There’s always a festival somewhere in a country as big and diverse as Australia, but it’s in summer, roughly from November to March, that things really kick off. Whatever you’re into, wherever you find yourself, you’ll find like-minded souls getting together to cheer on the good things in life.
From hedonistic three-day music festivals to sedate celebrations of wine and food and showcases of creative exuberance, there’s a time and place for every passion under the southern s
WOMADelaide (March, womadelaide.com.au)
It’s hard to imagine a festival setting more delightful than Adelaide’s Botanic Park, nor one so conveniently sited in the middle of a major city. For four days WOMADelaide makes full use of the gorgeous, green terrain, with eight stages playing world music, funk, reggae and plenty of other off-centre styles. This is one festival you can happily bring the kids to, and look forward to a family boogie on the greensward.
Port Fairy Folk Festival (March, portfairyfolkfestival.com)
The former haunt of whalers and seal-hunters, Port Fairy on Victoria’s grandiose Shipwreck Coast seems an apt location for this much-loved music festival, which turns 40 in 2016. Now a highlight of the international folk circuit, it’s four days of local and international acts – mainly folk, but some blues, roots and world music thrown in.
Margaret River Gourmet Escape (November, gourmetescape.com.au)
The Margaret River region’s outstanding food and wine is not the only attraction at this beautifully-located festival, which now attracts foodie luminaries of the calibre of Marco Pierre White and Rick Stein. Alongside forest feasts, barnyard breakfasts, wine-tasting dinners and fermenting workshops, there are tours to the underwater observatory at Busselton Jetty, and classes in food photography.
Taste of Tasmania (December – January, thetasteoftasmania.com.au)
Tassie’s wonderful produce shines at this highlight of the state’s all-too-brief summer. Over 60 stalls crowd the Hobart’s historic waterfront, peddling cheese, small goods, wines, seafood and all manner of delights. Plus there are food tours, ‘tasting tables’, live entertainment, and a New Year’s Eve party to cap it all off. 2015/16 will be the first cashless Taste: entry is free, but don’t forget your plastic if you want to eat and drink!
MONA FOMA (January, mofo.net.au)
Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), described by its founder as ‘Disneyland for adults’, gets even more playful during FOMA – its annual Festival of Music and Art. Further truncated to ‘MOFO’, the eighth annual festival is curated by Brian Ritchie, bass-player for the Violent Femmes. His eclectic choices include The Flaming Lips, the British artist duo Gilbert & George and Japan’s DJ Krush.
Meredith Music Festival and Golden Plains (December & March, aunty.mmf.com.au and goldenplains.com.au)
What started as a DIY bush-bash on a mate’s property a quarter of a century ago has turned into one of Australia’s best boutique music festivals. Known affectionately as ‘Aunty’, Meredith and it's more chilled late summer cousin Golden Plains, deliver three days of eclectically-curated debauchery, luring the bohemian tribes of Melbourne from the city every December and March. Highlights include the all-nude Meredith Gift through the Supernatural Amphitheatre, and the creative ridiculousness of festival-goers’ costumes.
Parkes Elvis festival (January, parkeselvisfestival.com.au)
Is Parkes, a town of 12,000 in the hot interior of NSW, really the natural home for a festival celebrating the King’s birthday? Whatever the incongruity, something’s working: more than 20,000 people came to the 2015 Elvis Fest, and with over 150 events – the Elvis Gospel Service, the Miss Priscilla Dinner and a host of concerts, parades and other diversions – the 2016 version should be even bigger.
Tropfest (February, www.tropfest.com)
The world’s largest short-film festival is a wonderful antidote to the exclusivity of Cannes and its ilk. Focusing on film-making, rather than exhibition, the format encourages DIY experimentation: submissions must be less than seven minutes and picture that year’s ‘Tropfest Signature Item’ (this year, it’s a card) to ensure they’re freshly made. Now a major event on Sydney’s cultural calendar (and in 2016 saved from cancellation at the last minute by generous sponsors) the premiere is free, and attracts tens of thousands to Sydney’s Centennial Park.
Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (February to 6 March, mardigras.org.au)
It’s inspiring to think how far the Mardi Gras has come since its inception in 1978: then it was met with police violence and legal sanctions; now, it’s one of Sydney’s biggest events, an exuberant riot of public play attracting hundreds of thousands from around the country and the world. Two weeks of fairs, pool parties and other celebrations, it’s the LGBTQI’s annual moment in the sun, cheered on by hordes of mainstream revelers and supporters. Festivities peak with the carnivalesque abandon of the final Saturday’s Parade and Party.