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.
Just because Christmas is over doesn’t mean the party stops here in Australia. 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.
How to experience it: Watch your favourite players battle it out in the first Grand Slam of the year in the Rod Laver Arena, or spend your day soaking up the vibrant atmosphere around the outdoor courts with a Ground Pass.
Santos Tour Down under
Where: Adelaide and surrounding regions
With summer sunshine and high spirits all-round, there’s little surprise that yet another annual Aussie event lies in January. And it’s not just any event, but the Southern Hemisphere’s largest cycling race – the Santos Tour Down Under. The tour spans across 11 days, with pros – including the world’s best – tearing through some of South Australia’s most iconic regions, finishing where they started, in bustling 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.
How to experience it: Meet the pros and get stuck into bike shows, panel chats and even cooking demonstrations at the City of Adelaide Tour Village. If you’re up for a challenge, gear up for the Breakaway Challenge Tour.
Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix
When: November 2021 (typically held in March)
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.
How to experience it: Soak up the atmosphere from Brocky’s Hill with a general admission ticket. If meeting your racing idols is high on your agenda, head to the F1 Fan Zone Stage and have your pen at the ready.
World Surfing Championships
Where: Victoria’s Bells Beach, Western Australia’s Margaret River and Queensland’s 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 not just one but 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.
How to experience it: Specific competition days are confirmed nearer the time (depending on the ocean’s conditions), so plan to stay in the area for a few days making the most of the regions’ top attractions. If you’re an avid wave rider, why not hit the surf yourself? You might even spot your favourite pro warming up in the waves. When the event comes around, expect meet and greets, jaw-dropping moves and unbelievable scenes – all with a free ticket.
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, reptiles and community spirit. Expect humorous camels racing through the dusty red desert, an abundance of reptile shows, helicopter flights, beers and fancy dress all-round.
How to experience it: Grab a ticket online and don’t forget to rock your favourite frock; the evening culminates with the Frock Up & Rock Up Gala Ball, an outback disco underneath the desert stars.
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.
How to experience it: Book well in advance to stay the week at one of the island’s spectacular accommodation options. Choose from one of the many on shore events and watch the action unfold around you over the course of this whirlwind of a week.
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 at the winning point. 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 – just one of the city’s colourful sporting celebrations. 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.
How to experience it: Grab a pitch-side ticket to the match of your choice (or all three). If you’re travelling to Bathurst Island for the Tiwi grand final, be sure to apply for a free visitor permit online via Tiwi Land Council beforehand.
When: the first Tuesday of November
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.
How to experience it: Don your most fabulous dress on Kennedy Oaks Day, suit up in black and white for Derby Day or join tens of thousands in the city for the Melbourne Cup Parade. When it comes to the big finale, you can join in the festivities almost anywhere around the country, but you won’t get a better seat than at Flemington Park.
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.
How to experience it: Pick a capital city to catch a match, or for an epic few months, follow the tour from city to city. What better way to see the country?
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Where: Sydney, Hobart
When: December 26
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 over 76 years of history, the event consistently draws travellers in from far and wide to witness Sydney, Hobart and the 1,012 kilometres (629 miles) in between light up with boats, crowds and carnival-like ambience.
How to experience it: Bring a picnic and soak up Sydney Harbour’s start-line action from one of the Bondi to Manly walks’ viewpoints. Down in Hobart, celebrate the first of the yachts while tucking into delicious delicacies from the annual Taste of Tasmania festival. Or for a real close-up, cruise alongside the incoming vessels with Hobart Yachts.
Major marathons (and more)
Where: Across Australia
When: Throughout the year
Across the world you’ll find legendary 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 14-kilometer (8.7 miles) Sun Herald City2Surf where colour, comradery and good vibes flow through the streets of Sydney finishing at the iconic Bondi Beach.
How to experience it: There’s nothing quite like that finish line feeling. Experience it for yourself by entering through the race websites, or if you’re more comfortable on the side lines, get ready to cheer to your heart's content.
Women’s World Cups
Where: Multiple cities around Australia
When: September and October 2022 and July and August 2023
Look ahead on Australia’s sporting calendar horizon and you’ll see a rise of women’s World Cups. First up, hitting Sydney in September 2022 is the 10-day FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. Only hosted in Australia once before – a whopping 28 years ago – there’s bound to be wild celebrations around this high-profile women’s event. One year on, the ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup – and the country’s biggest sporting event since the Rugby World Cup in 2003 – will be hosted across both Australia and New Zealand in July and August 2023.
How to experience it: Match tickets will be available nearer the event. In the meantime, join the FIFA waiting list to secure your spot.