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.
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.
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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.
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.
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 natural experiences.
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.
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 among the Whitsunday Islands. 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.
See Sydney light up
Australia’s cities love to put on a show, and autumn and winter are the best times to see spectacular displays in Sydney. 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!). 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.
Experience after-dark events in Tasmania
With chilly winters and long evenings, Tasmania is the perfect place for fun after the sun goes down. The Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival invites thousands of visitors to wake up the winter with wassailing - a tradition of singing and drinking - and the burning of a wicker man. 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.