From the six seasons of Kakadu to the Phantom Falls of the Blue Mountains, Australia has a wonderful array of events throughout the year so visitors can get up close to Australia’s beautiful nature. See birds, plants and animals found nowhere else. There are also 15 World Heritage-listed wonders and more than 500 national parks. Witness coral spawning or turtles hatching on the Great Barrier Reef or Ningaloo Reef. Go whale-watching or wander amongst vivid wildflowers. Gaze at the ‘Staircase to the Moon’ in the Kimberley. Australia is also a delight for bird watching with many migratory species visiting our shores.
Where: New South Wales, ACT, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia
When: January; June – November; August – December
At certain times of the year and at different locations around Australia, you can see a multitude of native Australian wildflowers bloom in a vivid spectacle across the landscape. In January, alpine wildflowers are in full glory in the Australian Alps. From June until November, more than 12,000 species of wildflower can be seen blooming across Western Australia, including hundreds of species of delicate orchids. More than 100 varieties of wildflower can be seen on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, many unique to the island. The most common and popular Australian wildflowers include wattle, bottlebrush, melaleuca, banksia and kangaroo paw.
Where: Western Australia, Talbot Bay, The Kimberley
When: March - May
Located deep within Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago of the Kimberley are the natural phenomenon of the Horizontal Waterfalls, described by naturalist Sir David Attenborough as ‘one of the greatest natural wonders of the world’. A waterfall effect up to five metres high forms as seawater is forced through the narrow gorges of the 1.8 billion year old McLarty Range. At each change of tide, the direction of the fall reverses, creating vast whirlpools on the other side. Catch the best views of the turquoise water rushing between the rugged red hills on a scenic flight or charter cruise.
Where: New South Wales, Jamison Valley, Greater Blue Mountains
When: March – May/September – November
During autumn and spring is the time you are most likely to see the mysterious phenomenon of the Phantom Falls in the Blue Mountains. This natural event is caused by the air in the Jamison Valley being warmed by the sun’s rays and rising to meet the colder air in the Megalong Valley. The resulting curtain of mist creates a ‘waterfall’ effect as much as 800 metres wide and 50 metres high, which falls slowly and dramatically over the cliffs into the valley. Sometimes at night, the ‘falls’ run backwards, creating a spectacular sight under the full moon.
Where: Western Australia, Broome, The Kimberley
When: March – October
Between March and October each year, when conditions are right, the mystical Staircase to the Moon forms for three nights each month in north-west Western Australia. This natural phenomenon occurs when the full moon rises over the mudflats at low tide creating the optical illusion of a staircase reaching for the moon. The best viewing spots are at Roebuck Bay in Broome as well as locations around the Kimberley including Cooke Point in Port Hedland, the Lookout at Cossack, Hearson's Cove near Karratha and Sunrise Beach in Onslow. Local night markets are often held in Broome on these dates.
Where: Ningaloo Reef & Shark Bay, Western Australia; Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
When: March – April; October – December
Every year in March or April, just after the full moon, Ningaloo Reef comes alive as more than 200 species of coral spawn, creating an amazing underwater show as the ocean glows pink. Soon after, gentle whale sharks arrive to feed in the rich waters. Whale shark swimming tours operate out of Exmouth and Coral Bay from mid March to mid July. The coral spawning spectacular also takes place for just a few nights on the Great Barrier Reef between October and December. Join a night snorkelling or scuba diving tour for a dazzling up-close encounter.
Where: New South Wales, Greater Blue Mountains National Landscape
When: April; July – January; August - November
Australia is an annual seasonal stopover for many species of magnificent migratory birds. Each April, Little Penguins return to Kangaroo Island to breed. A large population is also found on Montague Island, where they raise their chicks from July through to January. The migratory Little Tern reaches Australia's Coastal Wilderness in late October after an epic flight from Eurasia. The headland at Mallacoota is a good place to see the colony before they leave in March. From August to November, the clear, blue skies of Western Australia are peppered with flocks of migratory birds making their way around the state.
Turtle nesting and hatching
Where: Great Barrier Reef, Queensland; Ningaloo Reef & Shark Bay, Western Australia; Broome, The Kimberley, Western Australia
When: September – April
The islands and beaches of the Great Barrier Reef are a seasonal refuge for six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle: Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Flatback, Olive Ridley and Leatherback, which come ashore at different times and locations between November and April. At the same time, Green, Loggerhead and Hawksbill turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs on the beaches near Ningaloo Reef. Flatback Turtles can be seen nesting and hatching at Eco Beach north of Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley region between November and January. Visitors can join volunteer conservation programs run by Conservation Volunteers Australia.
Where: North, South, East coasts of Australia
When: May – November
Each winter humpback whales can be seen from many spots along Australia’s east and west coastline as they migrate north from their chilly Antarctic feeding grounds to warmer waters to breed and give birth. For a close-up whale encounter, join an accredited whale-watching cruise. At the Head of Bight whale sanctuary and Victor Harbor in South Australia, southern right whales come to raise their young. Rare blue whales can sometimes be seen at Geographe Bay in Western Australia and Portland in Victoria. On the Great Barrier Reef you can swim with inquisitive dwarf minke whales, an experience found nowhere else.
Where: New South Wales/ACT/Victoria, Australian Alps
When: June – September
Hard to imagine, but it does snow in Australia in winter. Skiing in Australia takes place in the high country of the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory during the months of June - September. Australia has several well developed downhill ski resorts, including the highest at Thredbo and Perisher in New South Wales and Mount Hotham, Falls Creek and Mount Buller in Victoria. Cross country skiing is popular in such national parks as Kosciuszko National Park and Alpine National Park and is also possible within Namadgi National Park and in the Tasmanian Wilderness.
Where: Top End, Northern Territory
In Kakadu National Park, the local Bininj people interpret six different seasons, each offering a completely different perspective on the land. Around April, thundering waterfalls and dazzling lightening displays signal Banggerreng or the ‘storm season’. Drying winds bring the humid season of Yegge in May-June. Wurrgeng from mid June to mid August is the 'cold' time, but temperatures are still around 30°C. From August to October, falls hot and dry Gurrung. Thunderclouds signal the return of Gunumeleng, the pre-monsoon season from October to December. December to March is Gudjewg or the monsoon or ‘wet’ season, when heavy rains are common.