6 of Australia's most enchanting winter festivals

Lavish light shows, pagan rituals and some of the world's finest artworks can be seen in Australia's winter festivals. 6 of Australia's most enchanting winter festivals
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6 of Australia's most enchanting winter festivals

Lavish light shows, pagan rituals and some of the world's finest artworks can be seen in Australia's winter festivals.


By Paul Chai

Created to encourage people to reclaim the cold winter nights, Australia's winter festivals – such as Sydney's Vivid and Hobart's Dark Mofo – have become dates that cannot be missed. Whether celebrating European art masters, off-centre modern artworks or some of the world's best music, Australian winter festivals are hot calendar events.

The best of Australia in winter

VIVID SYDNEY

Vivid Sydney’s festival of light, music and ideas (26 May-17 June 2017) is an essential winter activity, drawing people into the city centre with famous light shows projected onto landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House. "Light walks” take in specially commissioned artworks that use light in clever ways, from cathedrals made of fairy lights to giant glowing animals. There is also an amazing program of international acts, many of whom play at the Opera House. The 2016 Vivid Live program included performances by UK act New Order and Perth producer Ta-ku as well as a series of talks with the artists. This is one of the Australia’s finest ways to party away the winter blues.

BONDI WINTER MAGIC

There is something surreal about strapping on ice skates and sliding onto an ice rink metres from the sands of Bondi Beach. In June and July Bondi Winter Magic is a winter festival that ensures the beach is busy all year round. Families can get Pete the Penguin to help smaller children on the ice. He is large and plastic, and helps children to balance while they're learning, all with the sound of the famous Bondi waves crashing in the background. Surrounding the ice rink are street art exhibitions and buskers. Bondi businesses get into the spirit by offering deals on food and drinks for after the skating.

MELBOURNE WINTER MASTERPIECES

When the colder months descend on Melbourne so too does the annual blockbuster art exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. Since 2004 the Winter Masterpieces series has attracted millions of visitors each year to see classic artists. The 2016 offering, Degas: A New Vision, presented more than 200 works by French artist Edgar Degas. In 2017 Van Gogh and the Seasons (28 April-9 July 2017) will feature Dutch post-impressionist Vincent Van Gogh and his obsession with catching the light of the changing seasons. Curated by Sjraar van Heugten, the former head of Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum, this exhibition will be exclusive to Melbourne, so brave the winter and get on down.

DARK MOFO

Dark Mofo (8 - 21 June 2017) – a festival that started at Mona (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart – is a celebration of winter in Tasmania. But it is not your ordinary festival. Just like Mona, Dark Mofo likes to do things a little differently. You might find art installations in a former mental asylum, see a giant musical instrument spewing fire in the streets, or experience a pagan ritual with shots of beetroot and bull's blood. In the 2016 festival there was a ritual burning of traditional Balinese papier-mache monsters and a return of Blacklist, the event's late night club. Dark Mofo is a uniquely Tasmanian event that has been embraced by the locals, who have proved they are up for just about anything in the coldest, darkest winter nights in Australia.

CITY OF PERTH WINTER ARTS FESTIVAL

In Perth, winter is celebrated with a three month program of arts, culture and performances at the City of Perth Winter Arts Festival. Last year's highlights included a cabaret performance to celebrate the life of David Bowie, an intimate chat with US comedian Billy Crystal and the Perth Poetry Festival. On the music program there was a free celebration of West Australian artists at the new Elizabeth Quay precinct, as well as international artists and a musical tribute to the films of Indiana Jones by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. The whole city gets involved, with free performances in the city centre, street art and illuminations.

WINTER REDS CELLAR DOOR WEEKEND

Winter was made for drinking red wine, and the Winter Reds Cellar Door Weekend in the Adelaide Hills wine region is the perfect way to experience some of Australia’s best drops. More than 30 wineries in the region will be starting up a log fire, pulling up a comfortable chair and making some of their best vintages available for guests to sample. Special events at the wineries include tapas nights, wine-matched dinners and pairing red wines with wood-fired pizza. There are nights dedicated to shiraz, to learning more about wine and to celebrating the winning combination of wine and cheese.

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