Spring: Things to do during September in Australia
From outdoor art exhibitions to once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounters, September turns up the heat on inspirational Aussie experiences.
By Natasha Dragun
September is the first month of spring in Australia. The sun is out, the air is crisp and festival season is upon us, with dazzling events and celebrations taking place across the country as Aussies make the most of the continent's natural assets. A month of beauty and bloom, September could well be one of the best months to visit Australia. Here's how to make the most out of it.
Meet our unique wildlife
Australia is abundant with unique wildlife, from our distinctive marsupials to dugongs and little penguins. Sometimes called sea cows for their love of seagrass, dugongs retire to the warm waters of Queensland every September to give birth. In fact, a calving hotspot is just a short drive from the state capital of Brisbane in Moreton Bay. For wildlife encounters of the smaller kind, make a beeline to Tasmania in September to get the chance to spot the world's smallest penguins. Stick to designated tours, like the one at Little Penguin Observation Centre, to see these oh-so-cute creatures waddle over the sand at dusk.
Sip, slurp, savour – repeat
September is the ultimate month to get a feel for the flavours of Australia. Begin your culinary journey in Sydney, where the city’s famed rock oysters roll over your tongue with rich, creamy goodness. Tides, temperature and weather make them particularly tasty at this time of year. They’re best enjoyed freshly shucked with a squeeze of lemon and eaten alfresco, making the most of spring’s glorious sunshine. At the hint of warmer weather across Australia’s largest city, restaurant tables tumble outside. Which means you can slurp those oysters with a glass of local chardonnay at the base of the Opera House, with the shimmering views of the Harbour Bridge the only thing vying for your attention. Do meals get more memorable than this?
Witness the wonders of nature
There’s nothing quite like witnessing one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Horizontal Falls is a massive movement of water peaking near the September spring equinox. The force of the flow through narrow rock chasms creates the appearance of a waterfall tipped on its side; prepare to get wet as your boat navigates the soaring cliffs that carve through Western Australia’s Kimberley region. The equinox marks the pinnacle of drama of another kind in Tasmania, where the Aurora Australis (the southern hemisphere’s equivalent of the Aurora Borealis) drifts across the night sky like a cartoon ghost, creating a tie-dye of hues. Like the Northern Lights, catching a glimpse of this incredible phenomenon is never guaranteed — the exclusivity making a sighting even more goosebump-inducing.
Walk this way
Unsurprisingly, spring Down Under delivers near-perfect conditions for alfresco activities including walking, trekking and hiking. Whatever you like to call it, the art of stretching your legs in Australia along coastal cliffs or amid the native forest of our national parks, regularly unites exercise with epic views. In many instances, you don’t even need to leave the city to experience Mother Nature’s greatest dramas, with Sydney’s brilliant Bondi to Coogee cliff top stroll only a short bus ride away from the city centre. Other ambles take you further afield, perhaps along Noosa’s scenic shoreline, or around Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island, where your wander brings you within a whisker of a colony of resident sea lions.
Stop to smell the flowers
Flower season hits Australia in spring, with bloom-filled hotspots everywhere from Canberra to the Victorian town of Silvan, 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Melbourne. The former, our nation’s capital, celebrates all things floral during Floriade. Held each September and October, the event delivers a vibrant burst of blooming colour alongside music and comedy. Further south in Silvan, the Tesselaar Tulip Festival is a showcase of almost a million tulips set across two hectares (5 acres) of gardens that look like they’ve been splashed by a rainbow.
Discover Aboriginal culture
Australia is home to a remarkable Aboriginal culture that spans 60,000 years. Among the most spiritual — not to mention beautiful — places to experience this is in the Northern Territory, a region with two seasons: wet and dry. Visit in September and you’ll experience the latter, opening your travel itinerary to a wealth of pinch-me experiences. Visit communities on one of the Timor Sea’s Tiwi Islands, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Darwin, and experience local art and culture while learning Aboriginal philosophies.
Get the party started in Perth
September marks the start of party season in the country’s largest state, Western Australia. In the capital city of Perth, the Kings Park Festival is a charming celebration of spring blooms, with outdoor exhibitions, guided walks and family activities in every nook of the Botanic Gardens. Some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) north lies the frontier town of Broome, a port founded as a pearling town in the 1880s. Its history hits the spotlight at Shinju Matsuri, a multi-day extravaganza paying homage to those glossy jewels and to the migrants who harvested them.
See sculptures with sand between your toes
With endless beaches and equal measures of sunshine, the Gold Coast is one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations for good reason. You can experience September’s Swell Sculpture Festival without even leaving the sand of Currumbin Beach, because many of the event’s 50 large-scale alfresco installations sit just metres from the waves (the guided twilight walks are a highlight). Just a couple of weeks later, creatives head to South Australia’s Kangaroo Island Art Exhibition, hosting more than 300 works across mediums as diverse as painting and photography, sculpture and jewellery.
Enjoy a day at the races
Love an excuse to get dressed up and wear an extravagant hat? Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival is as much about fashion as it is about racing. The festivities begin in September and culminate in November with the Melbourne Cup, a horse race that stops the nation for a few minutes, or for many, an entire day. There’s plenty of entertainment away from the track as well, with the city’s bars and restaurants using the event as an excuse to host lively soirees.
Escape to the Cape
The largest untamed wilderness area in Australia, the Cape York Peninsula is as wild as it is wonderful. This is Queensland’s northern tip, with remote cattle stations and vast wetlands, ancient Aboriginal rock art and tropical rainforest. In a four-wheel drive, you can off-road through unoccupied savannahs during the day and gaze at vast starry skies at night. September is the perfect time to visit, with The Gulf Country Frontier Days Festival highlighting Aboriginal performers in concerts, dance, theatre and even a rodeo.