The Lights of Lobethal Festival. Image credit: Lights of Lobethal
It's time to celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve in regional Australia
December is just around the corner and plans are well underway throughout Australia for one of the biggest and best festive seasons of all time, as this time it's not just the holidays that we’ll be celebrating. It’s time to leave lockdowns and social distancing to the past, and get back into the party spirit. This Christmas and New Years there’ll be lights galore intricately illuminating our parks and homes, dancing on the streets and in our sorely missed venues, delicious feasts to enjoy with family, and most of all, those special familiar faces that we just haven’t been able to see enough of through these tough times. While the capital cities like Sydney and Melbourne are often seen as the be all and end all of Australia’s vibrant December festivities, don’t be fooled. There’s just as much to do and see throughout the Australian regions, and a true community spirit present in every locality's celebrations. That’s why we here at GoRegional have rounded up our top picks for spending Christmas and New Years in regional Australia.
The best of Christmas lights
This Christmas, it’s time to light up the country. Christmas lights are the shining symbol of the holiday season, and a beloved tradition all over the world. There’s nothing quite like strolling through your neighbourhood at night as the dancing colours and wild intricate displays cast playful flickers over the streets. In the late December summer days, our cities are lit up in all corners with the colours of Christmas, but out away from the hustle and bustle there’s no shortage of spectacular displays either. Here are some of our favourite places to see Christmas lights in regional Australia.
Kids playing at the Christmas Lights Spectacular. Image credit: Hunter Valley Gardens
The Christmas Lights Spectacular at Hunter Valley Gardens is a New Years Eve event full of wonder and beauty that truly brings the community together, taking place at one of the wine regions most beloved locations. The Hunter Valley Gardens are the premier landscaped gardens in the Hunter, located in the town of Podolkin not far from Cessnock. Intricately designed, complex, and breathtaking, this little green world has areas inspired by all kinds of cultures and gardening, from Italian to English to Chinese, and is home to rides like a Ferris Wheel and Giant Slide, but each year from the 5th November to the 26th of January, Hunter Valley Gardens takes on a new life during the Christmas Lights Spectacular. The vast complex is filled in every corner with stunningly detailed displays of light celebrating the festive season, artistically arranged and inspiring awe and wonder in all who come to see them. Incredibly intricate designs ranging from castles to trains to cartoon characters are fully realised in three dimensions of light and colour, and even the rides themselves are bathed in the Christmas cheer. Being just a short drive from Newcastle and the Central Coast, this is truly a can’t miss Christmas experience in the heart of regional New South Wales.
Teacup ride at the Christmas Lights Spectacular. Image credit: Hunter Valley Gardens
If you’re looking for one of the oldest, most beloved, and most eye-catching Christmas traditions in regional Australia, look no further than the Lights of Lobethal Festival. In the charming town of Lobethal, South Australia; the jewel of the Adelaide Hills, this event has been running for 60 years, and is a nationally renowned symbol of the town and its culture. Every year, from the 12th to the 23rd of December, Christmas absolutely blankets the streets of Lobethal, as 700 houses decorate every nook and cranny with sparkling lights and shimmering Christmas displays. The town truly comes alive amidst this widespread decoration, and people come from all around to see the spectacle and snap a few pictures. This year though, the organisers are really going above and beyond to make sure the festival offers more than just lights. There’ll be a Christmas themed opening night concert, with a nativity performance and a headlining act from popular Australian gospel group, Gospo Collective, while the main street will play host to Flocking Together; a professionally done light installation with themes of bushfire regeneration and the importance of community in regional Australia. On the weekend of the 18th and 19th of December, the Twilight Christmas Markets will pop up, boasting all kinds of hand made and artisanal products, and an array of food stands and trucks to satisfy your appetite; all set under Christmas lights inside a former Wool Mill. Finally, on the 23rd, the Lights of Lobethal Festival ends with a bang as the Annual Christmas Pageant Parade takes over Lobethal’s main street in a colourful celebration of Christmas spirit.
Enchanting scenes at the Lights of Lobethal Festival. Image credit: Lights of Lobethal
Celebrate this New Years Eve in the regions
Launceston Beerfest is a hit and a growing staple of Tasmania’s second largest city, and one of our favourite New Year's Eve events in regional Australia. The beloved festival tours from Fremantle to Canberra, and finishes in Melbourne, but not before making its Launceston stop with an epic New Year’s celebration on the banks of the beautiful River Tamar. From Royal Park in the heart of the city, Beerfest will be taking over the riverside with a lovingly curated showing of some of the best craft brews, ciders, wines, and cocktails that Australia has to offer, all complemented with an array of delicious and local street food options. The festival is set to run two sessions this year on the 31st of December; an 11:00 - 3:30 ‘Family Fun-Day Session’, and a 5:00-12:30 ‘Fireworks Evening Session’. In addition to the food and drink, there’ll be all day entertainment with all kinds of kids favourites in the Family Fun-Day session, including face painting, puppet shows, rides, and bouncy castles. In the evening the main stage will be rocked by a litany of local legends and up and coming Tassie artists, including headliners and icons of Tasmanian rock, The Bad Dad Orchestra.
Fireworks light up the River Tamar at midnight at the Launceston Beerfest. Image credit: Launceston Beerfest
Up in the Queensland rainforests, there’s a New Year’s Eve party perfect for the fitness freak. The famous regional city of Cairns is known for its celebratory and outdoorsy atmosphere, as North Queensland’s major tourist town, so it’s no surprise to see the council going all out with their New Year’s Eve celebrations, and bringing a fun twist to the traditional formula. This December 31st, the Cairns waterfront will play host to the NYE Resolution Glow in the Dark Fun Run. This is a breezy 4 kilometer course, running twice around a 2 kilometre loop stretching from the starting gun at the Fun Ship Playground, to the finish line at the Cairns Hospital car park. Fun runners will be sporting their most colourful and luminescent outfits, and lighting up the Cairns Esplanade all along the way. The run kicks off at 7 pm with presentations at 8pm for the winners of the race, as well as the winners of the raffle which includes great prizes like 4 family passes to all CaPTA wildlife parks and attractions, and tickets to Cairns Taipans home games. Make sure you head down to the water to catch the 8:30 pm fireworks cascading over the Pacific Ocean. The spectacular display is a sight to see from the beautiful and luxurious waterfront parks of Cairns, and if the race hasn’t taken too much out of you, you can keep the party going and stick around for the midnight show.
The Cairns waterfront on New Year's Eve. Image credit: Cairns Regional Council, Tourism and Events Queensland