Margaret River, Western Australia © aspworldtour.com
12 Australian sports events worth travelling for
Australia is a passionate sporting nation with plenty of excitement, drama and true-blue sportsmanship to be enjoyed. Here are 12 world-class events you’ll want on your bucket list.
By Amy Fraser
Sport plays a huge part in weaving together the fabric of Australian culture. Travellers flock from all over the world to enjoy the country’s incredible calendar of sporting events, from the casual and fun to the intense and highly prized. We may be a competitive lot, but Australians also love to socialise over sport, so don’t be surprised if you make new friends at whatever event you attend.
Kicking off the New Year – and the world’s tennis calendar – is perhaps one of the country’s most prized events and biggest summer parties, the Australian Open. Hosted in January every year, this two-week tennis bonanza lights up the city, bringing the very best tennis superstars to Melbourne along with thousands of fans, a host of world-class musicians and a mighty atmosphere.
Santos Tour Down under
Where: Adelaide and surrounding regions
The Southern Hemisphere’s largest cycling race – the Santos Tour Down Under – spans across 11 days, with pros tearing through some of South Australia’s most iconic regions, finishing where they started, in Adelaide. As the opening event of the UCI World Tour, whether you’re an avid cyclist or not, you’ll be sure to enjoy the energy surrounding this prestigious event.
Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix
The Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix boasts celebrity status, high-speed racing and suave super cars, and spectators at Melbourne’s Albert Park get the extra pleasure of watching the F1 champs fire up their brand-new engines for the very first time. Like many sports, Australia is the first cab off the rank in the season, unleashing the added excitement of the ‘unknown’. If there’s one Grand Prix to get your adrenaline going, it's this one.
World Surfing Championships
Australia’s the only country to host more than one of the World Surfing Championship events, a testament to Australia’s array of world-class waves.
Where: Bells Beach, Margaret River and the Gold Coast
When: March to May
While summer brings warmer waters, Australia’s autumn comes with epic swell and, even better, the World Surfing Championships. Across the men’s and women’s tournaments, supporters can see their favourites battle it out across a series of events, kicking things off in the surfing capital of Australia, the Gold Coast. With three Australian events in the calendar – the Quicksilver & Roxy Pro Gold Coast, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in Victoria and the Margaret River Pro in Western Australia – there are plenty of opportunities to catch the world’s best tear up a host of gnarly breaks.
Uluru Camel Cup
Where: Yulara, near Alice Springs
If you’re looking for a uniquely Australian event, pack your bags for the Northern Territory’s Uluru Camel Cup — you’re in for a showstopper of a weekend. Forget horses, in the heart of Australia’s outback it’s all about camels and community spirit. Expect humorous camel races through the dusty red desert, an abundance of reptile shows, helicopter flights, beers and fancy dress all-round.
Hamilton Island Race Week
Where: Hamilton Island
Perched on the Great Barrier Reef, Hamilton Island is a tranquil island boasting colourful corals and azure blue water. During August, this typically sleepy island transforms as chefs, yachties and spectators congregate for the celebrated Hamilton Island Race Week, Australia’s largest offshore sailing regatta. In true Hamilton fashion, the race week is bursting with extravagant experiences including dinners served by famous chefs, celebratory appearances, fashion shows and, of course, the main sailing event.
Football Grand Finals
Where: Bathurst Island, Melbourne and Sydney
When: March, September and October
For footy fans, it doesn’t get much better than watching your favourite team take home the trophy while the packed-out stadium roars with celebration. Get in on the action in Sydney with the NRL Grand Final or join the football comradery down in Melbourne for the Australian Rules Football (AFL) Grand Final. For a more unique grand final experience, join 3,000 others in the Northern Territory’s Tiwi Islands where local footballers go head-to-head for their AFL trophy.
Few events have the power to ingrain themselves in a city’s culture, let alone an entire nation’s, but the Melbourne Cup has managed to do just that. A week of champagne, pageantry, colour and comradery; it’s so much more than a horse race. Amid the exciting race events, expect fashion, food and entertainment throughout the week before the "race that stops a nation", the Melbourne Cup. This one-day event has become such a big part of Australian culture that it is now an official public holiday in Victoria.
Where: Across capital cities
When: November to January
If there’s one thing Australia and England have in common, it’s their love for cricket and taking home The Ashes Series trophy. Held every two years, this historic cricket event sees the two countries going head-to-head over a series of test cricket matches on the previous winners’ soil. The longstanding tradition has created a heated and healthy rivalry since the 1800s, and with it comes a trail of hard-core fans who bring waves of excitement throughout each city.
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Where: Sydney, Hobart
When it comes to ocean yacht races, the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race takes the cake as one of the most popular – and exciting – in the world. With decades of history, the event consistently draws travellers in from far and wide to witness Sydney, Hobart and the 1,012km (629mi) of ocean in between light up with boats, crowds and carnival-like ambience.
Major marathons (and more)
Where: Across Australia
When: Throughout the year
Across the world you’ll find marathons and mass participation events, but what they’re lacking is Australia’s awe-inspiring scenery, iridescent blue water and picture-perfect weather. In Queensland, you’ll find perhaps the most scenic of them all, The Gold Coast Marathon. Known for its unbeatable conditions – flat, fast and just the right temperature – there’s little surprise that 60% of runners achieve a personal best here each year. Further down south is Australia’s largest fun run, the 14km (8.7mi) Sun Herald City2Surf where colour, comradery and good vibes flow through the streets of Sydney finishing at the iconic Bondi Beach.
State of Origin
Where: Queensland and Sydney
When: June to July
The annual National Rugby League’s State of Origin is a battle that divides the nation. In this three-game decider, the NRL’s top players are selected to go head-to-head to decide the top state between New South Wales (Blues) and Queensland (Maroons). Each game is likely to sell out, so when tickets are announced in March be sure to score a seat early.