Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere feels a lot different to the Northern Hemisphere Christmases we grew up with. We still can’t get used to Christmas being in summer! But just like in colder climes, Australia has fantastic Christmas lights displays. So, where do you think the Southern Hemisphere’s largest display is? It’s not in Melbourne. It’s not even Sydney! But if you head about two and a half hours north of Sydney to Australia’s oldest wine region, you can witness a Christmas Lights Spectacular in the Hunter Valley.
The Hunter Valley Gardens
Best known for its fine wines and culinary delights, the Hunter Valley is also home to the Hunter Valley Gardens. Covering 14 acres, the Gardens are a fabulous place to visit any time of the year with over one million plants in ten individually themed gardens. Opened in 2003, they have quickly become established as one of the highlights of the Hunter Valley. Visitors can walk 8 kilometres of paths and explore an Italian Grotto, a Japanese pagoda and an Indian Tea House. Kids particularly enjoy the Storybook Gardens, which features characters from all your favourite nursery rhymes and childhood stories.
But at Christmas, the Hunter Valley Gardens really come alive with over 2 million lights attracting visitors from all over New South Wales and beyond. Visiting the Christmas Lights Spectacular is something of a Christmas tradition for many families, including the Travel Children. If you have never been before then you have come to the right place to find out more. Here are our ideas on how to really make the most of your visit.
Visiting the Christmas Lights Spectacular
From early November to late January, the Gardens remain open during the day but close at 4pm for staff to prepare for the nightly spectacular. With tickets available online covering both daytime and evening admission, we recommend making a day of it. Enjoy the beautiful gardens, grab some dinner in one of the excellent local restaurants before returning at 5.30pm when they switch on the lights for the night’s festivities.
We would suggest buying tickets in advance as lines grow quickly and there is a separate entrance for pre-purchased ticket holders. Also if you can visit on a weekday or earlier in the season, you will certainly avoid the worst of the crowds.
Once inside, you’ll soon see the Rose Garden bedecked in its festive finery before moving on to the Border Garden, home to the ’12 Days of Christmas’. On your way to Santa’s workshop (where you can pay to have a photo with the man himself), you will pass the huge Ferris wheel and Venetian Carousel. Rides cost $6 each but you can buy an unlimited ride wristband for $15. This also covers the swinging chairs, superslide and inflatables.
Next to Santa’s workshop is the entertainment stage where your kids can enjoy the Little Scallywagz festive performance. You can grab a bite to eat from one of the many food stalls here too.
There is still loads to explore with Candyland, the Fairy Garden and Christmas Around the World displays, and much more. Don’t feel you have to rush around the Lights as they are open until 10pm every night. In fact, we like to make our way around all of the displays when we arrive before heading to enjoy the rides. Despite the warm summer temperatures during the day, if you plan on staying until closing time, bring another layer for later in the evening. Also make sure to bring insect repellant to keep the mozzies at bay.
What you need to know
Dates: 2 November 2018 – 26 January 2019 except Christmas Day.
Opening hours: Gardens only – 9am to 4pm. Christmas lights – 5.30pm to 10pm.
Ticket prices: Check the event page for up to date costs. Tickets are also available for day/night visits.
Ride costs: $6 each or $15 unlimited ride wrist band. Please note that height restrictions apply for some of the rides.
Little Scallywagz show times: 7.30pm and 8.30pm.
Santa photos: Prices start at $35 and are available until 24 December 2018.
Bad weather: In the event of adverse weather conditions, the event may be cancelled. Check the Hunter Valley Gardens Facebook page for updates.
Where do you go to see the best Christmas Lights? Share it with us in the comments below.