Join more than 100,000 pleasure seekers who visit Melbourne to celebrate Australia’s most famous horse racing carnival.
By Georgia Rickard and Paul Robinson
The Melbourne Cup Carnival isn’t just about a single race – festivities overrun the city for more than a week, with four unique race days taking place. Sport, fashion, food and entertainment share the spotlight and the eyes of the world are on Melbourne. So dress up, sip your champagne and hope that you pick a winner.
The festivities attract more than 100,000 racing fans to the city, and virtually every bar, restaurant, cafe, shop and department store gets into the swing with a Cup-inspired event. Cup culture is so ingrained that the entire state of Victoria enjoys a government-declared public holiday on Melbourne Cup Day.
- Where: Flemington Racecourse, Flemington, Melbourne
- When: First week of November
- Price: $$
How to get there
International flights arrive direct to Melbourne Airport from many global hubs. From the airport it's an easy 20-minute taxi to the Flemington racecourse. Nothing is more Melbourne than a tram trip, so if you're travelling from the city, jump on tram 57, which has stops at both Flinders and Elizabeth st, and drops you right out the front of the racecourse.
Things to do during Melbourne Cup Carnival
Head to Flemington Racecourse
The epicentre of the action is Flemington Racecourse, the most famous in Australia and home of the Victorian Racing Club. It was here that the first Melbourne Cup was held in 1861. Today, the 2.3-kilometre (1.4-mile) track continues to play host to this famous race, although capacity has swelled to accommodate the 120,000-strong crowds. The racecourse is also home to several different precincts, each with their own atmosphere, including The Parade Lounge, The Makybe Diva Marquee, The Skyline, The Rose Room, The Precinct and The Perch, The Birdcage, The Furphy Deck and The Park. To plan your day and find your way around the course, download the Flemington Raceday Guide mobile app.
Watch the Melbourne Cup Parade
The day before the race, tens of thousands of people head to the city centre for a parade of thoroughbreds, jockeys, trainers and celebrity guests. It’s family-friendly fun as a slow procession of cars — one for each entrant — carry the star jockeys and trainers set to feature in Tuesday's big race. There are interviews with high-profile jockeys, trainers and celebrities, and free entertainment with live bands. If you’re really lucky, you’ll also see a few of the mighty horses that have become part of Melbourne Cup folklore.
Celebrate Melbourne Cup Day
The jewel in the crown, Melbourne Cup Day is held on the first Tuesday of November each year. The day is a state-wide public holiday and almost all of Australia tunes in for “the race that stops a nation” at 3pm. Only four horse races in the world offer a bigger prize money purse than the Melbourne Cup and punters will invest more than AUD $300 million betting on the outcome. Watching some of the finest thoroughbreds in the world streak down the straight to the finish line is a sight you’ll never forget, but the general festive atmosphere extends across the entire day, at both the racecourse and across the city.
Attend Ladies Oak Day
Kennedy Oaks Day is the Carnival’s traditional “ladies day”. The headline race is the $1 million Kennedy Oaks, but the action off the track is just as hot. On this day, the top Milliners show off thier creation in a prestigious catwalk display, where the judges crown the female winner of Australia’s Millinery Award. This is closely followed by the very best in Australian new music and entertainment.
Dress in black and white for Derby Day
The curtain raiser event is AAMI Victoria Derby Day (known by locals as “Derby Day”), which takes place on the Saturday before Melbourne Cup Day. This is considered the day for racing purists, but while horses compete for the $1.5 million-plus Victoria Derby prize, racegoers create their own spectacle. Tradition dictates that spectators follow a black-and-white dress code, which well-bred Melburnians adhere to with conviction. The Park – a precinct with free entry for all ticket-holding racegoers – hosts performances from top Australian artists and tasty cuisines from some of Melbourne's favourite foodie destinations.