swim with dolphins in Rockingham. Stay here

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Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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