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Events diary: what to do in Australia this Autumn 2017

From decadent gourmet celebrations in Victoria’s High Country to a hot air balloon spectacular in Canberra’s clear skies, these are the finest autumn events in Australia.

By Carla Grossetti
Published: 15 March, 2017

The beautiful, sunny days and mild, clear evenings of the Australian autumn (March to May) provide the perfect backdrop for the season’s festivals, which are as much about enjoying the settings and scenery as the events themselves. At this time of year you can listen to Italian opera in the open air in Victoria’s stunning High Country, soar through Canberra’s crisp skies in a hot air balloon, laugh at crowd-pleasing comics at an international comedy fest in Melbourne or hike through the Hunter Valley wine country while its hills are ablaze in autumnal glory. Here are just a few of our favourite events happening around Australia this autumn. 

Adelaide Festival, Adelaide

When: 3 – 19 March

Adelaide has an extra edge when the Adelaide Festival – regarded as one of the world’s great art events – sweeps into the city each year. From 3 to 19 March, those lucky enough to be in town can attend a smorgasbord of theatre, musical performances and art events, including an incredible restaging of the multi-award-winning play The Secret River under the stars in an abandoned quarry, and an exclusive one-night-only concert by singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright. This year an ornate, double-decker ballroom, The Riverbank Palais, will be set afloat in the middle of the city’s River Torrens. Jump on board to enjoy free and ticketed events involving live music, panel talks, long lunches and DJ sets. 


Canberra Balloon Spectacular, Canberra

When: 11 – 19 March

Step into a giant wicker basket and join the 50 other hot air balloons that take to the skies every day from 11 to 19 March during the Canberra Balloon Spectacular. Floating high above Australia’s capital city during the annual autumn festival is a spectacular way to enjoy views of the city’s tree-lined streets and parks when they are awash with colour. You can also enjoy the spectacle of hot air balloons from down below – it’s free to join spectators in pretty Commonwealth Park, which is rendered red, yellow and gold at this time of year.


Melbourne Comedy Festival, Melbourne

Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Melbourne, Victoria

When: 29 March – 23 April

There’s Edinburgh, there’s Montréal and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival rounds out the list of the three biggest comedy festivals in the world. For three weeks every year, locations all around the city fill with festival attendees, who enjoy not just comedy but a wide range of dining offers and a wonderful atmosphere in the city’s busy streets. The line-up includes international acts such as Britain’s Andy Zaltzman, star of smash hit satirical podcast The Bugle, as well as local favourites such as the fantastically silly Jimoein and Hannah Gadsby. Author James Veitch makes his debut at this year's festival (29 March-23 April) with the show Dot Con, based on his bestselling book of the same name.


Hunter Valley Wine & Food Festival, New South Wales

When: 1 May – 3 June

The Hunter Valley wine country, a two-hour drive north of Sydney, is one of the prettiest places in Australia to see autumn at its most colourful. The Hunter Valley Wine & Food Festival (1 May-30 June) happens in the midst of this flurry of colour, with more than 70 events on offer, including wine tastings, cooking classes and winemaking masterclasses. Make time for a tour of some vineyards, which take on a golden glow at this time of year, or book an intimate dinner as part of the By the Fireside winemaker series. You can also book a spot at the award-winning Margan Estate’s Meet the Farmer Dinner, in which the winery joins forces with five local producers to present a dinner featuring the best of autumn's bounty.


High Country Harvest, Victoria

High Country Harvest, High Country, Victoria

When: 5 – 15 May

About three hours north of Melbourne you’ll find Victoria’s High Country, a breathtaking area dotted with small towns, vineyards and excellent restaurants. The High Country Harvest, held from 5 to 21 May, celebrates the best of the region’s offerings: from creative cooking classes using seasonal produce cooked on a campfire, to a sparkling wine masterclass involving some of the region’s most outstanding varieties. Our favourite is The Three Italians, a long, celebratory alfresco lunch of Italian food, wine and opera. The event will be held at Pizzini Wines, a winery that is owned by a local Italian family and specialises in the production of Italian varieties such as Pinot Grigio, Arneis, Prosecco, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. With 53 events taking place across the area, you won’t leave hungry.


Vivid, Sydney

Vivid, Sydney, New South Wales

When: 26 May – 17 June

The Vivid festival lights up the city of Sydney with grand-scale projections that transform skyscrapers, streets and landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House in one of the world’s most beautiful light shows. Wander the city streets during autumn’s clear, temperate evenings to admire the enormous moving projections on buildings around the harbour and across several neighbourhoods (including Chippendale, Central Park and Chatswood), and get involved in the festival’s other events. Each year, these includes concerts by international headline artists and a schedule of provocative talks on wide-ranging topics, such as authenticity, entrepreneurialism and ethics.