Vivid Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales © Destination NSW
Australia’s best events
Australia’s events calendar is brimming with festivals, parties and celebrations all year long. Get into the spirit, there are plenty of good times ahead.
Australia punches well above its weight with some of the biggest and best events in the world. From a midnight fireworks spectacular that is viewed by millions, to some of the top international sporting carnivals, and plenty of music, culture and entertainment in between, it’s clear that Australia is where the party’s at.
Sydney New Year’s Eve
When: December 31
Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks show wows audiences around the globe with its captivating display on Sydney Harbour. Throughout the day and well into the evening, the city and harbour are buzzing with excitement and entertainment in anticipation for the 9pm family fireworks, followed by the midnight spectacular. The fireworks launch from the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and barges around the harbour, resulting in a totally unforgettable way to ring in the new year.
How to experience it: For the best view, get a spot at one of the many vantage points around the foreshore. Most are free, but some require tickets, so book in advance. Or, get amongst the action from the water aboard a New Year’s Eve cruise, complete with drinks, canapés, entertainment and a part in the famous Harbour of Light Parade.
The Australian Open
The Australian Open is one of the country’s biggest sporting events, bringing the world’s best players and more than 550,000 spectators to Melbourne Park for two weeks of world-class tennis action. The vibrant and lively atmosphere reaches far beyond the court, with matches broadcast in and around the city on big screens, festive beer gardens, pubs and live music events.
How to experience it: Get yourself a ticket to the John Cain Arena (JCA) zone which gives you a seat at the stadium as well as access to fan zones, dining, bars, music, entertainment and more.
Western Australia Gourmet Escape
Take your tastebuds on an unforgettable journey through Western Australia’s most scenic and bountiful food and wine regions. The renowned Western Australia Gourmet Escape features an exceptional line-up of culinary events, showcasing the state’s premium produce and beverage offerings against a jovial festival atmosphere. Savour the local flavours of both land and sea as you hop from rolling vineyards to white-sand beaches over four fun-filled days.
How to experience it: Meet chefs, sample delicious food and taste wines at the official festival hub, The Village. Indulge all your senses with an exquisite Gourmet Beach BBQ or party by the water’s edge at the hugely popular Sunset, Beats & Bites.
When: February - March
Adelaide Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere, showcasing a variety of events including comedy, cabaret, theatre, music, visual arts, circus and much more. Known as ‘The People’s Festival’, the annual event is a celebration of all art forms. Anyone can register a show, so you’re bound to come across truly unique, quirky and fascinating acts.
How to experience it: Whether you're a comedy addict, theatre buff or arts lover there’s something fun for everyone. Be sure to check out the program and book your tickets in advance. In between shows, hang out at The Garden of Unearthly Delights, where you’ll be spoilt for choice with vibrant food stalls, pop-up bars and entertainment aplenty.
When: September - October
Every spring, the nation’s capital bursts into colour with more than one million blooms on display for Floriade, the largest flower festival in the Southern Hemisphere. The month-long event mainly takes place in Commonwealth Park, where you’ll find an exciting program of music, entertainment, horticulture workshops and plenty of festivities.
How to experience it: Marvel at the festival’s stunning flowers during the free daytime event, then come back in the evening and buy a ticket to Floriade NightFest to see them illuminated in vibrant coloured light displays.
Where: Hobart and Launceston
Held over two consecutive weekends, first in Hobart then in Launceston, Mona Foma is Tasmania’s summer festival celebrating music, art and culture. It’s a collaboration with the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), so expect an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary genres, and a lively atmosphere charged with curiosity and creativity.
How to experience it: Grab a three-day MONA pass which gives you unlimited access to MONA, where most of the action takes place.
Noosa Eat and Drink Festival
The Noosa Eat & Drink Festival brings together some of the country’s most renowned culinary talent and foodies from all over to celebrate all things food and drink. Set against the idyllic tropical backdrop of Noosa, you'll find everything from live cooking demonstrations and festive feasts, to beach parties and plenty of tastings and entertainment along the way.
How to experience it: Join a Chef’s Kitchen session for expert tips and tricks from celebrity chefs. Don’t miss The Sunday Session held under the festival’s iconic tipis on Noosa Main Beach where you can feast on fresh seafood and sip on champagne with your toes in the sand.
Where: Alice Springs
Every autumn, the remote outback town of Alice Springs is lit up in an array of colour, light and art during Parrtjima – A Festival in Light. As Australia’s only Aboriginal-dedicated event, the festival celebrates the world’s oldest continuous living culture with spectacular light installations, interactive workshops, talks, films, live music and entertainment. Festivities take place over 10 nights and the main events are free.
How to experience it: Ignite your sense of wonder with a walk through the interactive, large-scale sculptures and light installations whilst immersing yourself in the stories and surrounding landscape of Arrernte country. The jewel in the crown is the vibrant light show projected onto the ancient MacDonnell Ranges, best viewed from 7pm.
Sydney Mardi Gras
Over three weeks, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras transforms the city into a rainbow of pride, love and peaceful protest in the lead up to its famous annual parade. Thousands gather along Oxford Street to watch LGBTQI groups dazzle their way down one of Sydney’s busiest streets with dance, music and spectacular floats.
How to experience it: Put on your brightest party outfit – think loads of colour, face paint, sequins, quirky wigs and glitter galore – and party with the parade, waving your rainbow flag high and proud.
Melbourne Cup Carnival
Encompassing fashion, food, festivities and, of course, horse racing, Melbourne Cup Carnival has the whole city pulsing with excitement. For more than a week, there are plenty of parties, parades, special events and four unique race days, including the famous Melbourne Cup Day on the first Tuesday of November.
How to experience it: Don your best outfit and head to Flemington Racecourse, the epicentre of the action. Enjoy an array of fabulous wining and dining and soak up the atmosphere trackside before placing a bet on the race that stops the nation at 3pm.
Hamilton Island Race Week
Where: Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island Race Week hosts around 250 yachts from around the world in Australia’s largest sailing regatta. On shore, the festival program boasts an incredible line-up of fashion events, glamourous champagne lunches and cocktail parties under starry skies at some of the island’s most prestigious resorts. All this and much more set against the sparkling Whitsundays backdrop of azure waters and endless sunny blue skies.
How to experience it: Get a ticket to one of the sought-after events, such as the Charles Heidsieck Champagne Lunch or the Surf and Turf Dinner, and mingle with well-heeled guests while indulging in exquisite food and free-flowing champagne.
Sydney puts on quite a show when it plays host to the world’s biggest festival of light, music and ideas, known as Vivid Sydney. Visitors from all over the world descend upon the city during this three-week winter festival to immerse themselves in light installations and projections on some of the city’s most iconic landmarks. There are also night markets, street performances, music concerts and an inspiring Ideas program featuring some of the most brilliant creative minds of our time.
How to experience it: The best way to take it all in is on foot, so download the Vivid Sydney map to find the participating Vivid Precincts. It also offers suggested trails as well as names, locations and explanations of the installations.