Melbourne Cup Carnival, Melbourne, VIC © Quinn Rooney, Victoria Racing Club

Melbourne Cup Carnival

Melbourne Cup, Melbourne, VIC © Victorian Racing Club

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 LoungeThe Makybe Diva MarqueeThe SkylineThe Rose RoomThe Precinct and The PerchThe 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.

Melbourne Cup parade, Melbourne, VIC © Vicki Jones Photography

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. 

Lexus Melbourne Cup Day, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, VIC © Victorian Racing Club

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.

Kennedy Ladies Oaks Day, Melbourne Cup Carnival, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, VIC © Victorian Race Club

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. 

Derby Day, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, VIC © Victorian Racing Club

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. 

Melbourne Cup highlights