Hear the words “Tropical North Queensland” and you immediately think of swaying palm trees and balmy breezes, finding Nemo on the reef, and exploring the wonders of the world’s oldest, continuously living rainforest.
Delve a little deeper and you’ll uncover an intense pride of our rich history and culture, with a gamut of events that pay homage to both. Whether it’s an affair to honour the Indigenous culture of the region, an opportunity to encourage both established and emerging artists from a range of disciplines, or a hark back to our pioneering days, we’re sure you’ll find an event to pique your interest – or teach you something you didn’t know.
Read on to find out what’s coming up 👇
Undara Outback Rock and Blues
When: 21 – 23 April
Okay, so this year’s event is already sold out – a testament to its popularity – but all the more reason why you should hop to it and lock this in for 2018! In fact, the organisers are already receiving bookings for next year. Designed to be intimate, this event attracts just a couple of hundred people, who are all in it for the same reason: to enjoy fantastic live music surrounded by spectacular scenery. Held over the whole weekend, at the grounds of Undara Experience, the event culminates in an awesome jam session on the Sunday. There’ll be a strong line-up of talented artists, from both Tropical North Queensland and across the country, including Ben Ford-Davies, Jayson Watkin, and Anna Weatherup, from the second season of Channel 9’s, The Voice.
Pioneer Weekend at Herberton
When: 13 – 14 May
History aficionado or not, the Historic Village Herberton is well worth a visit on any given day. With more than 60 period buildings, restored with incredible detail, you’ll be able to wander this thoughtfully set out historical village at your own pace. But it’s on Pioneer Weekend – as the townsfolk don centuries-old fashion and fire up the old vehicles and machinery – that the village knocks it out of the park and really comes alive. You’ll see experts demonstrate blacksmithing, wood chopping, and tin panning; you’ll see damper and stew being cooked on an open camp fire; and with tons of entertainment for the whole family, you’ll probably need the weekend to get through everything!
Cooktown Discovery Festival
When: 9 – 11 June
A favourite among TNQ locals, who’ll make the annual pilgrimage to spend the weekend in this charming, historic town, this is a celebration of history and reconciliation. The most ardent display of which is the fully costumed re-enactment of Captain Cook’s landing and his first meeting with the Guugu Yimithirr people, on the Sunday morning. The rest of the time you can expect a thriving carnival atmosphere, chock-full of entertainment and fun activities. There’ll be a breakfast bushwalk highlighting the native flora, there’ll be a grand parade, fireworks, dance performances by local Indigenous communities, tug of war, and a busking competition. And don’t forget to have a cuppa at the Country Women’s Association Tea Room with the best home baked goodies you have ever eaten. Keep an eye out on the Facebook page for more info as the big weekend draws closer.
Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival
When: 30 June – 2 July
Held every two years in Cape York, 15km south of the town of Laura, more than 5,000 people turn up to celebrate the oldest living culture in the world. And with 500 performers from nearly twenty Indigenous communities participating, this is a truly unique experience. You’ll be privileged to witness the performers sharing their culture with you, and with each other, through an incredible spectacle of song and dance. You see, it’s through dance that stories are told and the movements are passed down from generation to generation. Don’t expect anything fancy on the accommodation front, it’s a weekend of camping. So, bring your tents, roll out your swags, or rock up with your campervan. The detailed program will be available one month from the event but we can tell you there will be performances day and night, plus a range of stalls selling tasty dishes, including fresh fruit and veggies. And, if you want to explore the area, this can be arranged. Closer to the event check this helpful link for details. You can also buy tickets online here, or, just purchase your ticket at the gate.
Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
When: 14 – 16 July
This event isn’t the stuffy art fair you might be familiar with. Don’t get us wrong, there are incredible works of art on display here, showcasing serious talent – but this lively, vibrant event is more a celebration of Indigenous culture, versus a staid exhibition. You’ll see a showcase of many of the region’s Indigenous artists, giving us an insight into the world’s oldest living culture, but there are also fashion shows, an art market, an eat street with Indigenous fare, dance performances, theatre, and sculptures. Whatever your art inclination, this is well worth a look; you’re bound to see something that catches your eye.
Undara Opera in the Outback
When: 5 – 7 October
Held in a purpose-built outdoor amphitheatre at the Undara Experience, under the clear, starlit night, surrounded by native wildlife, this event has gained an international reputation. And what’s intriguing about it is it’s not only opera buffs in the audience. In its 17th year, the organisers have created an affair that makes this dramatic art form accessible for those who are perhaps a little hesitant to embark on a couple of days of it. On the Thursday night, you’ll be treated to an act called ‘Sunset Cabaret’, featuring local talent. Friday evening is the ‘A – Z of Opera’ performance, and on Saturday night, it’s a Mozart production titled, ‘Abduction from the Seraglio’. Skilfully executed, you’ll be treated to the best bits; the incredible singing, gorgeous costumes, and humour. And then, it’s time to head to dinner. What do to during the day? Explore, of course. Do a tour of the ancient lava tubes, or go on a bush walk. Take an easy stroll through the grounds, discovering the native flora and fauna. There’s mountain biking trails too. Or, just relax around the pool. And if accommodation at the Undara Experience is booked out, bring a caravan and a dinner suit/dress.
When: 27 – 28 October
Touted the coolest film festival in the heart of the tropics, this gem of a short film festival is held in the glitzy, yet laidback, tourist town of Port Douglas. Designed to encourage the next generation of filmmakers, there are workshops, and prizes across a range of categories, including best music video, films under four minutes, and films under 10 minutes. But for those who prefer to spectate, there’s a night under the stars, where you’ll see some of the most accomplished short films from around the world, and be treated to great food and live entertainment. So bring your picnic blanket and settle in.
Tablelands Folk Festival
When: 27 – 29 October
This folk festival is a true testament to the diverse musical talent of TNQ. The full program will be available from mid-August but, if the last few years are anything to go by, you can be sure the entertainment will be outstanding. You can expect traditional and contemporary folk, bluegrass, jazz, Latin, and flamenco; you may even hear the haunting melodies of bagpipes, or the energetic echoes of ecological electroswing. Never heard of it? Where have you been?! From Friday evening until late Sunday afternoon, you’ll find music, dance, workshops and markets, night and day, in venues throughout Yungaburra Village. There are plenty of options for accommodation in Yungaburra and surrounding towns, including festival camping only a short walk away at the Memorial Grounds.