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Here’s Your Guide to Australia’s Coolest Festivals

by Leah Rise

Things to do in Sydney

When we hit the Australia festival circuit — and it’s not just about the Big Day Out — we know that we’ll be getting plenty of the great Australian outdoors — BUT you don’t have to wait for the Southern Summer to enjoy the unique Australian scene. If you can only get away during the long Northern Summer vacation, there’s still a lot happening down-under - that's why we rounded up the best, front-row-worthy festivals in Australia.

Woodford Folk Festival

When & Where? December 27 - January 1 in Brisbane region

What’s it About? Attention folk fans and jazz gurus, this festival is about an hour or so north of Brisbane and really gets back to the roots of music and the Australian culture. This six day event has the lot: Blues, Roots, Soul, Ceremony, Dance & Movement, First Nations, Folk, Rock, Pop, Meditation in Motion, Street Talks, Vaudeville, Circus, Visual Arts & Crafts, Poetry & Story Readings, Workshops, and a Children's Festival. Soul-grabbing indigenous festival of The Dreaming leads a vast range of 2,000 performers in more than 500 events over six days. The sweet tunes of bands like James Morrison and the John Butler Trio are regular jammers here.

Youth discounts and more detail at Woodford Folk Festival.

Extras: With no real hotels around, show-goers are also campers. You can camp on site, or right next door in tent-cabins. This provides a whole new world of realness. If you’re not into roughing it, try Cotton Tree Backpackers about an hour away but right in the heart of Maroochydore. A bit closer - about 25 minutes drive – and similarly priced well under $100 is the Beerburrum Motel.

Big Day Out

When & Where? From January 15th-31st, Big Day Out is a travelling caravan of stunning performers coastal music scene bringing in exceptional local and international musical talents to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Auckland, and Gold Coast – it’s BIG!

What’s it About? Big Day Out is heaven for fans of all types of music. This event was born purely out of love for the music. If you’re a musical newbie and searching for the hottest new song on Spotify, this is the place. This year’s installment lineup features Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire, Snoop Dogg a.k.a. Snoop Lion, Major Lazer, Steve Angello, Flume, Beady Eye, The Lumineers, Primus, Tame Impala, Vista Chino, The Hives, Deftones, Bliss N Eso, CSS, The Drones, Mac Miller, Flosstradamus, Ghost, Grouplove, The Naked And Famous, Dillon Francis, Toro y Moi, Bluejuice, Portugal,The Man, Mudhoney, Pez Kerser, The 1975, Northlane, Big Gigantic Cosmic Psychos, Loon Lake, Kingswood, Bo Ningen, Rüfüs, The Algorithm, DZ Deathrays, Peking Duk, Violent Soho, The Jungle Giants, All The Colours AND Ben Morris. Rumours of Daft Punk are not confirmed.

Did I mention it’s BIG? Believe that this event is the most popular event in the Aussie summer, so get in early for your tickets by registering on the Ticketmaster website.

Extras: Pick your city and use public transport – all of the venues are easy to get to. Adelaide’s venue is on the fringe of the downtown area, Gold Coast near Surfers Paradise by bus, Sydney and Melbourne by bus, train and tram. All cities have plenty of low-cost accommodation on the city fringes and great places to eat.

St. Kilda Festival

When & Where? Sunday, February 8th 2015 – is the confirmed start day in Melbourne for next year.

What’s It About? The cosmopolitan beachside suburb of St Kilda is also home to Melbourne’s Luna Park historical amusement park. The whole suburb, including the bay beach is closed off for the day-long street & beach carnival. A carefree breezy top with flip-flops and sunnies is ideal for this festival style. For you insomniacs, nighttime brings the best sounds from a variety of local talent and musical genres across eight different stages. You won’t be lonely as the event attracts over 400,000 contemporary music lovers.

Extras: St Kilda is Nightlife Central, with airport shuttle buses serving the backpackers and budget hotels in the area. The Victoria Hotel is downtown, a short tram ride to St Kilda and right in the restaurant precinct and a short walk Chinatown. Plus they offer a free continental breakfast. Backpackers try Base St Kilda, one of the Lonely Planet World’s Top 10 Hippest Hostels. Melbourne’s public transport is world-class, so ditch the car.

Sydney Good Food Month

When & Where? October in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra

What’s It About? The venues are cafés, restaurants, food stalls and night noodle markets in an all-month series of events presenting the best Sydney and regional restaurants, cafes, bars and producers with a series of venue-based events and offers – from Let’s Do Lunch to Hats Off Dinners, Pop-ups & Parties, Bar Hops, Good Dinner Under $30, Good Pub Grub, High Teas and hands-on cooking classes. Get on their newsletter list at Sydney Good Food Month to make sure you get early notice of events.

Extras: It’s everywhere! Every mealtime, regional fare and more! Book through the exclusive Venue Booking service.

Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney

When & Where? May 24- June 10 in Sydney – no confirmed dates for next year but it can’t be missed. Spectacular? Awesome? Stunning? Yep, I’m going with all of the above.

What’s It About? The free Vivid Sydney light festival, which has made Sydney’s CBD astonishing beautiful over the last fortnight, ended last Monday. If Willy Wonka had ran a festival it would be full of colors like this. But Vivid is not just about light, but music and ideas as well.

See the light shows from half a dozen harbourside locations from dusk to midnight every evening. Hear the music at twelve venues around the downtown and fringe areas. Open your mind to new ideas in technology, entertainment, design and business. Check out Vivid Sydney for details.

Extras: Stay downtown at the Ibis Sydney World Square where you’re in the centre of the Spanish District, Chinatown and the cinema precinct with buses, trains and light-rail to get around, and plenty of parking stations nearby if you really must take a car. Really? Don’t.

Adelaide Fringe

Sydney Lifestyle Blog

When & Where? 13 February – 15 March 2015

What’s It About? One of the most diverse arts festivals in the world, renowned for fresh ideas, spontaneity and fun with art forms spanning cabaret, comedy, circus, dance, film, theatre, puppetry, music, visual art and design taking over the entire city with 900 events staged in pop-up venues in parks, warehouses, lane-ways and empty buildings as well as established venues such as theatres, hotels, art galleries, cafes and town halls.

Alongside the ticketed open access program are the Fringe produced and/or supported special free events, which run throughout the program. These events add to the carnival atmosphere that engulfs the entire city and include the Fringe Parade, Adelaide Fringe Street Theatre Festival and Fringe in the Mall.

Extras: Spoil yourself and stay in the front row Crowne Plaza Adelaide with easy access to all the city centre activities and a quick ride to North Adelaide’s eateries.

Summary: Australia has a constant and diverse range of events, from free to reasonably expensive, and catering to every taste. There’s never been a better time or place than now in Australia to be young and adventurous.

Leah Rise

Meet Leah - Sydney foodie, dog lover, and festival goer. With a passion for travelling, Leah has visited over 20 countries while attempting to put her English and Spanish degrees to good use. When she’s not hanging with her wolfdog or skydiving, Leah can be found blogging about her Instagram worthy travel life and working for a Sydney-based agency, iiWorks. Chat with her on Twitter @leahrise.

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