Guide to Australia’s best festivals

By Elin Tough

As Bestival plays out the last big festival of the year in the UK and music fans start wiping down their boots for next April, our Aussie friends are gearing up for their own summer of warm beer and field dancing. Aussie festivals are in full swing during the UK winter – aka, when the likes of Glasto and Reading are nothing but a distant, halcyon memory – so if you’re planning a trip to the southern hemisphere make sure you time your visit just right. EDM (electronic dance music) is absolutely massive down under and thanks to this the Australian festival scene is thriving, with this year being the biggest yet. Local and international artists add indie, rock, folk, country and pop to the mix and those sun-drenched Aussies really know how to party. Think seriously hot bands in seriously cool locations that you can instagram the crap out of and stir up some serious FOMO back home while you’re at it. Win, win!

Sydney local, Elin Tough, has the definitive guide to six of Australia’s best festivals:


Photo: James O’Connor

Where: Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne
When: 23, 24, 26 January, 2016
Entry price: AU$155.84 (£74)
Like your music hard and heavy? Then this one-dayer across three state capitals has your name written all over it. The festival attracts a mix of heavyweight international and Aussie rock, metal and punk bands – previous headliners include Green Day, Queens of the Stone Age, Faith No More, Metallica, Slipknot and Soundgarden. Imagine up to 35,000 metal heads moshing in a stadium – basically a headbanger’s wet dream.


Photo: James O’Connor

Where: Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane
When: 28, 29 November, 5, 6 December, 2015
Entry price: AU$159.95 (£75.50)
Take 60,000 EDM fans in teeny tiny shorts, throw in some glow sticks and over 45 live DJ sets over 12 hours and you’ve got yourself one hell of a party. Like a long weekend in Ibiza crammed into one day, over the last six years, Stereosonic has attracted some of the world’s biggest names in electro, dance and trance music, from David Guetta and Calvin Harris, to Deadmau5, Tiesto and Avicii. This year’s event will welcome the likes of Diplo, Duke Dumont, Major Lazer and Armin van Buuren. The perfect festival if you want to dance yourself silly at a mad party without it eating into too much of your holiday time.

Woodford Folk Festival

Photo: Christian Bowman

Where: Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland
When: 27 December, 2015 – 1 January, 2016
Entry price: Season ticket with camping AU$554 (£262), Day ticket AU$119 (£56)
If you prefer your festivals a little more mellow, try this six day extravaganza of folk music, street theatre, comedy, film, dance, cabarets, circus acts and artist workshops over 35 different performance venues. Attracting a diverse, international audience of all ages, the vibe is low-key and arty. It’s pretty too as the event is set in a rural valley surrounded by bushland, so expect tree-lined campgrounds, lots of wildlife and a great view of the Glass House Mountains. This year is Woodford’s 30th anniversary, so it’s likely to be a cracker.

The Falls Music & Arts Festival

The Roots. Photo: David Burke

Where: Lorne, Victoria/Marion Bay, Tasmania/ Byron Bay
When: December 29 – 3rd January 2016
Entry price: AU$424 (£200) including camping.
Australia’s New Year’s Eve festivities might be synonymous with the fireworks on Sydney Harbour Bridge, but why spend hours sandwiched between strangers for a few minutes of pyrotechnics when you could be ringing in the new year to a brilliant band and ticking another Aussie location off your travel list in the process? It’s a no brainer! A great choice if you want to sample some of the best Australian artists from lots of different genres, peppered with some big international crowd-pleasers such as Bloc Party, Disclosure and Young Fathers. There are lots of arts and crafts projects to get involved with too, should you feel like flexing your creative muscle while you’re there.


Parliament Funkadelic. Photo: Beaver on the Beats

Where: Byron Bay, NSW
When: 24–28 March, 2016
Entry price: Five-day pass AU$525 (£247), Day ticket AU$179
Probably the most well-known Aussie festival thanks to the calibre of artists it attracts – Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Robert Plant, James Brown, John Legend and Ben Harper have all topped the bill. This five-day Easter celebration of blues and roots music boasts over 200 performances across seven stages – no wonder the crowd has swelled from 6,000 at the first event back in 1990 to over 100,000 annually. The super safe, relaxed, friendly vibe, as well as the smorgasbord of food stalls, beer gardens and kids entertainment, make it a great choice for families or mixed groups who just want to kick back and enjoy some seriously cool music.

Splendour in the grass

Photo: James O’Connor

Where: Byron Bay, NSW
When: TBC, July 2016
Entry price: TBC
Probably Australia’s biggest winter festival, but don’t let that put you off. Winter in this part of the world is pretty mild, so you can still bust out your classic summer festival garb. Just don’t forget your wellies – the site is essentially a big field (with a pretty impressive natural, grassy amphitheatre around the main stage) and a little rain can result in mud of Glastonbury proportions. The timing of this multi-genre three-dayer means that it attracts some of the biggest bands en route to European festival season. Recent headliners include Mark Ronson, Florence and the Machine, Kanye West and Coldplay, and this year saw Britpop legends Blur close the show with an epic 90 minute set. Splendour is also a great way to see the famous hippie beach town of Byron Bay should you choose to pass on the camping and use the festival shuttle bus to get to and from the site each day. Much of that New Age vibe can be enjoyed at the festival too, with plenty of boho clothes stalls, craft workshops (DIY dream catcher anyone?) and even a tipi forest where you can rave all day among fire twirlers, acrobats and tie-dye wearing EDM fans. It’s a massively popular festival though, with tickets usually selling out within minutes – so get in quick!

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Fab photos by James O’Connor

** Ticket prices are subject to change

About the guest author

elin tough woman's day

Elin Tough

Elin Tough is lifestyle editor at Woman's Day, Australia

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