In Melbourne, winter officially starts on 1 June each year, and lasts until 31 August. In this post, I outline six good reasons to visit Melbourne in winter.
Cold weather never stops Melburnians from doing anything. As the days get shorter and the air chillier, we just rug up with a lot more layers to brave the cold, or we swap our focus from outdoor activities, to ones which offer a bit more warmth and cover from the elements.
In Australia we start seasons at the beginning of a calendar month (in the case of winter, at the start of June) and each season lasts three months (so, until 31 August). As the shortest day of the year for the southern hemisphere is 21 June, we’re just three weeks into official winter before the days start getting longer again. Winter here is mild by international standards – the average maximum temperature is about 14 degrees Celsius (57 F), with it raining on about 10 days per month. We don’t get any snow in the city (except in very exceptional circumstances – the last time was the winter of 1951) but it does snow occasionally on hills on the outskirts of the city, and always in the mountains which are a couple of hours drive from the city.
I do confess that winter is my least favourite season in this fair city, but that has less to do with the city and what it offers in winter, and a lot more to do with my love of heat! So it’s always great to remind myself of some of the fabulous things that you could do if you happen to visit Melbourne during our winter months.
Six reasons to visit Melbourne in winter
Reason No. 1: The footy
Here in Melbourne, footy (Australian Rules Football) is practically a religion, so to gain a true Melbourne experience, it makes sense for any visitor to this city during the footy season to go see a game.
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.
A great deal of the enjoyment of an AFL game is watching the spectacle of the game and the fanaticism of the crowd. I’ve written a visitor’s guide to going to the footy. Check it out for everything you need to know before you head on down to one of Melbourne’s footy grounds.
Reason No.2: Blockbuster exhibitions
Every winter since 2004, Melburnians have been treated to an annual series of major exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Melbourne Museum and/or the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) known as the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces. These ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions are sourced from some of the world’s top galleries and institutions. In the past, some of these exhibitions have included :David Bowie is…; Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great; DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition; and A Day in Pompeii.
This year (2016), the NGV is showing Degas: A New Vision as part of the Winter Masterpieces program, which will contain more than 200 works by Degas from dozens of collections worldwide. It will be open daily from 24 June to 18 September 2016.
In addition (but not part of the Winter Masterpieces), ACMI currently has the Scorsese exhibition (until 18 September) and Melbourne Museum’s blockbuster is Jurassic World: the Exhibition until 9 October.
Reason No.3: Ice skating by the river
Melbourne winter may not be cold enough to freeze over the Yarra River, but Melbourne has the next-best thing – an outdoor ice rink on the banks of the River in Federation Square. The River Rink in Fed Square is open daily, 10am to 10pm from 18 June to 17 July on the River Terrace.
Last winter, I took my girls in to a session during the mid-year school holidays. Sessions are busy, and it’s best to book in advance. In fact, tickets are more expensive if you buy them on the day that you are coming to skate, so get online beforehand to book your session and skate hire and save.
This rink is suitable for kids of most ages, 70cm high ‘penguins and seals’ can be rented from the Box Office to help keep little folks upright.
And for the older skaters, there are selected evening theme nights during the season with live music plus food and beverages for sale.
Reason No. 4: Open House Weekend
Melbourne is filled with many examples of stunning architecture. Some of these are easily accessible, but some of them are open to the public only during the ‘Open House Melbourne Weekend‘ (10am to 4pm on 30 and 31 July in 2016) when the doors of over 100 buildings are thrown open for visitors to experience good design and architecture across the city for free.
As part of the program, a range of free events, tours, workshops and exhibitions are also held. You can visit the What’s On section of the Open House website to see all events.
Reason No. 5: Coffee in a cosy cafe
If there is one thing that Melburnians are obsessed about (other than football…), it’s coffee. And where better to spend a chilly winter’s day, than snuggled up with a warm latte by an open fire in one of the city’s many cafes?
One of the best places to get the lowdown on the coolest cafes around the city is the Broadsheet website. This link to Broadsheet is especially about cafes.
Reason No. 6: Soak in hot water
Ahhhh! Up to my neck in hot water. That’s my favourite place to be at ANY time of year. But when the air is chilly, there is something especially good about soaking in a steaming hot spring. There’s a number of places you can immerse either in Melbourne, or within a short drive including the Collingwood Japanese Bathhouse or Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa in Daylesford, or my particular favourite, the Peninsula Hot Springs on the Mornington Peninsula.
Check out all the Melbourne winter activities at the That’s Melbourne website.
What’s your favourite season in your hometown? Are there especially good times to visit any places you’ve been?
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