What to do in November in Australia

Ah, November, that strange month before the Christmas holiday madness really begins. Before the silly season gets into full swing, here are some quick holiday breaks around the country.

Art in Canberra: The National Gallery of Australia has had a makeover! Well, there’s a new wing that features 11 new galleries chockablock with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art – the largest collection in Australia. There’s also an extensive exhibition on Australian Street Art. If you haven’t visited, you’ve now got 11 more reasons to do so.

Sydney celebrations: Throng with over 80,000 people in Newtown for this annual 'everything and the kitchen sink' festival. This year, there will be three music stages, lots of arty acts (puppetry to theatre), market stalls and of course, beer! Proceeds go to a good cause – the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre which provides community support services to the disadvantaged. Psst, entry is free too! Newtown Festival, Sunday 14 November, Camperdown Memorial Rest Park

Darwin road trip: If you're looking for something a little more rugged, grab a flight to Darwin (check for budget fares!), rent a car (by which we mean a 4WD), and drive south to Litchfield National Park. En route, you’ll pass through the town of Batchelor (a perfect base to kick off your trip through the National Park). Since you’ve got the 4WD, try taking the unsealed road that exits to Berry Springs. There are also a couple of 4WD tracks – Sandy and Surprise Creeks – perfect for real 4WD driving.

See the Great Barrier Reef before Oprah: Haven’t you heard? Oprah is visiting the Great Barrier Reef in December! Better get in before it gets too hot and too crowded. The beauty and vastness of the Great Barrier Reef has kept it ranked high on travel wish lists for decades. Cairns is the best place to book a diving expedition, and the lack of rain and the warm weather make November the optimum time to witness a true wonder of the natural world.

Adelaide's own mardi gras: Feast is one of Australia’s top three queer festivals – this year’s theme is 'our place'. Festival organisers hope to explore 'the idea of what is "our place" the queer place, in the wider community and modern day society.' What this means is that there will be a packed line-up of cabaret, comedy, music, films, visual arts and of course, lots of pride. Feast Festival runs from 13–28 November.

Beery good times in Tasmania: If you haven’t had a good excuse to head over to Tasmania, might we suggest beer? $25 gets you entry and 10 beer 'tokens' at Tasmanian Beerfest (12–13 November). The setting, by the gorgeous Salamanca Place, helps set the scene for a festival that attracts over 100 beer labels from across Australia and the world. There will be sessions on home brewing, competitions and food. If you’re on a beer pilgrimage, don’t forget to book brewery tours: try Moo Brew and Cascade in Hobart, and then there's Boags in Launceston.

Horse around in Melbourne: The Melbourne Cup (2 November) is the horserace that stops an entire state. And it’s one big party. Dress up and head on down to the Flemington Racecourse to place your bets and sip on bubbly. Maybe you’ll even get the trifecta bet spot-on this year? Ka-ching! In case you’re staying longer, the party continues with Oaks Day on 4 November. This is the ladies' day and fashion is rife on the field! Cap off the festivities by attending the 'family-focused' Stakes Day on 6 November.

Follow Shawn Low, Travel Editor (Asia Pacific) on Twitter: @shawnlow

For more advice, check out our tips for seeing Australia on a budget.