Join more than 100,000 pleasure seekers who visit Melbourne to celebrate Australia’s most famous horse racing carnival.
By Georgia Rickard and Paul Robinson
The Melbourne Cup Carnival isn’t just about a single race – festivities overrun the city for more than a week, with four unique race days taking place. Sport, fashion, food and entertainment share the spotlight and the eyes of the world are on Melbourne. So dress up, sip your champagne and hope that you pick a winner.
- Where: Flemington Racecourse, Flemington, Melbourne
- 3 November: AAMI Victoria Derby Day
- 6 November: Lexus Melbourne Cup
- 8 November: Kennedy Oaks Day
- 10 November: Seppelt Wines Stakes Day
- Price: $$
Melbourne Cup highlights
Experience a city-wide party
You’ll never have experienced anything quite like the Melbourne Cup Carnival. Each year, the entire city comes alive with celebration for a seven-day party during the carnival. The festivities attract more than 100,000 racing fans to Melbourne, and virtually every bar, restaurant, cafe, shop and department store gets into the swing with a Cup-inspired event. Cup culture is so ingrained that the entire state enjoys a government-declared public holiday on Melbourne Cup Day.
Head to Flemington Racecourse
The epicentre of the action is Flemington Racecourse, just six kilometres (four miles) from Melbourne’s city centre. Home of the Victorian Racing Club, Flemington is the most famous racecourse in Australia. It was here that the first Melbourne Cup was held in front of a crowd of 4000 punters, in 1861. Today, the 2.3-kilometre (1.4 mile) track continues to play host to this famous race, although capacity has swelled somewhat to 120,000-strong crowds. The racecourse is now also home to several different precincts available for hire, each with their own atmosphere, including The Parade Lounge, The Makybe Dive Marquee, The Skyline, The Rose Room, The Precinct and The Perch, The Birdcage and The Park. Check out the 2018 line-up of hot bands, food and bars. To plan your day and find your way around the course, download the Flemington Raceday Guide mobile app.
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 Saturday 3 November. 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.
Watch 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. The 2018 Melbourne Cup Parade will take place on Monday, 6 November from 12pm to 2pm, starting at Swanston Street (from Bourke Street) and finishing at Federation Square. 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.
Take the family to Stakes Day
Stakes Day is “family day” and concludes the Carnival celebrations. You’ll find numerous free activities for children and live entertainment in The Park precinct – including Fashions on the Field for the kids. Food stalls, cafes and kiosks will help keep your energy levels up for the day’s racing highlight, the $2 million VRC Stakes.
How to get there
Public transport is the most convenient way of getting to and from Flemington. Trains depart regularly from city train stations, including Flinders Street, Southern Cross and North Melbourne, direct to the racecourse. Taxis have designated pick-up and drop-off locations around the racecourse.
How to pick your race day
Celebrate Melbourne Cup Day
The jewel in the crown, Melbourne Cup Day is held on the first Tuesday of November each year – this year on 6 November. 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 — $6.2 million this year — and punters will invest more than $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.
Dress to impress with Myer Fashions on the Field. It is one of Australia’s largest and most prestigious outdoor fashion events, with racewear enthusiasts from around the world flocking here to compete for a piece of the $400,000 prize money. Fancy frocks, sleek suits and some of the world’s innovative, sometimes outrageous, hats are on show for the annual competition. There are 3 major categories to win in; Women's Racewear, Men's Racewear and the Emerging Designer Award all taking place in Flemington's fashion and entertainment quater; The Park.
Attend Ladies Oak Day
Thursday 8 November plays host to Kennedy Oaks Day, 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.