Must See Events in the Northern Territory

There is no place quite like Australia’s Northern Territory, and heading into rest of the year there is still a ton of iconic Aussie events on offer in this spellbinding country, from the tropical top end to the infamous red centre, you’ll want to tick a few of these events off your bucket list.

Tourism Northern Territory has put together a list of activities, and there is something for the whole family to enjoy.

Alice Springs Beanie Festival

This world renowned event is celebrating its 21st year, the Weaving the Magic exhibition boasts a proud 6,500 handmade beanies from around the world as well as locally. Immerse yourself in the local aboriginal culture, and enjoy live entertainment, textile workshops, and homemade food. From its humble beginnings in 1997, the community based ‘beanie party’ crocheted headwear for Aboriginal women in remote areas, and now it has transformed into a quirky reginal art form.

Where: Alice Springs
When: 29th of June to the 2nd of July

Walking with Spirits

Walking with Spirits Aboriginal cultural festival, is considered the greatest place in Australia to witness the magnitude, and specialness of ancient Aboriginal culture and their ceremonies.  There will be a traditional dance ritual, the Corroboree, that has been done in collaboration with the Australian Shakespeare Company. Walking with Spirits also has other family activities such as, weaving workshops, didgeridoo, art stands, and local food stalls to feast upon.

Where: Katherine & surrounds
When: 1st of July

Territory Day

No matter where you go, from Darwin to Alice Springs and everywhere in-between, there will be events held to celebrate the Territory’s 40th year of self-governance. Territory Day is the one and only day people are allowed to set off their own fireworks in celebration.  Although a popular spot to revel in the beauty of the Northern territory is Darwin’s Mindil beach, with a host of food trucks and markets, camp on the beach and watch the fireworks shimmer over the Timor Sea.

Where: Territory wide
When: 1st of July

Darwin Fringe Festival

Darwin is Australia’s smallest capitol city, so locals really are on the fringe. Although small in size, Darwin makes up for it with its big heart and a wide-ranging culture, as this diverse city is home to over 50 nationalities. The Darwin Fringe Festival celebrates this diversity and brings the community together through collective creativity and art. This ten day celebration has a lot to offer, from live music, theatre, comedy, to dance and visual arts.

Where: Darwin & surrounds
When: 6th-15th of July

Apex Camel Cup

The Apex Camel Cup is an annual event, one that stared in 1970 in true Australian mateship spirit when two mates made a bet. Now people come from around the world to attend the carnival style celebration that has 9 camel races, rides, rickshaw races, food stalls, and bars.

Where: Alice Springs
When: 14th of July

Darwin Lions’ Beer Can Regatta

One of the strangest things you will see, but also entertaining and fun; Darwin Lions’ Beer Can Regatta combines Australians love for water and beer into the craziest must see event. Contestants race with their homemade ‘boats’ that are made from beer cans and plastic bottles, and float, although more accurately sink off Mindil Beach. The annual family event has a donation entry that goes to the Combined Lions Clubs of Darwin, with $150,000 raised over the past 6 years.

Where: Darwin
When: 22nd of July

Australian Outback Marathon

The Australian Outback Marathon is one of the most unique running events in Australia with spectacular views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. This is its 9th year running, drawing participants from around the globe during the cool season of July to run on the infamous red dirt, while Australia’s iconic landscape adorns the horizon. There are a lot of different courses to choose from ranging from all difficulty levels so everyone can get involved and enjoy this special land on foot.

Where: Uluru & surrounds
When: 26th of July

Desert Harmony Festival

This year the theme of The Desert Harmony Festival is “Place and Belonging”, and is set in a rural area of the outback on the lands of the Warumungu people.  Organised by Barkly Regional Arts, the remote festival runs for five days of jam-packed music, art, workshops, film, parades, adventure tours, dance, sports, food, theatre, and cultural activities. Visitors can also apply to ‘Go Walkabout”, to participate in a truly unforgettable experience.

Where: Tennant Creek & surrounds
When: 3rd-7th of August

Carlton Mid Darwin Cup

Attend the biggest sporting and social event that the Northern territory has to offer. Carlton Mid Darwin Cup draws a crowd of 20,000 to Frannie Bay Racecourse, for eight days full of fashion and entertainment. Set to be the most vibrant cup to date, the theme of the event this year is the “Carnival of Colour”, so get set see Darwin like never before in flurry of colours.

Where: Darwin
When: 6th of August

Darwin Festival

In the heart of the city, the Darwin festival runs for 18 memorable days. Visitors and locals flock to the city to celebrate all that Darwin has to offer, with free outdoor events, pop-up bars, famously tasty Asian cuisines, live music, dancing, cabaret, comedy, art and much more.

Where: Darwin & surrounds
When: 9th-26th of August

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair is being held at The Darwin Convention Centre for the 12th year, and is showcasing over 2,000 artists. There is a large range of artwork that visitors can buy without having to worry if the pieces are ethical or not, as they are brought directly from over 60 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. There is a variety of traditional artworks available, such as; sculptures, didgeridoos, fibre art, limited edition prints, and paintings on bark and canvas.

Where: Darwin
When: 10th-12th of August

National Indigenous Music Awards

The National Indigenous Music Awards has been celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists for 14 years. The Awards are a part of the Darwin Festival, and is held at the iconic outdoor Amphitheatre. There is a long line of prominent past winners, such as Jessica Mauboy, Kasey Chambers, Yothu Yindi, Gurrumul, The Tableland Drivers, Warren H Williams and Arnhem Land rock stars Saltwater Band. Spend the night celebrating Indigenous talent, and enjoying a range of performances under the night sky.

Where: Darwin
When: 11th of August

Run Larapinta Stage Race

Challenge yourself in one of the most stunning landscapes, as the Run Larapinta Stage Race takes place on one of Australia’s most popular running tracks in Central Australia. The Larapinta Trail is 223 kilometres long, but the race is organised around the best spots along the trial so that you can enjoy the best scenery that the outback has to offer. The race has four stages and takes four days to complete, although there are two different races to choose from, the longer trail (The Malbunka), covers 20 to 45 kilometres a day, and the shorter trail (The Namatjira), covers 10 to 30 kilometres daily.

Where: Alice Springs & surrounds
When: 17th-20th of August

Rotary Henley on Todd Regatta

A boat race in the middle of a desert on a dried up river bed, is a must see bizarre event in the Northern Territory. The world’s only boat race that takes place out of the water, The Rotary Henley on the Todd River is truly one of a kind and has been capturing the larrikin spirit of True Blue Aussies since 1962. If you don’t have your own boat but want to join in on the fun, there are boats provided. Or you can join in on the Budgie-Smuggler Races, and the Boat Tug-of-Wars. All proceeds that are raised go to the local Rotary clubs.

Where: Alice Springs
When: 18th of August

Lasseters Classic Outback Trial

The Lasseters Classic Outback Trial goes for seven days in the red centre, providing car racers with spectacular views of the Tjoritja/Macdonald Ranges. This extraordinary race lures contenders from around the country to compete with classic cars from as early as 1986, although the rally also includes modern vehicles like SUVs, four-wheel drives, and all-wheel drives.

Where: Alice Springs & surrounds
When: 18th-25th of August

The Redback

An award winning mountain bike race, The Redback takes competitors on a four day race through the boundless red landscape of Alice Springs. This epic race has 6 stages, although you can choose which particular races you want to participate in; it also takes place on a track that was hand built specially for mountain biking.

Where: Alice Springs & surrounds
When: 23rd-26th of August

Freedom Day Festival

The Freedom Day Festival is in commemoration of the significant Wave Hill Walk-Off. This saw Aboriginal elders take a stance 52 years ago at Lord Vestey’s Wave Hill castle station, as they walked away from unspeakable hardships and into the unknown towards freedom. More importantly the Walk-Off sparked the iconic Aboriginal land rights movement, thus Freedom Day Festival is more than your average festival, it marks a vital day for Aboriginal history. After the Daguragu and Kalkaringi leaders welcome guests to share this special day and lead a freedom march, you will then find guided walks along the track, local art, music, and sports.

Where: Katherine
When: 24th-26th of August

Red Centre NATS

Car enthusiasts flock from around the country to witness Australia’s favourite automobile and lifestyle festival, the Red Centre NATS. Get revved up and ready to roll with a full programme of competitions on and off the track, with a little something for all car enthusiasts such as elite show cars, street machines, hobby vehicles, and drag races. It is also the only place in Australia where car lovers can take their street cruisers around the open roads as permits are issued for the duration of the festival.

Where: Alice Springs
When: 31st of August to the 2nd of September

Jabiru Mahbilil Festival

The Jabiru Mahbilil Festival is the perfect event for the whole family, with a host of actives for the young and old. The annual event shines a light on Kakadu’s traditional culture, as well as the contemporary, making it a warm and inviting atmosphere to sit back and enjoy the local traditional dances, light shows, and feast on bushfoods cooked over hot coals.  There are also workshops for children, weaving demonstrations, painting, crafts, and live music that doesn’t stop until late.

Where: Kakadu
When: 1st of September

Mayali Mulil Festival

This three day event is hosted by Kakadu Billabong Safari Camp and is set on Murumburr Umbukarla Country, in celebration of the diversity of Aboriginal cultures through traditional song and dance. The Mayali Mulil Festival has over 10 activities on offer, some of the events include, concerts, bushwalking, spear throwing, workshops, water games, and string making. There will also be cosy camping and safari accommodation available.

Where: Kakadu
When: 7th-9thof September

Desert Song Festival

The red centre is the perfect place to immerse yourself in ancient songlines, they are a part of the traditions that run deep into the heart and soul of the Aboriginal community and their culture. The theme of the Desert Song Festival this year is “What a Wonderful World! –celebrating global heritage”, and it will be including traditional music from Africa, India, and the Americas, for a special merging of cultures. The festival programme also has a documentary film screening about the Central Aboriginal Women’s Choir, “The song Keppers”. Over the course of the 10 day festival there will be vocal ensembles, concerts, workshops, masterclasses, choirs, musicians and solo performers.

Where: Alice Springs & surrounds
When: 7th-16th of September

Desert Mob

Desert Mob organises art centres from all over the country to bring together artists and artworks, for the most important art and culture event in Australia. This is Desert Mobs 27th year in running the exhibition, symposium, and marketplace that showcases the finest Aboriginal art, and the newest advancements happening with contemporary Aboriginal artwork. Desert Mob creates a special moment for visitors as they are able to meet and talk with artists to learn more about their creations and life journey.

Where: Alice Springs
When: 8th of September

Darwin International Film Festival

The Darwin International Film Festival is screening over 39 of the best films the Asian-Pacific has to offer. Walk down the red carpet and settle in for a night under the stars at the outdoor cinema, and engross yourself in the stories of Indigenous filmmakers. The Film festivals 10 day programme also includes workshops and exhibition.

Where: Darwin
When: 13th-23rd of September

Parrtjima A Festival in Light

In Alice Springs Desert Park, Australia’s biggest light show will flicker across and bring to life the 300 million year old MacDonnell Ranges in a glorious display to pay homage to the oldest living culture in the world. The Indigenous inspired light installation travels over 2.5 kilometres, and is a 10 day free event that has a lot of culture on offer; music, outdoor gallery, cutting-edge technology, live painting, workshops, interactive installations, stories and talks. Parrtjima means to shine a light and understanding on a matter, and the festival was named by the local Arrernte elders.

Where: Alice Springs & surrounds
When: 32rd of September to the 7th of October

Million Dollar Fish

Season four of Million Dollar Fish starts in October, for your chance to win a $10,000 cash prize or the one million dollar jackpot. All you have to do join in on the biggest fishing competition in the Northern Territory, and nab one of the 101 barramundi that has been tagged. During the previous fishing seasons a total of 130k has been won, with 13 of the fish being caught.

Where: Darwin, Katherine, Tiwi Island, and Arnhem Land
When: Will run from October 2018 to February 2019


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