Adventure | Family 28 May 2024

Embrace or Escape: The best winter holidays in Australia & New Zealand

There are two types of people in this world: those who embrace cold weather, cozying up by a fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate and a scarf the size of a small country; and those who are forever chasing the sun, donning their swimsuits and heading straight for the beach – or the airport.

For our northern hemisphere friends, winter in Australia and New Zealand officially runs from June to August. But just because the temperature drops a few degrees doesn’t mean the fun freezes over. In fact, winter can be a fantastic time to explore down under, with plenty of exciting activities to keep you warm.

Whether you’re on team scarf or team swimsuit, we’ve rounded up the best holidays to take during winter.

Embrace it

Cozy up at a cellar door

If you ask us, winter is a time to rug up and sip the good stuff, so a vineyard makes for an ideal getaway.

Perch yourself in one of the 80 cozy cellar doors in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, just an hour’s drive from Adelaide. Alternatively, head to the Clare Valley region, where the air is so pure and crisp that the best days are best spent by a crackling fire with a glass of wine to warm the cockles. Add a charcuterie board to the mix, and you’ll be in high spirits in no time.

For your stay, Avani Adelaide Residences offers a luxurious retreat after a day of wine tasting, while Oaks Adelaide Embassy Suites provides panoramic views of Adelaide Hills.

Over in New South Wales, the charm of the Hunter Valley is hard to beat. It’s a blend of picturesque scenery and winemaking expertise that dates back to the 1850s. Here you’ll find plenty of charming family-owned vineyards and renowned wineries to warm up your bones.

Once you’ve chosen your favourite bottle or two, head back to Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort, a tranquil retreat surrounded by lush vineyards, rolling hills and gourmet dining.

Get lit in the gardens

LUMA light show - Photo credit

How does a winter weekend experiencing the magic of the Southern Light Project in Queenstown, New Zealand, sound?

During winter, LUMA transforms the urban space of Queenstown Gardens into a mesmerising nightscape, with illuminated art, sculptures, and interactive performances nestled deep in the forest. Indulge in local cuisine, enjoy live music and immerse yourself in this unique arts and culture event.

LUMA is set to light up Queenstown Gardens from May 30 to June 3 2024, so don’t miss this magical experience – it only happens once a year! Visit their website for more information and tickets.

Head to the slopes

Okay, we’re still in Queenstown! If the light show wasn’t enough to sell you, try skiing. It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work.

Sure, there’s plenty of snow and powder to be had in Australia, but we’re packing our bags and heading to the world-class slopes of Queenstown, New Zealand.

With top-notch snowboarding and skiing across half a dozen picturesque ski fields, Queenstown is an enticing winter paradise. Coronet Peak and The Remarkables Ski Fields are just two of the fantastic ski field options, catering to both novices and seasoned pros. If you’re the former, make sure to pack some Glucosamine and Ibuprofen, as your knees might need a little extra love!

Queenstown isn’t just a playground for powderhounds; it’s packed with epic activities to fill your days, from adrenaline rushes to relaxing spas and an incredible food and wine scene. Whether you're a thrill-seeker, nature lover, or a foodie at heart, Queenstown welcomes all with gloved open arms.

Make Oaks Queenstown Shores Resort your home base for your winter adventure, with stunning lake views and a hard-to-beat location close to both the town and the ski fields.

Hit the humpback highway

Hervey Bay Humpback Whale Watching - Mandatory Credit Tourism and Event Queensland

Did you know winter is the best time for whale watching? From June to October, around 25,000 of these gentle giants turn the waters off the Queensland coastline into their own personal playground.

You’re in for a treat when it comes to choosing a whale watching cruise in Queensland. Whether you depart from Redcliffe, Hervey Bay, the Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast, you’ll get a front-row seat to the humpback highway. These majestic creatures often swim right up to the boat, flaunting their acrobatic skills (show-offs!) and making a splash as they complete their epic 10,000km round trek to and from the chilly waters of Antarctica.

Now, a friendly tip: Even if you fancy yourself a seasoned sailor, don’t forget to pack or purchase some ginger pills. Sea legs or not, deep water boat motion can be rough, and you don’t want those oohs and aahs to turn into ohs and nos!

For the ultimate whale watching experience in Moreton Bay, stay at Oaks Redcliffe Mon Komo Suites, located right on the edge of Settlement Cove Lagoon in Redcliffe. With beaches, parklands, and endless fish and chip shops, you can turn your whale watching adventure into a winter weekend getaway.

Or head to Hervey Bay for a coastal escape and stay at Oaks Hervey Bay Resort and Spa. This resort provides all the comforts of home while you explore the wonders of the sea on one of the many whale watching cruises available in the area.

Not in Queensland? You can also catch these friendly giants (and dolphins!) in the blue water paradise that is Port Stephens, just a few short hours from Sydney. Oaks Port Stephens Pacific Blue Resort in Salamander Bay and Oaks Nelson Bay Lure Suites in the heart of Nelson Bay are both prime locations for exploring the region.

Don’t say it…don’t say it…don’t say it…

You’ll have a whale of a time. 

Escape it

Snorkelling at Lady Musgrave Experience - Mandatory Credit Tourism And Events Queensland

Enjoy a tropical getaway

Escape the winter blues? Yes, you Cairns!

In Far North Queensland, on the picturesque east coast of Australia, winter is just a word. With temperatures hovering in the mid-twenties, Cairns is a paradise for those seeking to trade the cold for the beach. Winter also marks the ‘dry season’, bringing many warm, sunny days and minimal rain to explore the region’s natural beauties, including the iconic Daintree Rainforest and, of course, the Great Barrier Reef.

Head just one hour up the coast and you’ll find Port Douglas, a place where, for the locals, staying warm means putting on a wetsuit. Here you can snorkel and dive the magical reef to your heart's content, or spend your winter days on the sun-kissed shores with a good book in hand.

Cairns and Porty D (can we make that nickname happen?) beckon with their tropical charm, offering cocktails by the pool and fine dining at superb restaurants, while the rest of the country huddles around heaters. It’s no wonder visitors flock north to escape the winter chill.

If you need a base, Oaks Cairns Hotel is located right in the heart of the action on Cairns Esplanade, while Oaks Port Douglas Resort is a serene and spacious hotel that’s perfect for rest and relaxation.

Get a taste of the top end

Welcome to Darwin, where winter simply doesn’t exist. This is Darwin’s dry season – the time of year when Australia’s Top End is buzzing under the warm sun, cooled by gentle breezes from the Timor Sea. With weather so balmy it could thaw you right out, it’s no wonder Darwin draws the attention of southern sun-seekers.

Darwin has a relaxed, small-town feel, yet it sits on a harbour about five times the size of Sydney’s! The dry season boasts low humidity and almost no rainfall, making it the most comfortable time to visit.

With its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife and rich Indigenous culture, Darwin is a must-visit destination for those craving an endless summer. From the majestic waterfalls of Litchfield National Park to cruising along the Katherine Gorge, from the seasonal open-air cinema to a taste of local culture at the Mindel Beach Markets, there's no shortage of things to do in Darwin.

But perhaps the best attraction of all is its stunning natural sunsets. Watch as the sky transforms into hues of red, orange, pink and purple from one of the city's picturesque vantage points. It’s the perfect way to end your day.

And just minutes from the Darwin Waterfront Precinct, Oaks Darwin Elan Hotel awaits with a sparkling pool, perfect for a refreshing morning and evening dip!

Witness the magic of the moon in Broome

Staircase to the Moon - Photo credit

Every year, thousands of people flock to Broome in Western Australia to witness an amazing spectacle called the ‘Staircase to the Moon’.

As the full moon rises over Roebuck Bay, the light reflects off the mudflats, creating the optical illusion of a celestial staircase leading to the sky. It’s a lunar marvel! This natural phenomenon is as stunning as it is unique, occurring three times a month from March to October.

The area puts on a fantastic night market as well, rumoured to serve the best paella in town. Keep in mind, though, that market times don’t always align with the moonlight show, so be sure to check the dates in advance.

Broome is home to a host of other activities, from camel rides on Cable Beach (watch out, they spit) to immersing yourself in the town’s rich pearl diving history. For nature lovers,  Gantheaume Point’s striking red cliffs are a must-see, offering breathtaking views and the chance to explore ancient dinosaur footprints at low tide. It’s well worth checking out, even if cool rock formations aren’t normally your thing.

Unwind after your adventures at Oaks Cable Beach Resort, nestled by the shore, or choose Oaks Broome Hotel for a stay in the heart of Roebuck Bay.

Ready to plan your winter getaway? Oaks Hotels has the perfect accommodation to ensure you make the most out of your trip. Book your activity through Experience Oz and enjoy Australian and New Zealand travel packages at your fingertips. That’s just what you need to wash the winter blues away!