While international travel is looking unlikely for at least the near future, that doesn’t mean you have to kiss your adventure aspirations goodbye. In fact, now is the perfect time to go exploring right here in your very own backyard, and take advantage of the incredible destinations Australia has to offer. But if you’re feeling anything like we are, given everything that 2020 has thrown at us, you’ll be ready to ditch the tent in favour of a (much-deserved!) mini-break.
So, to save you the hard slog of days spent trawling the internet, we’ve teamed up with IHG, to bring you the best all-inclusive packages, so you can live large at a selection of their stunning hotels in the dreamiest spots Australia has to offer. Plus, by becoming a member of the IHG Rewards Club, you’ll not only have access to this all-inclusive package, but you’ll enjoy extra access to exclusive experiences, from room upgrades, epic dining options, wine tours and plenty more treats to level up your stay, and have you feeling a million bucks in no time at all.
Uncover Urban Delights In Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is not what it used to be. If the name conjures up memories of school holidays spent waiting in line at the aquarium and IMAX, it’s time to wipe those from your mind for good. Today, it’s less kids playground, more adult gastronomic wonderland. You’re hard-pressed to pick where to eat, given there are so many world-class dining options. From Turkish meze-heaven Anason, where you can gorge on their famous simit (a delicious plaited sesame bread), homemade sausages and grilled octopus with yoghurt and chickpeas, to the iconic XO sauce pippies at XOPP or abalone schnitzel and sustainably-sourced sea-urchin in the sleek interior of love.fish Barangaroo.
The best part? When you stay at Crowne Plaza Sydney Darling Harbour you can practically roll home to bed. Smack bang on Bathurst Street, the chic hotel is offering IHG Rewards Club members three nights accommodation in a superior king room for just $699, which also includes breakfast each day, welcome drink vouchers and a $100 hotel dining credit for use at La Bella Trattoria and Bar or TWO 88 Bar and Kitchen – just to really make sure you can’t fit in your jeans by the end of this gourmet getaway.
Have A Helluva Time At Hayman Island
The most northerly island in the Whitsundays, gorgeous little Hayman is an utter slice of paradise. It’s only a total of 4sq km, so you can easily explore the entirety of its forests, valleys and the types of white sandy beaches, shimmering crystal clear water and leaning palm trees you’ve only ever seen on the grid of that influencer’s Insta (trust us, we didn’t believe beaches this postcard-perfect existed IRL either).
Spend your days snorkelling through one of the seven wonders of the natural world (The Great Barrier Reef, for those a little slow on the uptake), discovering bright fish and coral that look straight out of Finding Nemo, lazing in a deck chair by the pool, hitting a ball around the tennis court or pampering yourself at the spa. IHG members get three nights in a Lagoon Ocean View Room for $2,669, which includes transfers to and from Hamilton Island, as well as an extra adventure to either Blue Pearl Bay, Bali Hai or Hook Island, as well as a $100 dining credit per day to use at any of their five exceptional restaurants. Or, if you’re really wanting to up the romantic ante, book a private twilight dinner on the sand, gourmet beach picnic, or even a helicopter ride to ooh and ahh at the naturally formed coral of Heart Reef (Google it!). And since you’re only allowed to visit if you’re a guest of the InterContinental Hayman Island Resort, you can’t help but feel like a total baller waltzing around your very own private island.
Sip Your Way Through The Hunter Valley
There’s nothing quite like a boozy, boujee weekend away to cure the COVID-19 blues. First stop, a winery (duh). And you have more than 150 to choose from. Sure, you’ve heard of the big dogs like Brokenwood, Tempus Two and Tyrrell’s, but especially post-pandemic, now is the time to be throwing your money behind some of the smaller, but equally as amazing cellars. Head to Harkham Wines for 100 per cent natural and handpicked wines that are sustainably farmed, with no chemical additions. Our hot tip is to give the Aziza’s Rosé a try – it was fermented by indigenous yeasts and has a slight spritz-y vibe to it. Dinner will be at Twine, Pokolbin, for delectable modern Australian food with a local focus, like wild mushroom gnocchi with grilled asparagus, and smoky beef brisket in a sticky bourbon sauce.
For a plush pillow to rest your weary (read: tipsy) head upon, you can’t go past the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley. As an IHG Rewards Club member, for $920 you get three nights accommodation in a resort room with all the trimmings, brekkie for two in the award-winning Redsalt Restaurant, a round of nine-hole golf and your own buggy to hoon around the green, as well as a half-day wine tour (and a complimentary bottle on arrival) thrown in for good measure.
Enjoy A Sumptuous Staycation In Sydney
Keen to feel like you’re on holidays but would rather avoid the travel time and transport woes? We feel ya. In that case, why not stay put, get lost in the city’s backstreets and dive a little deeper into what’s happening these days in Sydney’s CBD. There are innumerable food options in the vicinity, but we’d recommend avoiding the bigger names in favour of a few up-and-comers. Our number one pick for dinner is Ragazzi, tucked away at Angel Place – a tiny but truly heavenly Italian haven from the minds behind wine-bar royalty Love, Tilly Devine and Dear Sainte Eloise. The menu varies from week to week, so depending on when you’re visiting, you might find a melt-in-your-mouth cacio e pepe, or perhaps cavatelli with octopus, borlotti beans, ‘Ndjua and mint, or baked rotolo with goat and lardo. Desserts are just as epic, with past hits including drool-worthy tiramisu, house-made blood orange negroni gelato and hazelnut mousse with Fernet Branca.
Snooze in style at the InterContinental Sydney—a slice of rare calm amongst the chaos of the city. Like an impossibly-chic great-aunt, this sandstone-clad hotel has remained at the top of the hotel pecking order for over three decades now, and with good reason too. The décor is sleek and splendid; each room features high-end amenities and a magnificent indoor heated pool with an outlook to rival any others in the whole of the city. IHG members can get their hands on an Eastern Harbour view room (BTW, they actually mean it—these rooms have panoramic views across the water, with the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Botanic Gardens, all stretched out in front of you) for three nights for just $1,145, which includes an extravagant breakfast, parking, late checkout and a $100 food and beverage credit for use at any of their dining venues. Our preference for a truly decadent treat is High Tea in The Cortile. Gather your mates, and nibble on Marie Antoinette-style cakes, macaroons and crustless cucumber sandwiches in the opulent, high-ceilinged sanctuary. Luxe, luxe, luxe.
Bliss Out At Sanctuary Cove
It’s impossible not to get into max-relax mode at this stunning little corner of the globe. So pack your pool slides and get yourself to the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort, stat. Pretend you’ve on vacay in Bora Bora by parking yourself on the insane one-acre Lagoon Beach, where your only worry will be if you should order an Aperol Spritz or an Espresso Martini (we ask, why not both?). For just $770, IHG members get upgraded to a Lagoon View room, which features a deep bathtub to soak your troubles away, plus an in-room cocktail, daily gourmet breakfast, three-course meal in their signature restaurant The Fireplace, and a $100 credit to use in either Verandah Bar, Pool House or Arnies.
The sprawling sandy expanse of Mermaid Beach is just around the corner, and if you do feel inclined to travel further than the daybed, a short half-hour drive will get you to the Gold Coast. No longer reserved for sunburnt tourists and salty surfers, these days the Goldie boasts some of the best food stops around. Hit up Paddock Bakery in Miami for crazy good pastries and milkshakes and Lupo for an ever-changing menu with Spanish and Italian flair for the perfect mid-ground between hipster and fine dining. Don’t miss the ortiz anchovy, peppers and gnocchi fritto, or the scallops, seaweed butter and pangrattato—they will give your taste buds all the feels.
Soak Up A Cruisey Coogee Beach Break
Bondi’s chilled and charming little sister Coogee is a dream location to spend a long weekend or two at. And there’s so much more to this beachside suburb than the infamous Pavilion, especially since new hotspots to eat and drink are cropping up left, right and centre. An evening drink at Coogee Wine Room is the ideal way to get you into holiday mode, but be warned, there are over 400 bottles of wine for you to choose from—so indecisive drinkers beware. While sipping, munch on a generous charcuterie and cheese board, or grab a few Sydney rock oysters for flavour that literally couldn’t be fresher. Don your activewear and celeb-spot on the Bondi to Coogee Walk, or make like the locals and head to Osteria Coogee, a hidden Italian gem off the beaten track.
Swimming options nearby are ample, with the gorgeous saltwater Ross Jones Memorial Pool, or McIver’s Ladies Baths floating spectacularly on the cliff face between Coogee Beach and Wylie’s Baths right on your doorstep. But if you’d rather not battle the crowds, we have an even more exciting option. Feel like a VIP by spending your day lounging by the lavish rooftop pool at the Crowne Plaza Sydney Coogee Beach. If you’ve signed up to IHG Rewards Club, for just $599 you can get your hands on three nights accommodation in a Pool view room, welcome drinks, two extra lush Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach Towels (so that from now on, your mates will know you’re high-rollers), and you’ve even got an extra hundred bucks to splash on dinner at Estate Taqueria or Shutters Restaurant. Yum.
If reading this list has left you ready to dust off the ol’ suitcase, pop these places at the top of your local escapes bucket list and head to IHG.com to view their range of handpicked holidays that will make you forget you ever wanted to go to the Italian Riviera.
You can also explore more handpicked escapes from across IHG hotel and resort destinations in Australia and New Zealand, including Crown Plaza Canberra and Crown Plaza Queenstown. Plus, sign up to IHG Rewards Club for the rockstar treatment, BYO roadie.
Editor’s note: this article was produced in partnership with IHG Hotels. Thank you for supporting the partners who make Urban List possible. To read our editorial policy, click here.
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