HomeTravelsWhy Melbourne in winter is one of Australia's top destinations

Why Melbourne in winter is one of Australia’s top destinations

When it comes to winter vacation, you have pretty much two choices: go very cold or go very warm. Go on a trip in the snow, or at least in a mountainous place, or travel north, to the heights of Australia or to the next hemisphere.

This is conventional thinking. Either embrace the winter chill with a good winter chill, or stay away from it altogether.

So what’s going on with Australian tourism trends? Last week, accommodation website Booking.com published its 20 best winter destinations in Australia – using accommodation searches on its site for July and August this year – and there was something interesting in there.

The top 10 had most of the usual suspects: the Gold Coast at number one, Sydney at three, Cairns at four, Brisbane at five, Jindabyne at six, Port Douglas at seven, Darwin at eight, Perth at nine, Canberra at 10. All of these destinations pretty much fit the standard dynamic – Sydney is relatively warm and sunny in the winter, and Canberra has that deep winter chill that some people crave. The rest is a given, whether it’s really hot or really cold.

The odd one out, then, is right up there at number two: Melbourne. Why is Melbourne so popular in winter? It’s definitely not hot there. Above all, it is gray and cold. However, it is not cold enough to snow and there are no mountains. Additionally, most Australians have become accustomed to some very bad news coming out of Victoria over the past few years. “The most closed city in the world” does not really seem attractive for a vacation.

With all that in mind, Melbourne seems like a surprise for a top winter holiday – especially a more popular destination than Cairns, more popular than Darwin, more popular than Sydney. And it’s not just the domestic market that’s excited. Last month, travel website Klook released its forward booking data, which showed Victoria was the number one state for international tourists and Melbourne the number one city. Beat Sydney. Beat the Gold Coast. In winter.

What is the problem?

I have a few theories. For starters, the history of lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions means very little to people currently traveling. Yes, there has been a lot of bad news coming out of Victoria for a while, but most of us who haven’t been through it will never understand the trauma. Moreover, the world is open now, and we have short memories, coupled with a desire to forget bad news. Containment schmockdown.

I imagine Melbourne’s popularity as a destination, even in the dead of winter, is also largely due to the people of Sydney. This may come as a surprise to some Melbourne residents who believe they are locked in an intense, reciprocal rivalry with the NSW capital. But in my experience, just about everyone in Sydney loves Melbourne and would harbor a long-held desire to return, even in winter, and even after enduring the worst summer ever.

I know I do. That’s why I’m adding to the stats this week and traveling to the Victorian capital. I go there to do my two favorite things in Melbourne: eat and drink. The restaurant and bar scene in Melbourne is sensational. I can not wait.

In fact, the whole city is sensational. It pained me to see during the pandemic this feeling among Melburnians – real or imagined, I’m not sure, everything was so out of proportion at that time – that the rest of Australia was against them, that we we laughed at their misfortune.

For the most part, I don’t think that’s true, because again: we love Melbourne. I say that honestly and sincerely. This is why the town is so popular today, even in the depths of winter. We love everything about the place.

We love its restaurants and bars. We love its shops. We love its parks and gardens. We love its grunge and its shine. We even love his numb river and intense coffee snobbery. It’s perfect.

Of course, there’s probably more to Melbourne’s popularity as a winter destination. Consider the fact that the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley, two of Australia’s best wine regions, hugely popular booze and delicious destinations in their own right, are on Melbourne’s doorstep. On accommodation website Wotif, searches for the Mornington Peninsula have increased by almost 160% this winter. People are enthusiastic, and if you want to visit either Mornington or the Yarra, you go through Melbourne.

There is also the Bellarine Peninsula and the Great Ocean Road nearby. Look north and you have novel hubs like Kyneton and Castlemaine, chic Daylesford, Heathcote wine and Nagambie. These are all great winter destinations, again accessible via Melbourne.

So maybe there’s a lesson here: when it comes to winter vacation, you actually have three choices: really cold, really hot, or Melbourne. You know what I’m going for.

Are you surprised that Melbourne is so popular as a winter travel destination? Are you planning to visit Melbourne in the next few months? Why? What attracted you there?

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

Twitter: twitter.com/bengroundwater

The writer traveled to Melbourne as a guest of Visit Victoria.

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