While Sydney is many things (beautiful, cultured, better than Melbourne) it doesn’t really do winter all that well
Without beach and barbeque weather, we seem to go through a bit of an identity crisis. With that in mind, it might be time to start plotting your winter escape.
Running from the cold or looking to embrace it? Keen to take a road trip or ready to get back in the air? Don’t know yet? Maybe our top picks will help you decide. Spoiler alert: none of them are Melbourne.
The Snowy Mountains
Clocking in at about a 5-hour drive from Sydney, “the snowies” is the perfect spot for some family fun or just a weekend getaway. Obviously, the biggest draw card is hitting the slopes at Thredbo or Perisher, but if you’re not a big skier or snowboarder, there’s plenty of other reasons to visit, and most of them involve drinking. But first, if you still want to experience the great outdoors without faceplanting, snow-shoe tours around Thredbo ski resort and Perisher Valley are a great compromise.
Now, back to the drinks. Between Jindabyne and Thredbo you’ll find the highest distillery in Australia, Wildbrumby Distillery, serving gin, schnapps, and vodka. There’s also Courabrya Wines at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, tastings at Snowy Vineyard Estate and Microbrewery, and ale on tap at Kosciuszko Brewery. To stay, opt for a luxe mountain escape at Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa, or check out the Cedar Cabin and Oak Apartment, a pair of Japanese and Scandinavian inspired Airbnbs shortlisted in the Australian Interior Design Awards. And if you’re open to spending an extra two-hours on the road, be sure to check out Yarrangobilly Caves, with a natural thermal pool nearby that’s all 27°C year round.
Keeping with the mountain theme is this winter getaway classic about 90 minutes’ drive west of Sydney. This rugged region thrives in the cold, with just about every accommodation option featuring a fireplace to cosy up next to. Embrace log living at Love Cabins, a collection of unique treehouse style accommodations on 240 hectares of private bushland or go luxe at the stunning ‘Invisible House’ named after its floor to ceiling windows—only a brisk $4k a night.
If you’re in Katoomba, be sure to experience the weird and wonderful dining experience at The Yellow Deli, which boasts a literal cult following. Cap your night with a cocktail at one of the only cocktail bars in the mountains, Champagne Charlies, which is housed inside the stunning art deco Carrington Hotel. If you’d rather spend the weekend off the tourist track, the mountain towns of Leura and Blackheath are equally as inviting. Both feature local farmers markets, boutique craft shops, and delicious food options—including Leura Garage and in Blackheath, Anonymous Café.
Now that’s what I call a sudden change of scenery. From snow-capped mountains to turquoise waters, Northern Territory’s capital city is the perfect winter escape for those of us who actually want to, er, escape winter altogether. Luckily, winter just happens to be the best time to visit Darwin—May to October is the dry season, with an average temp of 21°C to 30°C and an average humidity of around 20% (as opposed to 80% in the wet season!), making it perfect weather for bushwalking and waterfall swims.
One of the most incredible places to do just that is Litchfield National Park, where you can take a dip at the beautiful Buley Rockhole or Florence Falls Waterhole or take a walk along the 39 km Tabletop Track. If swimming holes are your thing, Berry Springs is so pretty it honestly has to be seen to be believed, and once you’ve worked up an appetite, Darwin’s thriving food scene awaits. Top picks include Phat Mango, Hanuman, and Smith Street Local.
Speaking of foodie culture, you can’t beat the eats in Tasmania’s capital city. Home to some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country, including Templo, Dier Makr, Fico, and Peacock and Jones, you could easily spend an entire trip just eating. But that would be a waste, because while Hobart might be the least populated state capital in Australia, it’s absolutely packed with things to see and do, and at the top of the list is MONA.
Led by resident eccentric, David Walsh, The Museum of Old and New Art is like no other gallery in the world. The collection on exhibit is always evolving, and to see it, you’ll first have to ride a camouflage ferry with sheep and tiger sculptures that double as seats. There’s also a fun bar on the boat, as well as many dotting the spiralling maze of masterpieces at MONA. Few who visit want to leave, and even fewer lucky ones don’t have to. With rooms starting at about $1,000 a night, The Mona Pavilions offers ultra-luxe accommodation on the Derwent River, but getting a room can prove tricky. Named after famous artists and decorated with works from MONA’s collection, reservations here book quickly. You can try your luck here.