Eight quirky Aussie events you have to attend at least once

Australians love a good festival. Day in day out across this vast country of ours, something is being celebrated somewhere, and the quirkier that something is, the better! From divas and diamantes in the desert, to beer can boat races and prize-winning vanilla slices, here are eight fabulous festivities that all offer something a little different. Book accommodation for each of these events at ChoiceHotels.com.

1. Beer Can Regatta, Darwin

With its tropical climate, a cold beer goes down a treat in Darwin, and for almost half a century the ‘empties’ have been put to good use every year at the famous Beer Can Regatta. Held on Mindil Beach in August, contestants race in boats (and we use the term fairly loosely) constructed of cans, vying for prize money and prestige. Proceeds benefit different community and charity organisations each year. There are plenty of beach-based activities alongside the battles that take place on the water.

Need a place to stay? Quality Hotel Darwin Airport offers contemporary accommodation, a tropical-style pool, and close proximity to Mindil Beach.

Beer Can Regatta, Darwin. Image courtesy of Tourism NT. Image – Chris Frankenfeld

2. Elvis Festival, Parkes

Elvis may have left the building permanently back in 1977, but that hasn’t deterred his legion of Aussie fans from coiffing up year after year and partying hard at the annual Parkes Elvis Festival, which kicks off on the singer’s birthday on January 8. The festival incorporates hundreds of events – everything from line dancing lessons to Elvis bingo, and of course, plenty of tribute acts that channel the King’s trademark moves.

Elvis Festival, Parkes. Image courtesy of Destination NSW

3. The Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph, Merbein (Mildura)

You’d have to travel a long way to find an Aussie who doesn’t love a vanilla slice. True aficionados of what has been a culinary staple on family road trips for generations, flock to Merbein outside the Victorian city of Mildura each year in August for the annual Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph. The event brings bakers from across the region together to show off their slices and hopefully take home the sweetest of honours.

Need a place to stay? Browse Mildura accommodation options

The Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph. Image courtesy of Mildura City Heart

4. Woolgoolga Curryfest (Coffs Harbour)

Australia offers a packed calendar of annual food festivals, but they don’t come any spicier or with more colour than the fabulous Woolgoolga Curryfest – held in the small beachside town of the same name just north of Coffs Harbour in September. The town’s rich Punjabi Sikh heritage, which dates back to the earliest waves of migration from India to Australia in the late 1800s, gave rise to the festival 15 years ago. Today, around 15,000 people pack the town for the event, which is a celebration of food, culture and community diversity.

Need a place to stay? Browse Coffs Harbour accommodation options

Woolgoolga Curryfest. Image courtesy of Destination NSW

5. Mary Poppins Festival, Maryborough (Hervey Bay)

The practically-perfect-in-every-way Mary Poppins has been charming us all for decades, but did you know that the author of the original books, P. L. Travers, was born in Maryborough in Queensland’s Fraser Coast region? You do now. And every year in June/July the 8-day Mary Poppins Festival celebrates the life of the author and her famous flying nanny. Much-loved events include the Great Nanny Challenge, the Chimney Sweep Dash, and if the wind is up, plenty of kite flying.

Need a places to stay? Located just a half-hour drive from Maryborough, Comfort Inn on Main Hervey Bay features 28 newly refurbished and air-conditioned rooms. Guests enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi and use of the hotel’s in-ground pool.

6. Broken Heel Festival, Broken Hill

The film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is careening towards its 30-year anniversary, and the legacy of this ground-breaking Aussie flick lives on in the stage production of the same name, and at much-loved LGBT events like Broken Hill’s annual Broken Heel Festival. Fans of the film will of course remember the classic scenes shot in Broken Hill’s muralled Palace Hotel. Held in September, the festival incorporates three stages, and features a diverse line-up of comedy, cabaret, and themed social activities.

Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn Crystal is located right in the heart of Broken Hill and offers 42 comfortably furnished rooms. Walk to festival events with ease.

7. Crab Fest, Mandurah (Perth)

As regional events go, they don’t get much bigger than the award-winning Crab Fest in Mandurah south of Perth, which at its heart celebrates the very tasty native blue manna crab, but also the broader culinary, cultural, and creative credentials of this sublime coastal enclave. One hundred thousand people can’t be wrong; this event on the Eastern Foreshore is a real crowd pleaser and features a great line-up of live music, cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs, and family entertainment. Oh, and plenty of delicious crab!

Need a place to stay? Browse Perth accommodation options

8. Abbey Medieval Festival, Caboolture (Brisbane)

They say chivalry is a thing of the past (along with chain mail, jousting, and those cute cone hats with the veils) but that’s certainly not the case at the annual Abbey Medieval Festival, which takes place in July in Caboolture north of Brisbane. Held at the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology, passionate re-enactors bring life in the Middle Ages back to life, with costumed battles, knightings, cultural performances, period fare from ye olde food vendors, and much more.

Need a place to stay? Browse Brisbane accommodation options

Image courtesy of Abbey Medieval Festival. Image – Ken Huntley

Some of the other quirky festivals that deserve a mention include MulletFest, Ironfest, Thirlmere Festival of Steam, Henley On Todd Regatta, Winton Outback Festival, Trundle ABBA Festival, Leeton Sunrice Festival, and the Alice Springs Beanie Festival.

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. 

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