Combat the cold with 18 of the quirkiest and most exciting winter festivals happening across Australia.
As the seasons turn in Australia and we say goodbye to the warmer weather, we all start looking for ways to spend the cooler months. Sydney’s Vivid is arguably the most renowned of all winter festivals (read our pick of this year’s Vivid highlights) but there is an abundance of cosy, comforting events located all around Australia, so if you can’t make it to Sydney between May 26 and June 17, we recommend you grab your favourite beanie and check out these other exciting winter festivals.
1. Borealis, Bowral, NSW
When: 25 May – 30 June
Head to the stunning town of Bowral this winter to experience the Northern Lights. Yes, you read that right! Borealis by Switzerland-based artivist Dan Acher is a mesmerising light installation that transports you to a faraway place where time slows down. Acher’s intent was to create spaces where strangers can come together and connect beyond their differences, creating a sense of belonging and community.
Borealis is created by blending art and technology; unique auroras are projected over Centennial Vineyards using colour, movement, density of light beams and changing weather, all set to a tranquil soundtrack. Bowral Winterfest will offer guests of Borealis delectable winter warmers and mulled wine from charming wooden stalls nearby.
2. Rising, Melbourne, VIC
When: 7–18 June
Music, food, art and culture combine under moonlight this June at Rising. You’re invited to reflect and reckon with Australian identity; to break from business as usual to rave and revel in the grand and the granular. Orbiting around Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, Rising spills out into the streets, car parks, churches and theatres of the city, including the town square and Birrarung as well.
This year’s immersive program is exploding with talent across a range of artistic genres. Think dance, music and theatre, as well as visual, performance and exhibition art from up-and-coming Aussie and international acts. Rising also has a key focus on accessibility, with assisted access, assisted listening, audio description, Auslan translation, captioning, wheelchair access and quiet spaces all available.
Rising is Victoria’s flagship festival of music, food, art and culture.
3. Dark Mofo, Hobart, TAS
When: 8–22 June
Now a staple of Tassie’s cultural calendar, Dark Mofo revels in the darkness and cold of winter. The festival celebrates its 10th iteration this year with a program meditating on the theme of exaltation, featuring the likes of visionary composer Max Richter and Southern gothic songstress Ethel Cain.
Revel in the darkness of the Dark Mofo Winter Feast.
Guests can also expect Aussie and international acts including Thundercat, Witch, Drab Majesty and Tala Sima. Head to Hobart to indulge in live music, public art, night-time revelry and eccentric, essential events such as the Nude Solstice Swim. Dive in if you dare.
The Burning is Dark Mofo’s final stage of renewal.
4. Dubbo Winter Whisky Festival, NSW
When: 16–17 June
Calling all whisky lovers – head to the regional town of Dubbo as the colder months arrive for the Dubbo Winter Whisky Festival to warm your soul and tantalise your tastebuds. Dabble in a wide range of Australian and international tipples from epic distillers, including rum, liqueur, gin, vodka and of course, whisky. Visitors are also invited to sample and buy rare spirits that’ll keep you warm this winter.
On Saturday night, grab a drink of your choice and take a moment to listen to the amazing live entertainment, or visit food vendors and try some local cuisine. Snag tickets to the Distillers Dinner, which takes place the night before the festival begins. Enjoy an intimate dinner and tasting with Australian distillers from around the country. The spirits will also be matched with a three-course dinner.
Dabble in spirits that will warm your soul this winter.
5. Illuminate Adelaide, SA
When: 28 June – 30 July
Each June, Illuminate Adelaide brings together some of the best in art, music, technology and invention from around the world and sets it loose across the city. Known as one of South Australia’s premier winter events, the festival is an invitation for you to shake off the winter blues and rekindle a sense of wonder.
This year, both free and ticketed events across Adelaide welcome people from all walks of life to view works by local, national and international artists. The program is vivid and vibrant, including immersive digital installations like Mirror Mirror, night-time garden trails like Resonate and live music shows like performances from Yolngu rock pioneers, Yothu Yindi.
Explore Arborialis, the inflatable mazes of UK-based Architects of Air. (Image: John Owens)
6. Truffle Kerfuffle, Manjimup, WA
When: 23–25 June
Come together to celebrate one of the world’s most luxurious ingredients, the not-so-humble black truffle. Manjimup in Western Australia is the largest producer of truffles in the Southern Hemisphere, so you’ll experience the delectable fungus on the fertile land in which it is produced.
This year, Truffle Kerfuffle commemorates the truffle in a variety of ways, from intimate masterclasses with famed chefs to truffle-laden feasts for all. There will also be a Festival Village brimming with all kinds of truffle and produce experiences, including live music, workshops and tastings at stalls.
Savour luxurious black truffles in truffle country. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
7. Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival, TAS
When: 14–15 July
Held in one of Tasmania’s most jaw-dropping regions, the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival is hosted by local favourite Willie Smith’s cider house and orchard, just a 25-minute drive out of Hobart. This two-day pagan-inspired event is a celebration of the region’s apple history and the light that can be found in winter’s darkness.
The central focus of the festival is Saturday night’s wassail, an ancient tradition still celebrated in the West Country of England. Revellers – in full pagan get-up – chant incantations, bang pots and pans and shoot shotguns to wake up dormant apple trees in the hope of a good season ahead. Other highlights include Big Willie Burns, Blundstone’s costume comp and the apple pie eating competition. Festivities are complemented by folk music, feasting, and of course, lashings of cider.
See Big Willie Burns at Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival.
8. Christmas in July, Canberra, ACT
When: 29 June – 2 July
Ever wondered what it might be like to experience the festive season cocooned in clothes rather than on the beach? Head to Canberra this winter for a state-wide favourite, Christmas in July. Over four days in the country’s capital, visitors are invited to revel in the cold and cool of a white Christmas inspired by the famous annual Christkindelsmärik (Christmas market) in Strasbourg, France.
Gather with friends and family at Parkes Place Lawns to explore 80 exhibitors at the food, wine and artisan markets. Party in the wine garden with live music, boozy hot chocolate, craft beers, Christmas carols, street art and mulled wine. Hide away in a private igloo and indulge in a Raclette melted cheese feast. Or wander Snow Lane to roast marshmallows over an open fire surrounded by real Christmas trees and not-so-real snow.
Sip mulled wine and collect Christmas trinkets at the market.
9. Orange Winter Fire Festival, NSW
When: 4–6 August
When your parents told you not to play with fire, what they actually meant was… let someone else do it for you! This August, the localities of Orange and Millthorpe will host the annual Orange Winter Fire Festival, with a whole swag of events showcasing why these towns are recognised as official foodie destinations.
Both regions are up and coming, with more and more people keen to discover their sprawling vineyards, stunning scenery and unique experiences.
This year, you can enjoy the festivities with like-minded winter lovers through a series of events. Maybe you’ll opt to enjoy a delicious meal paired with premium wines under an expansive starry night sky. Or, what about huddling up next to a fire pit to enjoy live music and fireworks? Producers are really turning up the heat for this celebration, so expect some truly unique experiences that will have you counting down until the next one.
Cosy up by the fire and listen to local talents.
10. Port Fairy Winter Weekends, VIC
When: 9 June – 9 July
Held across three weekends in winter, the Port Fairy Winter Weekends celebrates the small town’s food, art, nature, history, culture and community. The event aims to brighten the colder months, with the program sorted into four main pillars: food & wine, community, arts and environment.
Those attending can expect a range of markets, guided walks, treasure hunts, art exhibitions, yoga sessions, workshops, ghost tours and the adorable, self-explanatory Dachshund Dash.
Come for the event and stay for the location – Port Fairy is one of Victoria‘s most charming towns, still relatively untouched by mass tourism.
The Dachshund Dash is definitely a highlight. (Image: Alice Laidlaw)
11. East Gippsland Winter Festival, VIC
When: 9 June – 9 July
Discover the light, food, music, art and culture and Victoria’s stunning Gippsland region at the month-long East Gippsland Winter Festival. From Paynesville on the Gippsland Lakes to Omeo in the High Country and all the way to Mallacoota in the far east, the 2023 program is jam-packed with family-friendly events.
Guests are invited to participate in both free and ticketed events across the region. Think lavish winter feasts, workshops for both adults and children, camping, art exhibitions, wellness experiences and community events to combat those winter blues.
Discover Gippsland’s light, food, music, art and culture at the month-long East Gippsland Winter Festival. (Image: Scott Kingman)
12. Bathurst Winter Festival, NSW
When: 1–16 July
Welcome winter this year in the gorgeous regional city of Bathurst. The aptly named Bathurst Winter Festival is your one-stop shop for family-friendly activities that are perfect for celebrating the colder months. Over 16 days in July, visitors can enjoy stunning light shows on historic Bathurst buildings, the outdoor McDonald’s Bathurst Ice Rink, show rides in the Winter Playground, a world of flavours at food events, live music and more.
Why not turn your trip into a family holiday? The festival falls across two weeks of the NSW winter school holidays, making it the perfect opportunity to schedule some family time away. Bathurst is brimming with amazing accommodation options, places to eat and things to do in town. Think museums, galleries and activities for both the kids and mum and dad.
Don your beanie to wander wintery market stalls. (Image: David Roma)
13. Cabin Fever, Margaret River, WA
When: 14–23 July
Does winter bring to mind quality brews, comfort food, rockin’ music, self-contained chalets and acres of breathtaking forest? Then WA‘s Cabin Fever is the festival for you. With over 50 unique events spanning food, beer, wine, learning, playing and live music, guests will be spoilt for choice. Better still, the best in regional produce will be available – and you can appreciate it all under the star-filled view of your very own local chalet.
Expect events like a Puglian farm feast, black truffle dinner, Blazing Brews, Smoke n Whisky, cheese toastie battle, flames + games and the winter wine walk. Experience the Margaret River and Busselton regions across 10 wintery days that will leave you warm, wondrous and wanting more.
Slay the house down at Cabin Fever’s ‘Wine’s a Drag’ event. (Image: Lauren Trickett)
14. Winter Reds, Adelaide Hills, SA
When: 28–30 July
If your favourite way to warm up in winter is indulging in rich red wine, Winter Reds is an absolute must for you. The festival is held in South Australia’s gorgeous Adelaide Hills, renowned for its production of some of the country’s best wines. Whether you prefer a peppery shiraz, an aromatic pinot noir or an earthy yet fruity tempranillo, Winter Reds will have something for all types of tastebuds.
Located at a variety of iconic locations across the Adelaide Hills, guests will enjoy cosy long lunching, fire-side feasts, live music, art, trails and family-friendly affairs. Nurse a glass of your favourite vino by an open fire and nourish your body with rustic fare surrounded by fellow oenophiles. So what are you waiting for? Grab your beanie and get amongst it!
Sample the region’s best red wines. (Image: Duy Dash)
15. WinterWild, Apollo Bay, VIC
When: 25–27 August
Showcasing the wild power of winter, the aptly named WinterWild festival will take over the sleepy Victorian town of Apollo Bay this August. Usually associated with pristine beaches and summer sun, Apollo Bay turns dark come winter thanks to WinterWild. The festival draws upon the bitter winds, the vastness of the ocean and the mystery of the rainforest that comes with the coldest month of the year.
The program includes both free and ticketed events, including the Wildfeast, Moongarden, Dogwatch and a Walking on Country panel discussion. The full program is coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
WinterWild showcases the wild power of winter. (Image: Tyr Explorer)
16. Jumpers and Jazz in July, Warwick, QLD
When: 20–30 July
Jumpers and Jazz in July is a quirky and colourful festival that takes place over crisp, sunny winter days in the south east Queensland town of Warwick. It’s a feast of groovy jazz music, local art and the quirky act of yarn bombing, where every tree in town is dressed up for the occasion. Wander the streets of Warwick to discover tree trunks outfitted in yarn patterns and crocheted decorations hanging from branches.
More than 100 contributors – everyone from budding crocheters to seasoned knitters – will colour the town with creations. Over 10 jam-packed days, guests can wander exhibitions and craft markets, go on guided strolls, enjoy a bonfire night and attend an epic Laneway Party.
17. Darwin Festival, NT
When: 10–27 August
Not a fan of the cold? We get it. Head up to the Top End to enjoy balmy nights under twinkling skies at Darwin Festival. Known as Australia’s hottest winter arts festival, it combines the quintessential spirit and energy of Darwin with warm outdoor festivities and a vibrant program of events for an unforgettably good time.
In 2023, get ready for 18 days of music, theatre, dance, cabaret, comedy and family fun. This year, there will be a newly expanded Festival Park Precinct, designed to accommodate an even greater range of entertainment options for everyone to enjoy. Think theatre shows, free music gigs, buzzing bars and local food vendors.
Enjoy magical live performances. (Image: Tourism NT/jack.and.megan)
18. Alice Springs Beanie Festival, NT
When: 23–26 June
Come the colder months, beanies are a closet essential. But in Central Australia, handmade beanie hats are so much more. The small wardrobe staple is celebrated as a distinctive regional art form each winter at the Alice Springs Beanie Festival. The community-based event emerged over 20 years ago as a ‘beanie party’ organised to sell hats crocheted by Aboriginal women in remote communities and, though much larger in scale today, retains this raison d’être.
As well as choosing from over 7000 unique beanies on sale, visitors can expect a teashop, food stalls, live music, textile workshops, Indigenous beanie-making lessons and the National Beanie Competition and Exhibition. It’s also a great opportunity to explore the spectacular Alice Springs region and all it has to offer.
Guests can purchase one of the many uniquely made beanies.