5 Ways to Escape the Winter Blues with Summer in the Southern Hemisphere

As temperatures drop in the United States, foreshadowing the long winter to come, there is a whole half of the world that is just starting to heat up! All of Australia, most of South America, and a third of Africa are part of the Southern Hemisphere, where the summer months are December, January and February. The reverse seasons offer ample opportunities to ditch your sweater and soak in a little sunshine on an international adventure down south. Here are five of our favorites!

1. Taste Wine in the Cape Winelands of South Africa

Technically any time of year is good for drinking wine, but the hot, dry weather of the summer months are ideal for enjoying the splendid scenery of the Cape Winelands. The region’s mountain ranges and whitewashed Cape-Dutch estates will leave you wondering whether your pleasant buzz is from the stellar wines or pastoral beauty. Chilled sparkling wines from Stellenbosch are especially refreshing on warm days but a nice Pintoage is hard to pass up when complementing the gourmet cuisine of Franschhoek’s top-notch restaurants.

If you find yourself settling into a sauvignon stupor, horseback riding or cycling are nice active breaks from the bottle. Or put your best foot forward stomping grapes at Robertson Valley’s Hands-On Harvest Festival in February!

South Africa Franschoek

 

2. Go Island Hopping in Australia

There are a whopping 8,222 islands off the coast of Australia, including the state of Tasmania which itself is nearly 25,000 square miles!  Beyond just the sheer number, Australia’s islands offer a variety experiences that extend far beyond relaxing on the beach.

Maria Island is inhabited solely by national park rangers, leaving plenty of room for secluded hiking trips among its untouched beaches, sandstone cliffs, and eucalyptus forests.  For wildlife viewing, Kangaroo Island lives up to its name with its very own subspecies of the iconic marsupial – the Sooty Kangaroo – as well as echidnas, bottle-nosed dolphins, fur seals, and other wildlife.  Off the Northern coast of Queensland, the Whitsundays are a chain of 74 islands with close proximity to The Great Barrier Reef, an underwater mecca for diving and snorkeling. While it’s easy to get carried away with your island-jumping itinerary, distances in Australia can be substantial so plan your trip wisely!

Stunning beaches of Maria Island

 

3. Witness the Circle of Life During Calving Season in Tanzania

During a short period in late January and early February, the Serengeti is home to the birth of roughly 8,000 wildebeests a day. Action centers on the plains of the Southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where grasses rich in minerals attract massive herds. Unfortunately for the protective mothers, the susceptible newborns attract attention of their own as predators from cheetahs to lions descend upon the area. The result is a fascinating, but at times sobering, glimpse at survival among the vast African plains.

Tanzania Wildebeest

 

4. Hit the Water in Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown lies along the long, zigzagging shores of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand’s third largest lake. The surrounding rivers and mountains (including a range that is actually called “The Remarkables”) make up the natural playground that gives the city its long-lasting distinction as the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Shoot down the bright blue waters of the Dart River in a jet boat or challenge the Shotover River by whitewater raft, paddling through class 3-5 rapids with names like “Aftershock” and “Pinball”. If those options aren’t quite adventurous enough, try sledging the Kawarau River, an experience that sends you head-first into white water while lying on a cross between a kayak and a boogie board! For those with heart conditions or a less extreme definition of fun, try a relaxing cruise of Lake Wakatipu on the restored TSS Earnslaw Steamship.

Dart River New Zealand

 

5. Hike Beneath Patagonia’s Peaks

You don’t need to be a hardcore climber to enjoy Patagonia; the sparsely populated region at the southern end of Argentina and Chile boasts some of the best trekking in the world at relatively low elevations. Hike through a landscape of hanging glaciers, granite peaks, glittering alpine lakes and photo-ready guanacos along trails that rarely exceed 4,000’, providing you with fabulous mountain trekking sans pesky altitude concerns.

In Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, embark on one of the ultimate ‘backpacking’ trips along the iconic W-Trek (but swap the tent for rustic mountain refugios complete with hot tubs) or treat yourself to an uber-luxe lodge like AWASI  Patagonia and discover the park’s trails on day hikes with your private naturalist guide. For a truly wild experience, explore the new Parque Patagonia in Chile’s Aysen region, a restoration and ‘national park creation’ project funded by Kris and Doug Tompkins’ Conservacion Patagonica. Or wake up early in the Argentinian town of El Chalten to catch the sunrise on the spires of the Fitz Roy Range – home to the highest and most iconic peak in the region. Recognize that ridgeline?  There’s a good chance it is featured on the label of the jacket you’re wearing to fight the morning chill.

Patagonia

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