Australia is all about the sun, surf, sand and beach events in summer. The surf events action really heats up between February and April, when Australia hosts the Association of Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour Series. Marvel at the spectacular surfing skills, then hit the music festivals and parties. Take to the water on a yacht at the Festival of Sails or ISAF Sailing World Cup. Build your own creation in the sand at the Australian Sand Sculpting Championships or view the works at Sculpture by the Sea. See Aussie lifesavers in action at the Australian Surf Life saving Championships.
First held in 1844, the Festival of Sails is Victoria’s oldest ongoing sporting event, and the largest annual keel boat regatta in the Southern Hemisphere. The festival regularly attracts more than 400 yachts and 4,300 competitors to Melbourne and Geelong over the Australia Day holiday weekend. For those not competing on the water, there is plenty of excitement on the shore with around 100,000 people flocking to the Geelong waterfront to watch the colourful spectacle. The Waterfront Festival features over 60 acts across three stages, fine food and wine outlets and marine exhibitions and demonstrations.
January - April
With sun-drenched golden beaches, some of the world’s clearest waters and thousands of kilometres of coastline, it is not surprising that ocean swimming is the most popular form of open water swimming in Australia. From major international competitions such as the ‘Cooly Classic’ in Queensland’s Coolangatta to local fun events such as the Lorne Pier-to-Pub Swim in Victoria, there is something for every level and ability. Don your bathers and make a splash with some of these cool ocean swim events.
Sand Sculpting Championships
Each year, Surfers Paradise Beach is transformed into a golden gallery of the beautiful and bizarre during the Australian Sand Sculpting Championships. Bringing together the best in art and culture, the event is suitable for all ages and all the family can get involved in building the sand castles. Every year a new theme is presented and talented artists push themselves to new extremes to create artworks in the sand.
Australian Open of Surfing
Sydney, New South Wales
The Australian Open of Surfing festival combines world-class athletes, artists and fans in a celebration of youth-culture, innovation and athleticism at Sydney’s Manly Beach - the birthplace of modern surfing. The free event runs for nine days and attracts more than 125,000 spectators to celebrate the best of Australian action sports, music, art and fashion. The Australian Open of Surfing is an extension of the US Open of Surfing and includes Association of Surfing Professionals sanctioned skateboarding, pro and junior surfing tournaments. Along with the world’s elite surfers and skateboarders, there is a music line-up featuring top international headline acts.
Quicksilver Pro Gold Coast
Gold Coast, Queensland
February - March
The Quiksilver Pro is a major event on the surfing calendar, attracting more than 52,000 spectators each year. The two week-long event opens the Association of Surfing Professional World Championship Tour Series in late February. The white beaches, world-renowned breaks and energetic party scene of Australia’s Gold Coast are a fitting backdrop. Watch the experts perfect their moves at Kirra, Duranbah Beach and the legendary Snapper Rocks, home to some of the world’s longest waves and generations of incredible surfers. Check out why the Gold Coast is famous for fun – whether it is surfing, theme parks or fine dining.
Newcastle, New South Wales
Newcastle’s Merewether Beach, two hours north of Sydney, is the home of Surfest in early March. Started in 1985 to promote Newcastle’s beautiful surfing beaches, Surfest has grown into Australia’s biggest surfing festival. More than 10,000 people line Merewether Beach to see the surfers test their skills on the fabled right-hand breaks and huge southerly swells. The festival includes two World Qualifying Series Events and lots of other surfing events including the junior and high school competitions, or watch talented Aboriginal surfers carve up the waves at the Indigenous Classic.
Margaret River, Western Australia
Up to 200 of the world’s top surfers converge on Surfers Point in Margaret River for the Drug Aware Pro in mid-March. It’s a battle for the titles here, which carry prize money as well as valuable rating points for the World Qualifying Series. In between this exciting, high-stakes surfing, you can enjoy music, art and fashion events. Listen to great Australian acts at the music festival and reflect on art exhibitions while tasting your way around the picturesque Margaret River. As well as waves, the region is famous for its world-class wine, magical underground caves and towering karri forests.
Surf Life Saving Championships
Gold Coast, Queensland
Lifesavers from more than 300 surf clubs around Australia gather on the Gold Coast for the four-day Australian Championships in March. This is the biggest sporting event of its type in the world. Teenagers, seniors, aspiring champions and Olympians feature among the 7,000-plus competitors. Every aspect of lifesaving is on show at this uniquely Australian festival. See surf ski and board paddling, surf boat races and rescue relays, as well as Ironman and Ironwoman competitions. Relax on the sand and enjoy the super-charged festival energy, complemented by beachside music and entertainment.
Bells Beach, Victoria
Every Easter the international surfing community heads to Victoria’s Surf Coast for the Rip Curl Pro, the world’s longest-running surfing contest. World champions Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Mark Richards have all claimed victory here. Bells Beach is renowned worldwide for its reef break and waves that reach as high as five metres. Thousands line the dramatic cliff grandstands to watch some of the world’s best surfers compete. As well as elite surfing, the event showcases some of Australia’s best musical talent, at a music festival held over the Easter long weekend.
Coolangatta, Gold Coast
Cooly Rocks On is a 1950s and 1960s based nostalgia festival held on the border of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads every June. The 11-day festival consists of a car show of more than 1200 hot rods, custom and classic cars; as well as rock ‘n roll, rockabilly and swing entertainment. There is plenty of free family entertainment along with 1950s-style retro market stalls, street parades, and rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly and swing dance workshops. The festival is free and attracts around 50,000 visitors.
Australian IRB Championships
The Australian IRB Championships provides an opportunity for the best IRB crews from around Australia to compete against each other over an action-packed weekend of boating competition. With a national title and surf life saving club pride on the line, crews show their best at some of Australia's most well-known beaches. More than 500 Australian lifesavers take part in the event, which includes ocean, beach and pool contests. Previous events have been held at Ocean Beach on the New South Wales Central Coast and Glenelg in South Australia.
Hamilton Island, Queensland
Spectators and yachties from around the globe sail to Hamilton Island in August for Hamilton Island Race Week, Australia's largest annual offshore keelboat regatta. Race Week is one of Australia's favourite yachting events and a firm fixture on the international sailing calendar. Competitors, family and friends come together to enjoy the carnival atmosphere on and off the water. Join in the festivities and lively calendar of events, including gourmet meals prepared by celebrity chefs, fashion shows, golfing competitions and wine tastings. Hamilton Island Race Week is hosted by the Hamilton Island Yacht Club.
The Coolangatta Gold triathlon has been described as one of the most gruelling physical events on the planet. Each year more than 500 athletes from around the world sign up for the challenge. Entrants ski paddle, surf swim, board paddle and run endurance races along the beach in a 50 kilometre circuit from Surfers Paradise. The extended program of events includes the Great Gold Coast Ocean Swim; a beach fun run; beach volleyball tournament; and the iconic Coolangatta Gold ironman race. Join the thousands of spectators lining the beach and help cheer these athletes on.
The world’s best Olympic sailing talent returns to Melbourne for first leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in November. Sandringham Yacht Club is the host for the first leg of the prestigious ISAF Sailing World Cup in Melbourne as they race on Port Phillip Bay. The Sailing World Cup is an exciting addition to the city’s summer events calendar and includes a marine themed carnival. The ISAF Sailing World Cup is hosted in six different countries and is entered by many of the world’s best Australian and international sailors.
Bondi, New South Wales; Cottesloe, Western Australia
Each year around November the spectacular Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk is transformed into a two kilometre-long temporary sculpture park featuring more than 100 sculptures by artists from Australia and across the world. The outdoor exhibition is one of the world's largest free public events. The sister event, Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe, is held annually at Cottesloe Beach, Perth on Australia's Indian Ocean coast in March. The exhibition is featured from the sea wall all the way along the sand towards North Cottesloe and on the surrounding grassed areas creating a beautiful sculpture park.