In addition to its annual headline acts (which include Sculpture by the Sea, Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, Byron Bay Bluesfest, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and the world’s best NYE party – thank you, Sydney), the country will also play host to the Ashes Cricket Series 2017/2018 and co-host the Rugby World Cup Series alongside New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Here’s your guide to the year to come...
There’s no better time to be in Adelaide than Fringe, a madcap month-long celebration of the arts. The Southern Hemisphere’s largest open-access arts festival will take place from 17 February until 19 March 2017, with shows, installations and other events transforming the city’s alleyways, tents, pubs, laundromats, abandoned hospitals and other unusual spaces. Anyone can take part, as long as what they’re doing is legal; if you’ve got a script up your sleeve, now’s the time to dust it off...
Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe: Perth
Welcome to the world’s largest open-air sculpture exhibition, which started life in 1997 in Bondi, Sydney. More than 520,000 visitors have flocked to previous exhibitions in order to admire 100-plus sculptures by global artists. The event was so popular, it spawned a WA version, held on Perth’s beautiful Cottesloe Beach. The exhibition starts at the sea wall and continues all the way along the sand towards North Cottesloe and onto the surrounding grassed areas, creating a beautiful sculpture park. (Visitors can access Cottesloe Beach via the ramps or stairs at different locations along Marine Parade.) The thirteenth annual Cottesloe exhibition will take place from 3 March until 20 March this year.
Melbourne Food & Wine Festival
Food and wine are serious business in Melbourne daily, but especially so during Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. Festival highlights for 2017 include: the House of Food & Wine, a pop-up ‘house’ hidden in the CBD, where dinners, tastings, block parties and other events will be hosted; MasterClass, a series of workshops in which eight of the world’s best chefs – including David Thompson, Wylie Dufresne and Heston Blumenthal’s right-hand man, Ashley Palmer-Watts – will spill some of their culinary secrets, and the World’s Longest Lunches, hosted throughout Victoria. The festival takes over Melbourne and its environs from 31 March until 9 April 2017.
Byron Bay Bluesfest: New South Wales
Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, just north of Byron Bay, is the scenic setting for Byron Bay Bluesfest, Australia’s internationally acclaimed blues and roots music festival. The festival has seven stages with performances by more than 200 artists across five days (13–17 April 2017); there’s camping space for 6,000 music-lovers (but room for 100,000 with daytime festival-goers factored in, too). The festival started back in 1990 and has gone from strength to strength; the 2017 lineup includes Courtney Barnett and Patti Smith.
Whale shark migration: Western Australia
May marks the beginning of the annual whale shark migration, when warm-water-craving humpback and southern right whales swap the southern coast for warm northern waters, which they use as a breeding ground. The whales follow the continental shelf, showing off their gambolling and water skills just offshore. From May onwards, nature-lovers can join whale-watching cruises and tours, or spy on the wales from landlubbers’ vantage points.
Aussie Wine Month: countrywide
May is dedicated to Australia’s biggest annual wine party, when the country proudly raises a glass – or several – to one of its most famous, fruity and fruitful exports. The 2016 celebration featured a jam-packed roster of events, tastings, lunches, dinners, parties and wine lover-fests from Sydney to the Strathbogie Ranges, all held in honour of Australian wine’s diversity, quality and regionality. The festival brings together an eclectic mix of consumers, media, wine-trade experts, restaurants, bars and key influencers.
Sydney doesn’t limit its sky-illuminations to its famous NYE fireworks: Vivid is the city’s dazzling celebration of light, music and ideas, held in late May and early June (26 May–17 June 2017). It’s the world’s largest celebration of its kind and sees the city transformed Into an outdoor 'gallery' of extraordinary lighting sculptures; Vivid also includes a cutting-edge contemporary music programme, some of the world's most important creative industry forums and, of course, the spectacular illumination of the Sydney Opera House sails. The festival has big plans for 2017, including an expanded programme of multi-genre music, innovations from global thinkers and creators, plus plenty of light art across the city.
Humpback whale migration: Queensland
Babymoons don’t get much better than the one taken by humpback whales, which migrate from Antarctica to the warm waters of Queensland, where the babies are born and taught crucial survival skills to take back with them to the Antarctic. Most of the whales migrate from June onwards: some of the best places to spy them in Queensland include Hervey Bay, the Gold Coast, Brisbane’s Moreton Bay Marine Park, the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef.
Watch Australia’s capital bloom at Floriade, the city’s famous flower festival, held annually from mid September until mid October. Australia’s biggest celebration of spring, which turns 30 this year, will take place from Saturday 16 September until Sunday 15 October 2017.
Founded in 1997 by arts and cultural-community workers, Feast acts as a platform for the LGBT community and celebrates pride and diversity via the arts. It has become the third-largest LGBT festival in Australia, attracting global performers (2014 ‘Eurovision Song Contest’-winner Conchita Wurst has previously put in an appearance, for example) and fans from near and far. The festival usually takes over the city in late October, with events running until early November (2017 dates are yet to be announced).
Ashes 17/18: Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney
2017 is going to be a decisive year for the Ashes – overall, Australia has won 32 series, England has won 32 series and there have been five draws, so each country can be expected to put up a fight come November. Five Australian cities (Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney) will play host to the tests, which will be held from November 2017 until January 2018.
Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi
Sculpture by the Sea began at Bondi Beach and the event still draws thousands of visitors, who flock here every November to admire the wave-side artworks positioned along the Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach coastal walk. During the festival, the coastal walk is transformed into a 2-kilometre-long temporary sculpture park starring more than 100 sculptures by artists from Australia and across the world. This year, the exhibition will be held from 19 October until 5 November.
Rugby League World Cup: countrywide
Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea will co-host the Rugby League World Cup 2017 between 27 October and 2 December, with the fixture kicking off in Melbourne and the last match taking place in Brisbane on 2 December.
Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
The Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race has been going strong for more than 70 years, ranking as one of the most loved – and most watched – events on Australia’s summer-sports calendar. The race kicks off at Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day each year, with both Sydney and Hobart hosting race villages – where race-goers can expect live music, food and drink stalls, interactive information and game screens, plus lots of activities – as part of proceedings. The race finishes in Hobart on New Year’s Eve, doubling up the city’s al fresco NYE party.
New Year’s Eve in Sydney
Everyone knows that Sydney knows how to throw a world-beating New Year’s Eve party – it’s arguably the best ever night to be in the city. Sydney Harbour’s legendary firework displays are incredible on-screen, but even better up close (there’s a reason why people queue for harbour-side spots for hours). The city has a wealth of amazing vantage spots to see the action, if you don’t want to take on the crowds; you can also expect jubilant street parties, one-off performances, restaurant specials and an all-round incredible buzz throughout the city.