10 Unique Australian Festivals

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One of the things I loved most about my time living and working in South Korea was the fact the country had so many festivals.

In addition to the more well-known festivals like Jinju’s Lantern Festival or the Boryeong Mud Festival, there were smaller ones such as the Gwangju Kimchi Festival, the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival, the Jindo Moses Miracle, and even the Wando Slow Walking Festival.

These festivals were not only a fun diversion after a long week of teaching, but they also offered an insightful and amusing window into Korea’s culture.

Australian Festivals

Australian culture as we know it today isn’t quite as old as South Korea’s, and it’s certainly not as unusual to those from Western backgrounds, but the country’s unique sense of humour and mixed cultural background does present a number of fun opportunities to explore this culture through a variety of festivals.

As I prepare to attend the Australian Celtic Festival this weekend, I thought I’d highlight nine other unique Aussie festivals worth a look while you’re in the Land Downunder.

It should be noted that these are in no particular order.

10. The Australian Celtic Festival, Glen Innes, NSW

The Australian Celtic Festival takes place by the picturesque Australian Standing Stones Monument in Glen Innes. Photo courtesy of Australian Celtic Festival.
The Australian Celtic Festival takes place by the picturesque Australian Standing Stones Monument in Glen Innes. Photo courtesy of Australian Celtic Festival.

If you ever drive the inland route between Brisbane and Sydney, you might notice you pass through quite a few towns with distinctly Celtic names. Names like Glen Innes, Glencoe, Ben Lomond, Armidale, and the inexplicably Welsh, Llangothlin.

Every year, Glen Innes plays host to a celebration of the region’s Celtic roots with the Australian Celtic Festival. Each year a different Celtic ‘nation’ is selected, with Wales getting the nod in 2015 and the Isle of Man having had the honour in 2014.

The festival not only includes plenty of live music and traditional Celtic foods, but also such adventurous fare as sword-fighting demonstrations, an annual strongman competition reminiscent of the famous Highland Games, show dog trials, and all against the backdrop of Glen Innes’ often mist shrouded Standing Stones.

I’m excited to be attending this year as a guest of the Celtic Council, and can’t wait to share some photos and stories from the trip with you.

9. The Camel Cup, Alice Springs, NT

Australia actually has a huge (non-native) camel population, so it stands to reason we'd race them.
Australia actually has a huge (non-native) camel population, so it stands to reason we’d race them.

Horse racing is big business in Australia. Look no further than the way the Melbourne Cup brings the country to a standstill each November for evidence of this.

The folk out in dry and dusty Alice Springs (most famous for its proximity to Uluru) do things a bit differently, with the annual Camel Cup featuring (you guessed it) jockeys riding camels and fighting for the right to lift the Camel Cup.

It’s not just about watching the race though. The festival has food, live entertainment, and a few other fun activities (the rickshaw race sounds particularly fun to me) to keep you entertained between heats.

8. Tunarama, Port Lincoln, SA

A festival for tossing fish. Makes sense. Image courtesy of Port Lincoln Times.
A festival for tossing fish. Makes sense. Image courtesy of Port Lincoln Times.

The name might give it away, but Port Lincoln in South Australia is a big tuna fishing town and it’s proud of it.

Tunarama is a four day celebration of the region’s tuna fishing industry held each January, but it’s most famous for the Tuna Toss. Brave men and women can try their luck at hurling tuna as far as humanly possible, with the current record standing at an impressive 37m.

For those who find that all a bit fishy, there’s also fireworks, food, live music, and an annual Beach Bod competition to check out.

7. Golden Gumboot Festival, Tully, QLD

T.I.A. This. Is. Australia.
T.I.A. This. Is. Australia.

As Australia’s wettest town, Tully is so proud of the claim that they hold an annual festival to celebrate the fact.

The Golden Gumboot Festival takes its name from the oversized gumboot monument the town erected in 2003 to celebrate their wetness (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type) and includes live music, cultural performances from the local indigenous people, a parade, and the usual festival bells and whistles.

Their website is about two years out of date, so I’d call ahead if you were planning on attending…

6. The Beer Can Regatta, Darwin, NT

Another only in Australia moment. A boat race with boats built from beer cans.
Another only in Australia moment. A boat race with boats built from beer cans.

Another unorthodox race out of Australia’s most famous non-state, the Beer Can Regatta is a fancy name for a competition in which people must construct boats out of beer cans and race them along a picturesque Darwin beach.

Competitors construct inventive boats and then pray they’ll stay afloat as they hit the surf. Thankfully, the beaches of Darwin are saltwater crocodile free.

Like all of the other festivals on this list, it also has markets, food, and live entertainment for those not participating in the races.

Click below to see #5 to #1!

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4 comments

  1. I have been to the beer can regatta in Darwin twice.. 2004 and 2014.. was a lot smaller last year.. And I think there actually is a risk of crocs on the beaches of Darwin..

    • Yikes! I’d hope they checked the beach thoroughly before encouraging people to leap in with only some empty beer cans to protect them, surely. Haha

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