Soul-soothing destinations for a COVID-free dream holiday

From Daylesford to Bellingen and Port Stephens, there are holiday options galore.
From Daylesford to Bellingen and Port Stephens, there are holiday options galore.

With COVID-19 travel restrictions easing around the country (except, of course, for those poor souls in parts of Victoria), Aussies can start to stretch our collective legs.

Now's the chance to unpack some of that pent-up pandemic angst with a socially-distanced holiday within our home states ... or dream to the future for a post-COVID staycation destination.

For many, a top spot for a rejuvenating holiday retreat, perfectly suited to dust off a build up of "rona fatigue", or even just a case of the winter blues, might be the country's most easterly coastal nirvana - Byron Bay.

With its stretches of golden sandy beaches, marine life, lighthouse views, intimate cafes, fire-twirling free spirits, bustling music and arts scene, bespoke homewares shops, organic foods, organic clothes, organic celebrities ... well, Byron could be considered the east coast's epitome of a relaxing, soul-recharging Aussie holiday destination.

But if the prospect of blissing out at Byron's not your thing - or you just want to avoid every man and his dog doing just that - there are options.

We were inspired by Vogue Living's list of Byron Bay destination alternatives published pre-COVID and wanted to share our picks from it.

So here are our top five picks of places to rival the beauty and soul-soothing vibes you might seek from northern NSW.

#1. Daylesford, Victoria

A quaint little town in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range of Victoria, Daylesford, has long been considered a special place of healing. It offers visitors a chance to slow down, smell the flowers, and take a long walk up the famous Wombat Hill for expansive views of the township (but not too many people have mentioned seeing wombats unfortunately).

#2. Bellingen, New South Wales

Also an "Instagramably" character-filled destination nestled into the foothills alongside the Great Dividing Range of NSW's Mid-North Coast, Bellingen is a melting pot of artisan diversity where small businesses thrive on their bespoke homewares, handmades, locally-growns and perfectly-crafteds. A visit to Bellingen offers a deeply sensory experience, where the beauty of the landscape hums in time with the general good vibes of the town as they share the fruits of their laborious crafts, arts, music, food and brew. (Again, no wombats, probably).

#3 Margaret River region, Western Australia

Surrounded by the soothing scenes of national parks with their towering forests, pristine coastlines and rugged granite outcrops, the Margaret River region sets the bar for the quintessential WA holiday destination for those Western Australians keen to discover the beauty of their own backyard. Plus we have on good authority, it's also an award-winning wine country with a thriving art scene, sort-after hiking trails, and a distinctly circular food philosophy that leads with a great respect for the land. Ticking lots of boxes.

#4 McLaren Vale, South Australia

Sitting pretty between rolling ranges and picturesque gulf beaches, McLaren Vale is considered the birth place of South Australia's wine industry and offers a rich ensemble of fine wine and produce beautifully balanced by the region's idyllic appreciation for art and the natural beauty abounds. A place to unwind as little or a much as you see fit while appreciating the importance of the natural setting around you.

#5 Port Stephens, NSW

When you drive along the peninsula at Port Stephens it's like arriving in a tropical island oasis of pure coastal gold. It's a treasure-filled place where, at the right time of year, majestic whales and playful dolphins flurry in the waters against a backdrop of giant sand dunes, turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. Yeah it's pretty special and it also brings us to the end of our list of places with a Byron vibe, that aren't Byron.

But, please note, as Australia's small businesses start to open their doors again and regional Australia begins to see the lights come back on for sectors of the economy hit hard by the COVID-19 restrictions, taking a short break to help boost these hard-working businesses and beautiful regional holiday destinations should only be carried out by those free from any COVID-related complications... not from hotspots and with no flu-like symptoms etc.

Enjoy your regional Australia and travel responsibly.

This story Top five dream holiday-at-home destinations first appeared on The Canberra Times.