Things to do in Australia at night
Australia may be known for its laid back attitude, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a sleepy place.
From gorgeous beaches and scenic walking trails to captivating museums and infamous attractions, australia has plenty of excitement and entertainment to fill your days. Just make sure you reserve a little energy for exploring the best the country has to offer after the sun goes down.
See the cities light up at Vivid and Enlighten
Australia’s cities love to put on a show, and autumn and winter are the best times to see spectacular displays in Sydney and Canberra. In March, the country’s capital comes to life after the sun goes down with incredible illuminations across the city for Enlighten. The Parliamentary Triangle is transformed into a vibrant arts precinct with free installations, live music and performances all set against a backdrop of stunning architectural projections. In May and June, Sydney transforms into an interactive canvas of brilliant light installations and projections. Vivid Sydney impresses as the Sydney Opera House, Customs House, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Taronga Zoo Sydney are illuminated in brilliant colour and moving images. The program also includes big-ticket music performances, creative conferences, talks and workshops.
Ring in the New Year Aussie style
Ringing in the New Year in Sydney is bucket list experience for many travellers, with over one million people gathering in the harbour to celebrate and watch one of the world’s most famous fireworks displays. You can opt to buy tickets to a fine dining event at one of the city’s harbourside restaurants, or you can grab a picnic basket and head to one of the great viewing spots to watch the main event for free (just be sure to get there early!). There’s pre-show entertainment throughout the afternoon, a family firework display at 9pm and of course, the big finale at the stroke of midnight. However you decide to get amongst the action, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
Explore Australia’s cities by night
Australia’s cities are buzzing every night of the week offering night owls the chance to take part in the fun and exciting experiences that locals take for granted. See the sun set over the skyline from a trendy rooftop bar, hit up a live music venue to watch the newest up-and-coming band take the stage or enjoy a classic indoor activity (theatre, opera or cinema) at an outdoor venue. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a balmy summer evening. Whether you’re happy just wandering through hidden laneways to find the best cocktail, watching a film on Bondi Beach, or prefer to see a famous show with the Sydney Harbour Bridge as your backdrop, there’s no shortage of options to keep your calendar full.
Experience another kind of darkness at Dark MOFO
Even the quiet town of Hobart in Tasmania has its after-hours fun in June when the Dark MOFO festival comes around. This dark and delicious winter arts festival transforms the city into a wonderfully subversive experience. The celebration features industrial public art, light and sound shows, offbeat theatre productions, music, a winter feast, and a nude winter solstice swim in the ice cold Derwent River. Creative takes on the dark theme have included gala costume balls at a funeral home and the public burning of 10,000 fears written on paper by festival goers. Be sure to take advantage of the late openings of the lauded local museum, MONA, that the festival runs in conjunction with.
See the reef at night
Think you can only enjoy the Great Barrier Reef in the light of day? Well, think again! One of the most unique experiences on the reef is Reefsleep Experience, and it’s also one of the best ways to get the reef all to yourself. Cruise Whitsundays takes small groups of visitors to its Reefworld platform for a full day of snorkelling, diving, boat and helicopter rides. When the day trippers and other tours head back to shore at 3pm, Reefsleepers get to stay on for more swimming, dinner and a possible night dive. When the stars come out you’ll snuggle into a swag (a low tent with an in-built mattress, designed for the Australian outback) to sleep in peace.
Wander through a Field of Light
In the Red Centre be sure to head out after dusk to see the award-winning exhibition Field of Light. The exhibition, aptly named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku or ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in local Pitjantjatjara, includes more than 50,000 solar-powered stems that are lit up at sunset and glow throughout the night. In keeping with the desert’s vast scale, the brightly coloured light stems cover an area the size of four football fields. Explore it on your own, or join a tour to see the sunset over the twinkling lights while you sip champagne and nibble canapes. The installation will be on show until 2020, meaning there’s still plenty of time to plan your trip.
Experience Night Fire at Tjapukai Culture Park
Discover the magic of Australia’s ancient Aboriginal culture near Cairns at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. The theatrical performances will take you on a fascinating journey deep into dreamtime legend as you learn about the history and culture of Aboriginal Australians. By day, learn to play the didgeridoo, throw a traditional boomerang or spear, and learn how bush foods were used to create medicinal remedies. Tjapukai By Night is a traditional evening of entertainment with tastes of the far north and an award-winning show. Your face will be painted to link you to the land and you will learn traditional language songs before the ceremonial fire is lit. Dinner features Indigenous flavours and the night finishes with an intimate chat round the fire with Tjapukai warriors.
Gaze at the wonder of an outback night sky
There’s something truly magical about getting away from the city to connect with nature, and Australia’s outback is the perfect place to stop, be silent and take it all in. The night sky is one of the most impressive features, as billions of stars are visible and bright enough to see with the naked eye. Learning how to locate the Southern Cross, a famous constellation visible in Australia, and listening to Aboriginal stories and legends of the night sky is one of outback Australia's most special experiences.
Stare up at the Southern Lights
Another spectacular display to look out for once the sun goes down are the Southern Lights, known as the Aurora Australis. Your best chance at spotting the phenomenon is to head south to Tasmania. While they can be seen (with the right weather conditions and a bit of luck) at any time of year, they are most common in winter. So pay a visit to Tassie between May and August for your best chance at gazing upon the gorgeous waves of green, purple, blue and red.
Find a new view at rooftop bars
With warm evenings and sparkling skylines, much of Australia is ideal for nights spent sipping a drink on a rooftop. Cities across the country offer bustling rooftop bars to enjoy. In Adelaide, visit Rocket Rooftop Bar for vibrant lights and tropical decor, or 2KW Bar and Restaurant for views over the North Adelaide precinct. Head to Sydney’s Smoke harbourside rooftop bar to discover an extensive menu of cocktails, wine and inventive dishes. Melbourne boasts several lively rooftop venues, including Naked in the Sky and Palmz, while Brisbane is spoiled by Soleil Pool Bar, a cocktail bar surrounding a pool.
Celebrate spring at Floriade NightFest
Each year, Australia’s capital city of Canberra transforms with the blooming of thousands of blossoms for Floriade, a celebration of spring. By day, you’ll wander through intricately-organised flower displays and enjoy the buzzing atmosphere, but at night, the excitement is elevated. The calendar changes every year, but you can expect exhilarating after-dark activities like themed dance parties, illuminated flower beds and live music under the stars. Indulge in the night’s entertainment before grabbing a bite to eat at one of several food stalls.
Wander through Melbourne laneways
The laneways of Melbourne are known for their bright and ever-changing street art, but there’s plenty more to discover after dark. Hit the cobblestones for night time dining at one of the laneways’ exciting eateries, like Chin Chin down Flinders Lane. This Thai diner is a local favourite, serving up spicy, shareable plates like suckling pig pancakes. Or, tuck into generous and contemporary Italian fare at Sarti. Enjoy local and Italian wines at the bar, or head up to the rooftop terrace and savour signature dishes. Melbourne’s laneways provide plenty of choice for a nightcap as the evening comes to an end. Check out Bar Americano in Presgrave Place, Section 8 in Tattersalls Lane, or Cherry Bar in ACDC Lane.