20 Australian Festivals and Events Not to Miss

This is a sponsored post by Aussie Experiences

Who love’s a good festival?

Australia has plenty of festivals and events and and most are free. It was a struggle to choose which ones to put on the list.

Here’s 20 Australian festivals and events not to miss…

1. Sydney Vivid Festival

Vivid Sydney Lighting the Sails
Photo: Tourism Australia

The Sydney Vivid Music and Lights festival transforms the city at night into a colourful canvas of light, music and ideas. Beginning May 25 through June 11, 2012, the hugely popular Vivid lights will be switched on every night of the festival from 6.00pm to midnight in a free lighting display around The Rocks District and Circular Quay.

The festival will feature 50 interactive and immersive light art sculptures, illuminated skyscrapers and large scale 3D mapping projections on the Sydney Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art and Customs House.

Vivid Live was recently ranked as one of the world’s top ten ideas festivals by the influential Guardian newspaper in the UK; being named alongside SXSW and TedX is a major endorsement of the festival.

Sad that you will miss it this year? Never fear it is our annual winter festival in Sydney. See you next year.

2. Crave International Food Festival, October 1 – 31

Food, glorious, food.

Wayward traveller had a great article about the Crave International Food Festival, which has had me craving to go here all year.

Barbecue madness kicks off the event across Sydney and regional NSW, and a special event at the Grower’s market in Pyrmont.

The highlight is the Asian hawker atmosphere of the Noodle night markets in the beautiful Hyde Park. Don’t miss the Coopers Sustainable beer garden, where you can eat your noodles, relax and enjoy some fine ale.

Surry Hill’s Longrain restaurant will be there (you must try their Betel leaf) and Sydney’s famous Mamak (Roti, roti, roti)

3. Carols by Candlelight 15 December

Carols in the Domain
Carols by Candlelight

Carols by Candlelight is a popular Australian Christmas event. You can attend in Sydney in the Domain or in Melbourne on Christmas Eve. It’s free.

Arrive early with a picnic blanket and chairs and bring your own food and drink. Settle in to watch a Christmas performance given by some of Australian’s biggest stars.

4. Sculpture by the Sea 18 October- 4th November (unconfirmed)

A very popular event along the Tamarama stretch of the famous Bondi to Coogee Coastal walk. This walk is special any time of year, but even more so during Sculpture by the Sea.

The walk sculptors with a unique opportunity to site their work in a dramatic natural setting 108 works by artists from Australia and overseas are exhibited. The event is held at the start of spring,  just to give you that added bounce in your step.

5. Sydney New Years Eve

New Years Resolutions
Bring on the New Year

Known to have the most spectacular fireworks display in the world. Sydney New Years Eve on the Harbour is dramatic and should be on every person’s bucket list.

We are still yet to check it off, but are dreaming of that Sydney Harbour Cruise in prime position, with waiters that hand us oysters and wine all night long.

6. City 2 Surf Fun Run, Sydney, August 12

Every year about 80,000 people take to the streets of Sydney for the 14 km walk/run through the city from Hyde Park to Bondi Beach. The City2Surf is a great day out, even if you don’t like running.

Put your elbows out, make yourself some room and walk it. Get dressed up even and join the many that go all out to make it a fun event. There are some serious runners here so if that is not you step aside and hang out the back.

7. Bledisloe Cup Rugby Festival, Sydney 10- 18 August

It’s the Australian’s versus the New Zealander’s. It’s the Wallabies versus the All Blacks in our annual Rugby war.

Come out and watch the fighting spirit in Sydney as we seek to revenge a nine year losing streak. It’s full of adrenalin and action. Wear your green and gold and cheer loudly for the Wallabies.

8. Australian Surf Festival, Port Macquarie, August 11-25

Port Macquarie is one of those undiscovered gems on the mid-north NSW coast. Come and see who gets crowned the Australian champion. The two week festival will also have live music and exhibitions.

Australia has a huge surfing culture so this is your chance to get to know us on that level.

9. The Rocks Aroma Festival, Sydney, July 29

Coffee, chocolate, tea, and spice at The Rocks Aroma Festival? Don’t tell me you’re not sold yet!

The Rocks area of Sydney (my favourite) was the hub for international trade for over a hundred years where these products were once off-loaded to warehouses lining Campbell’s Cove.

Time to celebrate that history with chocolate-dipped strawberries and cute cupcakes, and sample coffee from some of the world’s best roasters.

Oh and there is also belly dancers, salsa and samba, and camel rides beside the world’s most beautiful harbour in this one-day sensory explosion. Lock it in!

10. Byron Bay Bluesfest – Easter

Byron Bay Bluesfest in Pictures

Folk, soul, blues, and rock- how could you miss this convergence of music in the ultra-cool alternative town of Byron Bay?

Bring only a laid back attitude and a pair of gum boots. This festival is so chilled and loads of music fun for all ages. We went to the Byron Bay Bluesfest last year and loved it. Not to be missed.

11. Adelaide Festival

Every year in March, the warm Adelaide evenings become electrified as the very best in theatre, dance, music, film and the arts comes to town.

The festival goes for 2 weeks and a Fringe Festival with lots of off the wall performances is now supported by the festival and has grown so much it occurs every year.

12. Interactive Food, Wine and Wildlife Experiences in South Australia

The best sort of festivals are those you can be involved in, rather than just a happy spectator. This is a sort of create your own event.

Aussie Experiences have gathered together interactive Interactive Food, Wine and Wildlife Experiences in South Australia. Try your hand at wine and cheese making, feed giant panda and swim with giant cuttlefish. You’ll be amazed at all the cool activities on offer.

13. Australia Day 26 January

Anywhere in Australia.

Head down to the beach or the park for a picnic and a game of cricket. Sydney also has fireworks and events all over the city, as would all major cities. This is our national day so come celebrate with us.

14. Tamworth Country Music Festival, 18- 27 January

You don’t even have to like country music to enjoy the festivities. It is wild fun.

Every street corner will have a busker playing and pubs will be filled to the brim with patrons, live music and mechanical bulls. Concerts from Australia’s best country stars are held as well as the Australian Country Music Awards.

15. Australian Open of Surfing, Manly Beach, 9-17 Feb

surfing at North SteyneAfter a smashing debut this year, this annual event will only get better with time. Some of the world’s hottest best surfers compete for the title. There’s also a skating bowl with the pros thrashing it out for the crown and a stage for live music in the evening.

I love surfing festivals because they are free and you can get up close and personal with the surfing stars.

16. Sydney Mardi Gras, 24th March

One of Australia’s hottest tourist attractions.

Celebrate with the Gay and Lesbian community as they take to Oxford Street on floats, fancy dress, and outlandish costumes. It is crazy good fun.

17. Melbourne Cup, 1st Tues in November

This is the race that stops the nation and one of Australia’s biggest sporting events. Melbourne even has a public holiday to honour it.

There will be ladies dressed up to the nines with fashionable hats, sorts in suits, champagne and strawberries, and punters furiously betting on their horse to win. If you can’t attend the actual event, there will be a pub or house party somewhere near you.

18. Australian Tennis Open, Melbourne – January

Australia’s grand slam event and the first for the tennis circuit year. Live daily entertainment, from free music concerts and DJ sessions to an all-day music festival and carnival village.

Big outdoor screens are set up outside the arena for those who can’t get tickets or who don’t want to pay. The atmosphere will be pumping.

19. Perth International Arts Festival

DAWN Opening ceremony on Cottesloe Beach

The Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) has now been running for 60 years. It’s Australia’s longest running arts festival, and the longest running in the southern hemisphere.

It’s a three week long festival including a wide variety of performing arts such as opera, dance, theatre, music, visual arts, and the Perth Writers Festival. Performers are drawn from Australia and around the world and the schedule of events are held at venues throughout the city of Perth.

Artistic Director Jonathan Holloway describes it as…

a Festival in one of the most geographically remote yet globally connected cities on Earth”.

Website: PerthFestival.com.au

20. Henly on Todd Regatta, Northern Territory

The Henly on Todd Regatta is one of Australia’s wackiest festivals. It’s a boat regatta except its on a dry and dusty riverbank in the middle of the coutnry. Bottomless boats held up by the contestants race each other through the dry riverbed.

Watching seemingly sane people race in bottomless “eights”, “bath tubs” and yachts through the deep coarse sand of the Todd River is a sight to behold.


Now is the perfect time to visit Australia!

Need help organising your trip down under? The team from Aussie Experiences are passionate experts on our beautiful country. They understand the experiences you are seeking and are ready to work with you, and within your budget, to turn your dream into reality.

They have access to the best deals available while their insider knowledge allows them to custom design your dream vacation based on your very individual needs, desires and budget. So don’t delay, come visit Australia today!

Caz Makepeace is the co-founder of y Travel Blog and has been traveling the world since 1997, first solo, then with her husband, and now with her two daughters. Get her free email series on the 4 best ways to reduce travel costs. Follow her on Google+

17 Comments on “20 Australian Festivals and Events Not to Miss”

  1. I missed this year’s Byron Bay Bluesfest. It’s on top of my must-witness list.
    gayE @ pinaytraveljunkie recently posted..280 RTW Days… And Why We’re Home So Soon.
    gayE @ pinaytraveljunkie recently posted..280 RTW Days… And Why We’re Home So Soon.

    • We wanted to go again this year but couldn’t make it work. It is such a great festival- one of my faves.

  2. Mmmm… barbecue… Crave sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing, I’ll have to bookmark this post for when I go to Australia. And I will go to Australia–one day :)
    Lauren recently posted..5 Items You’re Glad Your Mom Made You Pack Abroad
    Lauren recently posted..5 Items You’re Glad Your Mom Made You Pack Abroad

  3. I’m with Lauren here: We DEFINITELY need to get Down Under sooner than later! Vivid, Crave, Rocks Aroma and Perth International Arts Festival all sound like they’d be loads of fun. But only if Caz and Craig can be our tour guides… ;-)
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted..THE PERUVIAN AMAZON- Day 6 Photo Gallery
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted..THE PERUVIAN AMAZON- Day 6 Photo Gallery

    • We would LOVE to be your tour guides. Come on down here. There are so many things we could take you to see and we’ll make sure we include some of these events!

  4. A great list! Here in Sydney to enjoy Vivid right now :)

    We’ve been to a few Aussie food and wine festivals on this recent trip back, including Crave and the Taste festivals, but I loved the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival best – just brilliant.
    lara dunston recently posted..Will Studd, the Cheese Guy and the Story of Australian Cheese
    lara dunston recently posted..Will Studd, the Cheese Guy and the Story of Australian Cheese

    • Oh that one has to go on the list. Sounds awesome. When is it? Anything with food and wine is a winner. Enjoy Vivid, it is really cool.

  5. I lived in Australia for three years and more than half of these festivals were new to me. Makes me want to go back. And I love that you included a photo of Ben Harper!

    • We love Ben! It was so cool to get so close to him at Blues Fest. We were able to listen into his warm up session. There were only about five of us. He’s so lovely. A lot of these festivals we are yet to attend as well. I’m excited to go now

  6. These all sound like so much fun!

  7. I miss a good food and wine festival in the summer sun. Mostly music festivals here (not a bad thing mind you).
    Cole @ Four Jandals recently posted..Why we quit our jobs
    Cole @ Four Jandals recently posted..Why we quit our jobs

  8. Thanks for the shout-out guys!! What a great list of festivals you have here, some I haven’t even heard of yet but hopefully I’ll get to see them while I’m still in Oz!
    Annie recently posted..Is travel age-appropriate?
    Annie recently posted..Is travel age-appropriate?

    • No worries. Your post put Crave on my radar! We’re hoping to check some more of these off this year.

  9. New Year’s Eve in Sydney is the BOMB! I was there ten years ago and it still remains one of my all time travel highlights.
    Adam Costa recently posted..$242,217 on Travel Photos? Shocking Costs Behind World’s Most Iconic Photos
    Adam Costa recently posted..$242,217 on Travel Photos? Shocking Costs Behind World’s Most Iconic Photos

    • Can’t wait to experience it. I’ve been to house parties in Sydney for it but not down on the harbour itself

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