Australia’s nature experiences are striking, inspiring - and sometimes elusive.
Home to enormous crab migrations and perfectly pink lakes, Australia is no stranger to surreal natural phenomenon. Here are six seasonal nature experiences to travel for.
Staircase to the moon, Broome, Western Australia
On each full moon from March to October, something special happens in Broome. As the moon rises, its light reflects off the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay, creating a “staircase” leading up to the moon. The optical illusion is a bewitching sight, with the moon peeking slowly above the horizon. Locals often watch from the open-air bar at the Mangrove Hotel, which offers an excellent vantage point from its position on a dune overlooking the bay. The lights are dimmed, the music is turned down and locals play the didgeridoo as the shimmering moon rises and everyone gazes at the sky. Elsewhere, people roll out their picnic rugs at the nearby night markets of Town Beach and watch in a family-friendly, festival atmosphere with live music and food stalls.
The turning of the fagus, Tasmania
With Australia’s famously sunny summer days, it’s easy to forget that the autumn season brings its own distinct beauty. In Tasmania, from late May to April, you can witness the transformation of a tree from lush green to brilliant reds and golds in what is known as the “turning of the fagus.” The deciduous beech tree, better known as fagus, is found nowhere but Tasmania, offering a unique opportunity for photographers and nature-lovers alike. Fagus prefers cool, damp places, making the remote highlands a favourite spot. The easy two-hour Loop Track, which circles Dove Lake within the stunning Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park, passes through patches of fagus, as does the even easier Weindorfers Forest Walk. For the most spectacular display of fagus, head to Crater Lake. Although Crater Lake is reached by a two-hour return hike from the Dove Lake carpark, the sight of steep slopes covered in a blend of autumn-coloured fagus makes the trip well worth the effort.
Bioluminescent plankton, Jervis Bay, New South Wales
Jervis Bay, located three hours south of Sydney by car, is renowned for its pristine white sand and lush vegetation, but you’ll also find a hidden wonder that’s both bizarre and beautiful. Due to chemical reactions within plankton, the water in Jervis Bay sometimes displays swirls of glowing blue along the shore. This unusual natural phenomenon, which can only be seen at night, can happen at any time of the year, but is more common in spring and summer months when the water is warmer. While the magical display is difficult to predict, the presence of red algae during the day may indicate a higher chance of bioluminescence in the evening. Make sure you have an SLR camera if you want to capture the water; the stunning natural wonder is popular for both professional and amateur photographers.
Lavender fields, Tasmania
Tasmania is home to the largest lavender fields in the Southern Hemisphere, drawing visitors from across the world with their beauty, and it’s not hard to see why. Rows of breathtaking purple bloom in fields not far from Hobart and Launceston. Head to Bridestowe Lavender Estate, Tasmania’s most famous lavender farm, or Port Arthur Lavender Farm to find the picturesque plants along with a variety of soaps, stationary, ice cream and honey - all made with the sweet-smelling lavender. Don’t forget to bring your camera; the fields of purple are one of Tasmania’s most Instagrammable sights.
Wildflower bloom, Australia-wide
In spring, many parts of the country overflow with wildflower blooms: daisies turn meadows into carpets of colour, delicate orchids pop up beside forest paths, and desert peas emerge from the driest of landscapes. Wildflowers can be seen in almost every state in Australia, but highlights include the town of Maree in South Australia, the beautiful Grampians in Victoria and several locations in Western Australia, which is home to more than 12,000 flower species. The blooming season can start as early as June in the north part of Western Australia, but is typically at its prime during the spring months (September to November) in both Western Australia and across the country.
Jacaranda season, Australia-wide
If you’ve ever flown into Sydney in October or November, you may have seen the city at its most spectacular. Not only does the harbour glisten, the sun glint off the Opera House, and the surf roll hypnotically onto the endless string of beaches, but the city is blanketed in swathes of a distinctive light-purple colour sometimes known as jacaranda blue. During jacaranda season, Sydney isn’t the only place in Australia that is transformed by these dramatic blooms. You can visit the Jacaranda Festival in the country town of Grafton in northern New South Wales or see jacarandas weave their magic in Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne, too.
Aurora Australis, Tasmania
Like its Northern Hemisphere counterpart (Aurora Borealis), the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) illuminate the night sky with flickering shades of green, blue, purple and red. Unlike Aurora Borealis, which is subject to extreme seasonal light changes, the Southern Lights can be viewed all year round – although most commonly during winter, May to August, and during the spring equinox in September. Aurora Australis is visible from several spots across the country, but your best chance of witnessing this phenomenon is from Australia’s southernmost state - Tasmania. Head to Bruny Island, Satellite Island, Bathurst Harbour and Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park for the beautiful low-light conditions you need to spot the glimmering light show.