Summertime is high season for visitors to Australia, but did you know that there are a range of exciting activities to keep you occupied year-round?
It may be tempting to visit Australia when the weather is hot, but you can avoid the crowds and enjoy the country’s best activities at any time of the year. Autumn, Winter, and Spring offer visitors the chance to see a different side of Australia - here are our picks on what you should do in the off-season.
Grab your skis and hit the slopes
Yes, it does snow in Australia! The Australian Alps, the highest mountain range in the country, make their way through the states of New South Wales and Victoria, offering numerous ski resorts that open for business during the winter months (June to August). A six hour drive from Sydney will take you to Perisher, which boasts the largest resort terrain in Australasia with a huge number of runs for both beginners and pros. From Melbourne, drive four and a half hours to Falls Creek - a family-friendly, pedestrian-only ski village where all the accommodation, dining, and activities are literally ski-in/ski-out.
Try some fun snow-based activities
During winter, the states of New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania have plenty of opportunities for winter activities while snow is in abundance. At Falls Creek, you can take a snowmobile tour with one adult driver and one passenger (adult or child) per vehicle. A dog sled tour at Mt Hotham will take you through the pristine wilderness of Alpine National Park, and includes 15 minutes of pats and cuddles with the friendly team of dogs. Try spotting wombats frolicking around Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, or take a snowshoe tour at Mt Buller during the day or at twilight where you can explore the mountains at their peak winter beauty.
Hunt for delicious truffles
In the south of Western Australia, winter means truffle season. This Australian state digs up more black truffles than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere and sends them off to the world’s top restaurants. Visitors to the region can join dog-led hunts for this valuable fungi, so swing by Manjimup (a truffle hotspot just three and a half hours drive southwest of Perth) for the annual Truffle Kerfuffle festival each June. Truffles can also be found nearer to the east coast, with The Truffle Festival in Canberra offering visitors plenty of opportunities to taste truffles between June and August. The entire Canberra region comes alive with truffle-inspired menus, cooking classes, and markets.
Spot some migrating whales
Australia is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching as these giant marine animals migrate along the east and west coastlines between May and November. Down south, you can see humpback and southern right whales coasting through clear waters off the Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania's east coast. In Jervis Bay, three hours drive south of Sydney, you're almost guaranteed a humpback whale sighting. Stand atop the steep cliffs around Victor Harbor’s Encounter Bay and watch southern right whales come to breed, or book a boat tour to see them play with their calves further out to sea. Queensland’s whale hotspot is Hervey Bay, three and a half hours drive north of Brisbane, where humpback whales stop with their young.
Enjoy the dry season in Northern Territory
The red landscapes and national parks of the Northern Territory are amazing at any time of year, but the mild weather in winter makes this the most popular time to visit this state. Between June and August, the humidity is low and the mornings and evenings are pleasantly cool while the days are warm and sunny. Enjoy the season by jumping into a waterhole such as Berry Springs near Darwin (a favourite with locals), or the spectacular Gunlom Falls in Kakadu National Park. Try sampling Asian street foods at Darwin’s Mindil Beach Sunset Market, and head down to the Red Centre to visit the Field of Light installation, which illuminates the desert at Uluru.
Get cosy for a truly Tasmanian winter
As Australia’s southernmost state, Tasmania feels winter the most, but the locals have embraced the chilly temperatures to make the season a magical experience. MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) hosts the midwinter festival Dark Mofo each June, featuring a grand winter feast attracting thousands of food lovers. Visit Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, often covered in snow during winter, and follow the Enchanted Walk through rainforest bejewelled with frost. Follow the Tasmanian Whisky Trail to warm up from the inside, visiting distilleries between Hobart and Launceston, and cosy up by the fire in a luxury lodge at Saffire in Freycinet National Park, sitting beside the spectacular Wineglass Bay.
Wander through some winter festivals
Australians love to spend time outside, and this trait is obvious even throughout the winter. Vivid festival lights up the city of Sydney throughout May and June with massive projections that transform skyscrapers, streets, and landmarks in one of the world’s most beautiful light shows. Head to Sovereign Hill in regional Victoria for the Winter Wonderlights festival which features Christmas in July celebrations, with decorations filling the window displays and the smell of Christmas treats drifting through the air. Also in July, Tasmania’s Huon Valley is the scene of Mid-Winter Fest. This hearty festival includes a welcome ceremony with fire twirlers set in an apple orchard, along with cider, bonfires, and feasts.