How far would you go for a good time?
9 small town festivals that you should be planning your trips around.
It’s not uncommon for four-wheel drivers to go to a specific location for a specific reason… in fact some of the best Outback adventures that you can experience arise from just such events. So we thought we would pull together some of the amazing events that take place around our great country (and even further afield) so you can start planning your 2017 great escapes.
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- The Big Red Bash, Birdsville
In my humble opinion the Number 1 big event worth packing up the fourby for is definitely the Big Red Bash. Of all the iconic Outback towns, Birdsville has to be at the top; of all the iconic 4WD locations, Big Red (on the edge of the Simpson Desert) has be in the top five; and of all the iconic festivals, the Big Red Bash is it – voted Number 1 in the 2016 Event Awards. Three days of music at the base of Big Red literally in the heart of the Outback. Nothing I have seen equals it. As if the music isn’t enough, the four-wheel trekking to get to it is the icing on the cake.
- The Man from Snowy River Festival, Corryong
When it comes to storytelling, Banjo Patterson’s verse ‘The Man from Snowy River’ epitomises what we call true Australian folklore. For over 20 years the small town of Corryong in north-east Victoria has put on an incredible display of horsemanship, bush poetry, art, music and bush skills. The festival provides everything from a rodeo and camp drafting to horse shoeing, a tractor pull and (of course) an epic cross-country horse race. On top of this, you are camped right in the heart of adventure territory with some of the best 4X4 locations just minutes away… like Mt Pinnibar, Tom Groggin Track and Davies High Plains.
- The Adventure Travel Film Festival, Bright
Another amazing event at the base of 4X4 heaven – the Vic High Country. The Adventure Film Festival sees a gathering of people with a lust for adventure travel. Over three days in early February you will be treated to an array of amazing films on a variety of adventure activities. These are not professional films; more low-budget home-made movies showing real people living real adventures. There is a great mix of four-wheel and two-wheel drive journeys; from crossing Australia to crossing the world; to kayaking and hang gliding in some of the world’s most rugged and remote locations. To make it even more attractive, the actual people who accomplished these amazing feats are in attendance to tell their stories first-hand.
- Dungog Festival, Dungog
Dungog is up the Hunter Valley from Newcastle and it suffered a terrible flood a year ago. Houses were washed away and lives were lost. For me that alone is reason to visit this quiet country town and inject some tourist dollars into it. The festival provides a great mix of contemporary short films, music, food and wine. It’s more upmarket than the previous festivals I have written about; in fact there is even ‘glamping’ (whatever that is). But there’s plenty to see and do. The street market is reason enough to visit.
- Lake Moondarra Fishing Classic, Mt Isa
Okay, here is an event that not only is great fun to visit but you could walk away with a small fortune. All you have to do is catch a tagged Barramundi and you could win $50,000. But of course catching the winning fish is a bit like finding a fish in a bloody big dam. Even if the fish allude you they have a pluck-a-duck competition with toy ducks also bearing prizes. Add in the Yabby Races (what the?), casting competition, beach volleyball, music and fireworks and you have a real (should that be reel?) event worth driving halfway across the country to see.
- Oysterfest, Ceduna SA
We are all aware of the fierce winds and massive blackouts that struck South Australia in late September. Well, spare a thought for the hard workers at the Ceduna Oyster Festival who had to cancel the 2016 event due to the severe weather. But it will be back in 2017 and shouldn’t be missed.
Apart from eating oysters (if you can stomach them) the festival includes a street parade, fabulous local arts exhibition, street stalls; and the kids aren’t forgotten with plenty of fun games and music to dance to. Oh shucks, there is even a shucking competition… sorry, couldn’t resist that one.
- Camel Cup, Alice Springs NT
Alice Springs is a Mecca for 4X4 tourists during winter and it’s the centre of the universe when it comes to Outback experiences. It also has its fair share of festivals with the Henley on Todd being instantly recognisable. But the Camel Cup held on the second Saturday of July now attracts in excess of 5,000 people and it’s a kaleidoscope of colour and fun like nothing you have ever seen before. Apart from the ridiculous sight of camels racing each other, there is a host of equally weird support events such as the rickshaw races and the honeymoon handicap to name a couple. It is a festival for the whole family and it’s a must if you are in Alice over the winter school holidays.
- Wooden Boat Festival, Hobart
Well, I had to include something in Tasmania. After all, Tassie is a must visit place whether you want to go off-road or not. If you are into boats this is the premier event in Australia; if you just love wood and wood turning, you will be in heaven in Hobart. With hundreds of wooden boats from tiny dinghies to the tallest tall ships, this festival has it all. But the festival also brings with it amazing Tasmanian foods and beverages to sample and indulge oneself in. Even if you are not into wood or boats, the many food stalls lining the shores of the waterfront are excuse enough to pretend to be Captain Sparrow for the weekend.
- Overland Expo
Overlanding was originally an Aussie term that has been adopted by our American and European mates, and is basically what we now call touring. It means getting out to remote destinations with your fourby (or motorbike) and some camping gear and enjoying the trip as much as the destination. So they’re essentially the same as us. The event – which is one of the largest of its type in the world – showcases gear, vehicles and bushcraft skills with training demonstrations, food tents and heaps of other cool stuff relevant to our lifestyle. As the organisers say: “It’s the place to come to get outfitted, get trained, get inspired… and get going.”