When escaping the daily grind of Sydney’s buzzing streets, it’s best to follow Dorothy’s lead and pick a path to paradise.

Far from being hidden gems, there’s a reason why Canberra, Mudgee, and the Hunter Valley are considered NSW tourist hot spots.

While you might think of Australia’s capital city as a straight-laced, politician-filled bland destination filled with academia and parliamentary buildings, the truth is it is fast becoming a hotbed of tourism thanks to its burgeoning nightlife, swish restaurants and charming festivals.

But a word of warning: Canberrans love to wine and dine most weekends and this means you may find getting a table at one of its highly acclaimed eateries difficult -” so book in advance. Some of the standout restaurants include Ethiopia Down Under, The Ginger Room and Aft.

The GLBT traveller will find a home at Canberra’s queer nightclub Cube and at gay bar the Hush Lounge.
If you’re taking a break from the scene pop into Moose Heads and perve on the muscle-ripped ADFA cadets, or sample delicious cocktails with the sophisticated crowd at the Old Parliament House bar.

Of course there is also the adult movie and toy suburb Fyshwick for those looking for a break featuring a different kind of adventure.

And pet lovers are not forgotten -” Canberra is a great place to shop for exotic friends like turtles, frogs and lizards. Remember, if you are bringing them home you may need a permit to keep them -” so do your homework before you go shopping.

Those who prefer to head north will be well-pleased with a weekend in the Hunter Valley.
While well-known for its inter-nationally acclaimed vineyards, there is plenty of adventure to be had in the lush green valley about 90 minutes north of Sydney.

Adventure-seekers would do well to take advantage of attractions like hot-air ballooning, water skiing, sailing, skydiving and freshwater fishing.

Better still, there’s no end of gay-friendly accommodation suitable for all budgets. Peppers, the Callicoma Hill Eco-cabins, Misty Glen Cottage and Eaglereach Wilderness Resort have all received big ticks from tourism bodies and past guests.

The valley is also the home of a string of festivals, like Steamfest in Maitland, a celebration of the steam train, the the Festival of Wine and Roses in nearby Singleton. As well, there’s the Broke Village Fair -” which is bulding a strong reputation among antique collectors -” and any one of a number of beach festivals along the Newcastle coastline.

Those who love the vineyards, but have already spent many weekends at the Hunter, should consider a trip to Mudgee.

At just over three hours drive from Sydney, it is ideal for a long weekend away where you can relax and make your way around as many of the 50 wineries as you like.

Make sure you stop and enjoy the stunning landscapes along the way and breathe in some of that crisp, fresh country air.

Mudgee is also home to the Henry Lawson Centre, which boasts the largest collection of the famous Australian writer’s works outside Sydney’s library. Lawson fans can even trace his childhood by venturing along the Wallaby Track at nearby Eurunderee.

info: For more details on Canberra, the Hunter Valley, Mudgee or any other NSW holiday destination visit www.visitnsw.com.

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