Taking advantage of the amazing weather is all part of the Christmas tradition Down Under. For those who find themselves in the southern hemisphere this festive season, here are three ideas for Melbourne merriment.
Santa usually arrives dashing through the snow in a sleigh pulled by a slew of reindeer, right? Not in Melbourne, where the high temperatures play havoc with poor old Prancer and Dancer's constitutions (to say nothing of the snow). Should you find yourself in this sunny clime come the holidays, you can celebrate the season with its summery offerings—possibly a welcome change if you're already feeling snowbound come end of December. Here's how to have a perfect Christmas holiday in the city (while you're in town, don't forget to stock up on some shopping).
An Aquarium Outing
On the big day at SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium, the jolly fat man arrives wearing a scuba tank, making an appearance in the 580,000-gallon Oceanarium among the sharks, rays, and schools of fish. It's all part of the Christmas Day celebrations, where guests can arrive starting at 11 a.m. for a three-course lunch. In addition to Santa's appearance, Sharkie, the SEA LIFE mascot, will be entertaining the crowd; a marine specialist will be giving a presentation; and every child who attends gets a present.
When you're not enjoying the food, wander around getting to know the more than 10,000 residents at the aquarium, including penguins, sea horses, brightly hued tropical fish, and Pinjarra, who at 16 feet long, is one of the largest saltwater crocodiles in Australia. From $87; includes lunch, unlimited wine, beer, and cider for the adults, and soda and juice for the kids.
Presents at the Zoo
It isn't only the humans who get to tear the wrapping paper off gifts at the Melbourne Zoo. As you're strolling around the grounds, look out for the keepers handing out special treats to the animals in their care. While tickets for the holiday three-course lunch have all been sold, visitors can tuck into seasonal fare at the zoo's Lakeside Bistro. The regular menu will be available, but there also will be festive treats, including mince tarts, panettone and berries, and semifreddo Christmas pudding. The zoo is open all day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with all the exhibits open as normal. Entry from $23.
Hit the Beach
At any time of year, there are plenty of travelers milling in Melbourne, and the holiday season is no exception. While most of the city's big hotels offer spectacular Christmas day celebrations, sometimes it's good to simply relax by the sand. For festive fun in the great outdoors, head to St. Kilda Beach. On a glorious day, the stretch of sand will be packed with backpackers and locals escaping family duties, many of them wearing bikinis, board shorts, and Santa hats. Pack a picnic, go for a paddle, and check out the view. Just don't forget a hat and sunscreen.
Carrie Hutchinson lives in Melbourne and covers the city for Travel + Leisure.