Guide to the best short breaks to take in 2017
It is official: you really do need a holiday. So says psychologist Meredith Fuller.
"Given the relentless pace that we are all living at, we need to make time for things that refresh and revitalise us," she says. And while most of us are adept at finding a dozen good reasons to put off that holiday yet again – not enough time or not enough money being top of the list – we have come up with a cure for what ails you. These quick-fix breaks, which can be done in five days or less, are designed to cure whichever daily drama is getting you down.
"HELP! WE NEED A BREAK FROM THE KIDS."
A family holiday doesn't mean you have to spend every minute with your children. That's why kids' clubs were invented. "When you are with your children, you are vigilant all the time, and it's very hard to turn off," says Fuller. "When you know your children are being looked after, you get maximum rejuvenation." Grown-ups aren't the only ones who benefit from some time spent apart. "Children, like us, want new experiences, and learning to mix with a broad range of kids helps them develop social skills," Fuller says.
Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay
No one looks after the littlies quite like the Fijians, and this brand new luxury resort, nestled on the tranquil west coast of Viti Levu, is no exception. Their Turtles Kids' Club, which has dedicated activities for four-to-seven-year-olds and eight-to-12-year-olds, is open all day.
Best of all, it's free, although some activities, such as T-shirt painting, incur a small fee. That gives you plenty of time to laze on the white sand beach or by the adults-only infinity pool, go kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding, or be pampered in the spa. fijimarriott.com
Kingfisher Bay Resort, Fraser Island
The Junior Eco Rangers program at Kingfisher Bay Resort is a great way for kids to explore the world's largest sand island, with bush and beach walks, ropes courses, sandboarding and canoeing. The fun doesn't stop when the sun goes down; there are stargazing activities and spotlight tours looking for bats, sugar gliders and frogs, as well as some old-fashioned campfire fun. That leaves you time to hike the area's many forest trails, enjoy some four-wheel-drive action, or cool off in one of the island's many lakes. kingfisherbay.com
"WE CAN'T AFFORD A HOLIDAY; WE'RE SAVING FOR A HOUSE."
When you are working towards a big goal such as saving a deposit, it is easy to end up living in the future rather than the present. That can have serious consequences. "If you are constantly depriving yourselves, your relationship erodes to the point of disintegration," says Fuller. "Having little holidays keeps the magic alive. It is a way of honouring your relationship."
Waiheke Island, Auckland
Just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island is packed with activities that require little or no money. Feeling active? Head for the white sand beaches or the walking trails that wind their way along rugged cliffs and through verdant native forest. Alternatively, browse the island's many galleries and craft boutiques, or visit some of the acclaimed local vineyards, such as Mudbrick Vineyard and Passage Rock Wines. The island's baches (beach shacks) offer great-value accommodation. newzealand.com/au/waiheke-island
Nsw South Coast
There are no luxury hotels or expensive restaurants lining the Eurobadalla Coast, which is precisely what makes this seaside getaway so appealing. While beautiful beaches such as Mystery Bay are the main draw, visitors can also explore the heritage villages of Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba; hike through rainforest and up an extinct volcano on the Gulaga Mountain Walk; discover the verdant Foxglove Spires Garden; or go wine tasting at Mimosa Wines and Rusty Fig Wine. Good-value glamping options include Tilba Lake Camp. visitnsw.com/destinations/south-coast/batemans-bay-and-eurobodalla, tilbalakecamp.com.au
"I NEED TO SWITCH OFF COMPLETELY."
Remember the days when weekends were for doing nothing? These days, down time is an increasingly rare resource. "Historically, we all had more leisure time," says Fuller. "When we're always operating with high levels of cortisol and adrenaline, we really need to rest, to exhale."
Kayaking In Tonga
How's this for a relaxing itinerary? Awake to the sound of waves lapping against the sand. After breakfast, spend a couple of leisurely hours paddling across tropical reefs. Pull ashore by lunchtime, set up camp, then spend the afternoon swimming, snorkelling or just beachcombing.
Fall asleep, wake up, repeat. If that sounds good to you, then it's time to take a trip with the Friendly Islands Kayak Company. Their three-day tour of Tonga's beautiful Vava'u archipelago packs a lot of recharging into a very short amount of time. fikco.com/index.html
Lord Howe Island
Nature fans have long sung the praises of this World Heritage-listed outpost, 600 kilometres off the Australian coast; its unique ecology and its varied terrain make it a great place to clear your head. Walking, swimming and snorkelling are the main activities here: there are sandy beaches, a tranquil lagoon and a lush rainforest to explore. Active types may want to tackle the island's two towering mountains. However, Lord Howe's most irresistible attribute is its wonderfully chilled out way of life. The local speed limit is 25km/h, and you can forget about using your mobile phone – there is no reception. lordhoweisland.info
"I REALLY WANT TO GO EXPLORING."
"Many people suffer from the sameness of everyday life," says Fuller. "We're not using the inquisitive parts of ourselves. To stimulate that side of our nature, we don't necessarily need a long time away, we just need to do different things."
Where do we start? Perhaps in the royal capital of Yogyakarta, with its atmospheric Taman Sari water castle and its workshops dedicated to traditional crafts including batik, gamelan and wayang kulit shadow puppets. Or you could explore some of Asia's most stunning monuments, including the Hindu temple complex of Prambanam and the serene Buddhist sanctuary of Borobodur. Central Java's greatest pleasures, however, lie off the beaten path. Take a bicycle ride through sleepy villages or hike past rice paddies and along forest paths to explore the scenic countryside. indonesia-tourism.com/central-java/
This salt lake in the WA outback has been transformed into a remarkable open-air gallery by sculptor Anthony Gormley, with 51 statues arranged across the lake bed. Other nearby attractions include the Gold Rush towns of Boulder, Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, as well as eerie ghost towns such as Broad Arrow. One of the best times to visit is between September and November, when the wildflowers burst into glorious bloom. westernaustralia.com
"I'M NOT GOING ANYWHERE IF THE FOOD'S NOT GREAT."
"Human beings are pleasure-driven creatures," says Fuller, and for many of us, good food tops the list of our favourite pleasures. Fortunately travellers now have more places than ever before where they can indulge their gourmet tastes.
Papaya and baguettes, bananas and bowls of cafe au lait: New Caledonia is a wonderful mash-up of classic French cuisine and tropical treats. Eat at a beachside shack one night, a traditional French bistro the next; pick up sweet treats at an authentic patisserie, or enjoy a traditional kanak bougna, cooked on hot stones in the ground. How can any food fan not love a place where the local specialties include both lobster and escargots de l'Ile des Pins, a species of snail that only occurs on the Isle of Pines? newcaledonia.travel/au
High Country, Victoria
Just three hours north of Melbourne, the High Country packs a serious culinary punch. Just look at its wine offerings: eight separate regions, ranging from the Italian-influenced wineries of the King Valley, turning out tasty prosecco, nebbiolo and sangiovese, to the superb muscats of Rutherglen. Then there are the craft breweries and acclaimed eateries such as Provenance in the lovely heritage town of Beechworth, not to mention artisanal producers of cheese, olives and chocolate. visitvictoria.com/regions/high-country
"WE WANT TO GET THE KIDS TO TURN OFF THEIR SCREENS FOR ONCE."
Fuller is a big fan of screen-free time. "Children are living too much in their heads and not enough in their bodies," she says. Screen-free time not only gives those thumbs a rest; it moves children – and adults, for that matter – out of their usual posture, and gives their eyes a chance to focus on the horizon, instead of always looking up-close.
There is no ignoring the Pohutu geyser, which shoots water 30 metres into the air, but that is only one of the Rotorua attractions that will capture your kids' imaginations. At Whakarewarewa Thermal Village they will learn about traditional Maori culture and be enchanted by bubbling thermal pools, while the soaring trees of the Redwood Forest transport them into a fairytale setting. The Redwoods Treewalk, a series of suspension bridges that takes you high amid the treetops, is an unforgettable adventure. Chances are, however, their greatest enthusiasm will be reserved for the Te Puia thermal reserve, which features more than 500 springs. including the mighty Pohutu. newzealand.com/au/rotorua/
Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia
Sandy beaches? Check. Whale watching? Check. Historic towns, steam engines, bike paths with magnificent coastal views? Check, check, check. The Fleurieu Peninsula, an easy drive from Adelaide, is the family playground that keeps on giving. Some kids will fall head over heels for the animal encounters – patting a koala at Urimbirra Wildlife Park or visiting the fairy penguin colony. Others will be thrilled by hitching a ride on the Cockle Train between Victor Harbor and Goolwa, or taking a trip on Australia's only horse-drawn tram at Victor Harbor. southaustralia.com/Fleurieu/Explore
"I WANT TO PACK AS MUCH AS I CAN INTO MY BREAK."
Cramming your holiday full of memorable experiences is a smart choice, says Fuller. "When every moment is full of awe and excitement, it makes you feel as if you have been away longer," she says.
Few destinations can match Singapore for diversity. Art lovers will head straight for the masterpieces at the Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris and the cutting-edge work at the Gillman Barracks, while family-friendly destinations such as the Night Safari and Universal Studios draw a different crowd. Then there are simple pleasures such as wandering through the colourful neighbourhoods of Little India and Kampong Glam, or exploring the 100-hectare Gardens by the Bay, with its two supersized conservatories and the nightly Skytrees light show. Throw in hip bars and a lip-smacking food scene and you have the makings of a jam-packed holiday. visitsingapore.com/en.html
There is much more to do in the Red Centre than just gazing at red rocks. This is one of the best places in Australia to learn more about indigenous culture, with Ayers Rock Resort offering an astonishing array of activities, from bush tucker tours to dance performances, dot painting workshops and even stargazing. Best of all, many of them are free. And that's before we turn to the area's other attractions, such as Kings Canyon, Alice Springs, salt lakes and the soaring gorges of the West McDonnell Ranges. northernterritory.com, ayersrockresort.com.au
"I NEED A DOSE OF THE WILDERNESS."
It's not just the ability to breathe deep that makes a wilderness holiday so rejuvenating, says Fuller. "There is something ancient and soothing about being somewhere unexplored. You feel connected to the land, the smells, the sounds; all of your senses come alive."
Namosi Highlands, Fiji
The Namosi Highlands, 1½ hours from Suva, reveal a different side to Fiji, with verdant rainforests, river canyons and cascading waterfalls. To really explore this unusual landscape, check in to the rustic Namosi Eco Retreat. Absorb the rhythms of life in a Fijian village in-between excursions to explore the area, which may include mountain hikes, horse riding or river rafting. It's a chance to clear your head and experience life at a very different pace. trusupfiji.com/namosieco/index.php
The Pedder Experience, Tasmania
Recharge your batteries with the four-day Pedder Experience, which combines bushwalking and kayaking amid Tasmania's wild southwestern forests, the region where the last Tasmanian tiger was seen in the 1930s. From your base at Pedder Wilderness Lodge, give your body a workout as you tackle a different itinerary every day, traversing eucalyptus valleys, ancient peaks and mountain lakes. Keep an eye out for the world's tallest flowering tree, the Tasmanian Swamp Gum, which regularly grows to 85 metres or more in height. wildpedder.com.au
"I WANT TO EXPERIENCE SOMETHING TOTALLY NEW."
That yearning for variety that so many of us have is no bad thing, according to Fuller. "Our brains search for novelty, and if we feed that, it opens up new neural pathways and increases our capacity for creation," she says.
Lantasu And Volcano Festival, Vanuatu
More than a fly-and-flop destination, Vanuatu also give visitors the opportunity to explore its rich tribal traditions. Join in one of its colourful festivals, such as the Lantasu and Volcano Festival celebrated in September on the island of Ambrym. Ambrym is known for its black volcanic sand and its powerful sorcerers, and the festival is designed to showcase a range of local traditions, from magical incantations to the island's signature Rom dance. The highlight will be the opportunity to walk up one of the local volcanoes, Mount Benbow, and camp overnight on the ash plane. ambrym.travel/festivals.html
It's a compact 40 kilometres square, but Norfolk packs a lot in, including blue cows (yes, really), gruesome convict ruins, and its own language, Norf'k. The island's landscapes include golden beaches lapped by crystal-clear waters, atmospheric forest trails and thriving artisanal farms. Once the home of our most notorious convict settlement, the atmospheric ruins – including a seaside cemetery – offer a fascinating glimpse into our past. The museum devoted to the wreck of the Sirius opens up one of the most compelling episodes in Australian history. norfolkisland.com.au
"WE REALLY WANT TO TREAT OURSELVES"
There is nothing selfish about indulging in a bit of pampering, according to Fuller. "We invest in our houses, fixing anything that needs fixing; we also have to invest in ourselves as products," she says. "It is good for the maintenance of our souls, our bodies and our minds."
Of course you have been to Bali; but have you ever experienced a luxury tented camp on a private island? Bali's most distinctive hideaway features just 20 tented suites, each with hardwood floors and ensuite bathrooms. Much of the island is a protected forest reserve where rusa deer and macaque monkeys roam freely; the waters that surround it are also a protected habitat. Grab a snorkel to discover parrot fish, puffer fish, turtles and moray eels, or explore the island's interior, including cascading limestone pools. If that sounds too strenuous, just relax on the private beach or enjoy a treatment in the open-air spa. aman.com
The HomEstead, El Questro
The Kimberley may be Australia's wild frontier, but that is no reason to give up your creature comforts. After days spent exploring secluded canyons and pristine waterholes, guests at The Homestead El Questro return to their exclusive retreat to enjoy pre-dinner drinks before sitting down to three-course gourmet dinners. Turn the pampering up a notch with one of the Homestead's signature experiences, such as a helicopter trip to the top of the Cockburn Ranges for simply spectacular sunset drinks. elquestro.com.au