South Australia has long called itself the Festival State with good reason. Hundreds of annual festivals, carnivals, and music and sporting events stack Australia’s busy events calendar. The big arts festivals dominate, and food and wine events feature prominently, but keep an eye out for local oddities like the Marree Australian Camel Cup, an outback camel race day, and Adelaide’s Schützenfest, featuring an offbeat mix of Bavarian oompah bands and shooting contests.
The Adelaide Festival is Australia’s premier arts event and the mother of all South Australian festivals. Since 1960, the end of a dark era when the arts struggled and censorship was rife in Australia, the Adelaide Festival made the rest of the country sit up and notice its mix of the highbrow and renowned performers. Queen Elizabeth II was a festival patron back then, and Dave Brubeck’s jazz quartet wowed audiences. The Adelaide Festival Centre was built in 1973, and the festival went from strength to strength, attracting top international artists and visitors from all over the country and overseas.
Adelaide is abuzz from mid-February to mid-March every year when festival season kicks off. As well as the Adelaide Festival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival annually attracts more than a million spectators to its performances. Featuring local and independent artists, this festival was born as an alternative to its more mainstream cousin. To top off this mad month, WOMADelaide features dozens of international music acts performing in the city’s Botanic Park.
If that’s not enough, there’s the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in June, Adelaide Guitar Festival and the Sala Visual Arts Festival, both in August, OzAsia in late September, and Adelaide Film Festival in October and November.
Food and Wine Festivals
Tasting Australia is Adelaide’s top food event with dozens of dining, tasting, wine, and produce events in and around Adelaide and the nearby wine districts. Victoria Square in the center of the city becomes Town Square, the hub of the festival with a collection of stalls and food options, culminating in a picnic on the final day. The weeklong festival is held around the beginning of May each year.
The Barossa Vintage Festival, held in autumn every odd-numbered year, is the biggest of the regional events. Long lunches, dinners, and wine events are among the highlights, but this festival has a true community focus. Music and local craft and art installations are scattered around the valley, and exhibitions highlight the Barossa’s history, particularly its German heritage. The signature event is the float parade on the Saturday of the festival, when onlookers and picnickers line the road between Tanunda and Nuriootpa. Every August at the Barossa Gourmet Weekend, visitors travel around to wineries, sampling vintages and food from some of South Australia’s best restaurants. Cooking classes, wine master classes, and other events are also showcased during the Barossa.
Practical Tip: Most weekends you will find an event going on somewhere, particularly in Adelaide and its surrounding wine regions. Local tourist offices are the best source, or check online at South Australia Tourism.