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Who loves a good festival? Everyone in Australia, apparently!
You might think of Australia as a country full of rich wildlife and jaw-dropping natural environments – and you’re right, but you might also be surprised by how many incredible and diverse Australian festivals and events take place every year.
From dazzling fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve to rural country music festivals and amazing art and fringe festivals in the major cities, no matter when you visit Australia, there’s always something happening somewhere.
But because Australia has so many festivals and events in 2023, it can be a tough job deciding which one to visit.
So if you’re not sure which festival in Australia you’d like to visit in the year ahead, take a look at the list of festivals that we love below…
The Best Australian Festivals and Events
In no particular order, here are the best events in Australia to check out in 2023…
1. Vivid Sydney
The Sydney Vivid Music and Lights festival transforms the city at night into a colourful canvas of light, music, and ideas. The hugely popular Vivid lights get switched on every night in a free lighting display around The Rocks District and Circular Quay.
The festival features interactive and immersive light shows, art installations, illuminated skyscrapers, and large-scale 3D mapping projections on the Sydney Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Customs House.
This is our annual Australian festival in Sydney as every year it’s just as fun as the last.
2. Carols by Candlelight
Carols by Candlelight
Carols by Candlelight is a popular Australian Christmas event. It takes place at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl each year on Christmas Eve and has been running for over 85 years.
What better way to celebrate Christmas than to check out this iconic Australian festival?
Arrive early with a picnic blanket and chairs and bring your own food and drink. Settle in to watch a Christmas performance given by some of Australia’s biggest stars.
But wait, there’s more! Sydney also has its own Carols by Candlelight. It’s called Carols in the Domain and is held every year in the Domain Gardens in Sydney. 2022 is it’s 40th year and will be held 17th December. Check back for 2023 dates.
3. Sculptures by the Sea
Coral by Coral Collective | Credit: Tourism Australia
A very popular event along the Tamarama stretch of the famous Bondi to Coogee Coastal walk or in Cottlesloe is the Sculptures by the Sea annual event.
The walk is lined with sculptures in the sand. Each piece of work adds to the dramatic natural setting, and it’s possible to see 108 works by artists from Australia and overseas exhibited.
The event is temporary in Bondi and Cottlesloe and the dates vary each year. Currently, the 2023 dates for Bondi are yet to be announced, but you can see this in Cottlesloe in March 2023.
You can also see a permanent exhibit along the Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail from Adelong to Cellar Doors.
4. Sydney New Year’s Eve
Bring on the New Year
When: December 31st 2022 – January 1st 2023
Where: Sydney Harbor
Known to have the most spectacular fireworks display in the world. Sydney New Year’s Eve on the Harbour is dramatic and should be on every person’s bucket list.
We are still yet to check it off but are dreaming of that Sydney Harbour Cruise in a prime position overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, with waiters that hand us oysters and wine all night long.
5. Byron Bay Blues Fest (Bluesfest)
Folk, soul, blues, and rock- how could you miss this convergence of music in the ultra-cool alternative town of Byron Bay?
Bring only a laid-back attitude and a pair of gum boots. This festival is so chilled and has loads of music and fun for all ages.
The event has more than 200 gigs across a week, as well as food stalls and beer counters serving up good food and beer so you can enjoy the festivities.
We went to the Byron Bay Bluesfest and loved it. This is one Australian festival and event not to be missed!
6. Adelaide Festival
Strut & Fret, LIMBO | Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission
Every year in March, the warm Adelaide evenings become electrified as the very best in theatre, dance, music, film and the arts come to town.
The festival goes for 2 weeks and a Fringe Festival with lots of off-the-wall performances is now supported by the festival and has grown so much that it occurs every year.
7. Australia Day, January 26th
Sydney Harbor is a great place to celebrate Australia Day
When: 26th January 2023
Anywhere in Australia will be raising the roof on the 26th of January for Australia Day. It’s the one day of the year where Aussies can celebrate being Aussie!
On this day, cultural events and festivals take place all over Australia to celebrate the establishment of the first permanent European settlement in Australia.
It was on January 26th, 1788, that Arthur Phillip sailed to what is now Sydney Cove with a shipload of convicts and declared it their new home.
The best way to celebrate this day is to head down to the beach or the park for a picnic and a game of cricket. Sydney also has fireworks and events all over the country, especially in major cities. This is our national day so come celebrate with us!
8. Tamworth Country Music Festival
Credit: Tourism Tamworth
When: 13th – 22nd January 2023
You don’t even have to like country music to enjoy the festivities at Tamworth Country Music Festival.
It is wild fun, and one of the best Australian events and festivals for tourists to visit because it feels like a real authentic and fulfilling experience.
Every street corner will have a busker playing and pubs will be filled to the brim with patrons, live music, and mechanical bulls. For country music fans, you’ll enjoy this gem of a festival because there is something for everyone.
Concerts from Australia’s best country stars are held as well as the Australian Country Music Awards.
9. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade
Credit: Tourism Australia
One of Australia’s hottest festivals of the year is the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade which celebrates Gay Pride in Australia!
Every year at the end of February, celebrate with the LGBTQ community as they take to Oxford Street on floats, fancy dress, and outlandish costumes whilst waving Pride fags.
It is crazy good fun and a great way to raise awareness and show support for this community.
10. Australian Tennis Open, Melbourne
When: 16th January – 29th January 2023
Australia’s grand slam event and the first for the tennis circuit year. Experience live daily entertainment, from free music concerts and DJ sessions to an all-day music festival and carnival village.
And of course, you get to watch the tennis matches from the spectator’s box.
Big outdoor screens are set up outside the arena for those who can’t get tickets or who don’t want to pay. The atmosphere will be pumping.
11. Perth International Arts Festival
DAWN Opening ceremony on Cottesloe Beach
The Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) has now been running for 60 years. It’s Australia’s longest-running arts festival, and the longest-running in the southern hemisphere.
It’s a three-week-long festival including a wide variety of performing arts such as opera, dance, theatre, music, visual arts, and the Perth Writers Festival.
Performers are drawn from Australia and around the world and the schedule of events are held at venues throughout the city of Perth, including some street theatre and performances.
12. Henley on Todd Regatta, Northern Territory
Battle Boat Spectacular | Credit: Henley on Todd Inc
The Henley on Todd Regatta is one of Australia’s wackiest festivals. It’s a boat regatta except it’s on a dry and dusty riverbank in the middle of the country.
Bottomless boats held up by the contestant’s race each other through the dry riverbed.
Watching seemingly sane people race in bottomless “eights”, “bathtubs” and yachts through the deep coarse sand of the Todd River is a sight to behold.
Fun fact: every year there is a regatta in Henley on Thames in the UK! But don’t mix up the two…
13. The Rocks Aroma Festival, Sydney
Aroma Festival at The Rocks | Credit: Tourism Australia
When: 2023 dates to be determined…
Where: The Rocks, Sydney
Coffee, chocolate, tea, and spice at The Rocks Aroma Festival? Don’t tell me you’re not sold yet!
The Rocks area of Sydney (my favourite) was the hub for international trade for over a hundred years where these products were once off-loaded to warehouses lining Campbell’s Cove.
Time to celebrate that history with chocolate-dipped strawberries and cute cupcakes, and sample coffee from some of the world’s best roasters.
Oh, and there are also belly dancers, salsa and samba, and camel rides beside the world’s most beautiful harbour in this one-day sensory explosion.
As soon as dates are announced, make sure to add them to your calendar.
14. RISING Melbourne
Credit: Rising Melbourne
After Melbourne International Arts Festival closed down in 2019, it was RISING who took up the mantle.
Described as a “festival of the night”, RISING is all about the arts of all forms; music, performance, self-expression.
It takes place every June in Naarm, Melbourne, and is the newest festival in Victoria dedicated to the arts.
15. Brisbane Festival
BNEFest bunny in Brisbane
Brisbane Festival is one of the biggest celebrations in Australia for freedom of expression. It’s an arts festival that takes place all around the city, with multi-arts programs, installations, and performances held around all the major monuments.
Brisbane has always been a city that celebrates diversity and creativity. The festival aims to help make the works of artists’ dreams come to life. In their words, they want to make “the impossible possible” for our audiences and our artists.
Originally, Brisbane Festival took over from The Warana Festival, which had been running since 1961.
16. AFL Grand Final Day
When: Last Friday of September
One of the biggest events of the year is the AFL Grand Final day, which takes place on the last Friday of September.
At midday, a huge parade in Melbourne opens up the Australian Football League Final which takes place the following day.
The event is so important to the people of Victoria, that it’s a public holiday in Victoria.
The parade is definitely worth catching if you’re in Melbourne on this day. You’ll find the streets lined with people eager to watch the players on their floats, see the mascots waving, and hear the marching bands play.
17. Rabbits Eat Lettuce Festival
You wouldn’t guess it from the name, but the Rabbits Eat Lettuce festival is all about freedom, love, music, art, and performance.
You’ll see live dance music performed on colourful, artistically designed stages and see art installations across the grounds.
Set in a stunning natural environment, connect with nature and music together, engage in yoga workshops, or share stories with other festival goers.
Rabbits Eat Lettuce started in 2008 as a Tribal Easter party in New South Wales but quickly grew into something more.
The festival began as a forest dance party and it still is today.
It’s a little bit hippy, but that’s why we like it.
18. Woodford Folk Festival
Credit: Woodford Folk Festival
Another top music festival in Australia that you must check out is the Wood-Ford Folk Festival. It’s one of the biggest folk festivals in Australia and, in many people’s opinion, one of the best contemporary music festivals in Aus hands-down.
It’s like the Woodstock of Australia!
The festival grounds are located in a rural, forested location that’s home to the Jinibara Nation. The event traditionally takes place over the Easter weekend.
As well as enjoying folk music, you can also get involved with the folk scene by taking a workshop. You can learn arts and crafts, jewelery or leather sandal making, and herbal first aid. You can also attend talks about self-improvement among other topics.
Come away from this festival with not only fond memories but new skills and a positive mindset.
For music lovers looking for festivals to attend in Australia that also offer a rewarding experience, be sure to add this to your bucket list.
Before You Go
So there you have it, those are the best festivals and events in Australia for 2023! As you can see, there’s so much fun to be had at any event you decide to go to.
The best thing about festivals in Australia is they are never the same. Each Aussie event is a celebration of rich culture, music, art, tradition, and performance.
Australia Travel Tips
Are you planning on visiting Australia anytime soon? Then you may find these resources useful!
Plan Your Trip to Australia
We’ve been traveling consistently for 24 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights, and car rentals. Below are our preferred partners:
Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).
Scotts Cheap Flights is also fantastic to discover hidden deals and amazing prices
RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.
Booking.com has over 11,000 properties in Australia including hotels, apartments, and guesthouses. You get free cancelation on most rooms and the best price guarantee.
You can also browse the map below to find accommodation in the region you are visiting
Are there any festivals or events in Australia you love? Let us know in the comments!