03 June, 2024

Warm up at Victoria’s winter festivals

It’s a big season of arts, film, music and writers festivals, and dazzling lights, fire and projections.

Whatever you’re into there’s a festival to inspire a trip to Victoria in winter. Put Melbourne’s massive film festival on your itinerary, or a regional town’s heartwarming weekend of music. Feast on cheese or edgy culture, and see the light, from a fire festival to a summer water park’s winter glow-up.

Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights. Photo: Anthony Evans

Let there be light!

There’s no better time to delight in light than when nights are long. That’s why some of Victoria’s best winter festivals go wild for it, from fiery installations to colourful projections.

Ballarat Winter Festival has everything from a pop-up ice rink to a dark-beer festival, but everyone’s favourite is Winter Wonderlights at Sovereign Hill. Night after night, this 15-hectare open-air Gold Rush museum’s heritage streets are transformed by countless lights and animated projections.

East Gippsland Winter Festival’s highlights include the solstice sunrise swim, stargazing cruise and events celebrating light. Join lantern parades, stroll through a Neon Jungle and Lakes Lights’ giant lantern sculptures, and gather round Bruthen Medieval Winter Fire Festival’s bonfire. Can’t get enough lanterns? Put Mansfield Lantern Festival on your wish list too.

In Melbourne, Firelight Festival offers large-scale fire installations, fire twirlers, fire breathers and more – including the new subterranean Firelight Labyrinth immersive sound-and-light experience.

Winter’s other light-based annual events include Lightscape, an enchanting trail of light installations at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, and Puffing Billy heritage railway’s magical Train of Lights.

Near Spirit of Tasmania’s Geelong terminal, a summer water park becomes a winter wonderland with 3.3 million lights, including in more than 1000 installations. Adventure Park’s other Winter Glow pleasures include a snow play zone and fireside marshmallow toasting.

Rising - The Wilds at Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

Melbourne’s biggest, boldest winter festivals

Victoria’s major arts festival, Rising gathers a world of theatre, dance, music, visual art and experiences that defy categorisation. From trams covered in First Nations art to edgy performances in secret and unexpected locations, this festival dares to be different.

As does Now or Never, a weird and wonderful week of art, ideas, sound and technology. Local and international thinkers and creatives wow audiences in all sorts of ways at iconic and eclectic venues.

The Melbourne International Film Festival can be out there too, offering a massive program of cinema you’re unlikely to see at multiplexes. One of the world’s oldest film festivals and the southern hemisphere’s largest, it has everything from kooky comedies to kids flicks, foreign-language dramas to fascinating documentaries.

Music to the max in regional Victoria

Whatever kind of music moves you there’s a festival well worth travelling for. In seaside Portarlington, close to our Geelong base, kick up your heels at the National Celtic Folk Festival. Would you rather tap your toes at Inverloch Jazz Festival, or Echuca-Moama Winter Blues Festival by the Murray River?

There’s a smorgasbord of styles, from rockabilly to rumba, at Mornington Winter Music Festival, while Woodend Winter Arts Festival leans classical. Alongside piano recitals, choral concerts and other beautiful music, there’s also a thoughtful program of speakers.

Dunkeld Arboretum.

The writers’ stuff

Winter is an ideal time to curl up with a book – and gather indoors at writers festivals to find your next great read. Melbourne’s boutique Willy Lit Fest ticks the boxes, from author events to storytelling to writing workshops. Out of town choose from Dunkeld Writers Festival, Mildura Writers Festival and central Victoria’s Words in Winter.

Wildlife Coast Cruises, Phillip Island, Victoria.

Looking for more festival fun?

Island Whale Festival celebrates the monarchs of the deep during their migration past Phillip Island, while Mould Cheese Festival showcases the finest hard, soft, mild, stinky, cow, sheep and goat cheese. It’s like Christmas for fromage fanciers!


Information included in this blog is correct at the time of publishing. Please contact individual operators for further information.

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