1 Darwin Festival Aug10-27 (the NIMAS: Aug 6)
What is it? Darwin’s festival of live performance and visual art floods the city with everything from cabaret to Central Desert paintings, and includes the National Indigenous Music Awards.
When should I book? For the best deals on accommodation and flights, book before July. The festival line-up is announced in late June, with tickets on sale shortly afterwards.
Past highlights Gurrumul winning his fifth Artist of the Year award at the NIMAS last year; the Indigenous-run Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (back again this year); National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Indigenous Art Awards (also back this year). Òwww. darwinfestival.org.au. 2 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week Aug 19-26.
What is it? A super-luxe offshore keelboat regatta (read: week-long yacht party) with feasts, fashion shows, celebrities and cocktail parties, all held in the Whitsundays.
When should I book? Ideally you’ll have reserved accommodation and flights by midApril – the island books out for Race Week.
Past highlights A Paspaley-sponsored white lunch at resort Qualia; the chance to casually bump into Richard Roxburgh; a starlit dinner party catered by GOMA’S Josh Lopez. Òwww. hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au. 3 Parrtjima: A Festival of Light Sep 22-Oct 1
What is it? An installation festival that uses the Northern Territory’s 300-million-year-old Macdonnell Ranges as a natural backdrop and brings Indigenous stories to life.
When should I book? Register to attend one of two free sessions each night (6.308.30pm or 8.30-10.30pm) via Parrjtima’s website in advance, or on the day you wish to attend. Be early to book your hire car and accommodation in Alice Springs.
Past highlight Last year’s inaugural event featured Range of Expression, a glass booth that let visitors take control of lights projected over 2.5km. Òwww. parrtjimaaustralia.com.au. 4 Margaret River Gourmet Escape Nov 16-19
What is it? World-famous chefs come together to cook, teach, guide and answer your burning culinary questions while you eat and drink until you’re fit to burst.
When should I book? The festival gets about 20,000 visitors each year, so it’s worth booking early if you plan to head out west.
Past highlights International luminaries of the culinary world join domestic rockstars for the festival each year. Last year Nigella Lawson joined Dominique Crenn, Rick Stein and David Thompson as headline talent, but people also go for the cocktail parties on the beach, forest feasts and all the wine. Òwww. gourmetescape.com.au. 5 Woodford Folk Festival Dec 27-Jan 1
What is it? A festival where you can let your freak flag fly with comedy, workshops, circus, cabaret, electronica, Indigenous arts, markets, installations, food stalls and music.
When should I book? To get your pick it’s best to book early (tickets are already on sale).
Past highlights Michael Franti, Gotye, Hermitude, Archie Roach, the Cat Empire, John Butler Trio and Julia Stone. The festival also stretches out your New Year celebrations a little longer by having their famous fire ceremony on New Year’s Night. Òwoodfordfolkfestival. com. 6 MOFO Late Jan 2018 (TBC)
What is it? A festival of experimental music, art and feasting centred around Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art.
When should I book? You can get cheap flights to Hobart up to three months before the festival, although it’s better to book accommodation as soon as dates are announced in September.
Past highlights Late-night parties featuring screenings by Soda_jerk and rave caves filled with naked dancers at afterparty Faux Mo; Peaches performing the entirety of
Jesus Christ Superstar, solo. Òmofo. net.au. 7 Splore Feb 23-25 2018
What is it? New Zealand’s biggest, wildest three-day art and music festival (local and international acts), set on the stupidly scenic, beachside Tapapakanga Regional Park, 70km south of Auckland.
When should I book? Tickets went on sale in June, with early bird tickets selling out within 24 hours. Standard and tier one tickets are still available, however.
Past highlights Erykah Badu pelting the crowd with exercise balls; the annual 8,000-person costume party. Òwww. splore.net. 8 Perth International Arts Festival Feb 9-Mar 4 2018 What is it? This festival is known for a strong focus on local content, dance and visual arts.
It coincides with Perth’s Fringe World festival and incorporates Perth Writers Festival.
When should I book? The program will be announced on November 9, so buy tickets to major shows as an early Christmas present to yourself. Book flights and accommodation as soon as you have your tickets.
Past highlights Tony Award-winner Richard Nelson’s epic play cycle The Gabriels. But the opening night event is worth travelling for in itself. Òperthfestival. com.au.
9 Adelaide Festival + Fringe
Adelaide Festival 2018: Mar 2-18. Writers’ Week 2018: Mar 3-8. Adelaide Fringe 2018: Feb 16-Mar 18.
What is it? Adelaide Festival spans art, dance, theatre and music – and now includes Adelaide Writers’ Week. When should I book? The program is released in October, and major shows can sell out as early as December. You’ll also want to be organised four months in advance with accommodation (Clipsal 500 is on too).
Past highlights This year they broke box office records and scored raves for Richard 3 from Berlin’s Schaubühne and Saul by Komische Oper artistic director Barrie Kosky. Òwww. adelaidefestival.com.au; www.adelaidefringe.com.au.
10 Sydney Writers’ Festival Apr 30-May 6 2018
What is it? In a week of talks, workshops and performances, the SWF brings together more than 400 international and Australian writers from authors of best-selling fiction to TV scriptwriters and spoken word poets.
When should I book? Tickets generally go on sale just over a month prior to the festival.
Past highlights The 2017 event had Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth praising the young for their passionate resistence, Clementine Ford on rape culture, and former child soldier Deng Adut on how he took back his freedom and his soul. Òwww. swf.org.au.
11 Vivid Sydney Late May-mid-june 2018
What is it? The largest winter festival in the Southern Hemisphere. It attracted a recordbreaking 2.3 million visitors in 2016 for its program of free light projections and ticketed music and ideas events, staged at Sydney Opera House and neighbouring venues.
When should I book? Tickets usually go on sale for concerts and talks in mid-march (Vivid Light projections are free and not ticketed). Book flights and accommodation in February for the best deals.
Past highlights In 2017 there were performances by Goldfrapp, Air, Laura Marling, Nick Murphy, Beth Orton and the Preatures, and a block party starring the Avalanches. Artist Shepard ‘Hope’ Fairey spoke about street art culture, and light installations stretched from the Botanic Gardens to Darling Harbour. Òwww. vividsydney.com.
12 Queenstown Winter Festival
Jun 23-24 2018 What is it? A weekend winter festival on the South Island with food, live music, suitcase bobsledding and a black tie ball. When should I book? Tickets go on sale at the start of May, but you should book your accommodation and flights in April.
Past highlights Fireworks displays on opening night, a freezing lake swim, and a whole lot of dogs frolicking in the snow at the annual Dog Derby. Òwww. winterfestival.co.nz.
13 Huon Valley Mid-winter Fest Mid-jul 2018
What is it? A wild pagan festival in the green, frosty hills of Tasmania’s Huon Valley, an hour west of Hobart. Guests can feast by the fire on produce from Tasmania’s best producers, wineries and cider breweries.
When should I book? Tickets go on sale around April. Book accommodation, flights and tickets at least two months in advance.
Past highlights There is something more than a little bit magical about gathering by a huge bonfire under the full moon then watching as a towering pagan effigy catches fire. Òwww. huonvalleymidwinterfest.com.au.
Margaret River Gourmet Escape Splore Woodford Folk Festival