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Nine Outdoor Adventures You Can Have in Sydney This Winter If You Unabashedly Love the Cold

Embrace your favourite season with laneway dance parties, harbourside ice rinks and kayak trips under the stars.
By Samantha Teague
June 02, 2021
By Samantha Teague
June 02, 2021


in partnership with

Embrace your favourite season with laneway dance parties, harbourside ice rinks and kayak trips under the stars.

If you've ever jumped in the ocean, headed on a camping trip or rugged up for a night of stargazing in the middle of winter, we're going to hazard a guess and say you like the cold. No, you unabashedly love it. Ticking some boxes for you? Then you'll find plenty of excuses to head outdoors during the new winter event series Sydney Solstice. Running from Tuesday, June 8 till Sunday, June 20, Sydney Solstice is taking over the harbour city with a series of pop-ups, gigs and dazzling light shows that'll help you make the most of the chillier months.

We've teamed up with NSW Government via Destination NSW to round up nine Sydney Solstice adventures you can have this winter — from moonlight kayaking sessions to pop-up ice rinks and dance floors tucked away in laneways.

  • 9
    Me-Mel Island Experience

    Me-Mel may only be 300 metres long, but — like all of Australia — the heritage-listed harbour island has a rich Indigenous history, and was once the home of Woollarawarre Bennelong and his wife, Cammeraygal woman Barangaroo. You can learn about some its history during this three-hour guided tour, as well as the island’s native flora. The trip will start with a ferry to the isle, followed by a Welcome to Country. There’ll be cultural song and dance performances, too, as well as demonstrations showcasing traditional artefacts. To finish, you’ll get a bush tucker lunch and a campfire Q&A session with the performers — before jumping back on the ferry back to the mainland.

    Image: Tribal Warrior

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  • 8

    Darling Harbour is transforming into an idyllic European village this winter over the 13 days of Sydney Solstice. As part of Darling Harbour Winter Festival, the inner city spot will be home to a giant arctic slide, an ice rink and sprawling food market in Tumbalong Park filled with warming winter treats and drinks. There’ll be DJs, bands and live performances, too, plus fireworks lighting up the sky above the water. So, start practising your pirouettes now — then don your warmest winter woollies and prepare for a day out sipping mulled wine, eating melted cheese and spinning around the ice a la Nancy Kerrigan.

    Image: Bronnie Barnett

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  • 7

    The team at Sydney Harbour Kayaks is running a special series of after-dark kayaking tours ($155) for Sydney Solstice. Your tour of the harbour will paddle off at sunset — perfect for a pic or two — then, as the stars come out, you’ll cruise past naval warships and the impressive 1874-built James Craig ship. You’ll take in the sights of Glebe Island Bridge and the Anzac Bridge, before stopping for snacks and drinks. The tour starts and ends at Darling Harbour, which means you can pop over to the ice rink or food market at Darling Harbour Winter Festival when you’re done. Two birds, one stone.

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  • 6
    Aboriginal Sky Dreaming Cruise

    Indigenous Australians were the world’s first astronomers, using the stars and planets for navigation, to predict the weather and as part of Dreamtime storytelling. You can get a peek at some of this vast knowledge on an Aboriginal Sky Dreaming Cruise. During the one-hour cruise, First Nations astronomers will guide you through the landscape of the sky and share stories as you float around Darling Harbour. You’ll also get to learn about the famous emu-shaped dark installation Gugurmin, an important part of the Wiradjuri Peoples’ skylore. A cruise on the harbour can sometimes cost you upward of $200, but this eye-opening experience will set you back just $30.

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  • 5

    If you truly, unabashedly love the cold, swap a night spent in the cosy halls of the Opera House for a night under its sails by heading to Badu Gili: Winter Nights. Each night at sunset, the Sydney icon’s sails come alive with Badu Gili: Wonder Women, a six-minute animation showcasing the work and stories of six female First Nations artists. During Sydney Solstice, this nightly event will be paired with live music, dance performances and poetry readings, plus a pop-up bar run by a First Nations chef. So, grab yourself some cocktails and snacks — featuring native Australian ingredients, naturally — and rug up to enjoy one of Sydney’s best views at night.

    Image: Ken Leanfore

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  • 4

    Get lost in an immersive and inflatable installation called Harbour Garden this winter. Located by the water at the Australian National Maritime Museum, the pop-up artwork is inspired by what lingers under the sea. Expect to encounter ocean creatures big and small as you explore the artwork. It’s been designed by Studio A, an organisation that supports artists living with intellectual disability, and Goldberg Aberline Studio, which has created large-scale sculptures for the likes of Sculpture by the Sea and Mardi Gras. In a big win for those with light pockets, you can explore Harbour Garden without spending a cent, too.

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  • 3

    The city’s laneways and small bars are coming alive for 13 nights this June thanks to new CBD precinct YCK Laneways‘ Night Over Light program. Hosted at venues across the hub’s 15 bars, the event will see award-winning cocktails paired with live music, tarot readings, DJs, drag queen bingo, crime stories and 90s-themed music nights. Take a seat in the Since I Left You courtyard for a day of poetry readings and mac ‘n’ cheese toasties, try your hand at sketching while sipping rum at Grandma’s or enjoy live mariachi with a side of margaritas at Stitch. With 40 events spread across the two weeks, the precinct is your oyster.

    Image: Since I Left You

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  • 2

    Hidden behind a heritage-listed Haymarket building, in a usually quiet laneway, you’ll find something a little out of the ordinary this winter: a dance floor. Wanna Dance, part of Sydney Solstice, wants you to dust off your dancing shoes and boogie in the streets like no-one is watching. During the day, the interactive installation will be home to workshops, while DJs will pump out K-pop and dance tracks at night. If you’d prefer to watch the professionals move, Wanna Dance will also host six nights of performances by dance crews cutting shapes to everything from hip hop to contemporary and ballroom.

    Image: Anna Kucera

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  • 1
    Songlines of Our Universe

    Rug up for a night of stargazing and classical music at the Sydney Observatory this winter. Running over four nights as part of Sydney Solstice, this event will see highly lauded composer and Kalkadunga man William Barton host a world-premiere of ‘Songlines of Our Universe’, in collaboration with violinist Veronique Serret. It’ll be performed live by Barton and Serret outside, under the glittering stars. The six-part performance was inspired by the Milky Way and Andromeda, which you’ll be able to look up at through telescopes while listening to the performance. To help you keep warm, there’ll also be a winter-themed feast paired with wines from local NSW producers.

    Image: William Barton and Veronique Serret. Photography by Ken Leanfore

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Keen to check out the full program? Head to the Sydney Solstice website.

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