Australia's top winter escapes
Warm up on a mini-break of log fires, robust reds and even the odd Christmas carol at Australia’s most magical winter wonderlands.
- June 2019
Embrace the Danish art of hygge (the art of creating a cosy atmosphere) and give yourself over to one of these cosy winter escapes on an Australian mini-break.
Falls Creek, VIC
Heading to the snow for a winter break is hardly ground-breaking stuff, so what makes Falls Creek so special? Try 65 kilometres of cross-country trails, an August snow depth past the 1.5-metre mark and a program catering for both serious skiers as well as those who are more about sticking the odd carrot in a snowman. You can snowboard, do a snowmobile tour with your family or ski back-country with a former Olympic skier for a guide. Meanwhile, the kids will love tobogganing, snow tubing or making friends in the Paw Patrol Snowclub opens in new window, which runs ski classes for kids aged three to five. The Spongebob Squarepants Junior Workshop opens in new window caters for kids six to 12 years old. Located 386 kilometres north of Melbourne (you can catch a Falls Creek coach service from either Melbourne Airport or Southern Cross station), the season at Falls Creek runs from 9 June to 7 October and there are plenty of accommodation options, from cosy lodges to luxury penthouse suites, self-contained apartments and hotels for every budget. Resort entry is priced from AUD $49.50 per day if booked online or AUD $54 if purchased at the gate.
Some like it hot and some just prefer it when there’s a strong southerly blowing in from Antarctica so that the streets are dark, moody and oh-so-blustery. If you’re one of the latter, it doesn’t get any better than Tasmania’s capital, which takes on an enchanted quality in the winter months. Its picturesque waterfront landscape comes to life within a multitude of galleries and historic stone pubs and there’s even the odd horse and carriage ride you can enjoy from under a pile of blankets. Visits to the Museum of Old and New Art, more commonly known as MONA opens in new window, and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery opens in new window take out the first two positions on the must-do list – one that is rounded out by following the Tasmanian Whisky Trail opens in new window and visiting distilleries such as Sullivans Cove opens in new window and Lark Distillery opens in new window, then checking out an art-house movie at the iconic State Cinema opens in new window. You can even search for the Southern Lights on a clear night.
Blue Mountains, NSW
So spectacular is the landscape, teeming with eucalyptus trees, majestic rock formations and waterfalls, that it’s hard to believe you’re only 100 kilometres west of Sydney. If you’re the kind of person others would describe as “outdoorsy” or you own a pair of hiking boots, you’re in luck – bushwalking trails (some as short as 30 minutes and others as challenging as the 45-kilometre Six Foot Track) are the region’s bread and butter. Thrill-seekers will also enjoy local abseiling and canyoning tours with companies such as High and Wild opens in new window, taking in the sights from a cable car at Scenic World opens in new window or pointing a camera at the iconic Three Sisters rock formation – just to say you have. The villages of Katoomba and Leura are famous for guesthouses complete with log fires, cosy pubs with live music and quirky antique stores and museums such as the Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum and Tearooms opens in new window. Plan a July visit to experience the magic of Christmas at Yulefest opens in new window, when venues across the region, such as Carrington Hotel opens in new window, serve up Yuletide dinners accompanied by carollers and a visit from Santa. Accommodation packages are available to make the experience possible for everyone.
Adelaide Hills, SA
Some say this celebrated cool-climate wine region is made for winter. Here, in an area stretching from Williamstown in the north to Strathalbyn in the south, more than 50 wineries lie in wait, offering quaint stone cottages with crackling fire places, nourishing slow-cooked food and, of course, wine. Let’s not beat around the vines: you’re here to eat, drink and be merry in the region’s signature historic pubs and vineyards, but to make room for all that fare, you will need to exert some energy. Your best bet? Circle a scenic walk or two at Cleland Conservation Park opens in new window and make a note to pop by and visit some of the furry residents of the adjoining Cleland Wildlife Park. For those looking to really drive up their core body temperature, a coffee at Mount Lofty The Summit opens in new window – a positively lofty 727 metres above sea level – should be considered the starting gun for the super-steep, 7.8-kilometre Waterfall Gully Track. Timing is important here. Head to the Hills for the weekend of the 26-28 July and surrender to the joys of a dazzling shiraz, pinot or cabernet sauvignon at the Winter Reds (winterreds.com.au) celebration, where more than 30 participating wineries put on a feast with hearty food, entertainment and those bold reds.
Snowy Mountains, NSW
Love the snow but in a less gung-ho, more “let’s all slide down this gentle slope and just have a good time” kind of way? Zero in on Perisher opens in new window, Australia’s largest ski resort, which is located 490 kilometres south-west of Sydney in the Snowy Mountains. Here, the non-competitive skiers among us can enjoy a wealth of entertainment options (everything from snow play to kids games), take a front-row seat at some of the coolest festivals in the country, such as Perisher Peak Music Festival opens in new window and BrewSki Festival opens in new window, or simply meander around the charming nearby towns of Jindabyne and Cooma in the east and Tumbarumba in the west. There’s no need to build yourself an igloo – snow accommodation packages are available across a range of hotels and lodges throughout Perisher Valley and Smiggin Holes and Perisher’s extensive snow-making facilities begin preparing the resort to be the perfect winter wonderland before the season really kicks off. Plan a visit for early September and score yourself tickets for Snowtunes Music Festival opens in new window. The event will be held at Lake Jindabyne on 6-7 September and showcases talented Australian and international acts.
Margaret River, WA
Live out all your Bear Grylls fantasies by travelling to Margaret River, a scenic three-hour drive south from Perth. There, embark on an adventure that will have you heading underground to explore the region’s show caves (don’t miss Jewel Cave in Deepdene), roll around in mud at the South West Mud Fest and even commune with whales at Cape Leeuwin as around 35,000 of them migrate north from the Antarctic. Noted for its wineries (more than 120), surf spots and tall tree forests, Margaret River is very much a “choose your own adventure” destination. Explore the region on foot by taking in the 123-kilometre Cape to Cape Track (or at least parts of it), do a behind-the-scenes vineyard tour with The Margaret River Discovery Co opens in new window or employ an Ironman approach by booking in for more active pursuits at Surf N Dirt Adventure Tours opens in new window – their Margaret River Lifestyle Tour combines kayaking, mountain biking, a winery visit and gourmet lunch. Prefer to just enjoy melted cheese and beer by the fire? The Cabin Fever Festival opens in new window will feature more than 30 unique events celebrating fun, food and drink around the region’s art galleries, wineries and microbreweries between 19-28 July.