March in Australia marks the transition from summer to autumn, yet for the majority of the month throughout the country temperatures still remain anywhere from hot to warm. Combine this with a lack of school holidays throughout the bulk of the month, and this creates a “best of both worlds” atmosphere of solid weather with reasonable prices in many destinations both in the country’s northern and southern portions.
As a result, there are few times of the year where visiting a wider range of destinations is quite as viable than in March; water is still swimmable, yet humidity is far less of a factor than the summer months, while the southernmost portions of the country don’t yet have the chill that they experience in the cool season.
If you’re planning to travel in Australia in March, here are 5 of the top destinations in the country to visit, along with what unique experiences they have to offer.
5. Port Arthur, Tasmania
Average Temperatures during March: 17.5°C (63.5°F) – 10.5°C (50.9°F)
Ideal for: Those who appreciate history; those who favour cooler climates
While Tasmania in general shines during Autumn as a travel destination – the entire east coast of the Island State makes for an excellent travel experience during this period – the historic site of Port Arthur in particular makes for a standout spot on the itinerary. As home to one of the greatest remaining bastions of Australia’s early colonial history, as well as a charming and verdantly green town in itself, Port Arthur serves as something of a living relic of the past.
The Port Arthur Historic Site is a World Heritage-protected hub of history and architecture all set amongst immaculately-kept grounds that sits in a picturesque spot alongside the waters of Carnarvon Bay, and its tranquil atmosphere belies the site’s tumultuous past.
Dating back to its origins as a penal colony established in the 1830’s, it was previously used for the incarceration of some of the UK’s worst criminal offenders, with its location on a narrow ocean-let formed by the water bridge of the Tasman Sea acting as a natural escape deterrent.
Nowadays, it remains as a remarkably well-preserved ruin that offers a distinctive combination of historical insight, sightseeing and natural beauty that give it a rare status amongst Australian tourist attractions.
The site features just over 30 buildings that each had their own historic role – from administration to imprisonment and mining to milling – and is quite expansive, particularly for those looking to go further in-depth on the history of the site’s prior relevance. Port Arthur is a veritable open-air museum, with many of the buildings having been restored with the likes of accurate era-specific decoration and furniture to grant additional insight into the living conditions of the time.
Many of the sites exhibits are interactive which makes the learning process more enjoyable, while kids are also catered for via activity books that make for a historic “Treasure Hunt” of sorts through the ruins.
The Port Arthur Historic Site is a World Heritage-protected hub of history and architecture set amongst immaculately-kept grounds alongside the waters of Carnarvon Bay.
Visiting Port Arthur and seeing it in its entirety will take up a full day; this is enjoyable during March as the mild weather makes for a great environment for walking and taking your time to explore, with only a light jumper required on the intermittent cooler days that crop up.
As Tasmania’s rainfall is spread relatively evenly throughout the year, sunny days are also fairly frequent during March; however even a light rain tends to add more of a “moody” atmosphere to the ruins rather than detracting from the experience.
Exploring the ruins can be done individually or via one of the optional 45 minute interpretive tours that are available; guides here are typically excellent, and help add an additional layer of context to the trials and tribulations of the site’s former inhabitants. For those looking for a spookier look at its history, ghost tours are also offered during the evenings that blend together a mix of paranormal tales and extra historical detail; these last 90 minutes and depart at 8:45pm and 9:00pm of an evening.
Coupled with the ability to combine a journey here with sightseeing on the rest of the Tasman Peninsula for an extended Tassie trip, visiting Port Arthur is an essential item on any itinerary for the region – and it’s all visitable just over an hour from capital Hobart.
4. Dandenong Ranges, Victoria
Average Temperatures during March: 19.7°C (73.2°F) – 11.3°C (58.1°F)
Ideal for: Relaxed day trips and overnight stays; those who appreciate the outdoors, nature, and laid-back charm
Top things to do: Ride the Puffing Billy railway; visit the National Rhododendron Gardens; walk and hike one of the many walking tracks; take in the views atop Mt. Dandenong and dine at SkyHigh Restaurant; visit Tea Leaves Australia at Sassafras
One of the greater Melbourne region’s best getaway spots for those looking for a more peaceful dose of greenery and nature, the Dandenongs carry with them a distinctly old-world feel, with a number of architectural examples and characteristic experiences that hark back to older times.
Dotted with several charming towns and villages and draped in Aussie bushland and national park, there’s plenty of both natural and man-made adventure to be found here for those willing to put in the time to explore. This is by no means an adrenaline-pumping destination for high-octane thrills; instead, it’s a picturesque and laid back slice of Victoria that makes for one of the best spots in the state that can be done in a single day (or two-day period).
Much of the Dandenong Ranges’ appeal comes from its well-forested terrain, as much of the rolling hills and sweeping valleys that make up its geography are covered in a diverse range of Aussie flora and old growth forest. As a result, the simple acts of walking and hiking are a core focus of visits here, and the region is home to a number of tracks and trails to cover all fitness levels.
Visiting its various highlights by road is also a relatively painless exercise due to light traffic; this is compounded by the lack of holidays during most of March to make for driving that is relaxed rather than stressful, and having a car at your disposal makes exploring the region an enjoyable prospect due to the relative lack of convenient public transport.
The Dandenongs have enough variety in experiences to appeal to most ages with several unique standouts that can’t be matched anywhere else in Australia.
The Dandenongs have enough variety in experiences to appeal to most ages and temperaments, with several unique standouts that can’t be matched anywhere else in Australia. Most famous of these is the Puffing Billy railway which winds its way at a leisurely pace through a mixture of dense fern gullies and towering Mountain Ash trees. Powered by the raw energy of coal, the ride is eternally popular with kids in particular, as the sight of the little ones dangling their legs over the side of its passenger carriages is one that has been seen in the region for decades.
Adults will appreciate the ride as well, as the trundling, relaxed atmosphere of the voyage is periodically broken up with wonderful views of the surrounding region into the distance. The Puffing Billy ride also serves as convenient transportation – it stops at several stations such as Emerald, Lakeside and Gembrook which provide peaceful spots to disembark – as well as serving as the bridging point between Melbourne’s metro train system at Belgrave.
Other key attractions are also well worth visiting, including the William Rickets Sanctuary (a fantastical and serene attraction featuring a number of Aboriginal-themed sculptures blended into the forest); the National Rhododendron Gardens (a vivid show of floral colour and one of Victoria’s most impressive picnic spots that features a wide range of different plant species); the best views of the region from atop Mount Dandenong itself (and its associated SkyHigh Restaurant that provides a great panorama of the Melbourne CBD as well as a quality menu); and the delights of each of the Dandenongs’ individual towns themselves.
There are numerous villages that populate the Dandenong Ranges, however its major attractions for tourists are the towns of Mount Dandenong, Olinda and Sassafras. These towns each have something to offer the prospective visitor, and are populated with various quaint boutique stores with handcrafted goods, charming little cafes, and public grassed areas ideal for a picnic.
Mount Dandenong is home to the aforementioned William Rickets Sanctuary and SkyHigh Restaurant while also a hub for delightful little restaurants and secluded accommodation options; Olinda is both where you’ll find the Rhododendron Gardens and renowned for the quality of both its wine and coffee; and Sassafras is a quirky little concentration of craft stores that produce or sell scented candles, woodwork and a staggering array of tea flavours and types at Tea Leaves Australia (featured on our Victorian Ultimate Bucket List here).
While the Dandenongs are a destination that’s largely weather-dependent, March is typically one of the months of the year that experience lower rainfall in the region, and the cool days make taking part in its outdoor activities and attractions a comfortable prospect.
In all, this is a day trip spot that’s not only highly enjoyable, but lies a mere 35km from the Melbourne CBD and thus doesn’t require either too large an investment of time or money to experience.
3. Port Stephens/Nelson Bay, New South Wales
Average Temperatures during March: 26.2°C (79.1°F) – 16.2°C (61.1°F)
Ideal for: a laid-back mixture of beach environment; those who enjoy aquatic activities; seafood lovers; those who don’t need a lively entertainment-oriented destination
One of the best and most balanced getaway destinations within reasonable reach of Sydney, Port Stephens and its idyllic location on the NSW central coast blend together plenty of highlights to be enjoyed both on and off shore.
Situated around a 3 hour drive north of the state’s capital, Port Stephens has a number of distinctive features that help set it apart from other potential coastal destinations along this route – its beaches are a particular highlight, as is the high volume of marine life that populate its waters; its massive Stockton Sand Dunes make for a distinctive attraction that mixes fun with indigenous history; and it’s also something of an up and coming culinary hotbed due to both its famously fresh seafood along with its proximity to a number of quality wineries and craft beer producers.
Travelling to Port Stephens in March makes for an ideal time to visit due to being able to take advantage of its aquatic leanings without being scorched – water temperatures are enjoyable for swimming, kayaking or surfing while heading inland for some exploration also remains a comfortable proposition.
The beaches of Port Stephens are both wonderful and varied in terms of protection from the elements as well as layout, and fishermen in particular will enjoy a break here as there are a number of great spots available to make an onshore catch from rock and estuary alike.
Head into the waters, meanwhile, and a whole other world of adventure opens up, as the abundant marine life makes for enjoyable exploration opportunities. Snorkelling is popular here, with the hotspot at Fly Point one of Australia’s best shore dives and a large time saver for those not wanting to spend time or money heading out into open waters. There’s plenty of sea life to behold just off shore, from multicoloured sponges and corals, schools of fish, and even the occasional sea turtle.
Travelling to Port Stephens in March makes for an ideal time to visit due to being able to take advantage of its aquatic leanings without being scorched.
Its dolphins are another standout feature, and Port Stephens serves as host to one of the country’s highest populations of the intelligent sea mammals – its residents number around 140 in total – making dolphin spotting cruises a must-do experience for visitors. MoonShadow Cruises offer regular tours and spacious viewing decks from which to spot the marine life while staying dry; however more adventurous types may instead choose to embrace a more up-close thrill by donning swim equipment and joining Dolphin Swims Australia for a memorable experience alongside the dolphins – the only experience of its kind in the state.
The region’s coastline is panoramic and picturesque, and boasts a number of scenic viewpoints and sites of significance to explore – notably its Nelson Head Lighthouse which sits overlooking the bay and now serves as a functional “coastal museum” of sorts. The rugged and rocky coast contrasts beautifully with the waters of the port and its surrounds, and from the Tomaree Headland Lookout you’ll be able to take in a breathtaking spectacle of all of this combined should you be willing to put in the effort.
Port Stephens and surrounds’ on-land adventures always begin with its sand dunes – as one of the most unique and obvious features of the region’s geography, these towering mounds of sand can be both driven on (via 4WD of course) and boarded down, with “sandboarding” long an iconic experience of this part of NSW.
The Stockton Sand Dunes are the largest moving dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, reaching heights of over 30 metres at some points, and also come with a strong Aboriginal history having been used for thousands of years for cultural pursuits. Tours are available that highlight the remnants of the past, with burial grounds, campsites and more still viewable to this day.
Perhaps its most impressive spectacle, however, is the view from atop Gan Gan Lookout that’s reached via a diversion of the main road to Nelson Bay. All it takes is a short drive up a (steep) hill, and you’ll reach a lookout that provides a gorgeous panorama from the viewing platforms that provides a sweeping outlook over the bright blue waters of the bay and specks of land dotting the waters.
Food-wise, Port Stephens likewise excels due to the array of easily accessible fresh produce on offer – the sea offers a rich bounty of seafood of various types such as oysters and scallops that make for key ingredients in some delectable dishes, while inland the region’s array of vineyards produce a surprisingly large array of reds and whites along with critically, award-winning craft beers that are the ideal complement to any meal.
If you’re after a March travel destination that puts an emphasis on a quiet, scenic and laid back environment with easy access to wonderful beachfront, fishing and other leisurely pursuits, Port Stephens is an underrated choice of locations. Given that the brighter lights and bigger-city atmosphere of Newcastle is only an hour’s drive away as well, and it’s the balance that makes a holiday here well worthwhile.
2. Adelaide, South Australia
Average Temperatures during March: 26.4°C (79.5°F) – 15.3°C (59.5°F)
Ideal for: those interested in art and dining; festival goers; those wanting a flexible capital with plenty of single and multi-day trip options
Top things to do: Attend one of the “Mad March” festivals (Adelaide Fringe, Womadelaide, Art Festival); enjoy the beachfront at Glenelg; visit Haigh’s Chocolates; travel to the Barossa Valley, Kangaroo Island, Hahndorf & Adelaide Hills; swim with dolphins; Adelaide Zoo
In contrast to other destinations on this list, Adelaide during March is far from a calm and relaxed travel destination; if anything, it’s one of the craziest times of the year in South Australia’s capital – but it’s the nature of the craziness that makes visiting here so appealing. The period bridging February and March is festival season in Adelaide, and the city is livelier than perhaps any other time of year and its character and growing artistic bent comes to the forefront.
While the Adelaide Arts Festival, Womadelaide, and even the annual Clipsal 500 race all have their own appeal, it’s the Adelaide Fringe Festival that is truly – and sometimes strikingly – unique. Perhaps the single premier display of free and artistic expression in Australia, Adelaide Fringe firmly plants the city on the international map with its eclectic mix of modern art-forms all set out over a 3+ week period.
The talent on display at the festival runs the gamut from comedy to cabaret and acrobatics to visual art, accompanied by some occasionally risqué demonstrations that push the boundaries of conventional taste. The festival quite literally takes over the city during its festivities, and both indoor and outdoor venues are set up for the artists to showcase their skills for the general public to admire.
In addition, while visiting during March makes the likes of accommodation costs and traffic more of a burden to deal with, the month is largely free from the often temperamental and extreme nature of Adelaide’s weather, making outdoor pursuits and day trips from the city more enjoyable as a result. Winter in Adelaide can be absolutely freezing while summer will periodically throw out days that are blazing hot, and thus the easing into autumn strikes something of a balance between the two; if you’re not intrigued by the festival aspect, then the latter half of the month when festivities have ended is still a premier time to visit.
What makes Adelaide great is that there’s plenty of entertainment and sightseeing opportunities to be had both within the city borders and easily reachable without.
What makes Adelaide great is that there’s plenty of entertainment and sightseeing opportunities to be had both within the city borders and easily reachable without. The city retains a strong European influence to this day and gets its moniker of “City of Churches” largely as a result of this. There’s plenty of photogenic architecture to take in while strolling its streets, while the overall cultural focus of many of the city’s major attractions and galleries are a large contributing factor too. High quality galleries, museums, and other exhibits about; in many ways Adelaide is reminscent of Melbourne in its mix of atmosphere and offerings.
Adelaide is also fast approaching – and in some cases, even eclipsing – Melbourne in terms of its up and coming culinary scene, and ever-evolving “laneway” development that has seen plenty of new top places to sample food and drink open their doors in recent years. These hidden delights that can be stumbled upon while strolling the city offer some of its best blends of atmosphere and quality brews, and the sheer number of these spots to down a cold one.
As a result, there are now numerous quality spots in the city each providing their own little niche; the likes of the historic Clever Little Tailor on Peel Street, North Terrace’s trendy 2KW, the relatively new Electra House on William Street and the atmospheric Udaberri on Leigh Street – to name just a tiny fraction – all rank as enjoyable venues in which to imbibe. This ongoing cultural renaissance has helped add an extra layer of sophistication to the city’s CBD, and is helping dissolve the city’s reputation as something of a sleepy capital after sun goes down.
Adelaide also serves as the ideal springboard to some of Australia’s greatest regional attractions, with a diverse number of single and multi-day trips available that cover a wide spectrum of experiences. The renowned wine destination of the Barossa Valley combines a picturesque landscape and extraordinary culinary offerings along with innmerable quality cellar doors to visit; Hahndorf is a German-themed hotspot of a little town that is an ideal day trip destination; the rugged outback of the Flinders Ranges is within reach of those who don’t mind extended roadtrips; and the remarkable Kangaroo Island and its gorgeous Flinders Chase National Park (recently voted #1 on our South Australia Bucket List) beckons to be explored.
Time your trip to Adelaide to coincide with mid-to-late March and you’ll get a sample of upbeat festival atmosphere followed by a dose of calm and thus get to see the city in both enjoyable lights.
1. Rottnest Island, Western Australia
Average Temperatures during March: 26.1°C (78.9°F) – 18.6°C (65.4°F)
Ideal for: enjoying a pristine island environment; excellent beachgoing and snorkelling; getting up close with unique wildlife; bike riding and exploration
Top things to do: Swim in the Basin; snap a selfie with a Quokka; visit the Oliver Gun and tunnels; take a scenic cruise; dine at Hotel Rottnest; snorkelling at Pinky Beach
In terms of the meeting point between pristine island environments and raw accessibility, there are few places in Australia that can compare with Western Australia’s Rottnest Island – it’s a veritable slice of sand-and-sea paradise that lies within a surprisingly short distance from capital Perth. A short, 30 minute ferry ride from the mainland is all it takes to quickly become immersed in a beautiful paradise that was voted Australia’s #1 Destination to Experience during our annual poll back in 2014.
March’s combination of low rainfall in this part of WA along with the lack of school holidays makes for an ideal time for visiting Rottnest Island as costs will be far lower than peak periods if looking to stay overnight, while you’ll be able to maximise its almost-entirely outdoor focus with an abundance of sunny days.
Had you not departed from the Perth-area mainland it would be easy to think you were in a much more isolated locale – many compare “Rotto” to one of the Greek Islands in terms of physical beauty, and you’d not be far from wrong for doing so.
Temperatures on Rottnest during early autumn make for ideal beach weather, which is definitely a good thing – the island is a cavalcade of secluded, sandy bays and beaches that each offer wonderful snorkelling and swimming opportunities (there are over 60 to choose from in total). Couple the isolated, pristine beaches with the utter lack of commercial development – there are no highrises here – and you’ve got a island environment that makes for a refreshing escape that comes with a double dose of wildlife and history, too.
In terms of the meeting point between pristine island environments and raw accessibility, there are few places in Australia that can compare with Western Australia’s Rottnest Island.
Leading the “unique wildlife” charge as one of the island’s drawcards are Rottnest’s famed Quokka (a form of small, short-tailed wallaby) colony – they’re a cute, cuddly and smiley mammal that has made them one of the darlings of the Internet in recent years, and their incredibly tame nature makes it possible to get a perfect snapshot alongside one.
The island’s population of New Zealand Fur Seals which can be seen lazing in the sun on some of the island’s rocky outcroppings are another highlight; visitors can stand on the new Seal View Platform over the cliff and get closer to see the seals without getting hurt or causing damage.
The historical side of the island strikes on two levels: it has a rather tumultuous past as the former site of a prison for indigenous Australians, and there are also numerous remnants of its colonial past that still stand in remarkably good condition to this day. The island played a military role during both of the two World Wars, and heritage sites have been established where the enormous guns at Oliver Hill and their maze of underground tunnels can be explored via a combined train ride and guided tour.
Getting around the island is largely an exercise in human-powered propulsion, as while it’s relatively small, Rottnest is still large enough to make purely walking a chore. As a result, either hiring bikes or catching the bus is the primary means of getting around – visitors can book bikes at the same time as the ferry over, which makes for a time saver and comes highly recommended.
Careful conservation efforts have been made to keep the island in tip-top condition both from a wildlife and landscape standpoint spearheaded by the Rottnest Island Authority, and its various beaches and other publicly accessible areas remain largely free of human influence, rubbish and other factors that could otherwise taint its beauty.
It’s in large part due to this preservation that Rottnest remains such a special place; there are few such destinations in Australia where you can take in some Aboriginal history, go scuba diving, climb to the top of a lighthouse or visit a section of beach that provides a “desert island” atmosphere all just a short ferry ride away from a capital city, but Rottnest is that rare example that combines them all into a distinctly unique Aussie travel package.
In addition, if you’re looking for all the top things to see and do in and around the rest of Australia including activities, attractions and more, be sure to check out our main Experiences section to browse and book online!