Aurora Australis, Cradle Mountain, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, TAS © Pierre Destribats

Things to do in Australia at night

Vivid Sydney, Sydney, NSW © Destination NSW

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.

Here’s how to see Vivid over three nights

2KW Bar and Restaurant, Adelaide, SA © SATC

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.

Discover Adelaide’s best rooftop bars

NightFest, Floriade, Canberra, ACT © VisitCanberra

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.

Find out more about Floriade

Dark Mofo, Hobart, TAS © Chris Levine, Dark Mofo, Lusy Productions

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.

Discover Tasmania’s other winter secrets

Reefsleep Experience, Great Barrier Reef, QLD © Chris McLennan Photography

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 daytrippers 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.  

Explore Australia coast to coast with this 10 day itinerary

Movida Next Door, Melbourne, VIC © Visit Victoria

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.

Uncover more laneway secrets

Stargazing, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, NT © Matt Donovan

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.

Find the best spots to stargaze in the outback

Aurora Australis, Cradle Mountain, TAS © Pierre Destribats

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.

Here are the best spots to see the Southern Lights

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