Shorter days and longer shadows, a slight chill in the morning air, harvest festivals and trees turning magnificent golds and reds.
Autumn is here, and these are some of the best places across Australia to enjoy it.
Daylesford’s Swiss-Italian heritage means loads of European trees and a blaze of autumn colour. It gets chilly up there and there’s a whiff of wood fires on crisp mornings and cool nights. It’s 90 minutes drive from Melbourne – an easy weekend getaway.
What to do: You’re in the heart of spa country, so indulge in a massage or soak in the mineral waters at Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa. Stroll around the lake, or climb the 70-plus steps to Wombat Hill lookout for sweeping views, followed by coffee, sparkling wine or a bite from the seasonal, all-day menu at the lovely Wombat Hill House Café.
Heads up: Daylesford Cider orchard is at its leafy best – book for a tour, or settle in with a cider at its English-style tavern.
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Adelaide Hills, South Australia
The Adelaide Hills – a little higher than Adelaide and a few degrees cooler – are criss-crossed by country roads, orchards, vineyards and farms – all shot through with autumn colour. There are lots of villages, towns and heritage buildings, boutique cellar doors and leafy gardens to discover.
What to do: Colour-drenched liquidambars line Sterling’s main street. Join the locals for a coffee at the stylish Stirling Cellars & Patisserie. Hahndorf is the spot for authentic apfelstrudel. Apples are at their crunchiest, so stock up from local orchards or farm gates.
At Willabrand, on Houghton’s heritage-listed Glen Ewin Estate, you can pick your own figs. Once your hunter-gatherer moment is over, head to the Fig Bar for a crisp white wine, fig gin or a homemade fig ice cream. The sprawling grounds include a bistro and cellar door.
Heads up: Mount Lofty Botanic Garden offers walking trails, sculpture, birdlife and deciduous trees that turn from gold and bronze to scarlet, with colours peaking about late May.
Margaret River, Western Australia
Autumn is harvest season in the gorgeous Margaret River wine region south of Perth. Acres of vines turn to golden hues as the coastal weather cools.
What to do: It’s not just harvest season but vintage time – join a behind-the-scenes tour to see how they make that fine wine. Vasse Felix, the district’s oldest winery, has tours and a fabulous art gallery in the original winery. Cape Mentelle also offers tours and tastings. Margaret River is gourmet picnic–food heaven and some wineries, such as MadFish Wines, let you bring a picnic – heck, they’ll even lend you a blanket or a bocce set.
Heads up: Until late March, pop on a sweater and pull up a beanbag at Cape Mentelle’s outdoor cinema (be sure to book).
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Orange, 260 kilometres inland from Sydney, is a cool-climate region with golden poplars and other deciduous trees filling gardens and parks, such as the traditional Cook Park and Robertson Park.
What to do: Orange F.O.O.D week runs from April 5-14. That’s actually 10 days (and we’re right in the middle of them now), but it’s all the more time to indulge in the region’s autumn bounty and foodie culture. There’s a top-notch night market, cooking classes, farm-to-plate lunches, brunches, beer tours, picnics in the vines, cider-making and more.
Heads up: Pick up a food and wine guide, and follow trails to farm gates, vineyards, such as the magnificent Mayfield Vineyard or Angullong (try its crisp rosé) with its cool bluestone cellar door. Pick your own apples (or just stock up) at Hillside Harvest.
Ninety minutes’ drive inland from Brisbane, Toowoomba is on the crown of the Great Dividing Range. At 700 metres above sea level, it’s high enough to chill the Queensland air and turn the leaves of exotics such as maples and liquidambars to mellow golds and reds.
What to do: Explore the Zen calm and seasonal hues of Toowoomba’s traditional Japanese garden, Ju Raku En, with its paths, lake, mountain stream, russet-leafed maples and masses of azaleas.
Heads up: For a languid autumn day, visit Rosalie House Wines at Meringandan, 19 kilometres from Toowoomba. It has vineyard views, a welcoming cellar door and a restaurant.
Canberra’s chilly autumn air and soft-focus light are a backdrop to the city’s brilliant deciduous foliage and myriad autumn activities.
What to do: Brush up your wine knowledge at the fun Canberra Wine Week, April 5-14.
Or, head over to Canberra’s very own interactive autumn leaves map (an official ACT government website, by the way) to plan day trips around the streets and attractions that showcase the best of the season.