I have to confess, I’m not a huge fan of autumn as a season. Mainly, because I really, *really* don’t like winter…and autumn is the messenger I like to shoot when it comes to its role in heralding that cold season’s approach. Give me hot sunny days anytime and I’m happy.
However, autumn is a lovely time in Melbourne, and to make myself think upon the season of ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’ more kindly, I like to focus on the positive things about this time of year.
In Australia, because we start seasons at the beginning of a calendar month (in the case of autumn, at the start of March) it means that autumn weather can vary dramatically from the occasional mid-to-high-30s (Celsius) degree scorchers, right through to bitterly cold, wet and hailing days.
Autumn in Melbourne is nothing if not unpredictable.
Six reasons to visit Melbourne in autumn
Reason No. 1: Blue sky days
Autumn in Melbourne packs more than its share of blue sky days. And many of them are clear blue sky days – not a cloud in sight. Often these days start out quite crisp in the morning, and then the temperature climbs throughout the day. There is nothing better than a blue sky day in Melbourne. It truly lifts the mood of the entire city.
Of course, autumn can also bring miserable, no-good, overcast, drizzly days where the sun never gets a chance to even break through the gloom. But let’s just focus on the positives shall we?
Officially, the temperature in Melbourne in autumn ranges from an average maximum of 20°C (68°F) to an average minimum of 11°C (52°F).
Reason No.2: Autumn colour
Many of the streets in Melbourne’s suburbs (and in the inner city) are lined with street-trees that are deciduous. So, by about mid to late April, the colour throughout the city is spectacular. Combine autumn colour with a blue sky day and you have the visiting photographer’s ideal subject matter.
Some of my favourite places to see dramatic autumn colour en masse include The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, The Dandenongs or the Yarra Valley on the outskirts of the city, or further afield, the town of Bright near the Victorian snowfields which holds a Bright Autumn Festival for ten days at the end of April/beginning of May each year.
Reason No. 3: Australian Rules Football Season
Autumn brings with it the start of the official AFL season (a pre-season competition is played from late February to the end of March).
AFL is practically a religion in this city. The Grand Final Day (first Saturday in October this year) is one of the most-revered days in the city’s calendar, and starting this year we’re getting a ‘Grand Final’ public holiday for the day before Grand Final Day. Go figure.
Australian Rules Football (also known as football, AFL or footy) is arguably the pre-eminent football league in Australia (there are also significant soccer, rugby union and rugby league national competitions). AFL is a game played between two teams of eighteen players on an oval-shaped football field. The aim of the game is to score points by kicking the ball between the two tall goal posts, for which a team gets six points. If the ball goes between a tall post and a smaller one, the team gets one point. The team with the highest total score at the end of the match wins.
You don’t have to understand the game or be a sports fan to appreciate the spectacle of the game and the fanaticism of the crowd. I’m by no means a huge sports fan, but I’ve booked tickets to see a baseball game in Tokyo, purely to experience the theatre of that Japanese cultural institution. For similar reasons, an AFL game should be on every visitor to Melbourne’s itinerary.
Reason No. 4: The Melbourne Comedy Festival
One of Melbourne’s autumn highlights is the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Three and a half weeks of non-stop humour. Everything from stand-up to cabaret, theatre to visual arts, of both an international and home-grown variety. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is in its 29th year in 2015, and is one of the three largest comedy festivals in the world. (The other two are Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival.)
This year, the Festival is running from 25 March to 19 April, so there’s still a few days left to catch a show this year.
My usual plan (although I think I’ve run out of time this year) is to pick a night, book one show I like the sound of, then arrange a couple of other random shows around it. It’s a form of comedy lotto – and we’ve encountered some great comedians using this method (and a couple of shockers too.)
Reason No. 5: ANZAC Day
On 25 April each year, right across the nation, we remember Australians who have served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations in our country’s history. The date of ANZAC Day is the anniversary of the landing of Australian troops at Gallipoli in 1915. That was the first conflict for troops from the newly-formed nation of Australia (the Federation of Australia came into existence on 1 January 1901). This year is the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli in 1915.
ANZAC is an acronym and stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps, which was the name given to the body of troops put together by Australia and New Zealand to aid the British Empire in the First World War.
A significant part of the marking of each ANZAC Day is the dawn service. In Melbourne, the dawn service is held at the Shrine of Remembrance (in the large photo above), at 6.00am each April 25, and is followed by a march through the city led by veterans and serving personnel, but now also including descendants of veterans, who march in honour of their family members who served.
I have been to one dawn service at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance, and it was a very emotive and memorable experience.
The Shrine is located in Birdwood Avenue, Melbourne (just off St Kilda Road) and is worth a visit at any time of year. The Shrine itself is a moving tribute to those who have given their lives while serving, and there is an excellent visitor centre with permanent and temporary exhibitions and audio-visual presentations.
Reason No. 6: Seasonal produce
This is a bit of Clayton’s reason to visit in autumn, as seasonal produce is a good reason to visit Melbourne at any time of year! Melbourne has a well-deserved reputation as the food and wine capital of Australia, and this is particularly promoted each year through the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival which is held in late February to early March each year (another autumn attraction).
But what I really like to do is to visit our city’s great food markets or farmers’s markets to see, taste and purchase some of the excellent local produce in season. A couple of my favourite markets are the Prahran Market and South Melbourne Market (both of which are easily reached by public transport from the city centre).
The range and quality of produce on sale is outstanding. During autumn each year, I visit one of the markets to buy quinces (top right photo) which I use to make enough quince paste for our household for the year (plus a bit extra that I give away to friends.) One year (before we mostly quit sugar) I bought oranges and made a year’s supply of marmalade. This year I’m contemplating preserving lemons to use in Moroccan recipes throughout the year.
What’s your favourite season in your hometown? Are there especially good times to visit any places you’ve been?
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