" FEDERAL LIBERAL LEADERSHIP BATTLE "  JOHN HOWARD taking an early morning stroll (6.15am) along the beach at Hawk's Nest this morning.

John Howard's pursuits were modest. Photo: Greg White

Winston Churchill famously put Kent on the map with regular trips to the family home, Chartwell.

In the US, the Kennedy compound at Cape Cod is the stuff of folklore, as is Ronald Reagan's southern Californian ranch.

Australia might not boast such presidential-style retreats, but just what resort towns have our prime ministers helped put on the map?

JFK

The Kennedys, Jackie and Jack, enjoyed the sea.

''Politicians are never really off duty, are they?'' says political commentator Bruce Haigh.

''So where they choose to go for their holidays is a statement of sorts.''

Indeed, ahead of the 1996 US election, political strategist Dick Morris held focus groups to determine the best place for Bill Clinton to holiday that year.

Holt

On holiday: Sir Harold Holt at Portsea, in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. Photo: Alan Lambert

A hunting holiday in Arkansas was voted the best.

But while American presidents have traditionally favoured glamorous up-market destinations, most Australian prime ministers have gone to great lengths to downplay their down time.

''Australian people like to see their prime ministers doing what they all do, just going down the beach to veg out,'' says Haigh.

''We definitely don't want to see them with James Packer on his launch at Palm Beach, or in some five-star resort in Port Douglas.

''We want them with a towel over the shoulder in their thongs sucking on an icy-pole and talking to people on the beach.'' In a somewhat unusual move for an Australian prime minister, especially a first-termer, Tony Abbott and family have headed to Europe this year for an exotic white Christmas in France with their Switzerland-based eldest daughter, Louise.

But when they get home, they hope to head down to their traditional January stomping ground of Berrara, on the New South Wales south coast. ''Every January my family and I drive down from Sydney towards Sussex Inlet to the Berrara Beach Park - it's beautiful,'' Mr Abbott has said of the idyll he has visited for almost 15 years. He even campaigned heavily in nearby Shoalhaven during the election.

Former prime minister John Howard and his family spent a couple of weeks every summer at Hawks Nest, north of Sydney, for almost 20 years straight, until unwanted media attention drove the family away in 1998.

The Howards stayed at both Oceanside Motel and The Lodge.

In 1997, pictures of Hawks Nest's sleepy golden beaches were flashed around the nation when the Howard family were holidaying. Voters were urged to complain direct to the prime minister about BHP's decision to scale down its steelworks.

Like Mr Howard, Malcolm Fraser became synonymous with a holiday region during his eight-year reign from 1975 - his parents' grand historic property, Nareen, in Victoria's western district.

Malcolm and Tamie Fraser have long since sold Nareen and bought a smaller plot at Red Hill South, on the Mornington Peninsula. The property would at times open each year to allow the public to visit its extensive gardens.

Turning to the Labor camp, he might have been dubbed Kevin 747 due to his liking for extended overseas travel, but Kevin Rudd also has a taste for luxe at home.

In February 2011, he made headlines soon after his unceremonious dumping from power in 2010 when he and wife Therese spent $3.1 million on a rock star weekender at Castaways Beach, south of Noosa.

Listed on Stayz, you can rent Ocean Blue for between $480 and $1054 a night (depending on the season), with a four-night minimum stay.

Indeed, when the going gets tough in Australian politics, the tough hit the beach.

Like Mr Rudd, Julia Gillard splurged about $2 million in August on palatial digs on Adelaide's chichi Brighton Beach a few months ago.

It's a far cry from her former home, sold for $921 000, in Altona.

As for the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, he has been going to the same beach abode on the Mornington Peninsula for years.

It's not far from where Harold Holt drowned after leaving his Portsea family beach house on the morning of Sunday, December 17, 1967.

Mr Shorten has publicly hailed the ''staycation'' - where you vacation at home - as his idea of a great break.

But don't worry, he did not short-change the family: a few months ago they were all in Bali.