Australia Day is much more than a day off work and a three-day weekend. The national holiday signifies the important history of the country. It offers you an extra insight into what makes the land down under tick. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about Australia Day and where and how to celebrate it.
What is Australia Day?
Australia Day officially commemorates the arrival of the first ships to Sydney on the 26th January 1788. However, it has since been adapted to also include the history of the hardship that this meant for Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal communities. Australia Day now celebrates the diverse mix of cultures that call Australia home.
What events happen on Australia Day?
Throughout the country, on Australia Day you can expect there to be plenty of community events to mark the occasion. Festivals, parades, community fairs and citizenship ceremonies are held. There is an award for the Australian of the year, which is attended by thousands of members of the public and nationally televised. There are also flag flying ceremonies that include both the Australian flag and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders flag.
With every council or region holding their own individual styled celebrations there are plenty of places to head to enjoy the festivities. Below we have broken down what you can expect to get up to in a few of the most popular locations to celebrate Australian Day.
Let’s head to…
If you want to learn about the Aboriginal history and pay homage to Australia’s indigenous people, then head to the district of Barangaroo in Sydney. It all kicks off at 7:45pm with a smoke burning ceremony followed by a WulgulOra ceremony at 8 am. This celebration is to honour Australia’s indigenous landowners and involves a dance performance by the Koomurri Aboriginal community. It ends with the raising of both the Australian and Aboriginal flags.
But that’s only the beginning of the festivities in the city. You will have your pick from a ferrython race to Sydney Harbour, a concert at the famous Sydney Opera House, family fun at Darling Harbour or tucking into some much-needed BBQ at Bradfield Park.
You can spend your day hopping around these locations, experiencing everything the city has to offer and if you still want to learn more about Aboriginal culture head to the Yabun Festival in Victoria Park from 11 am – 6 pm.
If you want to skip all the parties and festivities and head for a more laid-back vibe, make yourself a picnic, grab a slab from the bottle-o and hit the beach. Avoid Byron Bay and make a beeline for Gordon’s Bay or Shelly Beach and get some snags on the barbie.
Celebrate Australia Day in Australia’s unofficial European capital! The festivities kick off at 11 am with a diverse parade representing over 80 of Melbourne’s community and cultural groups circling the city from Swanston to St Kilda. If you are looking for an excuse to party stay in St Kilda and catch a huge lineup of some of Australia’s best DJs.
Start off the festivities in Brisbane at the Australia Day flag-raising ceremony. Taking place at the Jezzine Barracks in Townsville, the Australian, Queensland, Townsville, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are raised with a 21-gun salute.
After this, grab a barbie and head to South Bank for some food and drink in amongst the hustle and bustle of the Australia Day atmosphere. If you fancy something more entertaining then head to Victoria Park, which will be showcasing everything Aussie from tug of war to the sack race.
If you fancy brushing up on some culture, then head to Caboolture Heritage Village. Home to more than 70 historic buildings you can take a step back in time and learn about the history of the region. There are plenty of activities going on here, including toad racing and a food market.
A popular tradition for Australian Day is a free breakfast and there are plenty to choose from in Adelaide. Head to Port Lincoln from 7 am to enjoy a hearty breakfast made by town councillors or head to Victor Harbour where you can enjoy a barbie breakfast and can watch live entertainment from 8 am including citizenship ceremonies and the citizens of the year award.
The Australia Day Parade kicks off a little later in Adelaide. The festivities begin at 6 pm, starting from Victoria Square to Elder Park. This year it’s expected over 4,000 people will take part. From 7 pm the Australia Day concert gets underway and includes a flag-raising ceremony, 21-gun salute and cutting of Australia Day cake.
If all this sounds like too much work, then there’s nothing better than hitting the beach. A favourite Aussie pastime and the perfect way to celebrate Australia Day.
If you want to escape the celebrations and make the most of your three-day weekend, then why not head to Tasmania? With cooler temperatures allowing you to leave the heat of the mainland behind, why not go on a road trip around the island? Take in the sights of Cradle Mountain, Freycinet National Park, Burnie Island and Coles Bay. If you want to take part in some of the Australia Day fun head to Hobart. Where you can witness a unique inflatable thong race, that you can find in no other city in Australia.
If all you want is a holiday away from the crowds, then head to Hamilton Island. These idyllic islands are more common with honeymooners and families. With plenty of activities and private beach-side bungalows, enjoy the ultimate break away from the festivities. Go on a day trip to the Conway National Park and Whitehaven Beach. Try your hand at snorkelling, diving and sailing. Spend your Australia Day weekend relaxing and unwinding in Australia’s secret paradise.
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