As winter rolls around and the temperature drops slightly in the northern states and territories of Australia it’s a common misconception that the fun has to stop.
But we disagree. There are more ways to stay warm than cuddling up on the couch under a blanket or cranking the heating up to 30 degrees, you can instead get warm with some good old fashioned fun.
We have picked eight experiences you can enjoy at the northern end of Australia that will help warm you from the inside out. Get warm with fun, smiles and sun this winter because remember, winter is cancelled this year in Australia.
What better way to warm up than by getting active in the outdoors? If you can brave the initial hit of the cooler weather in the early morning you’ll be treated to an incredible experience as the day warms up. One of the best to lace up your hiking shoes and get trekking is in the Top End’s Kakadu National Park and Litchfield National Park.
Located relatively close to Darwin, the capital of NT, these national parks provide some incredible opportunities for outdoorsy travellers. Some of the walks located within Kakadu include the Jim Jim Plunge Pool Walk; a 2-kilometre return trail that needs a 4WD to access it, the Barrk Sandstone Bushwalk; a challenging 12-kilometre trail through sandstone country, and the Mardugal Billabong Walk; a 1-kilometre trail along the billabong.
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If you’re turning your attention to Litchfield National Park and you’re an experienced and fit hiker then The Tabletop Track will be your number one pick. This Track is a 39-kilometre trail not suited for the faint hearted and will guarantee you work up a sweat to keep you warm throughout the entire duration.
If you’re not up to completing the entire track then you can walk along one of the linking tracks located at Florence Falls, Greenant Creek, Wangi Falls and Walker Creek.
For those of us that aren’t experienced hikers or aren’t too confident exploring the vast Northern Territory national parks, you can embark on some guided day tours to catch a glimpse of the beauty and explore the region by car, foot and boat.
There is a full day Kakadu National Park tour with a Billabong Cruise and Lunch visiting some of the NP’s most popular sites or the Litchfield National Park Day Tour from Darwin with a buffet lunch which takes you around the smaller park for the day.
Experience Hot Air Ballooning
The heat radiating into the carriage of a hot air balloon is sure to warm you up this winter, and the good news is that there are so many different locations you can rise up in the sky in one of these bad boys.
Hot air ballooning is considered one of the most scenic activities to enjoy year round but during winter it is even more popular. By putting the thought of the early rise out of your mind and focusing on the warmth of the hot air and the incredible views, you’ll be warm long before the sun starts to rise.
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If you’re in south-east Queensland you can take to the skies on the Gold Coast with Balloon Aloft, Gold Coast Hinterland with HOT AIR or the Brisbane/Ipswich region with Floating Images and even Byron Bay with Byron Bay Ballooning if you’re further south.
Travelling further north you’ll get to enjoy epic views of the Great Barrier Reef and neighbouring Daintree Rainforest in the one experience with hot air balloon flights from both Cairns and Port Douglas with HOT AIR. If you find yourself needing to warm up in the rugged Red Centre then you can take to the skies in Alice Springs with Outback Ballooning.
While you’ll still want to pack some warm clothes for this experience, you’ll warm up sooner than you think once the balloon is inflated, you’re in the sky and the sun is rising.
Cuddle a Koala
Now, this is a tough gig people, cuddling a koala to stay warm, what have we come to? If you can persevere through this you can do anything! But seriously, this is probably one of our favourite ways to warm up because instead of rugging up and awkwardly cuddling your neighbour to stay warm this winter season you can cuddle up to one of these cute guys! I mean, just look at that face!
The best part about this is that Queensland is one of the few states where you can actually touch and cuddle these national icons! Some more great news is that you don’t have to scamper up trees to try and find them because there are so many wildlife habitats, zoos and sanctuaries dotted around the state that will let you cosy up to them comfortably for warmth purposes of course, not for the cool photo opportunities.
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If you’re in the Gold Coast and Brisbane regions, boy are you in for a treat because Brisbane is home to the largest koala sanctuary in the world, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and the Gold Coast has many different locations to cuddle up including Dreamworld, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Paradise Country. And we can’t forget about one of the biggest zoos in the country, Australia Zoo, on the Sunshine Coast to the north and their opportunities to cuddle koalas.
Travelling further up the coast you can make a pit stop at Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays for more warmth purposes, of course, to cuddle up to one of these cuties at the island’s animal attraction WILD LIFE Hamilton Island. Continuing your mission north, you’ll land at Cairns and Port Douglas, two other koala cuddling hot spots.
The Cairns region’s Rainforestation Nature Park, the aptly named Kuranda Koala Gardens and Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures are all viable options as is the Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas to the north in Port Douglas.
Some more great news is that each of these attractions all offers the chance to get up close to a range of other Aussie animals including kangaroos and wallabies.
Paddle in a Kayak
Get that heart rate pumping as you paddle around some of the most beautiful destinations this winter season. If the cooler water temperatures aren’t very appealing to you for swimming than you can stay on top of the water and still have fun.
With the sun and the physical exertion of kayaking warming you up, you’ll be hard-pressed to get off the water at the end of the day.
For one of the most surreal kayaking experiences you’ll want to head over to Moreton Island in the Moreton Bay region off Brisbane, climb into one of the glass bottom kayaks and paddle around the famous Tangalooma Wrecks to admire the man-made reef. This can be done as part of Australian Sunset Safaris’ Day Tour and multi-day tour from Brisbane or the Gold Coast.
You can also jump into a kayak and paddle around the waters of Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, the Sunshine Coast including Noosa and Rainbow Beach, Fitzroy Island and Green Island to name a few.
The best part about this experience is that it’s suitable for both adults and children with some offering two-person kayaks so you can take it easy while your friend paddles or vice versa. It all will depend on how warm you want to get on this scenic and adventurous activity.
Visit some Breweries & Distilleries
If you prefer to warm up indoors then we’ve also got you covered because there are a number of great locations that will help you warm up from the stomach. These locations are, of course, breweries.
If you love a good beer or spirit then you’ll want to read on because we’ve got a list of some of the best winter warming breweries in the northern end of the country.
Don’t be turned off by the thought of a cold drink at a time when the norm is hot chocolates and cappuccinos because these drinks will warm you up a different way. You can order a craft beer or glass of rum from some of the best breweries and distilleries in the country. But remember to drink responsibly and in moderation.
Let’s begin with some of the breweries in Queensland including the XXXX Brewery and Newstead Brewing Co. in Brisbane and the Burleigh Brewing Co., Gold Coast Brewery and Black Hops Brewery on the Gold Coast. Venturing up the coast you’ll find the Townsville Brewery, the Hemingway’s Brewery in Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef Brewing Co. in Cairns.
If a glass of rum is what you’re after then you can’t look past the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, one of the most famous distilleries in the country. Other popular choices include Cairns’ Mt Uncle Distillery and the Tamborine Mountain Distillery and Beenleigh Rum in the Brisbane region.
For those in the Top End, you’ll want to head to Six Tanks Brewery and Oz Brew Palmerston.
If you spread around the north of Australia and can’t make your way to some of these breweries distilleries then you’ll have to go to the local pub and warm up the same way the locals do.
Cruise the Reef
Cruising along the waters of the Great Barrier Reef is often considered a typical summer experience, but the lucky few who make their way to Cairns and the greater Far North Queensland region know otherwise.
Winter is possibly one of the best times to get out on the water and explore the world-famous Great Barrier Reef due to the reduced crowds, and at times, reduced rates.
You could spend your day lounging in the sun on a beautiful island or coral cay with a visit to Green Island, Fitzroy Island, Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, Michaelmas Cay or Lady Elliot Island.
If you’re up for a longer day trip you’ll want to head out to the Outer Great Barrier Reef and enjoy a day on the water on the deck of the boat with Passions of Paradise, Silverswift, Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive, Wavedancer, Sailaway and Ocean Spirit Cruises.
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But wait, there’s more because you can get off the boat in the middle of the ocean on the Great Barrier Reef and spend the day on a moored activity platform. Operators DownUnder Cruise and Dive, Cruise Whitsundays, Great Adventures, Quicksilver, Sunlover and Reef Magic all have docked platforms at different parts of the reef.
You can spend the day snorkelling along the reef, going out on glass bottom boat rides to stay dry, donning a thick wetsuit and diving to the depths of the reef or lazing in the sun on the top of the deck.
All of these adventurous experiences will be sure to help warm you up if not, the simple experience of visiting one of the great wonders of the world will help the process along.
If you’re looking for some more awesome ways to warm up this winter season then check out all of our top picks around Australia.