The art of travel: Best festival getaways in Australia

Finucane & Smith’s The Birds will perform at the Darwin Arts Festival. Photo: Jodie Hutchinson

Finucane & Smith’s The Birds will perform at the Darwin Arts Festival. Photo: Jodie Hutchinson

Darwin Arts Festival

If you’re looking to escape the winter blues, consider debunking to the top end for this three-week celebration of the arts.

The full program has just been released, with highlights including a return to the stage by ex-pollie Peter Garrett. The former Midnight Oil frontman is back with a new album and a new band.

His debut solo LP A Version of Now is said to combine Pete’s usual socially-minded songwriting with a more personal, sentimental approach.

Also featured are new works from Terrapin Puppet Theatre and Finucane & Smith.



DarkMOFO has come and gone, but its brighter counterpart is warming up. Undeniably one of the edgier festivals, Hobart’s summer carnival packs a lot of art into its three days.

DarkMOFO featured 200 artists and a stunning array of theatre, music, poetry, dance and installations from home and abroad. Impressive considering everything is squeezed on to a tiny peninsula on the Derwent.

The action takes place in the museum, on the lawns and at a few other secret and not-so-secret places. Getting there was half the fun as the ferry terminal was transformed into a music venue.


The Flaming Lips. Photo: MONA/Rémi Chauvin/Moorilla Gallery

The Flaming Lips. Photo: MONA/Rémi Chauvin/Moorilla Gallery

Brisbane Festival

Mirror mirror on the wall, where is the fairest of them all? In Brisbane, actually. French company Ballet Preljocaj is bringing its acclaimed retelling of Snow White to QPAC for an exclusive season.

Featuring massive sets, Mahler’s symphonies and Jean Paul Gaultier costumes, this is a striking, rather kinky interpretation of the Brothers Grimm fairytale.

It’s part of a special Snow White season at this year’s Brisbane Festival, which features screenings of the 1916 and 1937 films and a new rock musical.

Other highlights include a slapstick reworking of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the spectacular La Verita, which should appeal to Cirque du Soleil fans.


Perth International Arts Festival

Details for next year’s Perth festival are still under wraps, but there really isn’t a better time to visit Australia’s most isolated capital.

The weather is almost perfect, the beaches idyllic and, for a whole three weeks, the city becomes a hotbed of cultural excellence.

This year saw appearances from artists as diverse as Jose James, Leftfield, Wynton Marsalis, Belvoir Street Theatre and Jonathan Franzen.

Star acts aside, the best thing about the Perth Arts Fest is that it runs at the same time as the Perth International Film and Perth Writers Festivals.

It’s a saturation of art! I have no idea what happens in Perth during the other 49 weeks.


Dancer Claire Cunningham. Photo: Colin Mearns

Dancer Claire Cunningham. Photo: Colin Mearns

Splendour In The Grass

I’m probably getting too old and grumpy for music festivals, but Splendour is still an exception. Without fail, this three-day event has the coolest line-up of any festival in the country.

Whether you like your music flavoured rock, pop or soul, you’ll find something to tantalise. Most of the big-name acts (Leon Bridges, the Cure, Flume) have announced side shows, but a handful are keeping themselves exclusive.

If you want to catch the Strokes, the Avalanches or ethereal Icelandic elves Sigur Ros any time soon, you should pack up the Kombi and set off for North Byron. Resale tickets are now available.



While many festivals pride themselves on being eclectic, few have as broad a reach as this world music and dance fest. Take this year’s program.

After folk? John Grant. Rock? Marlon Williams. Pop? Sarah Blasko. Needing to chill out? St Germain.

Add a series of world-shaping talks and astonishing performances from Angelique Kidjo, Ibeyi and the Gyuto Monks of Tibet and you have a four-day festival like no other.

The crowd tends to be just as diverse, from teenagers to retired hippies. There’s been nary a whisper as to who’ll be taking to the stage next year, but early bird tickets are already on sale.



Like we need a reason to look forward to spring. Featuring one million bulbs and blooms, this annual flower festival might be a hayfever sufferer’s worst nightmare, but it attracts crowds of around 400,000.

While the focus is on the sun’s long-awaited return, the program’s centrepiece is the NightFest – five nights of nocturnal entertainment, markets, food and wine workshops and spectacular lighting shows in Canberra’s Commonwealth Park.

This year also sees the return of the festival’s Comedy Cave, featuring comedians such as Hannah Gadsby and Celia Pacquola.


Photo: supplied

Photo: supplied

My Fair Lady

It’s been 60 years since Julie Andrews first trod the boards as Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn famously played the role in the 1966 film).

To celebrate, Julie will be directing this special new production, exclusive to the Sydney Opera House, with help from the Tony Award-winning Christopher Gattelli.

Up-and-coming Australian performer Anna O’Byrne will play Eliza, with veteran British performer Alex Jennings as Professor Higgins.


Photo: supplied

Photo: supplied