Field of Light, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory
Take your pick from 13 of the most exciting events taking place in Australia in the year ahead.
By Simon Webster & Georgia Rickard
Whether you’re into world-class food and wine in beautiful surroundings, live music to accompany sporting excellence, or immersing yourself in an alternative festival of the arts, Australia has some spectacular events lined up for 2018.
Field of Light, Northern Territory
When: present - 31 December 2020
Picture Uluru at dusk. As darkness falls, 50,000 solar-powered stems crowned with frosted glass spheres slowly transform a swathe of land before the rock into a magical field of coloured light.
The Field of Light installation, by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro, is also known as Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku — “looking at lots of beautiful lights” in the local Pitjantjatjara language.
It is stunningly atmospheric, and has proved amazingly popular since it opened in 2016 — so much so that its run has just been extended again. It will now be on display until the end of 2020. That’s great news for anyone visiting the Red Centre.
Enlighten Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
When: 2 - 18 March 2018
Lonely Planet lists Canberra as the world’s third-most exciting city to visit in 2018. A trip there might be a particularly bright idea in March. The national capital will get a magical makeover as autumn descends, with stunning architectural projections and roving performers turning the Parliamentary Triangle (home to Parliament House, museums and galleries) and other famous Canberra locations into colourful, nocturnal arts precincts. Enlighten Canberra is all about arts and activity, with live music and comedy, thought-provoking installations, and plenty of delicious food to fuel your explorations. Full program details are due to be released in February.
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Victoria
When: 16 - 25 March 2018
It’s called the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, but these days (25 years after it kicked off in modest fashion) the event is really a statewide celebration of vinous and gastronomic goodness. This March, more than 300 events will take place across Victoria, celebrating food, drink and community. With so much going on, it’s hard to choose highlights. You might want to sit down to the World’s Longest Lunch in Melbourne, or in a regional venue such as Bendigo or Daylesford; embark on a Crawl ‘n’ Bite tour, led by food and wine experts, through Melbourne’s funky and foodie neighbourhoods; or stay in the House of Food and Wine Hotel (usually known as the boutique Hotel Lindrum, but being taken over for 10 days as festival HQ).
Festival 2018, Queensland
When: 4 - 15 April 2018
Athletes from 70 nations will descend on the Gold Coast in April for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, but they won’t be the only dedicated high achievers in town. Local and international musicians, actors and artists will also put their talents on display in Festival 2018. This statewide, 12-day spectacular features everything from physical theatre to Aboriginal art to world music. Artists announced so far include Queensland singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke, Torres Strait Islander hip-hop artist Mau Power, and Brisbane indie rockers The Jungle Giants. The full program is due to be released in February.
Polo in the Vines, New South Wales
When: 7 April 2018
It’s polo, but not as you know it. Australia’s Urban Polo initiative — which sees the traditional game adapted to a smaller field and played at a faster pace — has grown into the largest national polo series in the world, bringing all the glamour and excitement of the sport to spectators in striking Australian locations such as Palm Beach and the Gold Coast. This year, the inaugural Polo in the Vines will see the crowds descend on the beautiful Hunter Valley wine region, where a purpose-built field has been created on the picturesque Dark Horse Vineyard estate. Guests in the VIP tent will enjoy a six-course feast by celebrity chef Guillaume Brahimi, while other merriments — including Fashions on the Field, the traditional stomping of the divots and, of course, plenty of excellent wine — will ensure the festival is a memorable one.
Vivid Sydney 2018, New South Wales
When: 25 May - 16 June 2018
It’s Vivid’s 10th anniversary in 2018, so expect something extraordinary from Sydney’s renowned festival of light, music and ideas. More than 2.3 million visitors attended last year’s Vivid to see and interact with hundreds of light shows projected onto Sydney buildings and installed in its public spaces. Giant light animals took over Taronga Zoo Sydney, fantastic flora and fauna claimed the Opera House and giant eyes appeared in the Botanic Gardens. You can also expect lots of world-class live music, from classical to R&B (including some genre-busting collaborations), and cutting-edge ideas, discussions and debate.
Noosa Food & Wine Festival, Queensland
When: 17 - 20 May 2018
Noosa, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is one of Australia’s best loved beach holiday destinations, and for good reason: it’s stunningly beautiful, just the right size and jam-packed with excellent restaurants and cafes. The town is going to be even more appealing in May when the Noosa Food & Wine Festival offers all sorts of indulgences. There will be foodie events and live music in the Festival Village, produce and brewery tours of the hinterland, long lunches on Noosa’s famous Hastings Street, and various Noosa nourishments beneath tipis on the beach — including early morning yoga followed by breakfast, juice and a splash of champagne.
Dark Mofo, Tasmania
When: 15 - 24 June 2018
The folk at MONA, Tasmania’s much-lauded art gallery, aren’t afraid of controversy, and when it comes to their midwinter festival Dark Mofo, they really let their hair down. Last year, almost half a million people descended on the island to see an art performance involving the carcass of a bull and 500 litres of blood, watch performers including Russian punk provocateurs Pussy Riot and Viking black metal band Ulver, purge their fears with the burning of an Indonesian Ogoh-Ogoh monster and join a winter solstice nude swim. Who knows what will emerge from this year’s winter dark?
Umbrella Winter City Sounds, South Australia
When: July 2018
Adelaide is officially recognised as a UNESCO City of Music, and the town lives up to its name during Umbrella Winter City Sounds. Orchestras and choirs clash with hip-hop and punk over this two-week celebration, where you might find yourself practising yoga set to live music, watching unsigned acts take to the stage at various local bars or exploring one of the 100 venues participating in the festival. Some 300 live music events take place over Umbrella, with a heavy emphasis on grassroots local talent — it’s the perfect way to get to know the city’s musical side. Exact dates and program to be revealed later this year.
Sydney City2Surf, New South Wales
When: 12 August 2018
With more than 80,000 people sprinting, jogging, walking (often a combination of all three) through the streets of Sydney, the City2Surf is the world’s biggest fun run. The quickest runner took just over 42 minutes to cover the 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) last year, while the stragglers took more than three hours. It really is open to anyone; more than 20 entrants last year were women aged over 80. Take part, or turn up to support the runners. With bands playing along the route, a great atmosphere and some beautiful views from city to beach, this is a special day on the Sydney calendar.
Invictus Games Sydney 2018, New South Wales
When: 20 - 27 October 2018
The brainchild of the British royal family’s Prince Harry, the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 brings wounded, injured and ill armed service personnel from around the world to compete in sports including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and wheelchair rugby. “Invictus” is Latin for unconquered and this, the fourth Invictus Games (following on from London, Orlando and Toronto), will bring together more than 500 competitors from 18 nations to compete in 11 sports across Sydney. Sydney Olympic Park — home to the 2000 Sydney Olympics — and Sydney Harbour will be among the venues, so head on down to support some sporting heroes.
Margaret River Gourmet Escape, Western Australia
When: 15 - 18 November 2018
Western Australia’s remarkable Margaret River is renowned for its great surf, wines, food and natural beauty, which is quite an impressive combination when you think about it. The world’s leading food and wine personalities certainly see the appeal. More than 50 of them of them — from father and son Rick and Jack Stein, to Brazil’s Alex Atala, to the world’s best female chef, Ana Roš — turned up to take part in the Margaret River Gourmet Escape in 2017. Celebrity chef Curtis Stone opened the festival and described it as “a world-class event that needs to be on everyone’s bucket list”. You can expect more food and wine royalty in attendance this year, with exciting gourmet experiences to suit every budget — and some fantastic surf, too.
Woodford Folk Festival, Queensland
When: 27 December 2018 - 1 January 2019
From body painting to basket weaving, comedy to cabaret, ethnic beats to cheap eats, the Woodford Folk Festival provides six days and nights of eclectic arts and counterculture to bring the year to an end. The 33rd Woodford Folk Festival will feature more than 2000 artists performing at more than 35 venues on the Woodfordia site in the rural Sunshine Coast hinterland, an hour north of Brisbane. It’s family friendly, with a Children’s Festival taking place within the main festival; and there’s a huge program of arts and crafts workshops so you can get creative and get involved. Woodford is about much more than being a spectator.
For more eccentric experiences, check out melon-throwing an other out-there Aussie festivals.
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