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Best places to visit in May in Australia

Discover beautiful places with minimal crowds at these May hotspots.

The month of May brings the end of autumn and the end of the school holiday break.

Want to take advantage of off-peak prices? Perhaps the idea of extending the sunshine just that little bit longer is speaking to you? Well, these Aussie hotspots can do all that and more, and without breaking the bank.

PS: May is also the month of Mother's Day. If you're looking for the ultimate gift, a weekend away is a brilliant idea.

1. Best for food: Kakadu

Adventure, culture and food meet in the outback.

The annual Taste of Kakadu food festival is making a name for itself on the festival circuit. Originally a 10-day celebration, this year it's been packed into 3 days (24-26 May) of Indigenous food, culture and country.

Experiences that are often on the bill include foraging walks with bush tucker experts, ground oven feasts and cooking demonstrations using native ingredients.

Housed within Kakadu National Park it's the perfect excuse to double down, visit the outback and tuck into some good, well, tucker.

  • May weather: 22–33°C, dry season.
  • Top May events in the NT: Dreamedia Nightcliff Seabreeze Festival, BASSINTHEGRASS, Freds Pass Rural Show, 50 KM Feast, Noonamah Tavern Rodeo.
  • Best for: Adventure, culture, foodies.

2. Best for sunshine: Cairns

Because Queensland is always a good idea.

If you're searching for warm beaches without the long commute, Queensland is the answer. You could choose the Whitsundays or the Gold Coast but for somewhere family-friendly that's just starting to wind down, make your way to Cairns.

Its beaches stay warm throughout the year and May tip-toes on the dry season which starts in June, so it's still quiet and for the most part, still dry.

  • May weather: 19–27°C, Autumn.
  • Top May events: Live music and beach sports throughout the city.
  • Best for: Beaches, families.

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3. Best for events: Sydney

Sydney's iconic festival of light shines brightly on the city's landmarks in May.

Vivid Sydney is an institution that needs no introduction. Every year (outside of 2020) the arts festival runs from end-May to mid-June and just gets bigger and better. On top of the usual landmarks, Kings Cross and the new Sydney precinct Barangaroo host displays.

  • May weather: 9–20°C, autumn.
  • Top May events: Vivid Sydney, Sydney Surf Pro, Afterpay Australian Fashion Week.
  • Best for: Sightseeing, city breaks.

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High tea at Cambewarra Estate, Shaolhaven

4. Best for a weekender: Shoalhaven

Small towns with big food offerings.

Less than 3 hours south of Sydney, Shoalhaven offers charming towns, blissful beaches and gastronomic adventures.

This May pop in for a day (or a week) for its Celebration of Food Month. It's an entire month dedicated to showcasing its local finds and hatted chefs with curated menus, workshops, cooking classes, food trucks and more.

  • May weather: 19°C, autumn.
  • Top May events in Shoalhaven: Celebration of Food Month.
  • Best for: Road trips, food, relaxing.

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Coastal scene (site of wrecks) Innes NP, Yorke Peninsula, SA

5. Best surprise destination: York Peninsula

Get set to see another side of South Australia.

Head west from the capital Adelaide and you'll discover the York Peninsula. It's a rich region of farming towns, beaches, national parks and food, food, food.

In May the weather is on the cooler side which, while not ideal to hit the beaches, is fabulous for festivals and hikes.

Speaking of festivals, this month the FLAME Festival brings food, light, are and music to the towns of Kadina, Moonta and Wallaroo.

  • May weather: 9–19°C, autumn.
  • Top May events: Feast on The Foreshore, FLAME Festival, Tasting Australia Event.
  • Best for: Culture, hiking, food.

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Top May events

These are the events across Australia that typically run in May.

  • Mother's Day: In Australia this is on the second Sunday of May. Mark it on your calendar now before you forget.
  • Vivid Sydney: Each year Sydney brings an installation of international proportions. With a light display that stretches from The Rocks and Circular Quay to the Royal Botanic Garden, this is a must-see event for anyone who happens to find themselves in the city. This year Vivid will be on between 24 May and 15 June.
  • 1770 Festival: The 1770 Festival is held on 24 May 1770 to commemorate the landing of James Cook's ship HMB Endeavour on the East Coast shore at the point now named the 'Town of 1770' or Seventeen Seventy. The festival includes history tours, street parades, kids' attractions, fireworks and cultural demonstrations from local Gooreng Gooreng people.
  • When is the best time in May to take a holiday?

    As May falls after the Easter school break, it finds itself in a low-season lull. Because of this, we've seen quite a few last-minute flight deals across Australia throughout the month.

    That being said, we wouldn't say the whole month is a good time to travel. The Mother's Day weekend is likely to raise the price of airfares due to mothers being gifted holidays and children visiting their parents.

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