In Arts + Entertainment

Curing The Blues: The Best Winter Festivals Across Australia

With the temperature drop comes a temptation to spend your time hibernating under a blanket, takeaway in one hand and TV remote in the other. But, let’s be honest – we’ve got it pretty good in winter.

The weather’s cold, but there’s plenty happening to get you out and celebrating the season. From light shows illuminating a different side to Sydney, to food trucks and bonfires in Bathurst, here are a slew of winter festivals to beef up your calendar over the next couple of months.

Vivid, Sydney, NSW

winter festivals

Image: Destination NSW

If you’re in the harbourside city from May 24 to June 15, Vivid Sydney will be hard to miss (not to mention hard to ignore on this Australian winter festivals list). When the sun goes down, coloured projections and fluorescent installations illuminate the city’s most prominent landmarks including the MCA, Opera House, Botanic Gardens, Taronga Zoo and Luna Park.

Follow the crowds following the main illuminated paths at Circular Quay, Barangaroo or Darling Harbour, or take in the atmosphere with a three-course meal at any of the waterside restaurants and bars along the way.

Of course, Vivid isn’t just about the lights. The program also features music from the likes of FKA Twigs and Rüfüs Du Soul, as well as Vivid Ideas, which is a series of seminars featuring creative thinkers and industry stalwarts (looking at you, Spike Lee), talking about everything from creative trends to technology and politics.

Bathurst Winter Festival, Bathurst, NSW

winter festivals

Image: supplied

Keen to go country? Set your GPS for Bathurst in central NSW, where the historical gold mining town glitters during its annual festival, which runs from July 6 to 21.

Light projections will repurpose the city’s most notable historic landmarks as giant canvases, which are best admired from the top of the giant Ferris wheel at the dedicated WInter Playground.

Once you come back down to earth, have a round or three on the outdoor ice rink before refueling over at Edible Alley, where you’ll find regional fare, mulled wine (this is a winter fest, after all) and roving entertainers completing the carnival atmosphere.

White Night Reimagined, Melbourne, VIC

winter festivals

Image: supplied

If you’re just hanging out for the arrival of spring, Melbourne’s White Night Reimagined festival will help you count down. Held on August 22, 23 and 24, this event offers a chance to check out Melbourne’s famed cultural institutions after hours.

Take in the exhibitions and individual programs hosted by the likes of the NGV and State Library, then head over to Carlton Gardens, Treasury Gardens or Birrarang Murr to see how local artists have transformed these open spaces into magical, out-of-this-world lands.

This year is set to be particularly special as it’s the last celebrating this festival’s particular iteration; next year it will be combined with the Melbourne International Arts Festival into a mega-winterfest. In any case, it’s bound to be a late one, so it’s just as well you’re in Australia’s coffee capital for a next-morning caffeine hit.

Cabin Fever, Margaret River, WA

Nothing warms the soul quite like fine food and wine. And for both of these, it’s hard to go past Margaret River. This wine region may be famed for its summer-appropriate chardonnay, but it holds its own come winter, with Cabin Fever taking place from July 19 to 28.

A total of 35 venues across Busselton and Margaret River are taking part this year, so whether you’re in town for a week or a long weekend, you’ll be busy. If foodie adventure is on the cards (and why wouldn’t it be?) then sink your teeth into the Secret Dinner – a three-course meal at a location to be revealed to guests on the actual day.

Here for top drops? Eschew the usual wine-tasting for a wine-blending masterclass over at Clairault Streicker wines (and stay for a glass or two beside the roaring open fire).

Of course, what is wine without cheese? Lactose tolerants should make a beeline for Fondue by the Fire at Howard Park Winery – or go one step further and head to Eagle Bay Brewing Co to make their own.

Dark Mofo, Hobart, TAS

winter festivals

Image: Adam Gibson

The tiny city of Hobart has sure put itself on the cultural and creative map in recent years, not least for hosting what is surely Australia’s darkest winter fest. Held from the June6 to 23, Dark Mofo combines art, music, and a touch of pagan tradition in a celebration that is as weird as it is wonderful.

If you’ve missed out on tickets to the headlining events (including FKA Twigs, fresh from Vivid), don’t worry – there’s still plenty to check out, including the nightly Winter Feasts (free after 8pm), the Dark Path immersive installation at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, and – if you’re game – a nude solstice swim on June 22.

The festival is organised and hosted by the Mona, so it would be remiss of you to visit Hobart without paying a visit to David Walsh’s collection of curiosities.

(Lead image: Dark Mofo / Jesse Hunniford / Facebook)

Published 29 May, 2019