New South Wales Best Festivals
Words by Katie James
In Australia, we’re blessed with some of the finest festivals the world has to offer. No matter what your interest or hobby, you can be guaranteed that somewhere, throughout the year, there’s a festival celebrating whatever it is you’re into.
So we’ve compiled a list of the best food, music, arts, sports, community, garden and indigenous festivals in each state.
This week, we are looking at the best festivals in New South Wales.
Food: Woolgoolga CurryFest
Woolgoolga, NSW, September
The beachside town of Woolgoolga, 20 minutes north of Coffs Harbour, is home to Australia’s largest regional Sikh/Punjabi population and has the first Sikh temple ever built in Australia. Woolgoolga Curryfest celebrates the cohesiveness and harmony between the Sikh culture and the wider community (as well as the excellent spices that make up traditional Punjabi cuisine).
There are over a hundred multicultural food and market stalls, loads of curries to sample, a Kids Zone, a Chillout Zone (where you can participate in mindfulness meditation and yoga), two stages jam-packed with local and international Punjabi entertainers, cooking demonstrations, short courses, workshops and henna tattooing. And at the end of the festival, the Vaisahki parade heads through the town as part of the traditional celebrations to spread the message of thankfulness and renewal.
There are so many ways to join in the fun, but being a cultural food festival, talented local chefs are celebrated in more ways than one. Curryfest is something different and fun for the whole family.
Byron Bay, April
Bluesfest is Australia’s premier blues and roots festival. Held each Easter in Byron Bay, ‘Blues’ hosts over 200 exceptional acts across seven stages, whilst still maintaining the laidback, alternative vibe that Byron is famous for. It also includes markets, multicultural food stalls, yoga ‘jams’ with some of the most reknowned musicians in the world, and an electric atmosphere amongst the crowd that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
This is a festival for all ages, and appeals to the very young as well as the ‘young at heart’. It’s not unusual to see small children dancing with their grandparents, amongst groups of scantily clad hippies, all enjoying the same music under the sun.
Bluesfest is an unforgettable experience that you’ll want to repeat again and again.
Tamworth Country Music Festival
One of Australia’s most celebrated events, this annual music festival has been counted amongst the top ten music festivals in the world. A celebration of all things country, the TCMF boasts over 2500 acts across 10 days in January-most of them free.
The pinnacle event of the festival is the CMAA Country Music Awards of Australia, when the ‘who’s who’ of Australian country music gathers with their fans to see who will win the famous Golden Guitar Awards.
There are over 600 buskers in Peel St alone, providing a diverse range of entertainment each day-so even if you’re not into country music, you’ll be sure to find a genre that suits your taste. It’s no wonder the festival attracts over 60,000 visitors each year.
Sports: Deni Ute Muster-Sept/Opt (Labour Day Long Weekend)
The Deniliguin ute muster is the largest of it’s kind in the world.
The idea of a festival celebrating the iconic Australian ute was originally created to encourage tourism during the towns quietest period. A small group of community-minded people suggested creating a Guiness World Record for the most number of utes in one place, to reflect the towns agricultural and rural history. The idea further developed to include a family camp out under the stars, with bush poetry and a camp oven dinner, and a country music concert to suit all age groups.
Nowadays the festival attracts over 25,000 people to the town to celebrate all things Australian, as well as the icon of the Ute. It now features two nightly concerts with some of the best Australian country and rock musicians, free camping on some of the flattest plains on earth, various ute driving competitions, a carnivale, wine bar, museums, and many other activities.
A new world record bid is set each year, bringing more and more visitors (and their utes) to the town. An iconic Australian festival that is not to be missed.
Flora/Fauna: The Jacaranda Festival, Grafton
Last weekend in October-1st weekend in November
The longest running floral festival in Australia always begins on the last weekend in October and finishes on the first weekend in November. The festival starts with the crowning of a new queen in an open ceremony under the beautifully lit mauve canopy of Jacaranda blooms.
There are plenty of activities to enjoy and spectacles to behold, but simply savouring the beautiful, almost surreal trees lining the streets with blooming Jacaranda is enough to start planning a visit.
Community: Old Bar Beach Festival
Old Bar, NSW, October Long Weekend
The Old Bar Beach Festival is an annual community event that attracts over 17,000 visitors each year. Held over the long weekend in October, the Kombi/Transporter swap meet is one of the major highlights of the festival. The number of Kombis that arrive at the festival has steadily increased since its inception in 2004, and many Kombi owners now make it an annual pilgrimage.
There is also a huge range of market stalls, food stalls, local wine and produce tasting, live music, fashion parades, childrens activities as well as fireworks displays to keep the entire family entertained.
Arts: Vivid Sydney
Vivid Sydney is one of the premier events in Australia. An 18 day festival of light, music and ideas, Vivid attracts crowds of over a million people from all over the world. Featuring an outdoor gallery of extraordinary lighting sculptures, a cutting edge music program, some of the worlds most important creative industry forums, and of course, the spectacular illumination of the Opera House.
One of the best and cheapest ways to see the light shows is on one of the Sydney ferries. You might be better off leaving your car near one of the wharves and take the ferry in-this event is huge and finding a park in the city can be a nightmare! It’s a magical evening out and a wonderful way to appreciate the creative spirit of the city.