Traveling to Australia is a huge bucket-list item for most, and experiencing summer Down Under is many a travelers dream. Though what the rest of the world doesn’t realize is that Australia’s winter is a fabulous time of year.
With temperatures which are warm, though not excessively hot, and with far fewer crowds, though still packed with things to do, Australia’s winter is this summer’s best kept secret…and your wallet will thank you for it too!
Not only will choosing the coldest time of year save you cash on your airfare, but better deals on tours, rentals, day trips and bucket list activities too. Beaches and roads are less crowded, flies and mosquitoes aren’t out in full force, and June – August is when you’ll stumble into some of the most happening Aussie festivals of the year.
Here are a few destinations to include if you’re willing to consider winter in Australia over the Northern Hemisphere’s summer.
The Best Places to Visit in Australia During Winter
Sydney for VIVID Live
Sydney is a fantastic choice of destination all throughout the year. Traveling during winter means access to a huge number of sports, festivals and art attractions, as well as adventure, shopping and a fantastic culinary scene, and with “dazzling light shows, sparkling winter nights and mild sunny days, Sydney’s winter time becomes play-time for everyone.”
The city is the beautiful backdrop to the much-loved winter festival of lights, music and ideas, Vivid Sydney, staged at various venues across the city. This is the largest party of lights, music and ideas in the Southern Hemisphere.
Usually scheduled for May/early June each year, VIVID features free nightly light shows and incredible art installations, LED-bejeweled boats cruising the harbor, live music, creative conferences, and the sails of the legendary Sydney Opera House illuminated with mesmerizing 3D projections.
Book in to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge during VIVID Live – not only is the climb incredibly adventurous and will keep your adrenalin pumping, but you’re greeted with spectacular views over Sydney once at the top.
NSW Coast for Whale Watching
Southern Hemisphere whales migrate north for the winter, meaning NSW in May holds fantastic opportunities for whale watching allowing tourists to catch a sight of them breach and splash.
Whales can be spotted along the coastline from the headlands, or via whale watching tours by boat or air. The whales pass very near many parts of Australia during their quest to breed.
There is a free smartphone app to get the latest whale sightings, record your own, and learn more about these amazing mammals.
Just practice caution if planning on jumping in after them – more than whales that occupy Australian waters!
The Outback Road Trip
No trip to Australia is complete without a road trip, and there is nothing really like exploring the Land Down Under by driving yourself. Connecting tropical Darwin to the desert city of Alice Springs, the Stuart Highway cuts straight through the Outback of the Northern Territory, and passes by Australia’s most iconic natural attraction, Uluru (Ayers Rock).
The winter weather is much more suitable for Outback road-trips; during summer you will literally find yourself steaming in 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the flies and mosquitoes come out in full force. This is the driest time of the year too; with a tropical climate the Northern Territory really only has two distinct seasons, the ‘Wet’ and the ‘Dry’. Traveling during winter from May – August means avoiding increased humidity as well as monsoonal rains and storms.
Renting a camper van will start from around $100 AUD per day. This is one of the most beautiful and iconic parts of the country, and the closest you will come to driving through Mars or the moon while still on earth.
As true an Australian experience as you can get, Arnhem Land is unspoiled and incredibly remote – 91,000 square kilometres of tropical wilderness in Outback Australia.
The oldest living culture in the world originates here (dating back 50,000+ years), and the small population of Aboriginal Australians who do continue to live off the land have kept their traditional culture largely intact. Access to Arnhem Land is so restricted that only selected tour operators who have earned the trust of traditional landowners may bring visitors in.
The region boasts incredible barramundi fishing, crystal clear coastal waters for amazing snorkeling and scuba diving, and of course the intimidating yet majestic saltwater crocodiles that will make you feel as though you were in Crocodile Dundee.
Come August, Aboriginal culture gets its due with the Amhem Land’s Garma Festival.
Margaret River, WA
If food and wine is the focus of your travels, then Margaret River is for you. Located 300 km south west of Perth, the Margaret River region is nestled on the most south westerly point of Western Australia. It stretches for about 100km between Busselton and Augusta, covering a pristine, varied landscapes from water shaped rugged cliffs and coastal heathland to gentle hills of the inland to the fascinating Boranup Forest with the giant Karri Trees.
This area is not only famous for premium wines and excellent organic food, it offers a variety of great events and outdoor activities throughout the year which is very hard to beat. Known as Western Australia’s adventure destination, crowds all but disappear once winter hits, offering almost private access to mountain bike trails and great coastal walks like the Cape to Cape Track.
The winter swells on the world-class surf set-ups are some of the best.
Perisher for Winter Sports
Australia’s most popular snow holiday destination, Perisher is the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere, set amidst the picturesque Kosciusko National Park Australia’s famous Snowy Mountains. With four resort parks and 47 lifts, the terrain at Perisher attracts the world’s best skiers and snowboarders as well as local enthusiasts who travel to enjoy the snow.
The main skiing period is in July and August, with the official season running from the second weekend in June to the first weekend of October. The run difficulties are graded 22% beginner, 60% intermediate and 18% advanced.
There’s no better way to spend winter than on an island where it’s almost always summer! 74 Island wonders which line the beautiful tropical coast of Queensland, the WhitSundays are smack bang in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, and the “stunning natural landscapes of coast and islands are dotted with secluded beaches and friendly towns.”
Laze out on the beautiful beaches to enjoy the clear skies and crystal clear water, go snorkeling to explore the diversity of marine life underneath the surface of the sparkling sea, or cruise through the islands and drop anchor for a scuba dive. Head on over to the Daintree for a rugged and World Heritage listed getaway, or spend the day splashing in the clear shallow waters of world famous Whitehaven Beach.
“Whether you choose to base yourself on the coast or on the islands, there’s so much to do, you’ll have to work out how to fit it all in!”
Tasmania for the Southern Lights
The Northern Lights get all the press, though Australia has a natural light show which is just as spectacular. The Southern Lights are elusive, and as such a sighting is incredibly rare, though one of the world’s most impressive spectacles where brilliant luminescent light dances across the night sky, it’s definitely worth attempting to time your visit to Tasmania to align with the Southern Lights.
Theoretically speaking September is usually the best time for viewing the Southern Lights, though they made appearances this year all throughout the winter season. And you can track them on smart phone applications like Star Walk (an interactive astronomy guide), by watching real-time maps via Aurora Forecast or by joining the Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook group which has postings of real-time alerts.
Though for those heading to NZ instead of Aus, there are some great reasons to wander around New Zealand during winter instead.
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Photo Credits: Featured by Kevin Wong. Pinterest photos by Trysil & Crouchy69. Vivid Sydney Opera House by Sacha Fernandez & Jason James. Whales by Percita & Ryan Buterbaugh. Arnhem Land by Mark Roy. Perisher by Franklin Samir Dattein & Fran Tapia. WhitSundays by ilaria. Margaret River by National Film and Sound.