Australians have a bit of a reputation around the globe as being a group of ‘sun-kissed larrikins’. But we’re a modern, refined bunch at heart – and we’ve got the festivals to prove it.

We salute the truly unique and awe-inspiring annual festivals that take place in some breathtaking, (and sometimes downright odd) locations. These cater for foodies, and lovers of music, art, literature and more.

So, what are some of Australia’s classiest festivals? Check out our shortlist for each state below and add a few to your to-do list. It’s time to crack open the caviar and turn up the Bach!

New South Wales

Sydney International Piano Competition

  • When: 6 – 23 July 2016
  • Where: Sydney Opera House
  • For: Classical music enthusiasts

If you love the sound of Beethoven and Chopin’s finest pieces being played by some of the best pianists in the country, then this is the event for you. The festival is held in the afternoon and at night, making it the perfect excuse to dress up and dominate the senses with classical music.

Dangerous Ideas

Festival of Dangerous Ideas

  • When: September 2016 (TBC)
  • Where: Sydney Opera House & Online
  • For: Open minded thinkers

This annual festival brings together leading thinkers and culture creators from all around the world to discuss some of the most important (and controversial) issues and ideas of our time. Held at Sydney Opera House, this festival aims to provoke thought, challenge pre-conceived ideas, and discuss difficult topics. Is religion poisoning us? Are the world’s nuclear weapon stocks out of control? Come along and empty your think tank.

Lanterns on the Lagoon

Lanterns on the Lagoon and Sculptures in the Park

  • When: 24 September 2016
  • Where: Tumut
  • For: Everyone

Visitors can enjoy a relaxed evening featuring music, fine food and cultural entertainment along the banks of the serene Tumut River. As the sun sets, sustainable art, sculpture and ‘reflection’ are celebrated, as the festival is drenched in a romantic warm glow of elegant lighting.

Byron Bay Bluesfest

  • When: 13-17 April 2017
  • Where: Byron Bay
  • For: Blues hounds and general lovers of great music

Great vibes, and even greater music! Bluesfest is a fun, safe, family friendly event showcasing music from around the globe. It boasts more than 200 performances across seven stages over five days. Camping is available for up to 6,000 people and you’ll find five licensed bars, over 100 food and market stalls, undercover food courts, beer gardens, even a children’s entertainment.

Sydney Writers’ Festival

  • When: 22-28 May 2017
  • Where: Sydney
  • For: Budding and experienced writers alike, and anyone with a love of books

With over 300 free and paid events, this festival covers everything from contemporary novelists, screenwriters, fiction and non-fiction writers, musicians – basically anything involving the art of prose. Previous guest authors include Vince Gilligan, Helen Garner and Tom Keneally. Come early as the free events are available on a first come, first served basis.

A gourmet weekend

South Australia

Barossa Gourmet Weekend

  • When: 2–4 September 2016
  • Where: Barossa Valley
  • For: Wine lovers and more

The Barossa Valley is one of Australia’s leading wine destinations and what better way to welcome the first weekend of spring by tasting premium wines and food. Most wineries host a series of parties and events.

Adelaide Writers’ Week

  • When: 4 – 9 March 2017
  • Where: Adelaide
  • For: Writers and readers of any genre

Adelaide Writers’ Week is a place where free workshops, artist conversations, live panels and special events occur. It’s a place where writers can immerse themselves and become inspired by the electric atmosphere. There are also free kids days so bring the whole family along!

Adelaide Fringe Festival

  • When: 17 February – 19 March 2017
  • Where: Adelaide
  • For: Everyone

 Immerse yourself in the culture of cabaret, circus, dance, film, theatre and anything in-between. Independent artists descend this city to showcase their talent to the thousands of attendees. Expect the unexpected as the entire city is transformed for one mind-blowing month.


Melbourne Writers Festival

  • When: 29 August – 4 September 2016
  • Where: Melbourne
  • For: Readers, writers and thinkers

Be inspired to write your next novel or film script as you enjoy one of the many workshops on offer. A quarter of the program is free, with discounts if you buy in bulk for adult workshops. This festival is also home to the Schools Program for students from Grade 1 to Year 12.

Tulip Festival

Tesselaar Tulip Festival

  • When: 8 September – 4 October 2016
  • Where:  Silvan
  • For: Children to grandparents and anyone in between

In its 63rd year, this festival is set amongst almost a million tulips with the gorgeous backdrop of the Dandenong Ranges. Complete with live entertainment, market and food stalls, there are plenty of activities to choose from.

Wine and Cheese Fest

  • When: 23 October 2016
  • Where: Williamstown
  • For: Wine drinkers and cheese eaters. Bring the kids

With sea views, 60+ exhibitors, live entertainment, jazz bands, activities for the kids and even a grape stomp comp, you won’t want to miss this growing event held on the waters of Seaworks Boat Shed. Try a cheesemaking class with famous cheese connoisseur Giorgio Linguanti or simply grab yourself a vino and enjoy the flavours this superb festival throws at your palate.

Canberra Balloon

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Canberra Balloon Spectacular

  • When: 11-19 March 2017
  • Where: Canberra
  • For: Everyone

Held over nine days, the Canberra Balloon Spectacular held on the lawns of Old Parliament House is considered to be one of the longest-running and most enjoyable hot air ballooning events in the world. Pair this with the vision of countless colourful balloons dotting the canvas of a serene sunrise over our nation’s capital and you have yourself a pretty unique and special event.

Canberra International Music Festival

  • When: 28 April – 7 May 2017
  • Where: Braddon
  • For: People who enjoy live music

From Bach to the Latin American Samba, this program includes delights such as contemporary, world and jazz music. This festival attracts many composers, conductors and musicians from across the globe to perform for Canberra’s live music lovers.

Canberra Multicultural Festival

  • When: 17–19 February 2017
  • Where: Canberra
  • For: Everyone

This iconic festival is about celebrating and sharing culturally diverse traditions, dance, food, performances, exhibitions and information. Watch Greek dancing, eat Chinese food and experience Indian culture. These are just a few activities you can experience in this cultural whirlwind.

Jazz and jumpers

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Jazz and Jumper Festival

  • When: 21–31 July 2016
  • Where: Warwick
  • For: Everyone who loves jazz and craft

The Jazz and Jumper Festival is art surrounded with jazz in its quirkiest form. With 152 events to choose from, this festival encompasses a mixture of jazz, food and yarnbombing. Yarnbombing? It’s crocheting; felting and weaving are applied in a contemporary form to create a colourful, exciting display all over town.

#yarnbomb #yarnbombing

A photo posted by @yarnbombing on

Queensland Poetry Festival

  • When: 25–28 August 2016
  • Where: South Brisbane
  • For: Everyone

An annual three day event, the Queensland Poetry Festival embraces and encourages poetic expression in all forms – page poetry, readings, slam, spoken word, performance, music, collaborations, installations, cross-platform creations, film and many more. The festival showcases individuals with a passion for inspiring, entertaining, challenging, and bringing poetry to a wide audience.

Brisbane international film festival

Brisbane International Film Festival

  • When: 23 November–4 December 2016
  • Where: Brisbane
  • For: Movie buffs and wannabe movie makers

Whether you enjoy documentaries, thrillers, comedies, animation, international or short films, this festival attracts people from many genres, wanting to watch local and international talent. The festival also stages lectures, seminars and debates about current film industry trends, which any participant can attend.

Western Australia

Perth International Arts Festival

  • When: 10 February–5 March 2017
  • Where: Perth
  • For: Everyone

This festival has it all; dance, family activities, film, music, theatre, arts and writing. Attendees can choose from an array of topics and are presented with the highest quality of experiences.

WA Circus Fest

Western Australia Circus Festival

  • When: 27 – 29 January 2017
  • Where: Margaret River region
  • For: All ages and walks of life

Fun! This festival showcases outstanding entertainment that encompasses circus classes, comedy, theatre and cabaret. International and Australian performers showcase their performances and there are even dedicated kids workshops.

Margaret River Gourmet Escape

  • When: 18–20 November 2016
  • Where: Margaret River region
  • For: 18 years and over

Margaret River’s Gourmet Escape showcases the beautiful wines and culinary delights of the region. With over 50 events from Busselton to Augusta, you can choose to forest feast, brunch with the best, dine at a winery or trek along a foodie trail. Welcome to gastronomic heaven.

Day on the Green

Australia wide

A Day On The Green

  • When: October – March 2016/2017
  • Where: Multiple venues in each state
  • For: Wine enthusiasts, music lovers and old rockers

Deemed the ‘Big Day Out’ for grown-ups, A Day On The Green showcases up to 30 concerts per season across multiple venues in some of the largest winegrowing regions Australia. Couple this with classic Australian artists like Something For Kate, Jebediah, You Am I and Spiderbait, you can see why A Day On The Green has grown into one of Australia’s most respected outdoor events.

Well, there you have it! 20 of Australia’s classiest festivals ready for you to immerse yourself in and enjoy. Now the only problem you will have is trying to choose which ones to go to. Explore and try something new, you might just come out with a new found love for poetry or realise you should have been a novelist all along!


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