How to celebrate Christmas as a backpacker in Australia

It’s Christmas time around the world, but if you’re a backpacker in Australia, this will be a Christmas unlike any you’ve had before! For most backpackers in December it’s chilly back in their home countries. Christmas normally means sitting in front of the fireplace with the family or dashing through the snow. If you feel disoriented during your Christmas down under, don’t worry, you’re not alone! We’ve got some suggestions for enjoying your Christmas as a backpacker in Australia.

Travellers Oasis and our sister hostel Tropic Days will be having a FREE Christmas barbecue for all guests on December 24th!

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Go for a swim

surf livesavers christmas

In the Northern hemisphere, many people hope for a White Christmas. There’s nothing more picturesque then rocking around the Christmas tree while the snow comes down outside. We could be mistaken, but the Australian Bureau of Meteorology predicts we won’t see any snowflakes on Christmas this year in Australia. So instead of prepping for a snowman, get ready to hit the water! In most parts of Australia Christmas will be a beautiful day to hit the beach. If you’re here in Cairns, join the fun at the lagoon where there’s sure to be a crowd. You’re a backpacker in Australia. When else will you have the chance to deck the halls with towels and boardies?

Listen to Australian Christmas songs

During December in Australia you will hear the same sappy Christmas carols sung around the world. You’ll also lose your mind listening to the same pop Michael Buble and Mariah Carey on repeat. This Christmas, add some local tunes into the rotation. Australia has a few of its own Christmas boogies, so freshen your holiday playlist up and give them a listen.

Our favorite, Aussie Jingle Bells

Better yet, why not listen to the whole album?

Some more sentimental ones

And if you must listen to Mariah Carey, at least make sure you look cool

Have a Backpacker White Elephant Gift Exchange

Normally we all are excited to receive presents on Christmas, but you’re backpacking around Australia, and you’ve got Santa Claus proper confused! Between the addresses on your TFN, your Commonwealth Bank account, and the rego on your Ford Falcon, he’s not quite sure where he’s supposed to leave you a present under the tree. Thus, better take matters into your own hands. Have a chat with the others in your hostel and set up a White Elephant gift exchange, otherwise known as a Yankee Swap, or dirty Santa!

It’s simple. Set a small budget and tell everyone to go out and buy a gift. The more strange and impractical, the better. Your local op shop is a perfect hunting ground. Wrap up the gifts, and then on Christmas, each person takes a turn unwrapping one. When it’s the next person’s turn, they may either unwrap a gift, or steal a gift that someone else has already unwrapped. If your gift is stolen, you can either unwrap a new one, or steal another gift. The same gift can’t be stolen more than once in a turn. This is a fun, cheap way to get into the gift giving spirit with your hostel mates.

Celebrate Boxing Day

Different countries have different traditions around what you do on December 24th, December 25th, and December 26th. In Australia, December 26th is a holiday called Boxing Day. This is nothing new for the English backpackers, since Boxing Day is celebrated in lots of places that used to be part of the British Empire. For those unfamiliar with Boxing Day, you might think this is an Australian holiday where you go out and pick a fight with a kangaroo.

boxing kangaroo
No, not that kind of boxing

Rather, Boxing Day was traditionally the holiday for servants. Servants would have to wait on their employers on December 25th, serving them delicious Christmas hams and mulled wine. The following day the servants could celebrate Christmas with their families, and would receive a Christmas-box, filled with gifts, bonuses, and sometimes extra food. Today, Boxing Day is a big shopping holiday in Australia, with big discounts and even bigger crowds. Sorry backpackers, although sometimes you may feel like a servant, don’t expect a Christmas box from your employer this December 26th.

Watch the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

Sydney to Hobart

The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is an Australian tradition. On Boxing Day, get in front of the television and watch as the boats leave Sydney Harbour and head for Tasmania. Unlike Cricket, which will try your patience and can be a bit of a struggle for a novice to watch, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is easy to enjoy even if you’ve never step foot on a sailboat.

Eat Pavlova


Many countries have special dishes that are traditionally eaten around Christmas. Instead of crying because you miss Christollen or trifle, give an Australian Christmas dish a try. After all, this is why we travel, to experience different cultures! This Christmas, have a slice of Pavlova. Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert. It’s soft and light and topped with kiwi and strawberries. Named after a Russian ballerina named Anna Pavlova who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s, this dessert is a classic Australian & New Zealand Christmas tradition, but don’t ask which of the two countries actually first invented Pavlova unless you want to start an argument. You can try to make Pavlova on your own or easily pick some up at the shops.

Join us at Traveller’s Oasis and Tropic Days for a Christmas Barbecue

hostel barbecue

If you’re staying in Cairns for Christmas, Travellers Oasis and our sister hostel Tropic Days are the perfect places to be. We’ll be having a barbecue for all guests on December 24th and the best part is, it’s free!

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