14 of the best winter festivals to check out this year

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14 of the best winter festivals to check out this year

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill
Sovereign Hill, Ballarat. Photo: joliphotos

It's time to rug up and embrace the cold with these super cosy winter festivals.

When the temperature begins to drop, it’s pretty tempting to retreat to the couch hibernating under a blanket, takeaway in one hand and TV remote in the other. But for those of us who are adventurous and unfazed by the blustery wind and temps, an outdoor activity is just the ticket to fight off those winter blues, and a winter festival promises to do exactly that.

From light shows illuminating a different side to our cities, to Christmas in July and winter feasts and bonfires in Apollo Bay, here are a slew of winter festivals to beef up your calendar over the next couple of months.

Ballarat Winter Festival, Ballarat

It’s time to bundle up and embrace the cold with the return of the super cozy (and family-friendly) Ballarat Winter Festival.

Running from Saturday, June 25 through to Sunday, July 17, Ballarat will once again be transformed into a magical winter wonderland, with a unique array of events and activities to beat the winter blues, warm the soul and satisfy the belly.

Headlined by the Winter Wonderlights (see below), the program also features Australian contemporary artist Patricia Piccinini’s Skywhales: Every Heart Sings, the spectacular hot air balloon sculptures that will take flight from Eastern Oval on 9 July; the thoughtfully curated Design Exchange Winter Market; the inaugural Beyond Dark with food, mulled wine, fire pits, live music and roving performers; the popular pop-up ice skating rink; while at the Ballarat Wildlife Park, guests will be able to warm themselves by the fire, purchase a bowl of spicy noodles and meet the new tiger, Kai.

Running every day of the winter school holidays, Kryal Castle will also celebrate Knights of Fire and Snow Queen Neva. One can create magical potions, learn to sword fight or axe throw, partake in Knight School and experience live performances. While there, guests can journey through the chambers of the Dragon Labyrinth; get lost in the maze; be enchanted by pantomimes; visit the wizard in his workshop; join in a potion-making workshop; or learn the ancient art of archery.

There’s a lot happening.

To find out more, visit Ballarat Winter Festival.

Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights, Ballarat

If you’ve longed for a white Christmas, then this will be the festival for you. Sovereign Hill in Ballarat is transforming into a magical winter wonderland to celebrate Christmas in July with their annual ‘Winter Wonderlights’ event, as part of the larger Ballarat Winter Festival.

Illuminating the town from June 25 until July 17, the event will see the Victorian-style buildings along the main street come alive through the magic of large-scale light projections, Christmas animations and a trail of fairy lights throughout Sovereign Hill’s garden in the dazzling ‘Winter Wonderlights’ show. There will also be Christmas trees, window displays, and colourful decorations lining the streets, ‘hands-on’ activities for children, a full theatre program, faux snow falls and delicious treats like gingerbread and mulled wine to seriously bring Christmas cheer to all.

No matter where you look, the old-world charm of the 1850s will bask Sovereign Hill in a golden, Yuletide glow.

The magical Christmas event takes over Sovereign Hill from 25 June – 17 July 2022. Check out the full program here and purchase tickets here.


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Adventure Park Winter Glow, Wallington

Taking inspiration from their ever-popular Christmas Festival of Lights, Adventure Park are once again giving families, couples and friends a chance to explore a dazzling glowing wonderland with their popular even ‘Winter Glow’.

Running from 17 – 19 June, and from 23 June – 10 July, the venue  the venue transform into a frosty winter wonderland with more snow, more rides, more light installations and bigger fire twirling and ice sculpting displays than last year. From 3:30pm until 8:30pm, guests can enjoy daily snow showers, dazzling magical and immersive light installations, spectacular fire-twirling and ice-sculpting displays from local artists, and plenty of comfort food and alpine-appropriate drinks.

Building on last year’s event, this year there will be two massive snow play zone where attendees can make snow angels, build snowmen and for some, touch snow for the first time. There will also be a new snow flurry experience with realistic falling snow. Putting their Christmas lights to good use, there will also be a whopping 2.7 million shimmering lights illuminating Geelong’s night sky, plus hundreds of glittering installations around the park and even UV face painting for anyone who wants to get their glow on.

While the water rides won’t be operating (it’s bloody cold remember), the park will be running a bunch of dry rides including Ferris Wheel, Wave Swinger, Crazy Coaster, Red Baron, Carousel and Little Buggy rides, which will all be covered by your entry price.

Adventure Park’s Winter Glow runs from June 17 to June 19 and from June 23 to July 10. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here.

Winter Wild, Apollo Bay

Far from your average festival, WinterWild is returning to Apollo Bay this August (August 12-14 and August 26-28), igniting the Otways with an immersive, boundary-pushing program for the fourth time delivering an experience hailed as Victoria’s answer to Dark Mofo.

Keeping Apollo Bay’s live music tradition running, WinterWild boasts a program of powerful, unfettered live music once again, this year featuring the likes of Amyl and The Sniffers, Cash Savage and The Last Drinks, ORB, Kee’ahn, Leah Senior and Floodlights, as well as Apollo Bay’s own Sid O’Neil, ensuring the talent on offer rivals even the country’s biggest festivals in integrity and stature.

A highlight of the event is of course DogWarch. The ominous outdoor performance will see local artists partner with internationally renowned producers like Aphids Theatre, Long Prawn and Finucane & Smith as the Otways community lend their time and talents to ensuring the town comes alive with magic and mystery. Going down each Saturday night, this is the event that the festival begins and ends with – that defines it, energises it, enflames it.

Each day indoor and open-air performance art abound, the program also features comedy, a Wild Feast with open flames and seafood, cemetery tours conducted by the local historical society, Qigong, sunrise cold water immersion (no wetsuits allowed!), group somatic sound walks, healing workshops, and yoga combined with live music by the sea. Plus an ocean amphitheatre built to behold a late night water polo match held in an inky, ten-degree ocean with illuminated balls as giant stingrays pass underneath.

WinterWild will run across two weekends, from August 12–14 and from August 26–28. To see the full program, head here.


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Borealis on the Lake, Daylesford

Coined ‘Borealis on the Lake’, the immersive outdoor art installation will beam lasers over Daylesford Lake to recreate the natural phenomenon of the northern lights this winter in a truly unmissable experience.

Created by internationally renowned Switzerland-based artist Dan Archer, the captivating display is set to transport Victorians to the Arctic Circle in an experience that will be unique to Daylesford every Thursday to Sunday from 15 July – 4 September 2022.

‘Borealis on the Lake’ combines technology and art to create unique auroras over Lake Daylesford. Colour, movement, the density of light beams and changing weather conditions work together to give infinite variations. “Surreal” is the only way to describe how it feels, to watch as the lights dance across the lake.

From Switzerland to Japan and many successful presentations across Australia, Borealis has toured the world. Premiering in 2018 at Adelaide Fringe, people have fallen in love with the breath-taking illusion of Aurora Borealis. Ever since, Borealis has since become an Adelaide Fringe institution, coming back year after year, sharing the magic with thousands.

‘Borealis on the Lake’ runs 15 July to 4 September 2022 (every Thursday to Sunday) between 6pm and 9:30pm.

General public tickets can be purchased via the website.


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GLOW – Bendigo After Dark, Bendigo

Hosted by the City of Greater Bendigo, the new and exciting winter event will transform Rosalind Park after dark with a series of vibrant installations and light projections that engage and immerse visitors in an unforgettable sensory experience.

Running every night from 25 June 2022 to 17 July 2022, the heart of Bendigo will come to life through 11 installations that are all unique and aim to showcase stories of Bendigo through a radiant display of light, colour and sound in a spectacular fashion.

Here you will find illuminated representations of all things Bendigo, including the Horticultural heritage, delegation as a UNESCO City and Region of Gastronomy, a nod to our mining history and our cycle-friendly city. Visitors will experience walking through almost 600 colourful lanterns, celebrating the cities rich Chinese heritage.

Using the latest in lighting effects, technology and creativity, GLOW promises to brighten up even the coldest winter night.

GLOW runs from June 25 – July 17 2022 at Rosalind Park, Bendigo. It will run from 6pm to 10pm, Sunday to Thursday and from 6pm to 11pm on Friday and Saturday. You can find out more information here.


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Darker Days, Bright

Victoria’s tranquil (and aptly named) high-country town of Bright will host Darker Days festival from June 17 – 19, transforming the picturesque destination at the base of the Alpine National Park into a fiery celebration of dark beer, live music and country delights.

There’s a fantastic (and quite unique) north-east Victorian twist to the Darker Days lineup this year, which makes it a great spectacle for anyone from the region.

Bob Evans, of Jebediah and solo fame, headlines the fest and will be supported by The Northern Folk and This Way North, Since We Kissed, Matt Katsis, and DJ Several Pleasures. The festival runs for three days total, but the main day is June 18, when you’ll get to see the local music lineup across 10 hours, complimented by more than 50 craft beers.

The festival is staged by Bright Brewery, an independent family-and-friends project that has always sought to attract visitors to the truly captivating scenery that the Victorian alpine region has to offer.

Darker Days runs from June 17 to June 19. For all the info, head to the Darker Days website here.

East Gippsland Winter Festival, Bairnsdale

The East Gippsland Winter Festival is set to light up Victoria’s east with more than 80 spectacular events over three weeks. Coinciding with the winter solstice and the Victorian school holidays, the East Gippsland Winter Festival is a unity of art, culture and food that will run from June 17 until July 10.

Complete with regional art displays and performances, light shows, live music, dining experiences, multimedia events and more, the East Gippsland Winter Festival attracted close to 20,000 visitors last year alone. From a Laneway Party to fine dining experiences, there are tons of events on over the three weeks – including free lantern-making workshops, cultural ceremonies and experiences led by traditional Indigenous owners, long lunches that showcase local produce and nature activities such as bush walks, yoga and meditation.

Not to be missed is the F/LAMP Exhibition at Iceworks Studio in Lakes Entrance, where local artists exhibit their luminous lamp creations. On July 2 there’s a Medieval Bonfire Night in Bruthen, complete with sword fights, costumes and a huge feast. On June 18, explore a laneway in Bairnsdale for Beer, Beats and BBQ in Laneway3875 – an event featuring live musicians performing while you indulge in culinary delights and be dazzled by spectacular lighting projections.

The East Gippsland Winter Festival runs from June 17 through to July 10. For more information, including ongoing program updates, head here.

Winter Shiraz Weekend, Geelong

Returning for its seventh edition, the annual Winter Shiraz Weekend will take place on July 2 and 3 this year, offering guests a unique and exclusive opportunity to taste their way across a diverse selection of award-winning Geelong wineries from the Surf Coast, Moorabool Valley and Bellarine Peninsula.

With 20 participating wineries this year, the program is a feast of both free and ticketed food and wine experiences, gourmet produce, local music and wine masterclasses. Each winery offers its own unique events and experiences, giving attendees plenty of opportunities to meet the individual winemakers, purchase bottles on special and warm up with a glass and an open fire while talented chefs match the region’s renowned cool climate wines with hearty winter fare.

Some of the highlights for this year include a guided vertical Shiraz tasting with paired charcuterie offering at Del Rios, a ‘Meet The Winemaker’ at Marcus Hill Vineyard, a ‘Sunset Session & Shiraz’ and live music at Austin’s Wines, a delicious Sunday Roast and Shiraz at Terindah Estate, an epic 10 Course Degustation Dinner at the beautiful Provenance Wines, and a three-course winemakers lunch with renowned winemaker Robin Brockett at Scotchmans Hill.

So throw off your jacket, take up a place by the fire with a glass of wine and enjoy a reprieve from the cold. Why not book some local accommodation and make a weekend of it?

The Winter Shiraz Festival goes down on July 2 & July 3. Head to the Winter Shiraz Weekend website for the full program of events.


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Eynesbury Winter Festival, Eynesbury

If you’re looking for something for the kids, the Eynesbury Winter Festival is just an hours drive away to the bluestone homestead.

Running from Friday 24 June to Sunday 24 July, the festival is just the ticket to fight off those winter blues. Coined a winter wonderland, the event is bringing back all the crowd favourites, with the site being jam-packed with an ice rink, hot cocoa, fire pits, a winter village, roving entertainers, and a series of mini winter events including funky R’n’B skate nights under the stars, Disney party’s with appearances from your favourite characters, and a special dog-friendly Eynesbury winter market featuring a wide variety of stalls and entertainment. They’ve also got an outdoor cinema happening that will be screening kids movies while serving popcorn and fairy floss, and there’s even a sweet trivia night happening too.

You’ll also find delicious winter-warming food and drink specials will be offer at Ms Peacock, Birdy & Co and of course the food trucks.There will also be live music and performers, magic shows, a photo station and pop up igloos, in case you needed more convincing.

A festival highlight will be the Winter Solstice event on Saturday, July 16 from 5pm which will see the entire precinct come alive and the sky lit up with a fireworks display. There will be something for the whole family from African drummers, a bonfire, food trucks, roving fire performers and a marshmallow toasting pit.

Entry in free. The Eynesbury Winter Festival runs from June 24 to July 24. Visit the website for more information.

Hume Winter Lights Festival, Broadmeadows

With light projections, huge live acts, local art, roving performances, food, wine and so much more, the inaugural Hume Winter Lights Festival is set to light up Broadmeadows on Saturday, June 18 from 6pm to 10pm.

Large scale artworks by Hume artists will make up the background for this illuminating evening, where you can immerse yourself in an African Drumming Workshop, sip on mulled wine or sit back and watch the musical acts. Featuring a Chinese LED Dragon, roving robots, fire performances and mime artists, the Hume Winter Lights Festival is not one to be missed.

The lineup includes headline performers from The Presets (DJ set) – who will be electrifying audiences with their extremely danceable sets – and Sneaky Sound System. They’ll be joined by other notable artists, including DJ MzRizk, DJ Emma Peters and Super Mande Percussion.

The festivities includes an Igloo Village, where you and up to eight people can book your own private igloo in order to experience dining in your own cosy bubble. Enjoy a shared grazing box and three bottles of wine of your choice of either red, white or sparkling, carefully selected from local wineries within Hume’s wine region.

The Hume Winter Lights Festival goes down June 18 and is free, but limited tickets are available. Grab them by heading here.


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White Night, Shepparton

More a visual arts takeover than a festival, but it’s wintery and wonderful and is one to get to.

This visual feast and cultural event will descend on Shepparton on Saturday, June 25 from 6pm to 12am, attracting thousands of locals and visitors to the city and supporting local tourism and hospitality businesses.

Highlights from the freshly-announced program include a light sculpture installation ‘Shadows’ which shares family stories and connection to the Yorta Yorta nation using light to create shadows that expand and contract reflecting pools of water through the seasons; Lotus by Felipe Reynolds which sees Lake Victoria transformed into a giant illuminated Lotus garden where flowers will gently float, their reflections dancing upon the water and changing colour within the night; and ‘Crepuscular Beam’. Sending a beam of ever morphing light far into the night sky, the crepuscular beam’s light reaches for kilometers into the dark night sky, accompanied by an emotive soundtrack built from sounds recorded by the NASA Voyager mission.

White Night Shepparton goes down on Saturday, 25 June 2022 from 6pm to 12am. Explore the full program here.


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Queen Vic Winter Night Market, Melbourne

The Queen Vic night market has returned for a season of food, drinks and entertainment designed to help you make the most of the chilly Melbourne winter. Running every Wednesday for 14 weeks, it takes place all winter, from June 1 to August 31, from 5pm ‘til 10pm

Enjoy spicy dumplings, cheesy pasta, smoked meats and decadent desserts at this convivial and vibrant bazaar, while exploring the Market’s open-air sheds and laneways. They’re also providing mulled wine, warmed spiced cider and hot toddies to keep you warm while you peruse the artisanal merchandise on sale. With the full line-up of stallholders currently in development, there’s so much more delicious food and drink to look forward to.

As always, artisanal goods can be found at the Night Market – from handmade soaps and skincare to jewellery and art, there’s something for everyone to discover amongst the eclectic and charming selection.

With live music sets being performed on the main stage of the Night Market, audiences will be treated to a diverse selection of entertainment. But that’s not all – this winter, roving musicians and other acts will weave in-between the crowds, performing to the guests of the Night Market while they eat and shop.

Christmas in July is coming to the night market, with the Queen Victoria market embracing its festive spirit. A winter wonderland will spring up in the middle of July, complete with snow, festive decorations and Christmas trees.

Find out more about the Winter Night Market here.


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Illuminate Adelaide, Adelaide

Taking place from 1 – 31 July, Illuminate Adelaide will see the city come alive with lights, live music, visual art, discussion, installation and much more for its second ever event.

Promising to entice locals, interstate and international visitors to the city as it brings the streets of Adelaide to a bright and intriguing light this winter, the festival is already looking the goods with its 2022 program, featuring Istanbul-based visionaries Ouchhh Studio’s major exhibition Wisdom of AI Light – an AI-driven multisensory experience that’s putting the art in artificial intelligence; Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s ground-breaking band Gorillaz; the return of celebrated Montreal studio Moment Factory’s Light Cycles at the Botanic Gardens; the free city-wide centrepiece City Lights bringing over 40 large-scale installations, projections and immersive works to the city; plus a wider music program that is a glorious journey through music in all its forms and variations.

Shining a light on South Australia and its regions for the month of July, Illuminate Adelaide welcomes people from all walks of life to experience this shimmering program of free and ticketed events by local, national and international artists and companies.

Illuminate Adelaide is happening from July 1 – July 31 2022. Head to the festival website for the full program.

Winter Sounds, Daylesford

Relax, soak away your stresses and bliss out to top Australian artists with a weekend in Victoria’s spa capital this July at Daylesford‘s new winter music festival.

Courtesy of the team behind Echuca’s award-winning Riverboats Music Festival, the inaugural Winter Sounds will encapsulate five venues across Daylesford and the surrounding hills over three days, boasting an all-Australian music lineup and plenty of country charm.

Running from July 15-17, the three-day event will be spread across five heritage venues, including Daylesford Uniting Church, Bullarto Village Hall, Daylesford Town Hall, Glenlyon Town Hall and Palais Hepburn Springs, offering audiences a chance to be transported to a different time and place for a set of intimate and extraordinary musical experiences from C.W. Stoneking, Emma Donovan & The Putbacks, Cash Savage & The Last Drinks, Blake Scott, Freya Josephine Hollick, The Luke Sinclair Set, Harmony Byrne and Jazz Party.

Alongside the performers, Winter Sounds will feature pop-up bars at each venue to showcase local wine and food, with each venue having been carefully selected to offer intimate musical experiences.

Winter Sounds is happening from Friday July 15-Sunday July 17. Tickets are on sale now via the Winter Sounds website.


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