January 26th is just around the corner, meaning there’s no time like the present to make your Australia Day 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.
The Story Bridge Hotel’s famous Australia Day cockroach races are now in their 36th year. Weird, wacky and wonderful, the event has stadium style seating, corporate boxes, and - for the lasses who rate their cockroach knowledge - the highly prestigious Miss Cocky pageant.
For a race of a cuter kind, head to local favourite The Paddo and watch teeny tiny pigs make their way through various obstacle courses. The races start at 1pm, giving you ample time to size up the competitors and place your bet.
If you want to avoid animal-related entertainment all together, South Bank is the place to be. Head to pop-up picnic precinct Great Australian Bites to sample the wares of local restaurants under the stars or, if permanent venues are more your thing, make tracks to Dandy’s Rooftop at The Fox. Perfectly placed to catch the 7:30pm fireworks, The Fox can also be relied upon to produce a delicious limited edition Australia Day cocktail, such as last year’s delicious take on a Mango Weiss Bar. Yummo!
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 from the likes of triple j Unearthed winner Philly, this is one free festival bound to blow your socks off.
Another winning option is Australia Day staple Ferrython in iconic Sydney Harbour. For the first time ever, members of the public are able to book a spot aboard one of the colourful first fleet ferries as they make their famous dash from Shark Island to the finish line under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Tickets are $120 and include food, drinks, and – potentially – bragging rights. For those less sea-faring among us, you can also watch the action from the Glenmore’s iconic Rooftop Party, where the views are awesome, the bar staff are friendly, and the beats come courtesy of triple j’s Hottest 100.
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.
Get fancy this Aus Day and secure yourself a spot at the Museum Bar cocktail party, where you can peruse an exhibition that displays a cool 2 million years of human history, enjoy a 4 hour drinks package, and gobble up canapes and delicacies from the dessert bar, all for $120 a pop.
For free fun, pack your picnic basket and head to Regatta Point or the lawns of the National Library for a lazy dinner and a front row seat to the 9pm fireworks above Lake Burley Griffin.
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 semis, spectators can enjoy the AO Festival, which is back for its second year. Head there before the match to get your face painted like the patriot you are and return afterwards for a damn good feed.
An excellent option once the sun sets is Australia Day at Docklands. This particular celebration is a collection of all the best things that start with f – fireworks and a food truck festival. You beauty!
For something totally different, make a beeline to AusFest Cider Festival at the Cider House in Brunswick Street. This was voted as one of the best Hottest 100 parties last year and, with events like the William Tell Challenge – where you shoot apples off your mate’s head with Nerf crossbows – we reckon they might be backing up that honour again this year. $28 bucks gets you entry, your own stein and some epic eats.
Celebrations by the water are on the cards for Aus Day on the Apple Isle, with your 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, bulk food, and free entertainment while the second hosts the city’s citizenship ceremony as well as water sports of all kinds - from rowing to windsurfing, and landlubbing activities such as good ole tug-o-war, sack races, and a pie eating contest.
Strapped for cash post-Christmas? Then head to Australia Day in the City where you can catch the likes of David Campbell and Christina Anu singing up a storm, all without spending a dime. Continue the closed-wallet theme by packing your own picnic and rolling out a rug, hanging around for the fireworks after the concert ends.
If you’re looking for pub fun, make a beeline to The Havey’s Hottest 100 Party. As well as the tunes, you’ll be able to enjoy the excellent beer garden, delicious all day menu, and wrap-around balcony that catches the breeze on even the warmest January day.
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, Bingay (for the uninitiated that’s Bingo with drag queens and it’s fabulous), or drinks on the Sunset Veranda pop-up bar.
For the more family oriented, Freo Fiesta offers beachside mini golf, giant board games, inflatable waterslides and spectacular fireworks to end the night.
Another option is the Celebration Zone in Sir James Mitchell Park, which is as good as it sounds. There are activities for big kids and little kids alike, including bubble soccer (which is where you’ll find us), a food village, lots of chill out zones and great vantage points to see the city’s famous Australia Day Skyworks fireworks and laser show at 8pm.
As far as competitive sports go, thong tossing is pretty much as Aussie as it gets. It’s just one of the true blue things on offer at the Australia Day Ute Run, where participants and spectators will also be treated to some of the most imaginative uses for ute trays we’ve ever come across, from BBQs to portable pools. As an added bonus, all proceeds from the day go to children’s charity Variety.
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.