While our southern counterparts are pulling out their winter woollies, Port Douglas is relishing in dreamy days of tropical perfection. And there’s something in the air, a palpable buzz of anticipation and hints of party prep starting to pop up as early as mid-May – the Wonderland Spiegeltent being the most obvious. Oh, and the Ferris wheel may be a little clue that something special is about to hit town.
Yup, it’s that time of year again – it’s time to party in paradise! Port Douglas Carnivale is a celebration of the laidback lifestyle in our region, of our passion for fab food and wine, of the lush scenery, sun, and sand…all while being entertained by incredible talent. And it’s set to turn the mellow, seaside destination into a rollicking, vibrant party.
While the big weekend is 26 – 28 May, events start taking place from as early as 18 May. So, with nearly 20 of them on the calendar – from family-friendly to adults only – where to start? Here’s a run-down of our top picks.
When: 19 – 28 May*
Where: Wonderland Spiegeltent, Dixie Park
How do you even begin to explain this award-winning show? Part stunt show, part saucy circus, part burlesque, it’s a mish-mash of frenzied fun that has been delighting audiences all over the world! The show is racy, but tasteful. It’s a rowdy, raucous evening, where you’ll be invited to top up your drinks at the bar if need be. The kids are best left with the babysitter for this one! It’s strictly 18+. If this sounds like your kind of show, then hop to it. Tickets are selling fast here.
As for other shows of this ilk…Carlotta, Australia’s most famous female impersonator, legend of Sydney’s Kings Cross, and one of the inspirations for the hit movie, ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, will grace the Spiegeltent stage on Friday, 26 May at 10.30pm. The next night, Carnivale Sensualé will take to the stage after La Soirée.
*Show times vary. See here for details.
Asahi Super Dry Paradise on a Plate – The Longest Lunch
When: Friday, 26 May at 11.30am – 3pm
Where: Rex Smeal Park, under the palm trees
With palm trees gently swaying in the balmy breeze and waves lazily lapping at the shoreline, you’ll want to pinch yourself. Combine this with a four-course meal catered for by award-winning Ochre Restaurant, served with expertly matched wines, and a unique entertainer per course to boot, and you know you’re in for a good time. Our suggestion is to block out the rest of the afternoon and make the most of your dreamy surroundings. Get your hands on these fast-selling tickets here.
Wonders of the Reef Street Parade
When: Friday, 26 May at 5pm
Where: Macrossan Street, Port Douglas
It won’t feel like the party has really started though until the street parade. Drawing thousands of spectators, this lively procession down Macrossan Street is one the locals and tourists love. The fun community floats are complemented by talented street performers, live music, market stalls, and amusement rides for the kids. Why not book a table at one of the restaurants on Macrossan Street and see the action unfold while dining? The fun always continues into the night at the bars lining the main street, so you’ll be in the right spot to kick on.
Estrella Port on a Fork – Food, Music & Wine
When: Saturday, 27 May at 5pm – 11pm
Where: Rex Smeal Park
This isn’t your ordinary food and wine festival. There’ll be fire-twirling, pop-up burlesque acts, DJs, and plenty of dancing under the stars as the night progresses. Surrounded by palm trees and the ocean, you couldn’t be in a more perfect setting to taste the abundance of dishes that’ll be on offer. Created by local chefs from the region’s freshest produce – from the Atherton Tablelands, to the Daintree Rainforest, and the Coral Sea – you’ll need to purchase tokens prior to visiting the food stalls. You’ll have a choice of wine, beer, and even cocktails to pair with your taste sensations – also to be purchased with tokens.
And with award-winning musician Ben Lee as the headline act, you know you’re in for an evening of serious talent. A little tip: Mr Lee will hit the stage nice and early at 6pm, so make sure you’re all set up at this point.
Ticket options include general admission, reserved seating, and group bookings for eight people or more. You can also purchase tokens prior to the event. Another tip: while there will be chairs and tables at the event, it’s a first-come-first-served basis for these. So, feel free to BYO picnic rugs and chairs. Tickets can be purchased online here.
Family Beach Day
When: Saturday, 27 May at 11am – 3pm
Where: Four Mile Beach
Whether you were raised in the country, or by the sea, days at the beach are synonymous with growing up in Australia. And with giant, colourful kites flying overhead, a sand castle sculpting competition, roving entertainment, face painting, market stalls – you name it – you’ll need to make sure everyone has lathered on the sunscreen, because the kids won’t want to leave.
And there’s more! Incorporate a little Carnivale into your daily activities and catch the Bally Hooley train from the Reef Marina. This historic little steam engine was originally used to haul sugar cane from the fields to Mossman Mill and on select days (details here) during Carnivale it’ll turn into a moving stage alive with entertainment and comedy, all while educating the audience on the area as they chug along, highlighting some of the Tropical North’s colourful characters, flora and fauna. The last stop is at Choo Choo’s at St Crispin’s station, a quaint little café serving up delish breakfasts, lunches, cakes, and coffees.
Fisherman’s Village Music Festival
When: Sunday, 28 May at 10am – 6pm
Where: Rex Smeal Park
The beach day isn’t the only family-friendly event taking place. On Sunday, the Fisherman’s Village – filled with fairy floss, a Ferris wheel, popcorn, a pop-up milk bar, circus workshops, and art activities – will keep the whole family content, and that’s not even the half of it! Admission to the Fisherman’s Village also includes entry to the Children’s Spiegel Big Top Program from 10am-1pm, so definitely take advantage of this. The shows include the ABC’s Lah Lah Big Live Band and the hilarious, high-calibre acrobatic act titled Children are Stinky; guaranteed to hook parents in with its 90s jokes and mash-ups. There’s non-stop entertainment, including a guest appearance from Ben Lee. Plus, the usual Port Douglas Markets will be on.
Same deal goes with seating at the park. Feel free to bring along a picnic rug, picnic chairs, and even a hamper, but remember there’ll be food trucks and stalls selling seafood, so no family member will go hungry! The BYO option, however, does not extend to booze, as it’s a licensed event.
Phew, after that run down of what’s on, there is bound to be something that’ll suit you and your better half, the family, or your group of mates. But if something doesn’t quite take your fancy, be sure to check out this helpful site, because there is just SO much on, and it wouldn’t be a party without you.
Are you going to Carnivale this year? What’s your must-do event?