in here we share with you 10 fun festivals in Australia. Festivals in Australia are something else indeed and with party-loving Australians on board, things can’t get more exciting. Whether it’s Mardi Gras or Australia Day, or even one of the cultural festivals such as comedy and music fests, Australia is the place to be.
Here’s a list of festivals in Australia that light up the country whenever they are celebrated. Join in the fun on your next trip to the land down under!
Table of Contents
- 01. Australia Day
- 02. Vivid Sydney
- 03. Mardi Gras
- 04. Melbourne International Comedy Festival
- 05. Splendour in the Grass
- 06. AFL Grand Final
- 07. Melbourne International Arts Festival
- 08. Sydney New Year’s Eve
- 09. Moomba
- 10. Adelaide Festival
01. Australia Day
Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. Observed annually on 26 January, it marks the 1788 landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove and raising of the Union Flag by Arthur Phillip following days of exploration of Port Jackson in New South Wales. In present-day Australia, celebrations aim to reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new members of the Australian community.
The meaning and significance of Australia Day has evolved and been contested over time, and not all states have celebrated the same date as their date of historical significance. The date of 26 January 1788 marked the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia (then known as New Holland). Although it was not known as Australia Day until over a century later, records of celebrations on 26 January date back to 1808, with the first official celebration of the formation of New South Wales held in 1818.
On New Year’s Day 1901, the British colonies of Australia formed a federation, marking the birth of modern Australia. A national day of unity and celebration was looked for. It was not until 1935 that all Australian states and territories adopted use of the term “Australia Day” to mark the date, and not until 1994 that the date was consistently marked by a public holiday on that day by all states and territories. Unofficially or historically, the date has also been variously named Anniversary Day, Foundation Day and ANA Day.
02. Vivid Sydney
Vivid Sydney is an annual festival of light, music and ideas, held in Sydney, Australia. It includes outdoor immersive light installations and projections, performances by local and international musicians, and an ideas exchange forum featuring public talks and debates with leading creative thinkers.
This event takes place over the course of three weeks in May and June. The centrepiece of Vivid Sydney is the light sculptures, multimedia interactive work and building projections that transform various buildings and landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge in and around the Sydney central business district into an outdoor night time canvas of art.
During the 2015 festival, sites of interest were Central Park, Chatswood and the University of Sydney as well as around the CBD, Darling Harbour and The Rocks.
03. Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras refers to events of the Carnival celebration, beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is known as Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual Lenten sacrifices and fasting of the Lenten season.
Related popular practices are associated with Shrovetide celebrations before the fasting and religious obligations associated with the penitential season of Lent. In countries such as the United Kingdom, Mardi Gras is more usually known as Pancake Day or (traditionally) Shrove Tuesday (derived from the word shrive, meaning “to administer the sacrament of confession to; to absolve”).
04. Melbourne International Comedy Festival
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) is the largest stand-alone comedy festival and the second-largest international comedy festival in the world. Established in 1987, it takes place annually in Melbourne over four weeks, typically starting in March and running through to April. The Melbourne Town Hall has served as the festival hub, but performances are held in many venues throughout the city.
The MICF plays host to hundreds of local and international artists; in 2018 the festival listed over 550 shows, 6,700 performances (including more than 160 free performances) by 3,500 artists. Although it is mainly a vehicle for stand-up and cabaret acts, the festival has also included sketch shows, plays, improvisational theatre, debates, musical shows and art exhibitions. The televised Gala is one of the festival’s flagship event, showcasing short performances from many headline and award-winning comics. Other popular events include The Great Debate, a televised comedy debate, the Opening Night Super Show, and Upfront, a night of performances exclusively featuring female comedians.
05. Splendour in the Grass
Splendour in the Grass (commonly referred to as Splendour) is an annual Australian music festival held at the North Byron Parklands in Yelgun, New South Wales. Since its inauguration, the festival has also been held in various locations near Byron Bay, New South Wales, and Woodford, Queensland.
The festival was jointly created and promoted by the Village Sounds Agency and Secret Service music companies, and began in 2001 as a one-day gathering to cater for Australia’s winter season (a period that had traditionally been associated with very few events of this nature). “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”, by English poet William Wordsworth, was the inspiration for the naming of the event. The festival evolved into a two-day event in 2002 and a three-day event in 2009. It is now considered Australia’s largest music festival.
Splendour in the Grass showcases popular and established musical artists, as well as emerging Australian artists. The music festival has attracted notable artists such as Coldplay, Powderfinger, Arctic Monkeys, Kanye West, Tame Impala and Lorde. The 2020 festival was to be headlined by Flume, The Strokes, and Tyler, the Creator, but was postponed and then cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 edition was to be held in July before being postponed to November then cancelled due to the pandemic, with The Strokes, and Tyler, the Creator, back as headliners, and adding Gorillaz. The 2022 edition will be held in July, with Gorillaz, The Strokes, and Tyler, the Creator returning as headliners.
06. AFL Grand Final
The AFL Grand Final is an Australian rules football match to determine the premiers for the Australian Football League (AFL) season. From its inception until 1989, it was known as the VFL Grand Final, as the league at that time was the Victorian Football League. Played at the end of the finals series, the game has been held annually since 1898, except in 1924. It is traditionally staged on the afternoon of the last Saturday in September, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The game has spawned a number of traditions and activities, which have grown in popularity nationally since the interstate expansion of the Victorian Football League to become the Australian Football League in the 1980s and 1990s.
The club which wins the grand final receives the AFL’s premiership cup and flag; players on the winning team receive a gold premiership medallion, and the best player the Norm Smith Medal.
07. Melbourne International Arts Festival
Melbourne International Arts Festival, formerly Spoleto Festival Melbourne – Festival of the Three Worlds, then Melbourne International Festival of the Arts, becoming commonly known as Melbourne Festival, was a major international arts festival held in Melbourne, Australia, from 1986 to 2019. It was to be superseded by a new festival called Rising from 2020.
Melbourne Festival was one of the most significant festivals in Australia, together with the Sydney Festival and the Adelaide Festival of Arts. It hosted performances by established artistic companies as well as independent acts. It was an important event on the Australian cultural calendar. Each festival invited a range of dance, theatre, music, visual arts, multimedia and outdoor events from renowned and upcoming Australian and international companies and artists to Melbourne. It offered a wide variety of free family-friendly events.
08. Sydney New Year’s Eve
Sydney New Year’s Eve is an annual New Year’s Eve fireworks event in Sydney, Australia. The event currently consists of two fireworks shows, with an evening display known as the “Family Fireworks” held at 9:00 p.m. AEST, and the main “Midnight Fireworks” held at 12:00 a.m. Fireworks are launched from barges in Port Jackson, as well as nearby landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge—which serves as the main focal point of the show via lighting and pyrotechnic effects.
As one of the first major cities to celebrate the New Year, the event is widely-viewed in Australia and worldwide. Organizers have estimated the annual in-person attendance of the event to be around 1.5 to 1.6 million, with tourists accounting for a large portion of its attendees. Some locations, such as the Royal Botanic Garden, host ticketed seating areas.
The event is usually organized by the city; as of 2020, the state of New South Wales was given “temporary custodianship” of the event.
Moomba (also known as the Moomba Festival) is held annually in Melbourne, Australia. Run by the City of Melbourne, it is Australia’s largest free community festival. The Melburnian tradition is celebrated over four days, incorporating the Labour Day long weekend, from Friday to the second Monday in March. Moomba is culturally important to Melbourne, having been celebrated since 1955, and regularly attracts up to a million people, with a record attendance of 3.8 million (2.3 million tourists) set in 2018.
In 2003, the event was renamed Melbourne Moomba Waterfest and is centred on the Yarra River.
Traditional events include the Moomba parade, crowning of Moomba monarchs, fireworks displays, carnivals in the gardens along the river, river activities including watersports, water floats and the Birdman Rally, as well as live music and bands.
10. Adelaide Festival
The Adelaide Festival of Arts, also known as the Adelaide Festival, an arts festival, takes place in the South Australian capital of Adelaide in March each year. Started in 1960, it is a major celebration of the arts and a significant cultural event in Australia.
The festival is based chiefly in the city centre and its parklands, with some venues in the inner suburbs (such as the Odeon Theatre, Norwood) or occasionally further afield. The Adelaide Festival Centre and River Torrens usually form the nucleus of the event, and in the 21st century Elder Park has played host to opening ceremonies.
It comprises many events, usually including opera, theatre, dance, classical and contemporary music, cabaret, literature, visual art and new media. The four-day world-music event, WOMADelaide, and the literary festival, Adelaide Writers’ Week, form part of the Festival. The festival originally operated biennially, along with the (initially unofficial) Adelaide Fringe; the Fringe has taken place annually since 2007, with the Festival of Arts going annual a few years later, in 2012. With all of these events, plus the extra visitors, activities and music concerts brought by the street-circuit motor-racing event known as the Adelaide 500, locals often refer to the time of year as “Mad March”.
The festival attracts interstate and overseas visitors, and generated an estimated gross expenditure of A$76.1 million for South Australia in 2018.