Best winter escapes in Australia

By AG staff 6 May 2011
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What better way to either embrace winter or escape it altogether. Here are our picks for top getaways.

THE AIR IS TURNING crisp and the mornings are a little hard to get out of bed. You know it’s time to think about a warmer clime and take a break from the on-coming winter to make the season go quicker. Here is Australian Geographic Adventure’s picks for a winter escape.

The Whitsundays, QLD
What better way to take a winter break than to head to where it’s almost always summer? Winter is when the clear skies and aqua water look their finest. Go snorkelling on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, or simply laze by the reefs of this tropical are.  Or head to The Daintree, for a more rugged, but World Heritage-listed getaway.

Falls Creek, VIC
A great place to also spend your summer days, this alpine resort turns into a winter wonderland as the mercury drops. If you’re hitting the slopes you’ll find some of Australia’s steepest expert terrain, and with the Super Pass you can access Falls, Mt. Hotham nearby and Perisher. That’s a lot of snow time! “A beautiful alpine village that, after snow, looks like it’s from a fairy tale. Queue-free lifts and a good variety of ski terrain for all levels. Try taking the chopper over to Mt. Hotham to mix things up a bit,” says David Hung, bushwalking writer. 

Margaret River, WA
Make your way to Western Australia’s adventure destination in winter when the crowds disappear. Hit the mountain bike trails, head out on great coastal walks like the Cape to Cape Track without anyone in sight, or charge winter swells on the world-class surf set-ups. Granted, you can catch a bit of rain in the winter, in between clear crisp days – but nothing beats the rawness of the southwest in winter and mixing outdoor action with a winery or two! “No crowds, winter swells, clean southern ocean air, great walking and mountain biking. Wine and food to boot!” says Dallas Hewett, adventure and travel writer.

Warrumbungle National Park, NSW

This spectacular mountain range and national park, in central NSW, is in fact the remnants of a large volcano, active from 18 to 15 million years ago. The jagged and rocky remains make for some great winter walking when you’re not quite after those cold alpine gusts further down south but want to keep cool. “It can be cold in winter but there are also glorious days for enjoying long walks on good trails and for climbing dramatic volcanic pinnacles. Be warned though, these are serious climbs, even the easy routes,” says Lincoln Hall, mountaineer and writer.

Mt. Wellington, TAS

“With Hobart nestling at its foothills, Mt. Wellington towers above the city and the Derwent River, offering views on a clear day over a third of the island of Tasmania. A day on the summit can include four seasons, in particular brace yourself for some icy winds on the snow capped peak in winter. Rug up for a fantastic day walk up one of the trails before heading back into Hobart for a cosy hot cuppa. “In winter, the summit plateau really turns polar. I love it,” says Chris Bray, 1000 Hour Day adventurer and writer.

Fraser Island, QLD

This World Heritage-listed sand island off the southern coast of Queensland, near Hervey Bay, is a perfect nature escape in winter. With more than 100 freshwater lakes, ancient rainforests and long white beaches, it also enjoys daytime winter temperatures around the pleasant mid-20s. “Fraser is wonderful in winter – warm in the day but with evening temperatures still cool enough you can curl up in your sleeping bag. There’s not much that beats sitting on the edge of Lake Mackenzie soaking up the winter sun,” says Emma Bowen, Outdoor Australia deputy editor.

Mt. Barney, QLD
The Mt. Barney National Park, home to the mountain of the same name along with six other peaks, is home to some great variation in vegetation, with open forests, subtropical rainforest and shrublands. Take a walk on one of the tree marked trails around Mt Barney or, if you have bushwalking experience, head up the unmarked trails to the summit. “Great climb with good weather in winter. Fun rock scrambling and a beautiful river,” says Diane Westaway, MD of Wild Women on Top. Alternatively, head a little north of Brisbane and climb many of the Glasshouse mountain peaks, which were once the plugs of ancient volcanoes. Fun rock scrambling is the name of the game for many.

Kakadu, NT

With its distinct beauty, particularly following the wet season, this part of our country is indeed popular for a very good reason. Visit early in winter to avoid crowds, enjoy the respite from the otherwise unbearable heat experienced there, and enjoy the waterfalls still running steadily from the rain. “Early winter is the best time to trek to waterfalls and kayak the gorges, just as soon as the last remaining salt-water crocodiles have been trapped and returned to the coast. No matter how many times I see this ancient landscape I never want to leave,” says Ewen Bell, travel photographer.

Christmas Island
Perched off Australia’s west coast, 2600km northwest of Perth, Christmas Island’s temperatures vary little from month to month, sitting sweetly in the mid-20s. Considered the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean, its land and waters are host to a great range of wildlife, including the endemic red crabs, which migrate en masse every year from the forest to the sea.

Mt. Carruthers, NSW
“Five kilometres north of Mt. Kosciuszko, the slopes of Carruthers have some of Australia’s finest and wildest backcountry ski descents, with dozens of rock-lined couloirs and massive bowls on all aspects of the mountain,” says James McCormack, adventure writer and photographer. If you’re not up for backcountry skiing, then there’s always the Perisher and Thredbo resorts, or some great winter hiking/snowshoeing to be done. Not to mention the Schnapps distillery!

Mt Buffalo, VIC
This place is “so beautiful for a romantic weekend away, and has some great snowshoeing, cross-country and gentle downhill skiing,” says Ken Eastwood, travel writer and author.

Cape York, QLD

The literal top end of our country, Cape York is a real getaway. With few crowds, you can really soak up the tropics in peace. “Warm weather, incredible jungle, crystal clear streams and waterfalls… not to mention giant lizards,” says Derek Morrison, adventure writer and photographer.

Nitmiluk National Park, NT

“The gorges of this park offer a great combination of walking and liloing under sunny skies,” says Lincoln Hall, mountaineer and writer. “There’s the excitement of discovering rock art by chance and the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere when you push beyond the marked trails.” The Jatbula Track around the famed Katherine Gorge is a highlight.