The best Australian festivals
The Best Australian Festivals (According to an Australian)
Australians love a good festival, and for good reason. We have beautiful warm, sunny weather for most of the year, which means the climate is perfect for enjoying outdoor festivals with your friends and family. Every year, cities and towns all over Australia host festivals from the humble to the enormous. Here’s my favourites and when to enjoy them.
#1: The Adelaide Fringe (Performing Arts)
Photo cr: Instagram @adlfringe
February – March annually | Adelaide, South Australia
Full disclosure – Adelaide is my hometown so I might be a bit biased, however my state is known as ‘the Festival State’, so I think I am pretty justified in my hometown pride! Every year Adelaide plays host to a series of festivals during the period known as ‘Mad March’ (which has grown to also take over February and part of April, too).
My favourite of all of the festivals in Mad March is the Fringe. It is the second largest arts festival in the world, and the entire city gets swept up in the fever. Venues all over the city play host to musicians, comedians, ventriloquists, actors and every other type of creative you can think of. Every year the show attracts huge names in the arts, but I personally love rolling the dice with the smaller, amateur productions.
If you miss the Fringe you might like the Melbourne Festival (August; Melbourne, Victoria), the KISS Arts Festival (April; Kiama, New South Wales), Dark Mofo (June; Hobart, Tasmania), or the Darwin Festival (August; Darwin, Northern Territory)
#2: The Grape Escape (Wine)
Photo cr: Instagram @ggefest
May annually | Halls’ Gap, Victoria
Although many people think of Australians as beer drinkers, most of us actually prefer wine – and we have some of the world’s best. Although Australian drops regularly take out gold medals at international wine shows, Aussie winemakers tend to be laidback, casual people who are never pretentious or arrogant. They love talking to everyone about wine, and there’s no pressure to be an expert. One of the best ways to be introduced to wine is at a fun and laidback festival.
There are many wine festivals in Australia, but my favourite is the two-day Grape Escape held in the beautiful Halls’ Gap in the picturesque Grampains region of Victoria. Hundreds of producers set up stalls for people to come and taste their wine. There are also other stalls including food stalls, a music stage, arts and crafts, and even a petting zoo!
If you miss the Grape Escape you might like the Sea and Vines Festival (June; McLaren Vale, South Australia), the Margaret River Gourmet Escape (November; Margaret River, Western Australia) or the Taste of Tasmania Festival (December; Hobart, Tasmania)
#3: Barunga Festival (Indigenous Culture)
Photo cr: Instagram @barungafest
Queen’s Birthday Weekend in June annually | Barunga, Northern Territory
One of the most well-loved and unique festivals in Australia occurs for a weekend in June every year, and most recently celebrated 30 years of sharing the arts and culture of Australia’s Indigenous peoples. Held on the sacred land of the Jawoyn peoples, Barunga is usually closed to non-Indigenous people unless you have a permit, but for one weekend annually it is open to all to come along and celebrate the culture of Indigenous Australians.
Indigenous Australians are thought to be the oldest surviving culture in the world, with evidence that they have been living in Australia for more than 40,000 years. Throughout much of this time, art including music, sport, painting and dance has been an integral part of their cultural identity. The Barunga Festival is a unqiue opportunity to learn about this and even participate in hands-on workshops such as painting or spear-throwing. Just be aware that camping is the only option for staying onsite, and be respectful when taking photographs (it is considered culturally insensitive to display the image of Aboriginal people without permission, and especially if the person has later died).
If you miss the Barunga Festival you might like The Garma Festival (August; Arnhem Land, Northern Territory), Laura Dance Festival (June – July bi-annually; Laura, Queensland) or the Tjungu Festival (April; Ayers Rock (Uluru), Northern Territory)
#4: Falls Festival (Music)
New Years’ Eve | Byron Bay, New South Wales; Lorne, Victoria; Fremantle, Western Australia & Marion Bay
Australia boasts a year-round calendar of amazing music festivals and which one is the ‘best’ is a question that is likely to end in an argument! There’s just so many great ones, with something to suit everybody’s tastes and preferences. One of my absolute favourites, however, is the Falls Festival, a multi-day festival held at the end of every year. Just about every Australian has made the pilgrimage to ‘Falls’ for a guaranteed way to bring in the New Year in style!
The festival always features an impressive and diverse lineup of acts including both international and Australian artists. These artists cover a range of types of music from rock, punk, electronica and folk – so there is really something for everybody. Camping is the accomodation of choice so prepare to be a bit uncomfortable and dirty, but it is absolutely worth it for the experience.
If you miss the Falls Festival you might like any of Australia’s many other music festivals, such as the Tamworth Country Music Festival (January; Tamworth, New South Wales), BluesFest (March/April; Byron Bay, New South Wales) or WOMAdelaide (March; Adelaide, South Australia)
#5: The Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Photo cr: Instagram @melbcomedyfestival
March – April annually |Melbourne, Victoria
The third largest comedy festival in the world is held annually in Melbourne, and attracts an impressive array of local and international comedians who have audiences in stitches. The comedy festival is well-loved both by those who are lucky enough to attend and watch the shows in person, and those who watch the side-splitting acts on television at home.
The festival has hundreds of comedians and has launched the careers of some of Australia’s most famous funnymen and women, and even offers shows that are suitable for kids and families. While traditional stand-up is the most common performance, there are also other shows which offer a mix of comedy as well as other arts like music or theatre.
If you miss the Melbourne International Comedy Festival you might like the Brisbane Comedy Festival (Feb/March; Brisbane, Queensland), Perth Comedy Festival (April/May; Perth, Western Australia) or the Sydney Comedy Festival (April/May; Sydney, New South Wales).
Written by Georgie from Australia