It’s been a cold winter – and more than half the country has been in lockdown at some stage. But spring is just around the corner and temperatures will rise, the sun will shine and flowers will bloom – so it is time to plan which of Australia’s great spring festivals you will visit in 2021. Explore looks at the best of them…
Birdsville Races, QLD
It’s the most famous desert horse race on Earth – they call these races the Melbourne Cup of the Outback – an event that has been run since 1882 with only two years cancelled. People come from everywhere to this tiny outback post beside the Simpson Desert on the western edge of the Queensland border. Over 7000 people descend on the town – setting up camps along the river. There is also plenty of live music and entertainment like Fred Brophy’s boxing troupe (where anyone can get up in the tent and box).
Sleep and eat: There is no more iconic desert pub than the Birdsville Hotel, with modern rooms out the back. The steaks don’t get any better in Queensland.
Explore more: birdsvilleraces.com
Brisbane Festival, QLD
Brisbane will be heaving with excitement through September when the best talent from all over Australia in music, arts and culture hits the city. Across 23 days you can see 15 world premieres, 18 new works, 139 productions and some of Australia’s best bands – all at 223 locations across Brisbane… and get this, over half of the shows are free. You can watch everything from drag performers to hit Aussie band Boy & Bear, or head down the river on a boat with its own art installation and bar.
Sleep and eat: Hotel X is a new hotel located right in the thick of the festival at Fortitude Valley with the best views in Brisbane from its new rooftop bar and restaurant.
Explore more: brisbanefestival.com.au
Swell Sculpture Festival, QLD
The Gold Coast used to be fairly devoid of anything resembling culture; but not these days. One of the best examples of this new found sophistication is Swell Sculpture Festival in Currumbin, where over 70 enormous sculptures are set up along the foreshore and on the beach. Thousands gather for a free look – but there is more to it: kids might like to take part in sculpture and plaster workshops while adults have choices between art workshops, masterclasses and tours with the artists.
Sleep and eat: Palm Beach is just next door and it is home to a hip new retro-style motel, the Mysa, and great alfresco dining like Balbao Italian Restaurant.
Explore more: swellsculpture.com.au
September 11 to October 10
It is billed as Australia’s biggest celebration of spring – the bulbs and tulips planted across Canberra. See over a million blooming flowers at Commonwealth Park, which attracts over half a million visitors across the four-week festival. The best time to come is when NightFest kicks off with live music and food stalls for four nights from September 30 to October 3. The festival is not confined to Commonwealth Park either – community groups have planted a tulip trail of 300,000 bulbs across the capital.
Sleep and eat: Crowne Plaza is just across from the park and offers packages for Floriade, while you can’t go past the food stalls of NightFest for tasty treats.
Explore more: floriadeaustralia.com
Bloomin’ Tulips Festival, TAS
Flower nuts, head to Tasmania’s quiet north-west coast this spring. The tiny town of Wynyard is the prettiest location for a flower festival – and take note all flower lovers: you’ll be able to access the largest publicly accessible area of tulips under cultivation in the Southern Hemisphere. Though you don’t have to be a freak for flowers to love this event, as this is simply a celebration of all things spring. There are cocktail parties, fireworks over the town’s river and live music in the streets.
Sleep and eat: Stay in innovative, up-cycled decommissioned shipping containers along the river at Coastal Pods Wynyard, and get some of Tassie’s freshest seafood at Wynyard Seafoods On The Wharf.
Explore more: bloomintulips.com.au
Desert Festival, NT
September 23 to October 3
Get an insight into local desert culture at the Desert Festival where artists, dancers and musicians from some of the Northern Territory’s most remote Indigenous communities get together in the heart of Australia – Alice Springs. There is nothing like being in Australia’s Red Centre for 10 days of balmy spring nights to experience the best local talent in music performance, theatre, film and workshops, as they gather at five venues near town and three outdoor desert spaces. There are also performances during the day, but nothing can beat those spring nights under a billion stars in the dead centre.
Sleep and eat: There is an affordable room for all types of traveller at Desert Palms but the best thing is its pool perfectly placed for desert sunsets; eat the best local treats at night markets throughout the festival.
Explore more: desfest.com
Sydney Fringe Festival, NSW
Fingers crossed that Sydney will be out of lockdown in time for this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival because this is one of the most exciting spring festivals anywhere on the planet. This year marks the 12th festival, and over 3000 artists in every area of arts – from dance, poetry, music and comedy – will be performing at 150 venues across the city. From silent discos to burlesque shows to modern art exhibits in unused buildings in the city with a pop-up wine bar attached, there’s no hipper time to be in Sydney.
Sleep and eat: Glam it up and stay at Sydney’s first six-star hotel, Crown Sydney, in the city’s tallest building, and eat at celeb hangout Nobu within the hotel.
Explore more: sydneyfringe.com
Bright Spring Festival, VIC
October 23 to November 2
Oh boy, if there was a town in Australia where every day feels like walking right through a movie… it is Bright. Surrounded by big, green mountains and rivers and bike tracks, Bright is stunning year-round. But go there for spring and the flowers are blooming. This normally quiet town is bustling with markets, firework displays, people at outdoor restaurants and cafes
– and there is artwork on display, open gardens and flower competitions. And you should check out the wineries in the region.
Sleep and eat: Sleep surrounded by flowers and mountains at one of Abby’s Cottages in the High Country and try the local beers with lunch at Bright Brewery.
Explore more: brightspringfestival.com.au
Who doesn’t like a bit of cheese at a picnic? Well then, don’t miss the biggest cheese picnic in Australia. Be on hand at picturesque Rymill Park in Adelaide to try some of South Australia’s best cheeses. More than 100 food and beverage stalls are planned featuring cheese, wines, beer and more. Foodies, wine aficionados and craft-beer enthusiasts will enjoy some of the great pop-up bars – from a G&T bar to a garden bar specialising in beer and cider. Special guests Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan (formerly from MasterChef) will present and cook live on the Demo Stage for this year’s CheeseFest Gather & Graze.
Sleep and eat: Check out the new Hotel Indigo in the CBD; there is so much great produce on offer at CheeseFest but Hotel Indigo’s Merrymaker Rooftop bar is well worth a visit after your day at the festival.
Explore more: cheesefest.com.au