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Things to do in Australia at night

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

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.

Read about all of Australia’s big parties

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. 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 opera performance with the Sydney Harbour Bridge as your backdrop - Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour offers an unforgettable evening of song, dance and fireworks, with the sparkling Sydney Harbour as its backdrop. 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. 

Find Australia’s nightlife hotspots

Experience another kind of darkness at Dark MOFO

Even 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

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

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.

Plan your ultimate trip to Australia

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

See 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