The top arts and culture festivals in Australia
Awesome arts festivals
Image: Adam Gibson
Dark Mofo, TAS
Held at Mona, Hobart's off-beat contemporary art museum, Dark Mofo* celebrates dark and ancient rituals in a variety of performances held over two weeks. Book early for this mind-bending mid-winter festival where music meets art and half a million people flock from around the world to be part of it. Be warned: No Dark Mofo experience is complete without taking a nudie dip in the River Derwent at sunrise after the longest and coldest night of the year. Too chilly for you? Mona’s summer festival of art and music, Mona Foma, takes place over two happening weekends in Hobart and Launceston every February.
*Dark Mofo is on hiatus for 2024
The Biennale of Sydney, NSW
This celebration of creativity showcases contemporary art in exhibitions across Sydney. Running every two years, The Biennale is a well-known event on the international arts scene. The three-month festival celebrates the work of innovative artists producing everything from gigantic sculptures to textiles, light installations and performance art.
A relative newcomer to the arts scene, this ‘festival of the night’ is making waves for its invigorating program of events and exhibitions celebrating art, music, performance and ceremony.
Feast-worthy food and wine festivals
Image: South Australian Tourism Commission
Tasting Australia, SA
Foodies and wine lovers, rejoice! This month-long celebration of gastronomic brilliance delivers opportunities aplenty to wine, dine, cook and learn from some of the world’s best chefs, growers and winemakers. Based in Adelaide, the event spills out into regional South Australia with unique and delightful experiences designed to tantalise the taste buds. It’s a food party you won’t want to miss.
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, VIC
The World’s Longest Lunch kicks off this mouthwatering festival every year, but get in early to book your seat at the 600m-long, 2000-seat table! The sumptuous lunch sets the scene for the mouthwatering 10 days to come, drawing celebrity chefs, standout producers and winemakers to share what they do best in tastings, classes, dishes and tours.
Brilliant light festivals
Image: Destination NSW
Vivid Sydney, NSW
The Sydney Opera House comes to life as a 3D technicolour centrepiece in this festive celebration of light, innovation and art. Make your way into the city by train to take the longest light walk in the world – and possibly the most spectacular – amid light-painted buildings and illuminated sculptures on display in and around the harbour. Held over 23 days and nights, it’s the place to be for live music gigs, workshops, exhibitions and great food.
Every April, Aboriginal artists transform the 300-million-year-old McDonnell Ranges into a captivating gallery of colour and light over 10 mesmerising nights. Parrtjima is a free, all-ages celebration of contemporary and traditional Indigenous culture with a jam-packed program of music, dance, art, film and talks. The iconic festival’s theme this year is ‘listening with heart’ as Australia’s First Peoples invite us all to walk together and build a better future.
Must-see music festivals
Image: Tao Jones
Tamworth Country Music Festival, NSW
Plan a road trip to Tamworth for a heady dose of the best country music in the land. Along with ticketed concerts and the esteemed Golden Guitar awards, pubs, clubs and hotels throughout Tamworth spring to life with toe-tapping good times throughout the 10-day festival – even the main street is lined with buskers. Keith Urban kicked off his career here – the talent is no joke.
Splendour in the Grass, NSW
Byron Bay is buzzing any time of year, but for three days in July, it really comes alive. Go for the day or settle in for all three to soak up the tunes of an epic line-up of artists. Rock, indie, hip hop and pop all get a look-in, playing on multiple stages dotted around the picturesque venue.
Falls Festival, VIC/NSW/WA
Party your way into the new year with not just one music festival but three! Kick off in Melbourne, ring in the new year in Byron Bay, then keep the party going in Fremantle for two more days of fun. Falls Festival attracts artists from across the world to play all three venues, along with large and lively crowds.
Byron Bay Bluesfest, NSW
Blues and roots and happy vibes abound at this five-day festival, which attracts more than 100,000 music lovers over the Easter long weekend. Crowds have been basking in the talents of the world’s top performers at Bluesfest for more than 30 years, and keep coming back for more.
Don't see your favourite? Check out 7 music festivals worth travelling interstate for
Captivating writers' festivals
Image: Visit Victoria
Melbourne Writers’ Festival, VIC
Budding authors, fledgling poets and avid readers flock to the talks and events of this popular festival, where well-known scribes and thought leaders share their knowhow and opinions over the course of two weeks. A chance to revel in the magic of storytelling.
Sydney Writers’ Festival, NSW
During the Sydney Writers' Festival, wordsmiths and thinkers discuss their work and the pressing issues of our times in workshops and talks for lovers of the written word. Book in to go behind the scenes of your favourite novels and join the conversation in debates, panel discussions and interviews.
Festival of flowers
Image: Visit Canberra
More than a million carefully planted flowers bloom during Floriade every year in a true celebration of spring. The riot of colour is free to enjoy, with a series of themed garden designs lining the pathway through Canberra’s Commonwealth Park. Gnome painting competitions, tours and night-time concerts all add to the fun.
Laugh-a-minute comedy festivals
Image: Visit Victoria
Melbourne International Comedy Festival, VIC
Among the top-three biggest comedy festivals in the world, this hilarious festival attracts an all-star line-up of acts. Almost 700,000 people attend the festival each year, so get in early to snag a ticket to the stand-up, film, theatre and workshop events bound to make you laugh out loud.
Sydney Comedy Festival, NSW
Sketch, stand-up, satire, improv and musical acts are all on offer at this month-long comedy extravaganza. Along with big names from the international comedy scene, this festival makes a point of supporting emerging talent destined for comedy greatness.
Adelaide Fringe, SA
Expect more than belly laughs at this action-packed arts festival, the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. Take your pick of comedy shows, with the funniest people from across Australia (and around the world) taking to the stage. Events stretch across the state over 31 summer days, with cabaret, circus, street performers and visual art all yours to devour.
Words: Joanna Tovia
Read next: LGBTQIA+ Festivals Around Australia
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