Hot in the City: 13 Cool Urban Escapes

While often we want to getaway to a quiet little spot and do not much more than sit back on the verandah, sometimes, just sometimes, we’re looking to get out of town and go-go-go. We want theatre! Festivals! Top restaurants! Galleries, street-art and hidden bars! But most of all, we want to absorb the character of a new city. What makes this place tick, what gets people excited and, importantly, what’s the latest cuisine trend? What do we love about it, what are we not-so fond of, and what compares or makes us appreciate our own all the more.

Australia’s cities are diverse, full of personality and bursting with things to do. Plan a weekend around an event you’ve always wanted to check out, or simply wander the streets, doing your own thing – you’ll be surprised what you stumble upon. Just add a luxe stay in a cool locale, and your urban escape is sorted. Ready, and – go!

MELBOURNE

Where to begin? This is the city that has it all, the one you want to take home to meet the parents because you know you're in it for the long haul (we’re not biased). Stop for a perfect latte in between trawling local boutiques, take on the array of chef’s tasting menus, and sip cocktails in standing-room-only bars. Walk the back streets and laneways to find graffiti at every turn better than the last, watch live music in grungy bars and live matches at “The G”. There’s something for all tastes in this eclectic and vibrant city.

Where to stay?

Ovolo Laneways, Melbourne CBD

Ovolo Laneways is a boutique hotel that delivers an unconventional experience that's perfectly suited to fun, on-trend types. Which means no cookie cutter lobbies and a whole lot of awesome. The penthouse has a pinball machine, and every room has a blackboard to scribble on, free mini-bar to raid, take home loot bags and Grab n’ Go breakfasts. Plus the hotel's design exudes an effortless cool matched to that of city. Ovolo is smack bang in the middle of Melbourne’s laneway dining scene, so you’ll be aperitif sipping in concealed bars, and indulging in the most fashionable cuisine around. In a word: Divine.

Captain’s Retreat B&B, Williamstown


Just outside of Melbourne in beachy Williamstown you’ll find Captain’s Retreat, a stunning urban B&B with a chequered history including being a nunnery and a brothel (not at the same time, of course). This charming Victorian home is walking distance from restaurants, shops and yachts, and boasts stunning views across Port Phillip Bay. We recommend enjoying Melbourne’s sparkling night lights from the terrace, or helping yourself to a plate of cake for dessert before curling up by the fire. If you want to experience the city but relax away from the flurry, this is a great choice.

If the timing is right, why not check out these?
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, February – March 2015 
Melbourne International Comedy Festival, March 2015 
Spring Racing Carnival, November 2015 

HOBART

Hobart shows up on destination hotlists year-after-year – and with good reason. With its blend of art and culture, historic architecture and waterfront scenery, top-notch eats and drinks; it’s an incredibly charming spot for a getaway. MONA (of course you’ll be going) requires at least a day – following the art, you’ll order cheese and beer at Moo Brew, partake in a heady wine tasting at Moorilla Estate, and then sink into a beanbag on the lawn. Back in the hub, stroll the Salamanca esplanade, dine on fresh seafood, and sample the range of ales on offer in Battery Point's pubs. And let's not forget all the natural beauty Hobart boasts – you can hike up Mount Wellington, cruise to Bruny Island or simply choose a park bench, sit back and take in the view.

Where to stay?

Salamanca Wharf Hotel, Hobart

For a rest that reflects the character of the city, you can’t go past Salamanca Wharf Hotel. Nestled between two sandstone warehouses on the famous Castray Esplanade, this boutique beauty places you right in the midst of the highlights. The hotel faces the wharf, and you can step out the backdoor and into the bustling marketplace. The surrounding strip of Georgian stunners includes some great pubs and restaurants to try in between excursions. And when you’re done soaking it all up, kickback in Eames chairs and sip wine from the locally curated mini-bar.

Lenna Penthouses, Hobart

Where better to take in the city than from the rooftop of a heritage hotel, at the exclusive Lenna Penthouses. Here you have a bird’s eye view of Hobart, looking across the harbour to Mount Wellington. Besides the breathtaking outlook and wraparound balcony to enjoy it from, these suites offer plush spots to lounge and an array of high-tech gadgets to entertain (i.e. remote-controlled blinds so you can sleep-in after a night drinking vintage champagne at the Chandelier Lounge). A kitchen is at your disposal, but with an incredible room service menu, it may remain as pristine as when you arrived.

If the timing is right, why not check out these?
Ten Days International Arts Festival, March 2015
DARK MOFO, June 2015
The Taste of Tasmania, December 2015

SYDNEY

Pack your sequins, perfect your tan and get ready to turn-up the glam and the volume. This is the oh-so-fashionable of Australia's cities, the place to fill your wardrobe with wares from the Balmain markets to Surry Hills' boutiques; you’ll be exhausted from the search, but you’ll look damn good in your finds. And then there are the ‘see and be seen’ beaches covered in bronzed bodies. The best way to take in the coast is to walk, from Bondi to Bronte to Coogee, stopping for frozen treats and iced drinks along the way.

Where to stay?

The Russell Hotel, The Rocks

A cosy small-hotel vibe fills the whole of this boutique beauty, infusing it with the atmosphere of a B&B with plenty of attentive hosts. You’ve got the kind of friendly hospitality you’d expect in the country, a quaint French-provincial decor, and yet, you’re right in the thick of the action, at The Rocks; a famous section of Sydney’s habour-side with bustling weekend markets, charming bluestone buildings and covetable water views. And we’ve saved the best part for last: The Russell Hotel’s rooftop garden has an outlook all the way to Circular Quay, and is a great spot to lap up the sun and watch the bustle below.

Bondi Aqua, North Bondi

Bondi is undoubtedly Sydney’s most iconic beach. It’s got the golden babes, sand and sun, the gnarly waves and scorching bods, the headland-topping mansions, and the über popular Gelato Messina. And what better way to take all this good stuff in than to perch in a breezy penthouse, and watch the world go by. Enter Bondi Aqua. A classic beachy retreat designed for relaxation; with timber floors to cool your feet, retractable doors to let in the fresh, coastal air, balconies to sit back with your morning coffee or sunset drink, and views in every direction, from the Sydney Harbour to the sea. The North Bondi location is ideal: Close to the city, far enough from the hustle of the main strip, but only 800 metres stroll to the beach and shops.

If the timing is right, why not check out these?
Mardis Gras, February 2015 
Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival, April 2015
Vivid Sydney, May 2015 

THE GOLD COAST

Sunny, highly saturated, impetuous and in your face – The Gold Coast is to Queensland what Las Vegas is to Nevada. Here, anything goes. You’ve got the meter-maids, the teeming theme parks, and the strips of nightclubs (there’s even a venue with beds instead of lounges – care to jump in with a cocktail and a few fellow patrons?). But it’s not all gauche. The beaches are stunning, the surf is always good, and the dining and shopping are plentiful. Party in Surfers Paradise, or relax around the laidback beaches of the south, where the culture is more akin to Byron Bay. Or skip the high-octane and high-rises of the city and head to the hinterland, where you can enjoy rainforest walks, waterfalls and spectacular views.

Where to stay?

The Gold Coast Sky Home, Surfers Paradise

On the 60th floor of a Surfers Paradise high-rise is a luxurious penthouse with loads of style – The Gold Coast SkyHome boasts all the glitz and glamour to make you feel like a movie star. And the views, oh the views. We actually wouldn’t be surprised if your trip here was spent mostly ogling the jaw-dropping panoramas. The interiors are minimalist and elegant, and there’s plenty of space for everyone to spread out. You’ve got a chef’s kitchen at your disposal, or if you’d rather not cook, there’s great dining on your doorstep. Cool-off with a swim in the lagoon-style pools (yes, multiple), relax with a day-spa treatment, or just lounge around your plush apartment. It's a hard life.

Blue Ocean Apartment, Palm Beach

Blue Ocean Apartment is the kind of laidback place that makes you want to linger for a week or few. Planted on the shores of the peaceful Palm Beach, here, you're a good distance from The Gold Coast crowds. There’s a gentle river mouth perfect for swimming (especially if you’ve got littlies), a palm-shaded pool, tennis courts, mini-golf, barbecues and a giant chess set, so you won’t be short of outdoor fun. The apartment interiors are full of colour, and sliding glass welcomes in ocean views. Sit back on the balcony with your morning coffee, and breathe in the salty air. If you want to unwind on The GC, this is your hot pick.

If the timing is right, why not check out these?
Quiksilver Pro and Roxy Pro, February 2015 
Surfers Paradise Festival, April 2015

BRISBANE

The up-and-comer of Australia’s cities, Brisbane has been making strides on the scene of late. Head to West End and you’ll find hot bars and delicious dining, hit Paddington for pre-loved treasures and organic eats, or simply make the most of the balmy weather and stroll beside the river (with a cheeky beer stop or two along the way). And art lovers, make sure to add GOMA to your itinerary – this gallery deserves to be placed amongst Australia’s coolest.

Where to stay?

Oxygen Apartments, Brisbane CBD

At the edge of Brisbane’s CBD in the trendy Spring Hill, Oxygen Apartments contain a range of mod crash pads within easy reach of the highlights. From loft-style bedrooms to huge house-sized suites, each boasts fresh design, tonnes of space, and a balcony to appreciate the breeze this elevated site welcomes. This hilltop spot is ideal – not only for the killer views, but also for the feeling you’re removed from it all (though the city centre is only a short walk away). This urban escape even has green space, and an outdoor lap pool. Plus the required spa, sauna and, ahem, gym. City living doesn’t get much better.

If the timing is right, why not check out these?
Bites & Brews Laneway Festival, February 2015 
Valley Fiesta, August 2015 
Brisbane Festival, September 2015

PERTH

Want to hit another time zone without leaving the country? Then head west – you’ll be on a completely different clock and you’ll feel like it too. Perth is pretty laidback, so prepare to slow down. Here you’ll laze on the beach, soak up the great weather and sip iced-cold brews. It's hot enough to be out-and-about during the day – cycling, snorkelling, or just going for a dip – and then that coastal breeze comes through to cool everything down by late afternoon. Back from the beaches, you’ll find a fab mix of culture, history, dining and regional wines.

Where to stay?

Coral Street Cottage & Silver Street Studio, South Fremantle

Midway between Fremantle proper and South Beach you’ll find Coral Street Cottage and Silver Street Studio. Once a 19th century fisherman’s cottage, then an artist’s space and gallery, and now two hideaways with cool bohemian vibes. All heritage charm on the outside and eclectic décor on the inside, a mix of antiques and oriental designs decorate the spaces. On the sunny north-facing balcony, just outside the doors of the former kiln-room-come-mediation-room, sits a clawfoot tub overlooking the courtyard. Grab the mountain bikes that come with the house and take a spin around town or along the coast, and then return to chill out in the open-air bath. Bliss.

Freostay, White Gum Valley

Yes, Perth is way west, but at Freostay, you’ll feel like you’ve actually travelled to another part of the world. Just a fifteen-minute walk from Fremantle’s hub, this getaway is designed to give you a taste of African village life. Set amongst huge old Tuart trees are two suites that share access to a ‘Shebeen’, where there’s a kitchen, BBQ, and bar with stools to perch on. Each of the cabins is completely separate, and each has its own private outdoor area decked out with daybeds. All of the spaces are designed in exotic style, with patterns and hues that invoke the spirit of savannah landscapes.

If the timing is right, why not check out these?
Perth International Arts Festival, February 2015
Socceroos World Cup qualifier, TBC 2015

ADELAIDE

Typically the quiet achiever, around the start of each year Adelaide really takes the stage. Host to some very cool events – such as The Garden of Unearthly Delights – in February the Botanic Gardens comes to life with fairy lights and food trucks, bars serving sublime cocktails, and tents with all the theatrics to entertain. But don’t get us wrong; the city is inviting to travellers year-round. From beaching and brunching to fine dining and winery hopping, this is a great place to rejuvenate and slow down the pace.

Where to stay?

Thorn Park in the City, Adelaide CBD

If you’re coming for one Adelaide’s awesome cultural events, you'll want to crash close-by. And as the name suggests, Thorn Park is, in fact, in the city. Being just behind Hutt Street means you’ve got an array of excellent dining right on your doorstep – and that’s just the start. Stroll around parklands, stop in at galleries and shop in Rundle Mall. In the evening, head to a show or performance followed by dinner and drinks. And at the end of big days exploring, return to the simple elegance and modern comforts of your urban townhouse. To top it all off, open the kitchen pantry and you’ll find gourmet goods, delectable breakfast provisions and espresso pods to replenish your energy.

Adelaide Luxury Beach House, Henley Beach

Situated just 15-minutes from the Adelaide CBD on the shores of Henley Beach, Adelaide Luxury Beach House really is just that. With uninterrupted ocean views from all three levels and South Australian wine to settle in with, the hardest decision you'll have to make is which part of this lavish home to enjoy first. We'd recommend heading up to the rooftop terrace for a sundowner – it makes for a pretty inspiring spot to plan your trip's activities. 

If the timing is right, why not check out these?

Adelaide Fringe Festival, February 2015 
WOMADelaide, March 2015
ICC Cricket World Cup, March 2015