… This content has been created as part of my involvement in Microsoft’s #WorkWonders Program …
When the temperatures drop it’s tempting to curl up on the couch with a good box set. Okay, very tempting. But there’s no need to let the winter blues get to you when there are so many great events on around Australia.
From movies to music, culture to camels, and with one dedicated to the humble beanie, here are some top festivals to get you out of hibernation.
New South Wales
Vivid – 22nd May to 8th June
The festival of light, music and ideas is my favourite winter treat in Sydney and is always worth rugging up for.
From the beautiful and often mesmerizing projections on the Opera House, MCA and Customs House, to the clever art installations and interactive fun, Vivid lights up the city in more ways than one.
But of course there’s more to Vivid than pretty lights. There’s a long list of great music events and the Vivid Ideas programme, which is packed with conferences, workshops, debates and more. Love.
If you’re coming to Sydney for Vivid or if you’re a local who wants to make a special night of it, check out my guide to the best hotels with a Vivid view.
Splendour in the Grass – 24th to 26th July
Australia’s biggest winter music festival, Splendour in the Grass manages to mix international stars with hot up and coming acts. Put their line ups in beautiful Byron Bay and it’s no wonder Splendour attracts festival lovers not just from around Australia but around the world.
This is one festival you definitely want to plan ahead for. With their track record, if you don’t fancy camping it’s worth booking your accommodation well before they announce the actual line up. Of course, then getting your hands on one of the coveted tickets is your next challenge. Pray to the festival gods for help with that one.
Sydney Film Festival – 3rd to 14th June
The Sydney Film Festival has been around for more than 60 years and has become a very happy time for movie lovers. Not only does it offer the chance to see great international and Aussie movies and documentaries, including world and Australian premieres, there are exhibitions, talks and fun to be had in the Festival Hub in Sydney Town Hall.
There’s also a chance to step back, or should that be drive back, in time with double bill sci-fi classics from the 1950s at the only remaining twin drive-in cinema in the state, the iconic Skyline Drive In Blacktown.
Winter Magic Festival – 20th June
A Blue Mountains tradition, the Winter Magic Festival takes place every year in Katoomba around the winter solstice.
The free community event sees the popular mountain town taken over by artists, musicians, dancers and choirs. The main street is closed to traffic and lined with market stalls, and if you’re partial to a bit of fancy dress, this is a chance to let that side of you out for a bit of fun.
Camp Unknown – 24th to 26th July
As this festival hasn’t actually happened yet it’s a bit too soon to know if it really deserves a place on this list. But I’m happy to include a dark horse in the mix, especially when it’s as intriguing as Camp Unknown.
The organisers are playing their cards a little close to their chest about exactly what will happen, but we’re told Camp Unknown will be held in NSW bushland, it will include music as well as activities like archery and canoeing, and it will be an intimate affair. There are only around 200 spaces available, and the only way to attend is to book a cabin. I for one look forward to hearing how this one goes.
Dark Mofo – 12th to 22nd June
Sure, Tasmania doesn’t usually follow NSW on state-by-state lists, but Dark Mofo is such a draw card to our southernmost state I’m mixing things up.
Last year more than 130,000 people headed to the Museum of Old and New Arts’ (MONA’s) winter festival in Hobart, with around a third flying from interstate for the pleasure.
Described as a celebration of “both ancient and contemporary mythologies, birth and death, fire and laser light – with some good music, art and food thrown in” Dark Mofo features around 250 Australian and international artists. Their Winter Feast has been extended to five nights, and the brave can take part in a dawn nude swim following the longest night of the year. Brrrrrrrr.
Festival of Voices – 2nd to 12th July in Hobart, 14th to 16th July in Launceston
Filling some of Hobart’s historic locations with song, the Festival of Voices celebrates all sorts of singing, including choral and gospel, classical, and a capella.
The Bonfire and Big Sing is one of the highlights and a free event, where thousands of people gather around a bonfire to be led by hundreds of choristers in song.
Melbourne International Film Festival – 30th July – 16th August
The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is another chance to see international premieres and red carpets, and the festival is proud of its reputation as the largest showcase of new Australian cinema in the country and always has some first looks at highly anticipated Aussie films up its sleeve.
The festival takes place in the heart of the city, with six CBD venues including the Comedy Theatre, which becomes one of the festival’s venues for the first time this year, and the recently renovated Treasury Theatre.
Melbourne Writers Festival – 20th to 30th August
Tempting bookworms out into Melbourne winter, the Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) is described as a two-week celebration for writers, readers and thinkers.
The program includes debates, discussions, conversations and educational programs along with live performances and music events. More than a quarter of the program is free making the MWF both intellectually stimulating and budget friendly.
The Shortest Lunch – 20th to 21st June
To celebrate the shortest days of the year and the winter solstice, the Yarra Valley’s smaller winemakers come together to create the Shortest Lunch.
While it’s a good name it’s slightly misleading as you’re more likely to turn this one into a very long lunch with progressive, all day dining and wine tasting as you make your way around the cellar doors of more than a dozen boutique wineries.
With open fires and music to clap and sing along to, you probably won’t be in a rush to leave so best to book a room in one of the valley’s B&Bs or hotels and make a weekend of it.
Fun4Kids Children’s Festival – 28th June to 4th July
As the name suggests, this festival is one for the little people in your life with a focus on 2-12 year olds.
Held in Warrnambool on Victoria’s far south-west coast, Fun4Kids attracts around a quarter of a million people every year and has live performances, games, activities and interactive workshops, spread around 17 themed fun zones.
Adelaide Cabaret Festival – 5th to 20th June
A major event on both the international and Australian arts calendars, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival is a mix of classic and contemporary cabaret and is a chance to see some of Australia’s brightest stars alongside some of the world’s best.
In years gone past the likes of Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Olivia Newton-John, Tim Minchin, Lenny Henry and Natalie Cole have trodden the festival boards, and with Barry Humphries as artistic director of the 15th Adelaide Cabaret Festival the Moonee Ponds housewife Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson have both agreed to attend.
Sea and Vines – 5th to 8th June
McLaren Vale has a winning combination of great food, great wine and a beach lifestyle, so it’s little wonder they have a festival to celebrate their region’s charms.
The Sea & Vines festival has been around for more than 20 years and is the largest wine region event in South Australia. Head along for intimate degustation dinners, winery tours and live music amongst the vines.
Brisbane Times Good Food Month – 9th July to 9th August 9
Good Food Months appear around Australia at different times of the year, and Brisbane is the lucky winter home of the festival.
Top local and international chefs can be found putting on Hats Off Dinners, pop ups and parties throughout the month, while the Night Noodle Markets will run from the 22nd of July until the 2nd of August.
Audi Hamilton Island Race Week – 15 – 22 August
This on and off water carnival is a fixture on the international sailing calendar, but you don’t have to know your way around a yacht to enjoy yourself.
There are fashion shows, celebrity chefs preparing gourmet meals and wine tastings to attend. Not to mention the fact that you’re on Hamilton Island on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Gorgeous.
Revelation Perth Film Festival – 2nd to 12th July
What started in the basement back room of a jazz club in 1997 has turned into a film festival that Margaret Pomeranz has described as “Australia’s best kept secret.”
Revelation now shows over 120 international films at cinemas, galleries, cafes and bars around Perth, and also has an academic side, with masterclasses, art exhibitions and live performances.
North West Festival – 21st to 23rd August
This Pilbara festival is only in its fourth year but it’s already making a name for itself as the area’s premier music event.
This year’s artists include Aussie electronic duo Peking Duk, Birds of Tokyo and Angus & Julia Stone, and the festival offers free camping so that people don’t have to face a big drive at the end of a great day and night.
Darwin Festival – 7th to 24th August
After Cyclone Tracey tore through Darwin on Christmas Eve in 1974 there were those who believed the city should be abandoned altogether. In 1977 it was suggested that a festival should be held to honor Darwin’s rebirth, and the first such festival was held the following year in 1978.
Over the years Darwin Festival has grown to attract more than 100,000 people every year. It now boasts an eclectic mix of outdoor concerts, music, comedy, theatre, cabaret, and film events held over 18 days and nights, timed just right to enjoy Darwin’s dry season weather.
Camel Cup – 11th July
Held in Alice Springs on the second Saturday in July, the Camel Cup can be a rather challenging time for riders and handlers trying to deal with beasts with big personalities, but one thing’s for sure it’s a whole lot of fun for spectators.
There are nine races around the dusty outback track, including the Honeymoon Handicap, which requires the camels and new husbands to stop half way around the track to pick up their brides. Then there’s the rickshaw races, Kids Camel Capers hobby camel races, belly dancers and more adding to the carnival atmosphere.
Thousands of people turn out for the Camel Cup every year with all proceeds going to local charities.
Alice Springs Beanie Festival – 19th to 22nd June
Yes, this festival is named after that cosy winter hat, the beanie, but organisers say it’s really about the social fabric that binds us all.
The Alice Springs Beanie Festival has been giving Indigenous women from remote communities an opportunity to develop their talents and share their designs and stories since 1997.
Join the beanie makers in weaving workshops, eat some kangaroo tail with them, or just have a yarn. When you look back at the beanie you bought this weekend, it will be more than just something to warm your head.
Canberra and Capital Region Truffle Festival – 21st June to early August
One for the truffle pigs amongst us, Australia’s capital city celebrates the local Black Perigord Truffle season with around eight weeks of truffle experiences.
There are more than 250 events from gourmet degustation dinners to cooking demonstrations at Westfield. Join in a truffle hunt, take a cooking class or learn about how to match wines to your favourite fungus.
Create Your Own Festival Guide
Of course with so many great things to see and do around Australia, this list is only scratching the winter festival surface.
When it came time to compile my own list, I turned to the OneNote Clipper, which can either capture an image, an entire web page, or even just take the important bits from pages that may be cluttered with ads or other noise.
Confession: I did some of my research with the tele in the background and my Surface Pro 3 perched on my lap, but was then able to follow up and do the rest on my desktop Mac as I’d saved the OneNote Clipper to my bookmarks bar.
Every time I saved something, the clipper kept a note of which website it was from so I could remember my sources.
You can create your own festival folder of places you want to go, as well as tracking which events within a festival you want to grab tickets to, or even start putting together a few ideas for festival fashions you might want to rock when you see your favourite band.
But for now, tell me. Which festival tempts you out of hibernation every year? I’d love to add some new ones to my winter warmers list.
This content has been created as part of my involvement in Microsoft’s #WorkWonders Program