I’ve been to Australia 3 times now and ironically have never been there in summer. First time was spring, then autumn and most recently, winter! I actually think winter is a great time of year to visit Australia. For me working in a school in the Northern Hemisphere, it also just so happens to coincide with when I get all of my time off! Here are a few reasons as to why winter is the best time to visit Australia and a few tips to get the most from your visit!
Visiting Australia in Winter
I shared a little bit of information about the weather in Australia in winter in my Australia Packing List: Winter Edition post. In all honesty the Australian winter (in NSW/southern Queensland) is a lot like summer in England: bit of rain, some warm days, chilly evenings etc. It was the first time I didn’t suffer from horrendous sunburn either (Cairns and Uluru I’m looking at you)!
There were a couple of days where it rained constantly in Sydney, even cancelling the Bridge Climb. The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb does still run in the rain (they even supply rain coats and waterproof trousers) but it gets cancelled during thunderstorms …big metal objects high up in the sky and lightening don’t really mix! We were offered a full refund or a rescheduled time.
I was surprised by how ‘ready for rain’ Sydney was. A lot of the shops had disposable umbrella bags at the entrance so they didn’t drip on the floor, although as a traveller I can’t say an umbrella ever makes it onto my packing list. There are plenty of museums, attractions or cafes to hide in if you need to escape the rain!
If you plan on visiting the mountain/rainforest areas, they can be a little bit cooler, especially in the mornings, so I would recommend layering up!
It wasn’t all doom and gloom there were days when it was perfectly warm enough to wear tank tops and shorts, there was even a woman sunbathing topless in Surfer’s Paradise (Gold Coast)…although I didn’t think it was THAT warm.
(Yep, the typical winter scene…)
I wouldn’t factor in too many sea/beach days as the water is COLD in the winter (it was when I had my surf lesson on Bondi Beach in October too!). There was the odd surfer and a few hardy open water swimmers, but even they were wearing full length wetsuits. A lot of hotels still had their outdoor swimming pools open. I braved the one at our hotel in Surfer’s Paradise and the water parks on the Gold Coast were all open!
Tourist attractions aren’t so busy
I was AMAZED by this one. Well I was expecting them to be a little quieter but not quite so quiet! We visited Dreamworld theme park in the Gold Coast on a SUNDAY. It was blue skies, 23c/73f and there were zero lines. The most I had to wait was around 15 minutes for a ride where they alternate the ‘extremeness’ of it so the lines move slower. If it was a weekend back home that was 23c, even OUTSIDE of the school holidays, our theme parks would be PACKED and wait times would be getting on for an hour for some rides!
I will say that in some countries, especially when it comes to theme parks, they do shut down for the winter season, so it’s great that they stay open in Australia! They do use the off season for maintenance though, so although the park is open, they shut down 2 rides for 2 weeks at a time throughout the winter. This is made clear on the website though, you can see the calendar for weeks in advance on which rides will be shut on what dates, so make sure you research this to avoid disappointment!
In general crowds were quite small, especially around the beaches, yes it wasn’t really warm enough for sunbathing but it was still warm enough to go for coastal walks. It was nice that it wasn’t so busy. It was also fairly easy to always find a parking space too! Some hotels stated that parking was on a first come, first served basis and I could imagine during times of full occupancy it would be tough to find parking.
There’s a reason why the TV show ‘Home and Away’ is filmed during the winter, because they get an empty beach to use! Yes if you look closely the actors have goose bumps if they’ve just come out of the sea, but you can’t deny that it always looks like summer!
For me, one of the highlights of visiting Australia during the winter, is that you may get to experience Vivid Sydney which is on around the first 3 weeks of June and is FREE. It’s a festival of lights, music and ideas, the biggest aspect being that the usual white sails of the Sydney Harbour Opera House are transformed by colourful projections for 5 hours every evening.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge also run special night time ‘Vivid Climbs’ which give a great perspective on the Circular Quay light show! 2018 saw the addition of a retro light up dance floor installed right on the TOP of the bridge, where climbers could have a dance party complete with music! I have now climbed the bridge during the day and at night time, is the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb better in the day? I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s better, they are completely different experiences. Obviously in the day time you get more of a sense of the views whereas at night the cityscape is lit up and so gives the city a completely different atmosphere!
(Photo Credit: Taken by Bridge Climb Sydney, purchased by me)
Back down on the ground are a wide range of interactive light installations and projections all over the city. Taronga Zoo plays host to a paid display, Darling Harbour has a water light display but the main trail is around The Rocks, Circular Quay and the Royal Botanical Gardens. On busy weekend evenings, a one way walking system is in place but for the rest of the time it’s a bit more flexible.
Some of the art projects have queues where you can interact or have photos with them, but it’s just as enjoyable watching how other people interact with them! Some of my 2018 Vivid Sydney highlights were: a light up walk way, one that made me look like a hedgehog, a vertical interactive ball pool and one that had little pac-man like workmen climbing all over the front of a building!
A range of unique food trucks set up next to the international cruise ship terminal. One stall even sold light up candy floss which I was SO tempted to buy but it was around $23 if I remember rightly (missed Instagram opportunity?)!
Driving in Australia during winter
Other than driving through Brisbane and Sydney which was a bit scary with typical impatient city drivers, driving in Australia was an absolute joy. It was during my spring time, Easter road trip in Western Australia too! Nearly every single person drives bang on the speed limit, everyone uses their indicators and there wasn’t that much traffic. There are many rest stops along the major routes, but during winter, the ‘Driver Reviver’ stations are closed. They are only in operation during the summer and over long weekends and provide drivers with free tea, coffee and biscuits to encourage those driving long distances to take a break and eliminate fatigue.
And if these aren’t enough reasons to visit Australia in winter…
You may even get to see a teeny weenie baby koala!
East Coast Winter Road Trip Itinerary
You can read my full Brisbane to Sydney Road Trip: 7 Day Itinerary with more ideas on things to see and do on Australia’s East Coast!