A trip through a foreign country is not only about sightseeing; it’s also about visiting events and mingling with the locals on festivals. Australia has many different events and festivals and many of these are for free or very cheap. The biggest and most impressive event in Australia we have been to is the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney. But there are many more events and festivals in Australia you should put on your travel list.
The New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney is one of the most famous events in Australia but there are many more events and festivals happening throughout Australia. Have you ever heard of the “Wife carrying championship” or the “Henley on Todd Regatta”, a boat regatta held in a dry river bed? There are so many amazing events and festivals in Australia.
23 events and festivals in Australia that you shouldn’t miss
There are many different events and festivals in Australia. The Australians love to be in company and meeting friends and neighbours. Having a barbie or a picnic as well as visiting events and festivals together with friends is part of the Australian culture. What we loved most were the crazy and quirky events in the Outback. At the Finke Desert Race, crazy adrenalin junkies race through the middle of the desert and at the Beer Can Regatta in Darwin, the brave ones row on boats made of beer cans through the sea.
Curious events and festivals in Australia
1. Beer Can Regatta in Darwin, NT
The Beer Can Regatta in Darwin was first held in 1974. On the 12th of July you can visit the regatta in 2015. Thousands of beer cans are being used to build the boats for this unusual regatta. The Australians love their beer and so there is no shortage on empty beer cans.
More or less floating vessels constructed with beer cans are used during the event. There is no test for seaworthiness prior to the event and some constructions might fall apart or sink during the event.
You can download the document „A Canstructors Guide to Canstructing a Can Boat” if you like to build your own beer can boat and be part of the regatta.
The event is for free and only a Gold Coin donation is expected.
You can find information and details on beercanregatta.org.au
2. Wife-carrying Championship in Singleton, NSW
Have you ever heard of “Wife-carrying”? It’s a sport in which male competitors race while carrying a female teammate. The sport was first introduced in Finland and there is even a world championship of “Wife-carrying” held in Finland every year.
Every year the Singleton show hosts the “Australian Wife Carrying Titles”. The winning duo can win a chance to represent Australia at the World Wife Carrying Championship in Finland.
The next chance for you to see the Wife Carrying Titles is on the 25th and 26th of September 2015. You can find details on the official website of the Singleton Show
3. Henley on Todd Regatta in Alice Springs, NT
The Henley on Todd Regatta is one of the most curious events in Australia. The regatta is taking place in the dry river bed of the Todd River. How does that work? That’s easy. The boats have no bottom and the racers just hold up the boats and run them along the sandy river bed. Races are also held in washtubs that are carried along the race track.
If you bring along a good portion of humour and want to experience the crazy outback spirit then you can be part of the fun on August 15, 2015.
More information on henleyontodd.com.au
4. Beanie Festival in Alice Springs, NT
Another iconic festival in Alice Springs is the Beanie Festival. Throughout the weekend workshops will be held and you can share and learn about the creativity and diversity of textile arts and crafts.
Winter nights in Central Australia can be cold and so everybody needs a beanie to enjoy the outdoors. No wonder that handmade beanies have a long tradition in Central Australia. They are often colourful and vary widely in style, pattern and material.
Since 1997 the Alice Springs Beanie Festival has been an event where Indigenous women can present their talents. Around 6000 beanies will be on display and for sure you will find the style you like.
The beanie festival of 2015 is held on the weekend from June 19 to 22.
More information on beaniefest.org
5. Australian Campoven Festival in Millmerran (Toowoomba area), QLD
Every second year the Australian Campoven Festival is held in Millmerran. In 2016 it will be the 10th time that this event will take place in the Outback town situated about 3 hours south west of Brisbane. Thousands of visitors will come along with their camper vans, caravans, tents and swags and celebrate Australia’s heritage and outback traditions.
You can experience real Outback spirit on this festival and indulge in a diverse range of heritage inspired activities such as bush poetry, arts, crafts, shearing demonstrations, damper throwing competitions and of course – camp oven cooking!
You can find more information about the next festival, that will be held on the 4th and 5th of October in 2016, on the official website
Traditional and crazy events and festivals in Australia
6. Finke Desert Race from Alice Springs to Finke, NT
If you like crazy motorsports events then the Finke Desert Race is a must for you. On the weekend from the 6th to the 8th of June 2015 this crazy race from Alice Springs to Finke and back will be held.
The race drivers will race with their bikes, cars, buggies and quads along the 230 km race track down to Finke on Sunday and back from Finke to Alice Springs on Monday.
The first activities already start Thursdays and the campgrounds in Alice Springs start to fill up quickly. The best way to enjoy the race is to camp somewhere along the race track. You will swallow some dust for sure but take along some beer to wash it down and you will enjoy it. Just be careful during the race. The cars are extremely fast.
You can find the race program and detailed information on the official website of the Finke Desert Race.
We have visited the prologue on Friday and have camped along the race track on Saturday and Sunday. It was a great event and you can read more about our experience in our blog post It’s loud, it’s dusty, it’s crazy – it’s the Finke Desert Race in Alice Springs.
7. Rodeo in Birdsville, QLD
Birdsville is a small town deep in the Outback of Queensland. The campdraft, rodeo and bronco branding was held the first time in 2007 and it’s not a very big event. That’s exactly what we liked about it. You can see brave women and men demonstrate their bush skills. It’s a rough and dusty outback experience and a lot of fun. Food and refreshments are available and you can camp on the rodeo grounds.
In our blog post The Birdsville Rodeo. A rough, dusty and real Aussie event in the Outback we have described this unique experience. The next event will be held in 2015 on the 9th and 10th of May.
8. Birdsville Races, Horse Race, QLD
There is another event in Birdsville and this one is a really big one. It’s the Birdsville Races held every year and attracting several thousand visitors. During the races held every September, the population skyrockets from 115 to 7000 for the two day event.
Since Birdsville is very remote and located deep in the Outback of Queensland, many visitors fly in with their small airplanes and so hundreds of airplanes fill up the town’s airstrip. Most of the visitors camp between their aircrafts and along the Diamantina River and there is a lot of partying going on.
Here are more information about the Birdsville Races on September 4 and 5, 2015.
9. Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo, QLD
Another mayor event in Australia is the Mount Isa Mines Rodeo. It’s the largest rodeo event in the southern hemisphere. More that 25’000 visitors will be around you to see the world class rodeo action. For three days Mount Isa will be the centre of action for bull riding, saddle bronc, bareback, steer wrestling, roping, barrel racing and breakaway roping. In 2015 the huge event will take place between August 7 and 9.
Visit the official website for more information.
10. Rodeo in Normanton, QLD
The rodeo in Normanton is not as big as the one in Mount Isa but it’s much bigger than the one in Birdsville. It’s held in June every year and there are various activities like a district show, gymkhana, street parade, rodeo and campdraft. The rodeo grounds are just outside of Normanton and there are various market stalls with food, refreshments and other stuff to buy.
11. Cattle Sale in Charters Towers, QLD
It’s a unique experience to visit one of the big cattle grounds to see how the farmers buy their livestock. We have passed various cattle grounds and always wanted to know how the cattle auctions work. In Charters Towers our timing was good and it was cattle auction day. We stopped and mingled with the farmers.
It’s very hectic. The auctioneer constantly shouts out the prices and the farmers just slightly nod with their head to raise their bid for a single animal or a whole compound of livestock. We almost bought some cows and decided to move on before ending up in trouble.
If you want to see how farmers buy their livestock just look out for “Cattle Sale” or “Livestock Market”.
12. Mowanjum Festival in Derby, WA
The Mowanjum Festival is held every year in the Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Cultural Centre 12 km outside of Derby. There are different workshops like didgeridoo playing, boab nut carving, ochre painting and traditional dance you can join during the day. Food and drinks are available but no alcohol is allowed. In the evening a traditional corroboree is held where the local communities and guests from the Torres Strait Islands show their traditional dances.
The festival will be held on the 9th of July in 2015 and you can find updates here.
13. Powerboat Regatta in Devonport, TAS
If you like noisy and powerful engines, then the Powerboat Regatta in Devonport might be interesting for you. We have been in Devonport at the day of the regatta and by chance stopped to watch the final race. It’s crazy how fast the power boats race along. Bring some ear plugs because it’s loud.
14. Sydney to Hobart Regatta, NSW to TAS
The participants of the Sydney to Hobart Regatta use wind power instead of big, noisy engines. In less than two days the fastest will cover the 628 miles or 1200 kilometres from Sydney to Hobart.
119 sailing boats are registered for the 70th regatta. The start in Sydney will be on Boxing day, December 26th, and the official name of the Regatta is “ Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race”. More about the Regatta on the official event website.
15. Melbourne Cup, Horse Race in Melbourne, VIC
The Melbourne Cup is one of the most popular events in Australia with over 100’000 spectators. It’s Australia’s major horse race and famous as “the race that stops a nation”. The total price money is almost 6.5 Million Australian Dollars with the winner being paid over AUD 3 Millions.
Fashion is, apart from the horse race, a major focus of the day with substantial prizes awarded for the best-dressed man and woman. Betting is another major focus of the day. In 2000 a betting agency claimed that 80% of the adult Australian population placed a bet on the race. The race day has been gazetted public holiday since 1877 and if you like to spend the weekend in Melbourne you have to book well ahead.
The event starts at 3pm on the first Tuesday in November and you can find detailed information the Melbourne Cup Website.
16. Moomba Festival in Melbourne, VIC
The Moomba Festival is held annually and is another major event in Melbourne. Every year around 1 Million people attend the different activities. It’s celebrated during the Labour Day long weekend and is the largest free community festival in Australia.
Traditional events include the Moomba Parade, carnivals along the river, water sports activities on the river, live music, fireworks and many more. If you are not afraid of big crowds then the Moomba Festival might be worth to visit.
The next opportunity to attend the Moomba Festival is on the long weekend from the 6th to the 9th of March in 2015.
17. Australia Day on the 26th of January
Australia Day is the official national day of Australia and celebrated throughout the whole country. It marks the anniversary of the arrival of the first British ships in 1788 and is celebrated annually on the 26th of January.
Australia Day is an official public holiday in the whole country. The day is celebrated in cities and small and large communities around Australia with different ceremonies and fireworks.
18. ANZAC Day on the 25th of April
ANZAC Day is the national day of remembrance in Australia. It’s a very important day for the Australians to commemorate all Australians who served and died in the wars and conflicts. It’s observed on the 25th of April each year and there are parades and services.
In cities like Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin and Brisbane there are special services held at the ANZAC memorials.
19. Ararat Jailhouse Rock Festival, VIC
Hot Rods, classic cars and bikes, fashion shows and Rock’n’Roll music. The Ararat Jailhouse Rock Festival will take you back into the past. From March 11 to 15, 2015 you can travel back into the 50s and 60s.
More information on the official Website.
20. Byron Bay Bluesfest over the Easter long weekend, NSW
The Byron Bay Bluesfest is an annual music festival in Byron Bay held over the long Easter weekend. It features a large selection of local and international artists and has grown very big over the years. It started with a crowd of 6000 and reached an audience of over 100’000 in the last years.
In 2015 one of the headliners will be Lenny Kravitz and the festival will be held from the 2nd to the 6th of April. Be prepared for big crowds and a lot of traffic on the streets around Byron Bay during the long weekend. Be quick if you like to buy tickets for the event.
You can find the line-up and buy tickets on the Byron Bay Bluesfest Website.
21. Free Sunday Music in the Arts Centre in Fremantle, WA
The Free Sunday Music concerts are held every Sunday throughout the summer months from October to March. The gardens of the Arts Centre in Fremantle are the perfect location for the concerts. Food and drinks are available for the up to 800 music lovers. Local and touring acts are performing and it’s a great place to meet the locals.
There are numerous other towns around Australia that organize free concerts. What a great idea!
World-famous events and festivals in Australia
22. New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney, NSW
To celebrate New Year’s Eve in Sydney is very high up on the list of many travellers. We had it on our list as well. We have been in Sydney on New Years Eve of 2014. We celebrated into the New Year in front of the Harbour Bridge and it was definitely a great way to start into a new year.
It’s a huge event and the amount of people around you is overwhelming but it’s worth the effort. Start planning your visit of this event early is advisable. We have some tips for you in our blog post How to spend New Year’s Eve in Sydney
The official website has detailed information about the different vantage points and other important thing.
23. Australian Open in Melbourne Park, VIC
The Australian Open is a major tennis tournament held annually in Melbourne. It’s the first Grand Slam tournament of the year and takes place in January.
We haven’t attended the Australian Open but we have watched the interview with Roger Federer at the public viewing at the Federation Square in Melbourne. The public viewing is a free event and you can relax in the lying chairs in front of the big screen.
You can find information and buy tickets on the official Australian Open website.
We have researched all the dates for the upcoming events in 2015 online. If you plan on visiting events, please check the latest updates online.
This is only a selection of the many events and festivals in Australia. Do you have any tips for other interesting events and festivals in Australia? Please let us know and share your knowledge in a comment.