9 winter destinations across Australia for active travellers

A winter weekend in Australia doesn’t have to mean huddling inside with the heater on. Throw on your comfortable footwear, head outdoors and warm your body with movement! There are plenty of amazing destinations across the country that will appeal to active Aussies, so treat yourself to a long weekend and head out to explore. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.

Newcastle, NSW

Situated two hours’ drive north of Sydney, Newcastle is a mecca for lovers of coastal culture and boasts several amazing beaches. OK, so it won’t be beach weather in winter, but don’t let that stop you getting out and about. Consider doing the coastal trek between Nobby Beach and Merewether Beach, or hike out to Nobbys Head. You can enjoy a bracing winter swim at the Mereweather Ocean Baths – the largest ocean baths complex in the Southern Hemisphere. Leave some time to combine culture and exercise by following the outdoor sculpture trail between Eleebana and Warners Bay.

Need a place to stay? Newcastle’s Terminus Apartment Hotel, Ascend Hotel Collection offers a fabulously comfortable stay, directly opposite the Hunter River foreshore.

Coffs Harbour, NSW

The New South Wales holiday town of Coffs Harbour is probably best known as the home of the iconic Big Banana, but it also offers plenty of options for getting your pulse rate up. Follow the Gumgali Track to the Korora Lookout in the Orara East State Forest – a total distance of around 1.2 kilometres. Swimming is great exercise and a pretty exciting experience when you’re doing it with humpback whales (and yes, you will be wearing a wetsuit as that winter water is cold!). Whale swims are offered by Jetty Dive during August and September. Finally, hit the region’s mountain bike trails and cycling corridors, including ‘Cow with Guns’ – 14 kilometres of trails inside Pine Creek State Forest near Bonville (a short drive south of Coffs Harbour).

Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn Premier is a relaxed and friendly hotel, conveniently located on the southern approach to Coffs Harbour. Further on towards the CBD, Quality Inn City Centre features a guest pool, gym, and stylish in-house eatery.

Canberra, ACT

Beyond the history and culture on display in Australia’s capital city are wilderness areas edged by mountains and lakes, and they’re an adventure lover’s playground. However, start your active escape by exploring the city itself on two wheels (just take your pick from the 35 kilometres of cycling paths!). A kayak or stand-up paddle board is the ideal way to see more of the lakeside precinct as you propel yourself across beautiful Lake Burley Griffin. Pack your hiking boots for a walk in the Namadgi National Park (the Booroomba Rocks half-day return walk is amazing). And you can really burn some energy on the Mount Kosciuszko ski fields. They’re just on three hours’ drive from the capital.

Need a place to stay? Quality Hotel Dickson Canberra is perfectly positioned as a base for exploring everything the capital has to offer. Enjoy the comfortable and contemporary accommodation and onsite club facilities.

Esperance, WA

Scale Frenchman Peak in Cape Le Grand National Park. Image courtesy of Tourism Western Australia.

Esperance sits on the south-west coast of Western Australia and is most famous for its stunning white beaches. While you may not be up for a winter swim in Cape Le Grand National Park (a 45-minute drive from Esperance), a hike is a must-do. Try the 262-metre Grade 5 walk to the top of Frenchman Peak and enjoy incredible views across the park. Also consider visiting Woody Island – a 20-minute boat trip from Esperance. Woody Island Eco Tours offers day trips to the island, where you can hike to the central summit and back (around an hour in duration). Back on the mainland, head to 11 Mile Beach for memorable ocean sunsets to the west.

Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn Bay of Isles sits right on the Esperance Esplanade and offers deluxe accommodation, an outdoor pool and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Fremantle, WA

Enjoy a Rottnest Island day trip from Fremantle. Image courtesy of the Rottnest Island Authority.

Located at the mouth of the Swan River, the port city of Fremantle – ‘Freo’ to the locals – makes a fabulous day trip from Perth whatever the season. It can be blowy on Bathers Beach in winter, but that comes with its own charm – so rug up and head out for a beach walk. A visit to Rottnest Island is a must-do for active types, and the good news is that crowd numbers are generally much lower in winter. Take the Rottnest Express across to the island (25 minutes from Fremantle) and rent a bike. It’s a great way to explore and drink in the views of the island’s crystal clear bays and islets.

Need a place to stay? Browse all Perth accommodation options

Albury-Wodonga, NSW/VIC

Enjoy a winter kayak in Albury-Wodonga. Image courtesy of Destination NSW.

Sitting right on the Victorian/New South Wales border on either side of the Murray River, Albury Wodonga offers plenty to keep active holidaymakers on the go. Hardy souls with wetsuits may like to do some winter water skiing on stunning Lake Hume. Next, take a leisurely walk or an energetic run along the Wagirra Trail, which follows the course of the Murray River. You can see more of the river on a canoe trip with Canoe the Murray, or kayak the wetlands in beautiful Gunbower National Park. Either way, the setting is truly sublime.

Need a place to stay? Located a short drive from the Albury town centre, Quality Resort Siesta offers a fabulous family resort-style base from which to explore everything the region has to offer. Over in Wodonga, enjoy the quiet setting amongst landscaped gardens at Econo Lodge Border Gateway Wodonga.

Bundaberg, QLD

Like much of Queensland, Bundaberg enjoys a mild winter and the weather won’t cramp your active style. You’ll find the water warm enough to snorkel with the turtles on one of two of the Great Barrier Reef southern-most coral cays: Lady Musgrave Island or Lady Elliott Island. Back on the mainland, head to Woodgate Beach for long beach walks or go for a run through the wetlands on one of several nature trails (there’s a 400-metre raised boardwalk that’s perfect for jogging). It’s a bit of a trek to Burrum Coast National Park (57 kilometres south of Bundaberg), but well worth the effort. Stand up paddle board or kayak along the park’s Theodolite Creek.

Need a place to stay? Bundaberg’s Econo Lodge Park Lane offers a variety of good value room types, an onsite eatery and a refreshing tropical pool.

Darwin, NT

Swim at Florence Falls in Litchfield National Park. Image: Bigstock.

The Northern Territory’s cosmopolitan capital city has a reputation for fun and adventure, and in ‘winter’ the temperature rarely drops below 20 degrees. Explore the many trails and take a swim in the glorious waterholes of Litchfield National Park (Florence Falls is one of the most popular and scenic options). There are more epic walks on offer in Kakadu National Park, which can be done as a day trip from the Northern Territory capital. Back in town, head to Mindil Beach to watch the sun sink below the horizon. There’s often a casual game of beach volleyball on the go. Then stroll through the popular Mindil Beach Sunset Markets and graze on a range of street foods. The markets operate throughout winter on Thursday and Sunday afternoons.

Need a place to stay? Quality Hotel Darwin Airport has a resort feel and offers contemporary air-conditioned accommodation, a tropical-style pool and poolside bar, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Launceston, TAS

The picturesque riverside city of Launceston sits at the foot of Tasmania’s Tamar Valley and offers plenty of ways to get your steps up. Walk from the city centre to Cataract Gorge (1.5 kilometres) and explore the reserve around the gorge on a variety of bushwalks. Hire a bike and hit the city’s network of cycling tracks, which will take you past gorgeous parks and squares. Some of Tasmania’s most spectacular natural landscapes are accessible from the city. Head for Dove Lake in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and hike in the hills that surround this stunning body of water. Freycinet National Park is another option, and walking tracks will lead you to unforgettable views of Wineglass Bay, Honeymoon Bay and Cape Tourville.

Need a place to stay? Quality Hotel Colonial Launceston is truly unique. Built in 1847, this heritage property combines old world charm with modern conveniences.

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