Australians celebrate their national day, Australia Day, with fun in the sun. It is a designated public holiday with hundreds of small and large events taking place across the nation. In Sydney, thousands of people gather along Sydney Harbour foreshore for the celebrations on the water. In towns and cities there are community breakfasts, beach parties, corroborees and concerts, parades and pageants, sporting events, cultural and historic exhibitions and fireworks displays. Citizenship ceremonies are held to welcome new residents. It’s a day for Australians to celebrate everything that’s great about being Australian. There’s no better time to visit to meet Australians and see the country at its most relaxed.
REASONS TO ATTEND
1. See Australia at its best on its national day. Australia Day marks the anniversary of the First Fleet’s arrival at Port Jackson (which includes Sydney Harbour) in 1788. In 2015, the holiday falls on a Monday, creating a long weekend at the peak of the Australian summer, guaranteeing locals will celebrate with gusto.
Australia Day Fireworks,
2. Australians celebrate Australia Day in many ways, but it’s regarded as a relaxed day best enjoyed with family and friends. Activities include organising a picnic or barbecue, an outing to the beach or nearest park, or attending an official Australia Day event.
3. Become an honorary Australian for the day: wave the national flag, eat a lamington (chocolate-soaked sponge cake rolled in coconut), don an Akubra (an iconic hat popular in the outback) or wear the national sporting colours of green and gold.
4. During the day, Sydney Harbour is abuzz with the Australia Day Harbour Parade. Last year, more than 40 boats moored at Kurraba Point (near Neutral Bay) to vie for the title of Best Dressed Vessel. The 2014 winner was almost hidden under the flags of the world. The colourful flotilla also parades around the harbour.
5. With Australia Day falling on one of the typically long, warm days of summer, it’s a popular day to get out and enjoy concerts and outdoor performances. Australia Day also falls during the Sydney Festival – head to www.sydneyfestival.org.au to see what performances are scheduled for 26 January. In 2014, classical music fans enjoyed a free outdoor concert, Symphony in the Domain.
6. Take the musical pulse of the nation by tuning in to Triple J’s Hottest 100. Listeners of the youth radio station vote for their favourite song of the previous year, with the results unveiled only as the most popular 100 tracks are played in reverse order, finishing with the listeners’ favourite. The countdown forms a soundtrack to many Australia Day celebrations.
7. Australians love a spectacular fireworks display and some of the biggest and best are on Australia Day. In Brisbane, head to The Parklands at South Bank to hear music, play with interactive art installations, swim at Australia’s only inner-city man-made beach and watch the spectacular evening fireworks. In Perth, head to the CBD’s Langley Park overlooking the Swan River to enjoy an entertainment zone that includes camel and pony rides, and a petting zoo filled with cute Australian animals. It’s also a great spot to watch the laser and water show, as well as the state’s largest annual fireworks display.
8. Tens of thousands of people choose to become Australian citizens on Australia Day each year (it’s easily the most popular day of the year to do so). Citizenship ceremonies are held around the country at a range of community events.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
The Ferrython is a beloved Australia Day tradition in Sydney. At 11am, specially-decorated commuter ferries take off from Circular Quay to race each other over to Shark Island in the inner harbour and then back to the finishing post under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. While there are no seats available on the ferries themselves, visitors can grab a front-row view of the race by heading to the northern or southern stretches of the harbour that overlook this part of the water. (Tip: Shark Island sits between Point Piper and Nielsen Park).
HOW TO GET THERE
To watch Sydney’s Ferrython, find a vantage point around Circular Quay, near the Sydney Opera House or the Royal Botanic Gardens, or stroll across the Harbour Bridge to find a harbourside spot at Milsons Point.