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Ten Weird and Wonderful Festivals to Track Down Around Australia

Plan your next holiday around one of these out-there festivals with naked frisbee contests, beer-can boats, synchronised Nutbush dances and a surprising amount of ABBA.
By Marissa Ciampi
August 23, 2019

Ten Weird and Wonderful Festivals to Track Down Around Australia

Plan your next holiday around one of these out-there festivals with naked frisbee contests, beer-can boats, synchronised Nutbush dances and a surprising amount of ABBA.
By Marissa Ciampi
August 23, 2019


Plan your next holiday around one of these out-there festivals with naked frisbee contests, beer-can boats, synchronised Nutbush dances and a surprising amount of ABBA.

Australia is home to some incredible music festivals, with Laneway, Bluesfest, Splendour, Groovin' the Moo and Dark Mofo bringing some of the world's best acts to our shores each year. But live music isn't the only excuse to head out of town.

Australia is also home to heaps of out-there festivals set in rural and random locations, celebrating everything from spuds and watermelon to Mary Poppins and the Nutbush.

Looking for an out-of-the-ordinary getaway? Here's our pick of the top ten weird and wonderful festivals to track down around the country.

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    There’s still time to nab tickets to this year’s Broken Heel Festival, which takes over the historic mining town of Broken Hill for a weekend of drag, divas and disco from September 13–15. Visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves in this annual tribute to the iconic Australian film Priscilla Queen of the Desert by celebrating the movie’s anniversary with a blowout party — that rocks for three days straight.

    Drag queens and kings from around the country will come together for a lineup of cabaret performances, comedy, opera and live music. Highlights include an opening night party with a Michael Griffiths’ Kylie tribute band, plus a Priscilla-inspired party on Saturday. You can also join the locals along the main strip for the annual Drag Street Parade. An openair, interactive screening of the film will take place on the Sunday night, too.

  • 9

    Lovers of utes — and Aussie cars in general — should make tracks to Deniliquin this October, for the 21st annual Deni Ute Muster. The town sits in the southwest corner of New South Wales, making it a relatively quick 3.5-hour commute for Melburnians (it’s 7.5 hours from Sydney).

    The ‘rural-themed’ camping festival attracts some 20,000 visitors, as well as utes of all models and vintages. There are so many trucks in attendance that each year the festival tries to break its own 1999 Guinness World Record for the largest parade of utes (2839, if you’re interested).

    Country music fans have their own reason to visit, with a full lineup of local and international acts taking the stage across two nights. This year’s program is headlined by Tim McGraw. Driving competitions, building challenges, lawn mower races, whip cracking, wood chopping and a go-kart track are also on the docket.

  • 8

    Each year, an Adelaide beach is taken over by the Nude Games — which is exactly what it sounds like. Maslin Beach was declared Australia’s first nudist beach back in 1974, and now the locals embrace this history with a day full of naked fun, hosted by nearby nudist community Pilwarren.

    Expect three-legged, potato sack and baton races, frisbee and raw egg throwing, doughnut eating competitions and even best bum contests. Soft drinks, bottled water, a sausage sizzle and souvenir stubby holders will be available, with proceeds going back into running the games.

    While participants are required to come dressed in their birthday suits, spectators are also encouraged to come as nature intended. If heading out in public without a stitch of clothing on sounds like a nightmare, never fear — nakedness is not mandatory, and everyone is invited to enjoy the day at the beach however they feel comfortable.

  • 7

    Located a 2.5-hour drive north of Melbourne, the tiny town of Thoona has a population of just over 100 people — yet it still manages to draw a sizeable crowd for its annual Wheelie Bin Championships. It’s so popular that a doco, titled Township Tour: Thoona, was even made about the event back in 2001.

    The competition takes over the town each March, during which participants grab classic Aussie wheelie bins and transform them into decorated box cars for race day. Teams consist of one pusher and one rider — and only one team will be named the wheelie bin champion.

    Apart from all of the race excitement, there are also car boot sales, market stalls, food trucks and barbecues to look forward to. The event is free for spectators, but if you’re planning to get down and dirty and compete against the locals, registration is $10.

  • 6
    The Great Trentham Spudfest 2020

    It’s easy to dismiss the potato as just a humble food staple. But at the Great Trentham Spudfest, our starchy friend takes centre stage. Set deep in the heart of so-called spud country, Trentham — and its ochre-coloured volcanic soil — is renowned for producing some of Australia’s best potatoes.

    The festival is now in its 12th year and continues to grow; the small town of 1200 people saw more than 6000 potato-lovers show up last year. The festival is completely free to attend so you can save your hard-earned cash for the many market stalls, farm-fresh produce and food trucks serving the spud in its many forms. Think loaded fries, scones, soup, rosti, spirals and patatas bravas. But the themed fun doesn’t begin and end with edible treats.

    There’ll also be games, including potato sack, potato cart and spud ‘n’ spoon races, and even a ‘photato-graphy’ competition. Live music, cooking demonstrations and a hay bale maze are also on the bill.

  • 5

    Calling all dancing queens — dust off those tambourines and head to the annual Trundle ABBA Festival. It’s Australia’s only festival dedicated to the Swedish super-group and is the perfect opportunity to pay homage to Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid, and their good times pop tunes.

    Tribute band Björn Again will make you think you’re watching the real deal, putting on an outstanding performance each year while dressed to the nines in glitzy 70s attire. It will (of course) feature all of your favourite ABBA hits so you’ll have no problem singing and dancing along — with a disco-dancing competition also on during the festival.

    If you’re travelling from Sydney, step aboard the ABBA express train, a colourful 1930s carriage (with a bar, of course) that ferries guests to Trundle.

  • 4
    Mary Poppins Festival

    For a week each year, the town of Maryborough honours one of its most famous former residents: Pamela Lyndon Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books. The week-long Mary Poppins Festival celebrates Travers and her works with unusual activities that bring her beloved characters to life.

    Think chimney sweep challenges, kite flying competitions, costume parades and, of course, the Great Nanny Race, during which 20th century-dressed ‘English nannies’ push prams to the finish line. The festival kicks off with a steampunk afternoon tea and a good old fashioned street party, and culminates a week later in a community day in the park, complete with carnival rides, roving performers, sidewalk artists, workshops, activities and a grand parade.

    Next year’s festivities will take place in July, leaving plenty of time to plan your trip to the Fraser Coast region — complete with a visit to Fraser Island and a dip in the pristine waters of Hervey Bay.

  • 3

    If you’re a fan of the Nutbush dance — or just always wanted to get involved in one massive line dance — then Big Red Bash should be your first stop on an unusual festival journey. Each July, the town of Birdsville hosts an outback music festival, located at the edge of the Simpson Desert in southwest Queensland. And, each year, festival goers attempt to smash the Nutbush World Record for the most people performing the dance in one place. Here’s a video, if you need a quick refresh.

    That place is pretty spectacular, too — the festival campgrounds are located on an organic cattle station within the bed of a dried-out lake. The region’s giant red sand dunes also act as a natural amphitheatre for the music lineup. While this year’s list has not yet been announced, last year saw the likes of Aussie rock band Midnight Oil, singer-songwriter Richard Clapton and punk rock band The Living End. Campers can also expect sand dune surfing, camel rides and helicopter flights.

    Images: Matt Williams.

  • 2

    Darwin is home to its own out-there festival — the annual Lions Beer Can Regatta, during which teams of four build boats out of empty beer cans and race them to the finish line. The event was first established back in 1974 and continues to run each year at Mindil Beach. While the day is just meant to be a bit of fun, winners can grab up to $500 worth of cash prizes.

    Apart from cans, plastic bottles and milk cartons are also allowed in your makeshift boat construction. If you’re not into sailing, you can get involved with the many beach games happening throughout the day, too — including tug-of-war, sandcastle building, thong throwing and kayak competitions. Plus, the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets will be trading, meaning plenty of food and craft stalls.

    Throwing your boat in the water will cost $50 (registration here) or you can spectate for a gold coin donation.

  • 1
    Melonfest 2021

    Every two years, the town of Chinchilla — located a 3.5-hour drive from Brisbane — puts on the one-and-only Melonfest, celebrating all things watermelon. The farming town is the self-proclaimed ‘melon capital’ of Australia and, as of November 2018, is home to the Big Melon. For the better part of a week, Chinchilla plays host to a bunch of strange, watermelon-themed events and competitions, including watermelon skiing, a watermelon juice slip and slide, celebrity melon eating contests and a melon-fuelled ironman race, to name a very few.

    With the small town tripling in size during the festivities, the program has a surprisingly broad range of free and ticketed events, includes movie nights, lawn bowls, markets, golf, a rodeo, a beach party, trivia and a car show. Mark your calendars now, because the next festival won’t be held until February 2021, giving you plenty of time to plan ahead.


Top image: Matt Williams.

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