Optus Stadium, Perth, Western Australia © Tourism Western Australia
Australia’s most unique sporting experiences
There are countless ways you can immerse in Australia’s vibrant sporting culture, with unique experiences to be found across the country.
By Mark Sariban
Soak up all the glamour of an international sailing festival as well as the incredible natural beauty of the Great Barrier Reef during Hamilton Island Race Week. Australia’s largest offshore keelboat regatta is held each August on the clear tropical waters around Hamilton Island. Enjoy a week of exhilarating yacht races before exploring nearby must-see destinations, such as the dazzling Whitehaven Beach and iconic Heart Reef. Then return to Hamilton Island for evenings of Champagne bars, street-food stalls, dinners with guest chefs and nightly entertainment.
Australia is no stranger to unique sporting events. Discover the essence of the outback at the Birdsville Races, a unique thoroughbred horseracing festival held each September in Birdsville. This tiny town, which sits on the edge of the vast Simpson Desert in Queensland, first hosted the race on a dirt track in 1882. The event is still held on a clay pan amid red sand dunes, but has since grown into a wildly popular two-day festival celebrating the pioneer spirit of the region. Think flamboyant costumes, riveting races and a lively atmosphere.
Melbourne is considered the sporting capital of Australia, as much for the enthusiasm of its sports-mad locals as its impressive venues, like the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The MCG, also known simply the ‘G, can seat more than 100,000 spectators. Enjoy VIP treatment as you explore this special stadium on a MCG Premium Access Tour with a Melbourne Cricket Club guide.
Discover the rich heritage of Australia's surfing scene at the fascinating Australian National Surfing Museum in Torquay along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. Explore colourful vintage surfboards, including century-old timber boards, and meet the legends of the Australian Surfing Hall Of Fame. Then head to nearby Bells Beach, the home of the Rip Curl Pro World Surfing Championships, to see experienced riders tackle the world-famous swell.
One of the many pleasures of visiting Sydney in summer is finding a vantage point on the Sydney Harbour foreshore to watch the spectacular start of the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. This classic ocean race spanning 1,170km (630 nautical miles) begins in Sydney on 26 December with a colourful fleet of yachts dashing out to the open seas. Feel like you’re part of the race as you follow behind the fleet in Sydney Harbour on the timber cruiser Silver Spirit or aboard a luxurious catamaran with Coast Cruises.
Immerse yourself in a long-lost era as you wander the halls of the Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame in the town of Bowral, around a 90-minute drive southwest of Sydney. Established to celebrate Australian cricket legend Sir Donald Bradman, the museum now offers much more. Cricket fans can pore over displays of memorabilia and galleries, as well as linger in the Bradman Gallery, which is dedicated to the most accomplished batsman the cricket world has ever seen.
Adelaide Oval is one of Australia's most picturesque sports venues. Get an incredible view during a RoofClimb Experience, where you'll walk across the roofline of the oval and sit in the world's first stadium rooftop seats. Alternatively, book an Adelaide Oval Legends Tour for access to sections of the oval that are usually off-limits to the public.
You can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of an Australian Rules Football game at Perth’s Optus Stadium. The striking halo-shaped stadium’s Game Day Rooftop Experience includes a short climb from the uppermost stands to view all the action from high above the field. Or make the most of your visit to the stadium by heading there a couple of hours before the match begins for a pre-game Halo rooftop tour, before descending to take your place in the stands to watch a full AFL game unfold.
Each year a highly anticipated Australian Rules Football grand final is held in the Tiwi Islands, a 2.5-hour ferry ride from Darwin. With around 90 per cent of residents of this small group of islands of Aboriginal descent (and everyone passionate about Aussie Rules Football), the colourful Tiwi Islands Football League Grand Final draws thousands of visitors, many on tours from Darwin. You can also indulge your love of art on the big day; the hotly contested grand final is accompanied by an annual sale of incredible Indigenous artworks.
Gain insights into the daily lives and training regimens of world-class athletes during a guided tour of the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. The training centre nurtures the next generation of sporting champions – one of your guides could be a future Olympian. As part of the tour, you’ll explore the interactive exhibits at the institute’s Sportex facility. Here you can experience a virtual athletics training session like rowing, cycling, alpine racing and more.
Consistently ranked as two of the top 100 courses in the world, sister links Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm unfurl along the rugged coastline of north-east Tasmania. The 18-hole Dunes and 20-hole Lost Farm are unlike any other links courses in Australia, with lush, undulating greens surrounded by steep sand dunes. Book a three-day Tasmanian Adventure to experience both courses (and great accommodation) in style.