Australian festivals to check out in 2016

Posted by Christine Thelander December 3rd 2015

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We love celebrations with a passion, which might explain why we create so many unique events in this country. Every year, the ‘What’s On’ calendar is bursting with festivals that range from the iconic – think Byron Bay Bluesfest, Stawell Gift, WOMAdelaide, Noosa Food & Wine Festival – to the weird and wacky outback events – think Henley-on-Todd Regatta, World Championship Lizard Races, Deniliquin Ute Muster, Birdsville Races.

Whatever your taste in entertainment, food, fun or sports, there are stacks of ways you and your family can enjoy the best Australia has to offer with world-class beach, bush, regional and major city celebrations just a stone’s throw away. Why not make it a resolution to try out a new festival or event in 2016 and expand your pleasure horizons?

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Here are a few (with the emphasis on few) festivals to consider.

Tunarama Festival, South Australia

22-26 January 2016

Who else but the locals at the deep-sea fishing town of Port Lincoln could turn tuna tossing into an art form of similar fascination to Olympic hammer throwing? Add four days and nights of fun – street parades, gala ball, fireworks over the jetty, beach bods competitions, music, kids’ camel rides on the beach – and you’ve got nearly all ingredients for an Australia Day weekend to remember.

Want some gourmet dining? Tunarama has that covered, too. If you love fine seafood, the Long Table serves up a sunset meal on the beach fit for a king. Prepared by the state’s finest chefs, you can tuck into everything Port Lincoln is famous for – rock lobster, prawns, yellowtail kingfish, sand crab, abalone, black mussels and more.

For more mouth-watering details on the World Championship Tuna Toss Competition, keep an eye on www.tunarama.net

Apple and Grape Harvest Festival, Queensland

26 February-6 March 2016

Around 80,000 people are expected to flock to the 2016 Apple and Grape Harvest Festival – the 50th Anniversary – at Stanthorpe, in the heart of the Granite Belt wine and produce region just north of the New Sales Wales border. This is one of Australia’s longest-running and most successful festivals and worth seeking out if you haven’t been before. The festival kicks off with a street market, followed by 7 days of activities culminating in 3 huge days from 4-6 March.

You can expect street parades, bands, entertainment, street performers, poets, fireworks and, of course, the ever-popular Grape Crush where celebrities go head-to-head, or should I say toe-to-toe, to compete for the title of Queensland Grape Crushing Champion. Add a Roman-themed Gala Ball, Market in the Mountain and for the energetic, a 90 km bike ride from Glenlyon Dam to Storm King dam and I’m sure you’re getting the idea that there is plenty to occupy the whole family at this festival.

For more details, check out www.appleandgrape.org

Orange F.O.O.D. Week, New South Wales

8-17 April 2016

The shires of Orange, Cabonne and Blayney are known as ‘The Food Basket’ of New South Wales and each year F.O.O.D. Week (Food Of Orange District) supports local produce and ‘fine food’ with an annual event held over ten days.  2016 will be Orange F.O.O.D. Week’s 25th anniversary – reason enough to make the trip and over-indulge in the 80-plus events during the festival. As if you need a reason!

Showcasing the producers, their products, the local chefs and restaurants, and other enterprises that provide the region with its great reputation for fine food and wine, you’ll come away with lasting memories of a true gourmet experience – not to mention in-depth knowledge from the region’s chefs, cooks, cafes, providores and producers.

For more details as they come to hand, www.orangefoodweek.com.au

Ningaloo Whaleshark Festival, Western Australia

26-29 May 2016

No, it’s not an eat-fest – the Ningaloo Whaleshark Festival celebrates the yearly migration of whalesharks as they travel to the pristine waters of Ningaloo Reef at Exmouth in the west.The Whaleshark Festival is for all ages and is possibly the only event in honour of that unique, spectacular creature, the whale shark, which is recognised both nationally and internationally.

The festival kicks off with free family movies and entertainment in the park. Other activities include market stalls, a film festival, art exhibitions, beach games, sports and a family evening with live music. The highlight, of course, is the opportunity to spend a day out on Ningaloo Reef whale sharking under the guidance of Exmouth’s swim tour operators.

To keep tabs on what’s happening, go to www.ningaloowhalesharkfestival.com

Alice Springs Beanie Festival, Northern Territory

24-27 June 2016

Only in the Territory could they have an event that celebrates the great Australian ‘fashion’ icon, the beanie. Would you believe, more than 4,000 beanies are displayed and available for sale, with workshops and demonstrations throughout the weekend event!

In 2016, the Alice Springs Beanie Festival is celebrating two decades of warm and woolly friendship and creativity at the festival, themed ‘Spirit of the Land’ to recognise our desert, forest, coast, bush and urban landscapes. Truly a feast for the senses, the festival long weekend has something for everyone. The opening night promises a carnival atmosphere at the Araluen Arts Centre, blending music, dance, food and art. Throughout the weekend, workshops offer opportunities to share in the creativity and diversity of textile arts and crafts. A favourite with the crowd is the beanie chase to find the perfect beanie in Beanie Central. So kit up and get ready for some wonderful cross-cultural experiences at this very different festival.

For more info, go to www.beaniefest.org

Echuca Moama Winter Blues Festival, Victoria

29-31 July 2016

Bring on the winter blues – the Echuca Moama Winter Blues Festival has become a feature event on the nation’s blues calendar. On the last weekend in July, the cream of Australian Blues artists converge on Echuca Moama for a spectacular weekend of music and entertainment in the clubs, hotels, restaurants and streets.

Visitors to this much loved festival can soak up the blues and roots atmosphere from every street corner, restaurants and bars. You can expect over forty blues and roots artists, 145 performances, filling 30-plus venues across Echuca Moama. The great appeal is that you can walk from venue to venue to see your favourite artists. The fact that the vast majority of the blues and roots music is free is still a major drawcard for the festival.

While you’re in Echuca Moama, why not make the most of the magnificent Murray River and take a ride on a paddle steamer, enjoy a glass of wine from the local wineries and a gourmet meal at any number of top restaurants. But, be warned, accommodation books out early.

Keep up to date on www.winterblues.com.au

Floriade, Canberra

10 September-9 October 2016

Floriade is the largest flower festival in the southern hemisphere and is a world-class floral extravaganza. It heralds the arrival of spring and since 1988 has been held alongside Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra’s Commonwealth Park.

The displays involve more than one million bulbs and annuals, which bloom and change throughout the month-long event – which is free to attend. The colourful blooms create a stunning backdrop to an event overflowing with music, cultural celebrations, horticultural workshops, artistic displays, entertainment and recreational activities. It’s no surprise that Floriade attracts more than 400,000 people each year.

Each week of the event is themed and showcases celebrity talks, tips and demonstrations. After dark, the Floriade Nightfest takes over. This is a ticketed twilight event that features astonishing lighting shows, famous comedians, roving entertainment and bustling night markets.

Watch for details and 2016 themes at www.floriadeaustralia.com

Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival (BOFA), Tasmania

6-13 November 2016

You may not have caught up with this one yet, but if you are a film buff, BOFA has much to offer. Held at four venues in Launceston, the Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival delivers the world’s best festival films including features, docos, foodie and family films, as well as eco and ideas films, not forgetting the quirky and bizarre. It’s a mixed bag and exactly what film lovers crave.

BOFA is 5 days of glamourous red-carpet events, impassioned discussion with film makers about innovation and social change and, of course, incredible films. The programme for 2016 is yet to be announced but if you’re keen on a trip to Tassie and are looking for an excuse, this is it.

Find out more on www.bofa.com.au