January 26th is just around the corner, meaning there’s no time like the present to make your Australia Day long weekend plans. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the best celebrations in each capital city, including everything from family-minded festivals to true-blue Aussie traditions and pub-based fun.
Yabun Festival: Kick the day off with a visit to Yabun Festival to celebrate all things Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Packed to the brim with bustling market stalls, fun stuff for the kids, and live music at Victoria Park in Camperdown, this is one free festival bound to blow your socks off.
Ferrython: Another winning option is Ferrython, where you can join in the buzz of activity on Sydney Harbour. Book a spot aboard one of Sydney’s beloved ferries as they make their famous dash from Fort Denison, around Shark Island and back to the finish line under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Tickets ($55 adults; $35 children) may include bragging rights. The ferries will be colourfully dressed in honour of their namesakes – May Gibbs, Catherine Hamlin, Victor Chang and Pemulwuy.
Insider Tip: Those less sea-faring can watch the action from the rooftop of The Glenmore hotel in The Rocks. The harbour views from here are awesome, the bar staff are friendly, and the beats will be pumping.
Flotilla Parties: It wouldn’t be Australia Day in Sydney without impromptu flotilla parties popping up at various beaches along the coastline. Bondi and Rose Bay are your best bets so pack your lilo, slap on some sunscreen, and bring some snags for the barbie.
The Australian Open: We Aussies love our sport and those of us lucky enough to be in Melbourne on the 26th have the option of spending the day at the Australian Open. As well as the women’s semi finals, spectators can enjoy all the associated entertainment. If you’re sticking around for the long weekend, you’ll be able to catch the Finals Festival from January 27to 29, with dialled-up entertainment, celebrity guests, and great food and bevvies.
Open Day at Government House: Bring your own picnic to enjoy in the grounds of Government House. The State Apartments will be open for self-guided tours, and there’ll be roving entertainment and food and drink vendors. A program of events will be held at Federation Square as well.
Australia Day Cockroach Race: The Story Bridge Hotel’s famous Australia Day cockroach races are now in their 40th year. Weird, wacky and wonderful, the event has stadium-style seating, corporate boxes, pop-up bars, live bands and a best-dressed competition.
Thong Throwing & Pie Eating: Over at The Paddo, there’ll be thong throwing and pie eating contests, a beer pong table and live music from 3pm. OR try the Lamo eating contest at Sutton's Beach!
Great Australian Bites: Riverside Green at South Bank Parklands will come alive with a food-filled edition of Great Australian Bites. Pop-up stalls will serve delicious food from popular vendors, while home-grown performers will hit the stage for a dynamic program of music and family-friendly fun.
Fringe World: Australia Day is smack bang in the middle of festival giant Fringe World, a celebration of summer and entertainment in all its forms. On the 26th you can choose from a line-up of comedy, cabaret, Irish storytelling, or having a laugh with Kenyan-Australian comic Vincent Tshaka. His show ‘Australianised’ celebrates all the things that make us laugh and groan.
City of Light Show: Head down to Langley Park from 3pm for food trucks, family entertainment, and a City of Light Show at 8pm including a special drone show and fireworks. Unlike previous years, there’ll be no afternoon or evening activities at South Perth Foreshore, but there’ll still be a morning ceremony and Great Aussie Breakfast.
Adina Barrack Plaza is the perfect spot to base yourself for the celebrations.
Lights on the Lake: A captivating light and laser show will be projected onto Lake Burley Griffin in a new event being held in Commonwealth Place over four nights from January 25 to 28. Lights on the Lake will play three times each night, the first beginning just after sundown. The 12-minute spectacle is a free community event.
Commonwealth Park: Australia Day celebrations will kick off at 10.30am in Commonwealth Park, and the park will be buzzing all day with live music across multiple stages, food tents and cultural activities, including an Indigenous Art Market.
National Museum Australia: A 10am smoking ceremony with Ngambri-Ngunnawal custodian Paul House will kick off Family Day at the National Museum. Music and dance performances, storytelling and other fun activities will continue until 2pm, followed by a First Nations Concert at 6pm as the sun goes down.
Check into the stylish A by Adina Canberra, right in the heart of the CBD.
Celebrations by the water are tops for Australia Day on the Apple Isle, with the two best options being Kingston’s Day on the Beach and the Sandy Bay Regatta. The first has an epic sandcastle comp, inflatable thong race, giant slide, food and free entertainment, while the second hosts Hobart’s citizenship ceremony, water sports of all kinds, and landlubbing activities such as good ole tug-o-war, sack races, and a pie eating contest.
The Vibe Hotel Hobart is within easy reach of the city’s historic waterfront.
Belonging to Country and Connecting to Nature are the themes of Aus Lights on the River, being held on Wednesday and Thursday, 25 to 26 January. The two-day program showcases the South Australian story through immersive installations and events, with special activities for kids, food and live entertainment, fireworks, a First Nations-led Sunset Ceremony, and a ‘Respecting Country’ parade.
Adina Apartment Hotel Adelaide Treasury is a gorgeous historic building with well-equipped apartments that are perfect for a long weekend.
Australia Day Ute Run: As far as competitive sports go, thong tossing is pretty much as Aussie as it gets. It’s just one of the true blue activities on offer at the Australia Day Ute Run. Here, participants and spectators are treated to some of the most imaginative uses for ute trays we’ve ever come across, from BBQs to portable pools. All proceeds from the day go to children’s charity, Variety.
The Festival of Us: World para surfing champion, Sam Bloom, the inspiration behind the film ‘Penguin Bloom’, will speak at The Festival of Us, headlining a celebration of Australia’s incredible diversity. To be held at the Territory Netball Stadium on January 26, the program will also include award-winning musicians, dance performances, visual arts, storytelling, kids’ activities and food stalls.
Australia Day Fun Run: If you wake up feeling active, the Australia Day Fun Run is a great way to start the day. After an easy 2.5 or 5km run you’ll find yourself at the waterfront where you’ll be perfectly placed to enjoy a lazy beachside serve of fish and chips, cooling off with dips in the lagoon every so often. Lilos and various flotation devices are strongly encouraged.
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