Australia’s 5 Best Winter Vacation Destinations
By Addah Arcilla | August 28, 2014 11:25 AM EST
Australia is blessed to have a variety of climates due to its sheer size. You can have plunging temperatures and snow in the temperate south, summer-like conditions in the East Coast and dry, sunny day in the north all at the same time.
Luckily for holiday makers, a variety in climate also means a variety of vacation destinations to choose from even during wintertime. Take a look at some of the best winter vacation destinations Australia has to offer.
1. Falls Creek Alpine Resort
Who knew that the country that's famous for its surfs, golden beaches and subtropical rainforests can also have snow and alpine mountains?
Falls Creek is the largest alpine resort in Victoria. Situated in Alpine National Park in the picturesque Bogong High Plains, the resort features over 90 runs with its longest run at 3 kilometres and highest peak at 1,842 metres. The resort also features 63 kilometres of free cross-country trails, three trail parks with superb rails and jumps, as well as facilities for snowboarding and tobogganing. Winter ski season at Fall Creek falls between the months of June and October.
Falls Creek is the official training ground for the Australian national cross-country team and home of the annual Kangaroo Hoppet, the Australian cross-country ski race in the Worldloppet Ski Federation.
How to get to Falls Creek: Falls Creek is located 373 kilometres or about four and a half hour's drive from Melbourne.
You can fly from Melbourne or Sydney to Albury Airport, then a private transfer, hire car or direct bus will get you to the resort in two hours.
You can also catch a Falls Creek Coach service from Melbourne, Albury or Mt. Beauty to Falls Creek.
2. Blue Mountains Yulefest
Christmas comes early to the Blue Mountains. What started as a one-off nostalgic dinner in 1980 has now become an annual winter attraction in the Blue Mountains. Every year from June to August, visitors flock to this area in New South Wales to celebrate the Yulefest.
Sit down to a 5-course Christmas feast at the Katoomba guesthouse, the place where Yulefest began; challenge Santa to karaoke at Mt. Victoria; celebrate the annual Winter Magic Festival with the locals in June; watch the streets of Katoomba fill with of jugglers, gymnasts, dancers, musicians, troubadours, poets and storytellers on the Saturday closest to the Winter Solstice; or enjoy a Christmas feast aboard the historic Zig Zag Railway.
How to get to Blue Mountains: The majestic Blue Mountains are located west of Sydney, just 90 minutes away from the city. If traveling by car, take the M4 Motorway out of Sydney or the longer route via Windsor and Kurrajong. You can also take the train via City Rail that departs hourly from Sydney to most towns in the Blue Mountains. Greyhound Buses have daily scheduled service from Sydney to Katoomba and Lithgo.
3. Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park
With its ancient rainforests, alpine heathlands, colorful deciduous beeches, icy streams flowing out of jagged peaks, glacial lakes mirroring stands of ancient pines and a rich array of wildlife, it's easy to see why Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park is one of the most popular natural areas in Tasmania.
Part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the park is home to the jagged dolerite peaks of Cradle Mountain, which can be seen from Dove Lake, and the world-famous Overland Track, a 65 km, 6-day trek that passes through Cradle Mountain in the north to Lake St. Clair in the south.
Other walks in the area include the gentle-paced Weindorfers Forest walk and the Dove Lake Loop Track, which takes walkers through Ballroom Forest, a cool temperate patch of rainforest nestled against the slopes of Cradle Mountain.
Cradle Mountain is cloaked in snow during winter, with maximum average temperatures of 6° C (43°F). The climate can be unpredictable and weather conditions can change dramatically in just a few minutes. It's best to come prepared before setting out for the day's walking and come with warm, layered clothing, a warm hat and waterproof walking boots.
How to get to Cradle Mountain: Most major airlines have daily flights to Hobart and Launceston from most capital cities. Flying time from Melbourne is about 60 minutes, while it takes about 105 minutes from Sydney. By sea, you can take the Spirit of Tasmania, which sails daily from Melbourne to Devonport. Car rentals are available at the terminal.
If traveling by car, Cradle Mountain is just 2 hours away from Launceston on the Base Highway via Deloraine, turning off Elizabeth Town to Sheffield, and an hour and a half from Devonport via Sheffield, turning off to Cradle Mountain.
When traveling from Hobart, take the Midlands Highway via Campbell Town and then turn left to Perth to take the Base Highway. From there, turn left to Elizabeth Town to Sheffield, and then turn off to Cradle Mountain.
4. Margaret River
With its wineries and beaches on top of the many attractions and activities found in the area, Margaret River attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each summer. Winter, however, is just as good a time to visit this beautiful region in the south west corner of West Australia.
Winter is a good time to go whale watching. Every year from June to September, Southern Right and Humpback whales turn up to breed, feed and play in the warm waters of Flinders Bay in Augusta. You can charter a boat to watch them up close or watch them from the Cape Leeulwin Light house, mainland Australia's tallest.
Winter is also an excellent time to go on a wine tour. The region is known for producing distinctive premium wines, be it Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz or Cabernets. Every wine connoisseur will enjoy tasting wine at Margaret River's finest wineries and the option of a delightful lunch at one of the area's prominent eateries.
How to get to Margaret River: Margaret River is just a 3-hour drive or approximately 300 km from Perth. If traveling by car, take the Kwinana Freeway, which ten turns to Forest Highway. Follow the signs to Bunbury, then Busselton. Margaret River is 50 km south of Busselton.
You can also take the inland route via the South Western Highway. This will take you through the suburb of Armadale, Pinjarra, Waroona, Harvey, Brunswick Junction, Bunbury, Busselton and then Margaret River.
If you wish to take a bus, South West Coach Lines travels daily from Perth to Margaret River. By train, Australin travels daily from Bunbury to Perth. From there you can take the West rail bus service to Margaret River. If traveling by air, Skywest flies directly to Bunbury Airport from Pert.
5. The Whitsunday Islands
Closest to the world renowned Great Barrier Reef off the Queensland coast and over 70 tropical islands to choose from, the Whitsunday Islands are a favorite tourist destination all year round. Winter, on the other hand, draws fewer crowds, giving you easy access to the many sights and attractions in Whitsunday.
The Whitsunday Islands have a subtropical climate all year round, with highest winter temperatures reaching only up to 22 to 25° C (75°F). This is perfect for enjoying the beach and the many water activities found in the area, such as snorkeling, scuba diving and whale watching. Humpback and Pilot whales are often spotted frolicking amongst the islands during the winter months, albeit there are no formal whale watching tours in the Whitsundays.
Don't forget to visit the most photographed beach in Australia and the most beautiful beach in Queensland-Whitehaven Beach. Aside from its crystal clear aqua waters and pristine white sand, Whitehaven is also famous for the breathtaking colors created by the tides in a cove called Hill Inlet.
How to get to the Whitsunday Islands: The Whitsundays are found on Queensland's central coast in north-eastern Australia, about 1,120km north of Brisbane and 630 km south of Cairns. Two airports service the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island and the Whitsunday Coast Airport in Proserpine. Direct flights to Whitsundays from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns are available daily.
When travelling by road, take the Bruce Highway from Brisbane to Cairns, and then Turn off to The Whitsundays at Proserpine. Otherwise, you can take the Queensland Rail, which has a stop at Proserpine.