The top 9 sporting events in Australia
Australian Open Tennis Grand Slam, Melbourne
Image: Visit Victoria
In January, tennis lovers turn their eyes to Melbourne as the world’s greatest tennis players vie for the honour of winning the Australian Open championship (and taking home the multi-million dollar pay check). Known as the “Happy Slam”, this event has an ultra-fun summer vibe thanks to the precinct being packed with things to do (other than watch tennis). You can sip cocktails in the sun, catch a live music performance and eat some genuinely good food too. Centre court tickets are pricy and hard to come by, so buy a day pass instead to experience the slam without breaking the bank.
Where to stay: Book your stay at YHA Melbourne Central early – this is a popular time to be in Melbourne.
This 14km run through Sydney has been going strong for 50 years and lays claim to being the world’s biggest fun run. Drawing a wide range of people from super-fit competitive runners to locals dressed up in outrageous costumes, the City2Surf does what it says on the box: the course runs from the centre of the city to the surf of Bondi Beach. If you’re fit and keen to give it go, then why not sign up and take part in the iconic race yourself? If you’d prefer to stay sweat-free and avoid the pain of ascending “Heartbreak Hill”, then cheer on others from the sidelines. To many locals, the City2Surf is much more than a fun run; it’s also a social event and chance to fundraise for a good cause. If you want to get to the heart of what Sydney’s about, be sure to catch a glimpse of this race when you’re visiting.
Where to stay: The start of the race is only 15-minutes’ walk from YHA Sydney Central
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
Image: Paul Balfe via Flickr
This historic, 628 nautical mile yacht race which kicks off on Boxing Day is one of those rare sporting events that you can attend for free. If you’re in Sydney, head to coastal lookouts along North or South Head to see the yachts as they race their way down south. Know someone with a boat? Claim the ultimate bragging rights by being on the water with the fleet as the race starts.
If you’ll be in Hobart a few days after the race starts, then head to Battery Point to witness the joy and elation of the crews as they cross the finish line after an epic sail across what is usually a treacherous stretch of sea.
Where to stay: YHA Sydney Harbour is a great place to base yourself to watch the start of the race, YHA Hobart Central is a short walk from where the yachts cross the finish line.
Formula One Grand Prix, Melbourne
If you love the thrills and drama of the Formula One GP, then don’t miss the chance to see the devastatingly quick cars in action at Albert Park. Usually held in late March, adrenaline-loving fans from far and wide descend on Melbourne to see their favourite drivers race around the track. Apart from the race itself, there’s plenty of other highlights including a RAAF jet flyover, live music acts, Q & A sessions with drivers and fireworks displays.
Where to stay: YHA Melbourne Central is just a short tram ride from Albert Park.
NRL State of Origin
During winter, a series of three, hotly contested rugby league matches stoke fierce competition between the people of New South Wales and Queensland. The Blues (NSW) and the Maroons (QLD) go head-to-head to battle it out for the glory of being named State of Origin champions. With state pride on the line, expect plenty of passion on both sides. If this sounds like fun, pick a side and book your tickets well in advance. The games are held in various destinations (usually Sydney, Brisbane and a third, sometimes neutral, city) but do often sell out well ahead of time.
Where to stay: YHA Sydney Harbour and YHA Sydney Central are both near public transport for getting to a game, while YHA Brisbane City practically next door to Suncorp Stadium.
Tour Down Under, South Australia
Image: South Australian Tourism Commission
The international pro cycling calendar kicks off the year in South Australia with the Tour Down Under, the biggest cycling race in the Southern Hemisphere which attracts elite riders from all over the world. Watch the peloton cover the state’s varied terrain, from bucolic wine regions to stunning coastlines, or if you’re in Adelaide then head to the family-friendly tour village in the centre of the city. Here you can meet elite cyclists, watch expert panel talks, see mechanics working on bikes and watch a live stream of the race on the main stage.
Where to stay: YHA Adelaide Central is within walking distance of the tour village.
The word ‘football’ can mean many different things in Australia depending on who you’re talking to. Regardless of what game you’re talking about, in most states you’ll be able to catch a footy final sometime in September when footy fever grips the nation. Whether it’s AFL (Aussie Rules), A-League (soccer) or NRL (rugby league), the finals are always entertaining. Can’t get a ticket? Watch it at a pub or live site – a local will likely explain the rules to you!
Where to stay: Book YHA Melbourne Central or YHA Sydney Central in advance if you’re heading to a footy final at Melbourne's MCG or AAMI Park, or the SCG in Sydney.
Boxing Day Test, Melbourne
Image: Visit Victoria
Attending a Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is a rite of passage for many cricket lovers. Slip on a hat, cover yourself in sunscreen and don’t forget to bring your sunglasses, as watching test match cricket usually means a long day in the blazing sun. From New Zealand to India, Sri Lanka, England, South Africa and the West Indies, the Australians play a different team every year. Importantly, every second year, the Aussies battle the Brits for The Ashes trophy. If you’ve ever wanted to hear the Barmy Army sing, banter and cheer in person, this is your chance.
Where to stay: YHA Melbourne Central is within striking distance of the MCG.
World Surfing Championships
Surfing sits at the heart of Australia’s coastal communities, so it’s no surprise that several global surfing championships are hosted at Australia’s famous surf breaks. There’s the Margaret River Pro in Western Australia, the Quicksilver and Roxy Pro on the Gold Coast and the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach in Victoria. While you’ll need a ticket, these events are pretty casual so once you’re in just kick off your shoes and sit in the sand to take it all in. Whether you’re a surfer yourself or just keen to experience a slice of Aussie surf culture, get along to the championships to see the world’s greatest surfers carve up the swell.
Where to stay: Book YHA Coolangatta, YHA Margaret River or YHA Apollo Bay Eco ahead of time – these championships draw a crowd to town.
Words: Jo Stewart
Too 'normal' for you? Have a peek at these oddball Aussie sporting events (you've probably never heard of).
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