Taking a Winter Holiday in Australia: The Best Time to Travel
A winter break may not be the first thing to come to mind when you travel to Australia. However, Oz is an excellent destination for the winter season. Read on to find out why you should consider a winter holiday in Australia, along with some possible destinations.
A winter holiday in Australia may sound like a bit of a crazy idea.
In fact, plenty of Aussies would agree with this statement, fleeing the country during the cold seasons to travel to warmer destinations in Asia, or spend a month or more partying it up in Europe.
The main problem is we’ve all been brainwashed to believe that an Australian summer is OMG, the best thing ever! In reality, summer is the worst time to visit Australia.
On the contrary, winter in Australia is an opportunity to enjoy all the good that this season brings with it – bonfires, mulled wine, snow, ugg boots and trackie-daks (see translations here), misty mornings – I could go on and on.
To be honest, I spend most of the year hanging out for the cooler seasons. That morning chill, the smell of woodsmoke, cuddling under the doona (duvet), or sprawling out in front of a roaring fire, cup of tea or vino in hand – I live for the winter months and it’s when I plan most of my travel, to boot.
The best bit is that winter temperatures in Australia, unlike other parts of the world, aren’t insane. Sure, it can get mighty cold, but not the type of cold that prevents you from being active and enjoying the season to the fullest.
Plus, it’s the best time to travel in the country! Don’t believe me? WELL THEN.
Here are a few reasons why a winter holiday in Australia could be quite lovely. I’ve also suggested a few places to visit in Australia in the cooler months, categorised by state or territory. You can’t say I don’t spoil you.
Winter Holidays in Australia: Why it’s an Ideal Time to Travel
Read more: What NOT to Do When Visiting Australia
Comparatively speaking, it’s not THAT cold
Contrary to popular belief, it does actually get cold in Australia. Temperatures will drop the further south or inland that you travel in the wintertime.
However, if you compare it with other cold regions of the world – Canada, Russia, Norway, even countries like the UK which are not in the path of the Gulf Stream – it’s really not that cold in Oz.
It can drop below zero overnight depending on where you are in the country and some days, stay below ten. It’s cold enough to warrant beanies, scarves, gloves and a nice warm jacket, particularly if the wind is picking up.
Australia still has plenty of daylight in winter
I often think the most depressing thing about winter in other countries is the lack of light, above everything else. When I lived in the UK, there were whole days where I’d go without seeing the sun AT ALL. This was upsetting beyond belief.
Here, the sun will generally rise between 7am-730am in the mainland, setting by about 530pm. That’s almost ten hours of daylight that you’re still gifted with. Considering we only get about fourteen to fifteen in the peak of summer, it’s pretty good.
We have snow!
You better believe it snows in Australia! Not across the entire country – I’ve lived here for a large portion of my life and I’m still yet to see the stuff in Oz, mostly due to the laziness rather than anything else (unless you count a small scattering on the top of Mt Wellington in Tasmania and no, it doesn’t matter that it was October at the time).
However, it does happen. There are two ski destinations in NSW (Perisher and Thredbo) and it regularly snows across Victoria (Mt Hotham and Mt Buller are popular destinations to visit for snow) and Tasmania. I’m not sure if it’s true not being a meteorologist myself, but I have read that the Victorian Alps, see more snow than the Swiss Alps. Would be pretty cool if that is true!
The only problem is a handful of days spend frolicking around in the white stuff can be about as expensive as travelling overseas.
This is why a lot of Aussies will save their snow-related activities for New Zealand, Japan or Canada instead and escape to warmer climates (like Thailand or Bali) during the winter months.
Read more: Fun Things to Do in Perth, Australia
It’s off-peak season so prices are cheaper
After a cheap winter holiday in Australia? Well, hallelujah – travel in Oz during mid-year is almost affordable. Just kidding, but it certainly is a lot less expensive.
If you try to avoid booking a trip during the school holidays (generally the first two weeks of July) or the second weekend in June (the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, when almost everyone is off work), you’ll find most places are gagging for visitors. Prices will have dropped and you can enjoy luxuries such as smashed avo on toast for the entire trip! Maybe.
You often get whole beaches to yourself
As a certified beach bum, I’ll happily head to the beach all year round. I particularly like it best in the wintertime, due to the distinct absence of people.
Some of the best holidays I’ve had on home soil have been when we’ve travelled to a smaller destination with a long stretch of sand, where I can amuse myself by walking along the ocean’s front and staring out into the waves. Extra points for this scenario if the sea is wild, it’s a particularly grey day and there’s somewhere to buy fish and chips open nearby (doubtful).
It’s the perfect time to go Outback
Here’s a great reason for heading to Australia in the cooler season – it’s the best time of the year to head to the raw, red desert that comprises around roughly 70% of the country.
Winter is the perfect time for example to walk around Uluru as the weather is second to none. I did it in early August 2015 and enjoyed beautiful blue skies and sunny, 22°C weather (early 70s for any US readers).
So, if the outback is calling your name, maybe it is time to plan a winter holiday in Australia.
There are less dangerous creatures laying in wait
Many people seem to express a reluctance in travelling to Australia, due to our a fear that our more poisonous residents will be more than happy to either poison them, or rip them to shreds.
If this is a concern of yours, it’ll be handy to know that many of our scarier critters, such as snakes and spiders tend to hibernate during these months, so your chances of bumping into one are minimised.
In all fairness, despite the fact that every Aussie will have a story to tell of an encounter with some deadly creature (my claim to fame is that I stepped on a very poisonous brown snake, with no shoes in 2002 and lived to tell the tale), you’d have to be pretty unlucky to get bitten in the first place. I’ve lived in Australia for most of my life and have not died even once yet.
Most of the snakes and spiders will only attack if provoked. Leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone. Everyone’s happy.
And nowhere near as many bugs
The BEST thing about the colder months in Australia is the lack of flies!
As they are the most annoying bugs known to humans (and arrive in droves in the summer), this is something to be thankful for.
Trust me – it’s worth taking a winter holiday in Australia just for this reason along. The lack of flies is absolute bliss in the cooler months.
If you go camping, you can actually light a campfire!
If you’re planning on camping during the summer months and are picturing an idyllic setting where you’re roasting some billy tea or your morning coffee over a roaring campfire, think again.
Being such a hot, dry country, Australia is susceptible to raging bushfires, which endanger land, properties and lives – both human and otherwise. These fires have been started by the smallest things, such as a discarded cigarette butt on a breezy day (as an aside, I think people who drop their cigarette butts on the ground should be forced to eat them).
As such, during this part of the year it is illegal to light any kind of fire. So, campfires are out.
In the winter and outside fire ban season, it’s generally fine (always check local conditions before lighting up, however). So take your campfire related fantasies, add a few more layers of warm clothing to the picture and you’ll be bang on.
Australia has evergreens, so the landscapes aren’t barren
Winter in other parts of the world can look stripped bare. And whilst many of our trees do drop their leaves during the winter months (which give us lovely autumnal colours, so who’s complaining?), the vast majority do not.
So, Australia tends to stay green all year round and it’s a glorious thing.
You can road trip in comfort!
I personally don’t think anyone should come to Australia without doing some kind of road trip. The country is so vast with many interesting regional cities and small towns to see that it is essentially begging for it.
A road trip in the summer can be nice, particularly if you’re beach bound, but it will get bloody hot, both out and inside the car, unless you’ve got a good air conditioner.
The most pleasant road trips I’ve had in my native country, have been during the wintertime. You can bundle up in the car, pack some snacks and a thermos of hot chocolate, tea or coffee, choose a strong playlist and bring a blanket for the backseat.
Plus you can stop for lunch at a country pub somewhere along the way and IT MAY HAVE A FIREPLACE, which will be very exciting for all involved.
Winter Holidays in Australia: Best Destinations Per State
So now that we’ve established that visiting Australia during winter is an excellent idea… where precisely should you go?
Here are a few suggestions for destinations, broken down state by state.
New South Wales – Byron Bay or Broken Hill
New South Wales offers a range of winter destinations – from warmer coastal destinations, to misty country towns. If you’re willing to drive far enough, you can even step foot on the Australian desert.
Byron Bay is a coastal town that remains a popular destination for those interested in beautiful beach views, alternate health or want to make the most of Byron’s venerated music scene (as it plays host to a few big festivals throughout the year).
The town is great for any kind of holiday, not matter what your budget – it’s popular amongst backpackers, couples, families – anyone is fair game!
Just make sure you time your visit correctly, as in late July thousands of music lovers will descend upon the town for the annual Splendour in the Grass festival – basically, Australia’s equivalent of Glastonberry.
Broken Hill is located so far west that is only just in the state’s territory. It is essentially outback, meaning that the temperatures during the winter months range around a balmy 19°C-22°C.
Once a mining town, it’s now a popular destination for artists, looking to be inspired by the arid landscape, as well as a setting for many well-known Australian movies such as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Mad Max (there’s even a museum in the area dedicated to the latter).
Check accommodation options for Byron Bay or Broken Hill
Queensland – Magnetic Island or Port Douglas
Winter is an excellent time to visit this big, beautiful state, particularly because its weather the rest of the year round tends to be quite tropical. Winter brings with it cooler temperatures, less humidity and less bugs!
Magnetic Island is located offshore from the town of Townsville – you can get there via passenger ferry. It’s home to many beautiful beaches, interesting treks and plenty of local wildlife… particularly KOALAS.
Port Douglas is located north of Cairns, a popular destination for backpackers. It’s small, lovely and is the gateway to the Daintree Rainforest, home to the very dinosaur-esque Cassowary.
Check accommodation options for Port Douglas or on Magnetic Island
Victoria – Ballarat or the Dandenongs
Victoria is a state that is made for the winter time. There are coastal experiences to be had, plenty of places that are great for snow and cute little towns to visit during the cooler months.
Ballarat is beautiful regional city around an hour and twenty minutes from Melbourne. A Goldrush era town, there are some gorgeous buildings in town and nearby regions of the Pyrenees and Daylesford to explore.
Ballarat also holds a yearly Winter Festival, holding events that focus on art, performance, food, drink and culture. They also turn the centre of town into its very own winter wonderland!
The Dandenong Ranges are a short drive from Melbourne (around forty minutes) and well-worth making the trek to.
Activities include visiting the National Rhododendron Gardens, taking a ride on the Puffing Billy Steam Train, checking out the wooden sculptures in William Ricketts Sanctuary, or enjoying a meal in the very cosy Pig & Whistle Tavern
Check accommodation options for Ballarat or the Dandenong Ranges
Tasmania – Cradle Mountain or Hobart
Being located so far south, Tasmania gets cooooold during the winter months. But, this doesn’t lessen its appeal in the slightest. In fact, winter is the ideal time to go, purely because many tourists choose not to. And there are plenty of places scattered around the island in which you can bundle up and get cosy.
My advice is to take the Spirit of Tasmania over and drive around, stopping wherever you fancy.
Cradle Mountain is about as scenic as you can get and the perfect place to head to if you fancy seeing wombats in the wild! Go hiking, or cuddle up under blankets in front of a roaring fireplace, beverage of choice in hand.
Hobart is the Tasmanian capital and one of Australia’s most beautiful cities (and we have a few). Located in the shadow of Mt Wellington and sitting on the River Derwent, you’ll love it if you’re into art and quality eats.
Check accommodation options for Cradle Mountain or Hobart
Northern Territory – Darwin or Yulara
The Northern Territory is a place of extraordinary natural beauty and has some of Australia’s quirkiest towns and sights.
Darwin has two seasons – the Wet and the Dry. The Wet hits around summertime, when storms roll in and humidity and heat rise to make the town almost unbearable (plus you can’t swim in the ocean, due to presence of Box Jellyfish, whose sting can prove to be fatal).
On the contrary, during the winter or the Dry, Darwin is quite pleasant. The temperatures are accommodating and due to its nearby situation to South East Asia, it becomes a bit of a hot spot for backpackers, meaning the party is on!
Yulara is the small settlement close to Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and is pretty much where anyone wanting to see both Uluru and Kata Tjuṯa is required to stay.
Being smack bang in the middle of the Australian Outback, it can get preeeeetty warm in this region in the summer months. In the winter time, temperatures range around the early twenties celsius. Perfect weather to see one of Australia’s most famous landmarks in all its glory.
South Australia – Barossa Valley or Kangaroo Island
This extremely underrated state not only has a gorgeous capital city (of rAdelaide, as it is colloquially known) – it’s got some world class wine regions and quirky sights.
The Barossa Valley is the place to go to if you want to drink. Located a short one hour drive from Adelaide, it makes for the perfect day trip for those wanting to get a taste (both literally and metaphorically) of the region.
Stop at vineyards, cycle around, stuff yourself full of food and check out the local stores for some arty and unusual gifts.
Kangaroo Island is accessible via ferry (you can take your car across on it, handily) and is an ideal destination for nature lovers.
Known as Australia’s “Natural Zoo”, it’s a place where you can get up close with local wildlife. There are national parks to explore, food to be eaten and you can even stay in one of the best hotels in the country.
Check accommodation options for the Barossa Valley or on Kangaroo Island
Western Australia – Perth or Broome
Our biggest and most isolated state in the country, WA has a lot to offer for both overseas travellers and locals alike.
Perth is the capital of WA and another city that doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves (although to be fair, it is a mighty trek to get there from just about anywhere in the country).
If you do go you can enjoy some beautiful beaches, wander along the streets of Northbridge and Fremantle and perhaps even catch the ferry over to Rottnest Island, to spend some time with the world’s happiest marsupial – the Quokka.
Broome is located in the north-west of the country. It’s a popular destination for birders, with the Broome Bird Observatory being nearby. There’s also the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park for croc enthusiasts to check out, ogle whale sharks in the Ningaloo Reef and the nearby Kimberly region to further explore, if you feel so inclined.
Australian Capital Territory – Canberra
Canberra is our nation’s capital and a highly underrated destination in Australia.
Unlike other parts of the country, C’bra tends to experience all four seasons, in their full glory. This means it is COLD in the wintertime, so take your woolies with you.
There is always something going on in the capital and there’s plenty to fo – from museums, to art galleries, exploring Parliament House and checking out the local food scene.
Check accommodation options for Canberra
Hopefully this gives you a bit of inspiration for your next winter holiday in Australia!
Are you a fan of the Australian winter? Let me know in the comments and please share this to inspire more winter travel fun times. If you want to read more content like this, follow along on Facebook or sign up to the monthly newsletter!
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