Things to do in Australia's winter
Whether you love tropical escapes or snowy mountain getaways, winter in Australia has something for everyone.
By Allie Metz
Winter in most parts of Australia is from June to August. For the Northern Territory, this falls within the ‘dry season’, making it an ideal time to visit the north of the country, including Darwin, the Top End and the Kimberley. From balmy afternoons in the north to freezing temperatures and snow in many places south of Sydney (head to the Australian Alps and Tasmania if you’re keen for a white winter), travelling to Australia during winter is pleasant and offers a diverse range of activities and attractions to discover.
Winter in Australia is generally less crowded, but you may find more local families in the ski fields during mid-July when schools have their break period. Learn more about where to visit and great things to do across the country in winter.
Top things to do in Australia’s winter
Thaw out in Darwin and the Top End
While southern Australia freezes through winter, it’s the dry season in Darwin and the Top End, bringing warm, sunny days and cool nights. It’s ideal weather for exploring the many exciting attractions in Darwin, such as the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, cage swimming with a crocodile or seeing a film under the open skies at Deck Chair Cinema. Head 115 kilometres (70 miles) south to Buley Rockhole in Litchfield National Park to frolic in a series of connected swimming pools with clear waters. Lounge about as the stream bubbles past or continue on to the park's signature swimming hubs, Wangi and Florence Falls. Further south is Nitmiluk National Park where you can canoe in ancient gorges, see Aboriginal rock art and swim in natural plunge pools.
Explore the ancient beauty of Broome and The Kimberley
If a winter wonderland is not your idea of a relaxing holiday, head to Australia’s remote Kimberley region for balmy weather that will thaw you out. As winter is the dry season, it’s the perfect time to visit this stunning part of Australia. Take a scenic flight over the Bungle Bungle Ranges, cruise the coastline or escape to luxurious El Questro Homestead. Don’t miss Broome’s pearl farms and its spectacular show known as The Staircase to the Moon. Every full moon, from March to October as the moon rises, its light reflects off the exposed mudflats of Roebuck Bay, creating a “staircase” that leads up to the heavens. It’s the ultimate romantic way to end an evening.
Swim with whales on the Great Barrier Reef
The mild temperatures and low humidity of winter make a visit to the Great Barrier Reef a spectacular experience. It also has the added benefit of being outside of stinger season (November to May), so snorkelling trips don’t require that you wear a wetsuit. Winter is the height of whale season in Australia and there are some incredible opportunities to spot and interact with these majestic creatures. From Cairns or Port Douglas, you can head out with Mike Ball Dive Expeditions to swim with curious and playful dwarf minke whales.
Stargaze at an outback sky in the Red Centre
With cooler days and chilly nights (sometimes below freezing temperatures), Australia’s Red Centre is a fantastic winter retreat. See the impressive monoliths of Uluru and Kata Tjuta from camel, segway, motorcycle or helicopter, walk the Larapinta Trail or wander the incredible Field of Light installation featuring 50,000 solar-powered stems. Be sure to stay out late enough to admire the impressive outback sky. Far from city lights, stars seem bigger and brighter here. Listen to Aboriginal stories and legends of the night sky on the guided stargazing tour at Ayers Rock Resort. It's a journey across the Milky Way with the resort's resident astronomer, using telescopes, binoculars and iPads. For something a bit quirky, be sure to visit Alice Springs for the annual Camel Cup. This colourful outback festival is a weekend-long party. Some camels are born athletes, while others aren’t even interested in running, making for a hilarious day on the track.
Cosy up at a cellar door near Adelaide
Misty mornings over the green rolling hills of South Australia’s wine regions will put you in the mood to relax in front of a toasty fireplace - with wine in hand. Perch yourself in a cosy cellar door to savour the rich red wines the region is famous for. The Flinders Ranges is also spectacular in winter thanks to the respite from the outback summer heat and an abundance of wildlife to spot. Be sure to join in the fun at any one of the great winter festivals on the events calendar for Adelaide and the surrounding area. For a truly unique adventure, take the two-day Swim with Giant Cuttlefish tour that takes you snorkelling with the amazing giant cuttlefish at Stony Point, located on the coastline of the Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park in the Eyre Peninsula.
Be part of the action in Perth and the surrounding regions
Start your winter adventures in Western Australia’s capital city with Perth City Winter Fest, featuring a range of free and ticketed events that take advantage of the cool, sunny days. It’s also a great time of year to head south to the Margaret River region to celebrate truffle season. One of the most revered delicacies, black Perigord truffle season in Manjimup is June to September and you can join a hunt for the prized fungus, take a cooking class or enjoy a themed degustation dinner paired with the region’s finest wines. There’s lots of action happening north of Perth as well. Head up the Coral Coast to Ningaloo Reef to swim with friendly whale sharks and humpback whales on their migration.
Shred the ski fields near Melbourne
The southern state of Victoria can be quite chilly in winter, but Melbourne knows how to keep things toasty. Every visitor should experience the excitement of an Australian Football League (AFL) game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground where the rivalry can get heated. Spend an evening strolling the Winter Night Market at the Queen Victoria Markets where you can enjoy street food, roaring fires, specialty shopping, spiced mulled wine and live music. For a day of adventure in the mountains, head to Mt Buller or Mt Baw Baw (two to three hours from the city) to ski, snowboard, snowshoe or even go dog sledding. You can thaw out with a soak in a thermal hot spring on the Mornington Peninsula or, for a bit of winter magic the whole family will love, head to Sovereign Hill for the Winter Wonderlights Festival.
Hike snow-dusted trails in Tasmania
It may be cold in Tassie over winter, but it’s still a great time of year to head outdoors and experience all that’s on offer. Head to Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park to hike through snow-dusted trails, spotting wildlife and hopefully catching a glimpse of the southern lights along the way. It’s also a great time of year to experience some of the festivals that are on. Head to Hobart for the midwinter festival Dark Mofo. Highlights include the food lover’s Winter Feast and the Winter Solstice Nude Swim. It’s also time for Tasmanian Whisky Week, which offers an incredible calendar of events celebrating the warming drink.
Discover black gold during truffle season in Canberra
Winter is truffle season in Australia, and Canberra has truffle-inspired events happening as part of its annual Truffle Festival. Experiences range from truffle hunting and cooking classes to themed degustation meals. Canberra is also conveniently located about 2.5 hours from many of the country’s best ski fields, making it the perfect day trip from the city. Head out of town for a day on the slopes of Perisher, Thredbo or Selwyn. Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, you can enjoy a day in a winter wonderland snowshoeing, dog sledding or tobogganing. Canberra is also well-positioned for a day trip to Jervis Bay where you can enjoy a dolphin or whale watching cruise as they migrate north for winter.
Get active in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast
The ‘humpback highway’ extends through southern Queensland, so head to Hervey Bay for epic whale watching adventures with Spirit of Hervey Bay, or jump on board with Sunreef Mooloolaba in the Sunshine Coast to swim with these gentle giants. If you’re here in August, don’t miss the Curated Plate - a four-day food festival featuring the best chefs from Australia and around the world. One-hour south of Brisbane is the family-friendly Gold Coast, with its world-class theme parks and wildlife parks where you can cuddle a koala. It’s also home to the Gold Coast Marathon held every July.
Experience winter festivals in Sydney
Sydney is an absolute stunner in winter, often treating visitors to clear blue skies and cool conditions during the day before the temperature drops as the sun goes down. Head out on the harbour for a whale watching tour or spot them from the shore as you walk the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Trail. Bondi also plays host to the annual City2Surf - a 14-kilometre (8.7-mile) fun run that attracts over 80,000 participants. If you’re visiting in early June you can catch the end of Vivid Sydney to see the city transformed with light installations and projections. Just west of the city, the Blue Mountains are celebrating Yulefest where you can experience the festive cheer, and maybe even some snow.