There’s something special about summertime in Australia: a holiday buzz fills the air, long days are spent relaxing at the beach or revelling in the countryside, and festivities abound.
Here’s our round-up of the top summer destinations and activities around the country.
The Sapphire Coast, NSW
The far south coast of New South Wales is the ideal destination for anyone wanting a nostalgic beachside summer holiday. Stretching from Bermagui to Eden, the Sapphire Coast is filled with beautiful beach towns, pristine waters and breathtaking views of the open ocean. With fresh sea air and gorgeous lookouts, there’s plenty to explore.
Don’t miss the Blue Pool at Bermagui – an aptly named 50-metre seawater swimming hole hewn into wave-cut platform below the cliffs just out of town. Regularly ranked among the prettiest of the state’s ocean pools, this idyllic spot is truly a gem in the Sapphire Coast’s crown.
If you’re stopped near Bega, journey into Wadbilliga National Park to see plunging gorges, scenic surrounds and stunning wildlife. While you’re there, enjoy an adventure with Brogo Wilderness Canoes –the team will provide you with maps, route suggestions and Canadian-style canoes to cruise down the Brogo River. Pack a picnic to share along the peaceful banks.
Further south, Eden is a great spot for snorkelling and scuba-diving. Splash around in Twofold Bay, the third deepest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere, and catch a glimpse of some amazing sea creatures, including the elusive weedy sea dragon. Afterwards celebrate the ocean’s bounty by sharing a seafood basket from Eden Fish & Chips while the sun sets, or try something slightly fancier at Tidal Restaurant & Wine Bar.
Southern Great Barrier Reef, QLD
Explore the incredible Southern Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Bundaberg, and grab a chance to swim alongside curious turtles and giant manta rays.
From November through to January, female turtles come ashore to lay eggs on Bundaberg’s Mon Repos Beach as well as on nearby Lady Musgrave Island and Lady Elliot Island. The hatchlings emerge between January and March, ready to make their journey to the sea. Mon Repos Conservation Park is home to the largest loggerhead turtle rookery in the South Pacific, and hosts the only ranger-guided turtle encounter on the East Coast. On the nightly tour the rangers explain the region’s unique ecosystem and rich history, as well as give insights into their research into turtle conservation.
Then it’s time to pull on your snorkel and dive in! Bundaberg has several beaches to choose from, or you can take a scenic flight to Lady Elliot Island or a boat ride to Lady Musgrave Island and enjoy spending the day in the warm, crystal-clear waters teeming with vibrant marine life such as manta rays, dolphins and an array of colourful fish.
Bundaberg itself has lots to explore. The region is known as Australia’s food bowl for a reason: the philosophy here is paddock to plate, and you can taste delicious local produce at the many restaurants, markets and cafés. Top it off with a tour of iconic Bundaberg Rum Distillery, where you can learn how the award-winning liqueur is made and sample some top-shelf rum.
Epicurean Way, SA
South Australia is blessed with a plethora of wine regions, and you can sample four of the best by driving the Epicurean Way from McLaren Vale through the Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley to the Clare Valley. Visit in summer to see grapes hanging heavy on the vines and the harvest season kicking off, and enjoy sun-drenched days merging into long, lazy evenings, perfect for lingering over a gourmet meal and a stellar wine flight.
Tucked between sandy beaches and mountain ranges 45 minutes south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale hosts some of the oldest vines in Australia. Established as a wine region in 1838, today it is noted for its progressive producers with a focus on sustainability. Go for the charming villages great food and bold reds. Meanwhile, overlooking the city from the east, the Adelaide Hills is a standout for its cool-climate wines, epic views, native wildlife and gorgeous scenery.
An hour north-east, the Barossa Valley is one of the world’s great wine producing regions, packed full of historic vineyards and famed for its full-flavoured Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Thanks to its European heritage, there are bakeries, smokehouses and award-winning restaurants to explore, too.
If the road less travelled is more your style, leave the car behind and hire a bike to explore at a slower pace. The Clare Valley’s Riesling Trail cycleway follows a disused railway line for 33 kilometres, meandering through charming market towns and rolling countryside dotted with cellar doors. One thing’s for sure: you’ll never be short of a chance to quench your thirst!
Albany Region, WA
Perched on the edge of the Southern Ocean in the far south-west of Western Australia, the Albany region bursts with natural beauty and historic significance.
The rugged cliffs and windswept beaches of Torndirrup National Park protect Albany’s natural harbour from the wildness of the southern seas. Venture on to the cantilevered lookout 40 metres above the churning waters of The Gap or take in the view of the Natural Bridge for a thrilling glimpse into one of Australia’s most exposed coastlines.
You can also tackle sections of the epic 1,000km Bibbulmun track – a coastal hike stretching all the way to Perth – or choose from the many nature and heritage trails to explore. Cool off with a well-deserved dip: Albany’s beaches are truly some of the best in the country, boasting pristine white sands, rocky outcrops and crystal-clear, turquoise waters. Families will enjoy the calm, shallow waters of Middleton Beach and Emu Point, while the adventurous can take a secluded stroll on Little Beach with its impressive granite boulders.
History buff? Step back in time and check out Albany’s many heritage buildings, such as the Old Gaol, built in the 1850s. The city dates from 1826, when the first settlers arrived on the brig Amity – a replica of which now sits on the waterfront. You can also visit the Historic Whaling Station, dedicated to the town’s long whaling history, and the National Anzac Centre, which commemorates the 41,000 troops who departed from Albany to fight in World War I.
Eyre Peninsula, SA
Summer in Australia is all about getting on the water, and the coastal paradise of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula is one of the best destinations for doing so. There are plenty of mainland and marine adventures to be had among the region’s epic beaches, stunning national parks and in the cool waters of the Spencer Gulf and Great Australian Bight.
For an encounter to remember, get up close and personal with some of our most impressive apex predators: great white sharks. There are two cage dive companies operating out of Port Lincoln that can take you out to the Neptune Islands for a chance to come face-to-face with these mesmerising creatures. You can also swim with wild dolphins and curious sea lions at Baird Bay, and search the sea grass at Tumby Bay jetty for the elusive leafy seadragon, only found in Australia’s southern waters.
Port Lincoln is known as the “seafood capital of Australia” for a reason: it’s heaven for lovers of shellfish, crayfish and everything in between! Pop along to The Fresh Fish Place for the freshest fish and chips in town, take a seafood cooking class or join a behind-the-scenes tour. Of course you can’t beat oysters plucked from the ocean. Visit the cerulean waters of Coffin Bay for an unforgettable tasting experience on a working oyster farm. Slip into some waders and learn all about the oyster industry while sampling fresh oysters shucked straight from the sea.
High Country, VIC
Think the Victorian Alps are all about skiing and snow? Think again! The mountaintops of the High Country offer a refreshing escape from the heat of summer, and there’s an exhilarating array of epic outdoor activities on offer.
Pitch a tent amid the gorgeous twisted snow gums at Mount Buffalo’s Lake Catani. From here you can hike through scenic backcountry to plunging waterfalls, or launch onto the water with a canoe and a fishing rod. If glamping is more your style, try the Alpine Nature Experience at Mount Hotham eco-camps for a tent strung up like a hammock between the trees.
If you fancy yourself like the Man From Snowy River, take the ride of a lifetime exploring the High Country on horseback. Saddle up at Mt Stirling and roam freely along mountain ridges or through wide-open fields and thick forest gorges. Guided tours can be tailored to suit all ages and abilities, including day trips and overnight treks. Scenic trails leading to Craig’s Hut and the Stirling Summit offer breath-taking views of the surrounding region.
For those who prefer getting around on two wheels, there are more than 250 kilometres of bike trails to suit all levels of experience. Get your thrills at the Mt Buller Bike Park, with an extensive network of trails, a pump track and skills park, or pedal at a slower pace along the Great Victorian Rail Trail. Wherever you go, there will be cafes, restaurants, farm gates and food producers to stop at along the way to refuel.
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