The best music festivals in Sydney & NSW

The NSW calendar is full of festivals – from heaving Sydney crowds singing along with the world’s biggest names to red desert parties featuring drag and disco or ute musters and country music on the river.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Jul 2023 -
min read


Sydney is jam-packed with festivals over the summer. Near the end of the year genre-specialists Good Things Festival and Festival X come to east Sydney for one day each. The former brings some of the world’s biggest punk, metal, emo and rock artists in the world to Centennial Park and the latter is a huge, one-day electronic dance music party at Sydney Showground.  

For the biggest party of the year, New Year’s Eve, there are two massive festivals to choose from. The Sydney option is Field Day, offering grassy knolls and a variety of sounds – just make sure you get in early to score a ticket. Outside of Sydney the Central Coast hosts Lost Paradise, which has brought in names like Arctic Monkeys, Lil Nas X and M.I.A.  

Lost Paradise Festival in Glenworth Valley, Gosford

Lost Paradise Festival, Glenworth Valley

With the new year ticked over, Sydney continues its epic summer festival line-up with four unique events. Kicking them off is the multi-week, city-wide Sydney Festival, a multidisciplinary event that combines cutting-edge performers with incredible spaces. Although it’s called St Jerome’s Laneway Festival (it’s more commonly known as Laneway), the fact it's held at the Sydney Showground tells you a lot about the scale and nature of the day – expect some big names in the indie, pop and electronic scenes. If reggae is your jam, drop into Jammin, a small festival that has attracted Sean Paul, UB40, Shaggy and Sean Kingston. On the 26th of January every year Koori Radio transforms Victoria Park into Yabun, the largest one-day gathering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in Australia. Explore a bustling marketplace and join the crowds in front of a stage featuring a mixed-genre lineup of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.  

Crowd enjoying a gig at Laneway Festival, Sydney

Laneway Festival, Sydney - Credit: Daniel Boud

Outside of Sydney, head to the Upper Hunter for the Tamworth Country Musical Festival, a weeklong rural party revered as one of the biggest and best country music festivals in the world. Alternatively, don your wig and leathers and join 20,000 Elvis fanatics in the Central West for the Parkes Elvis Festival, a cultural phenomenon that’s been running since 1993.  

Travis Collins performs at the 2019 Tamworth Country Music Festival 2019, Tamworth

Tamworth Country Music Festival, Tamworth - Credit: Tamworth Country Music Festival  


For reasons unknown, autumn is primetime for electronic dance music. If you’re into throbbing, techno vibes in a huge hall, hit up Pure Festival. If you want an outdoor mix of styles look up Ultra Sydney, the local leg of the huge international dance event brand. If those genres don't hit your need for pure bass intensity, try the heavier beats of trap, dub step and drum and bass at Touch Bass festival.  

Great Southern Nights returns from 8–24 March 2024, featuring more than 300 gigs across 17 nights throughout Sydney’s inner city and Western Sydney, as well as shows in seven key music communities across NSW from Northern Rivers to Wagga Wagga.

Bathurst delivers a dose of dance music too, but alongside Australian pop and indie tunes at Vanfest, a boutique festival on Mount Panorama (check the schedule as previous festivals have been held in summer). Groovin in the Moo, the Triple J-associated festival that takes over Maitland, promises a similar sunny, relaxed vibe with mainly Australian indie, pop and dance tunes. One of the state’s biggest music festivals is Byron Bay’s BluesFest, which is only partly honest to its name. Although the festival has had almost every famous living songwriter in blues music on its line-up, the festival has also invited the likes of Kendrick Lamar; The National; and Earth, Wind and Fire. For a more relaxed, community-oriented feel plan a holiday just west of the Central Coast for the St Albans Folk Festival.  

Discover (Daft Punk tribute show) performing at the 2017 Vanfest music festival in Forbes, Country NSW

Vanfest, Forbes


Starting in late autumn and moving into winter, Vivid Sydney lights up the cityscape and stage with a diverse mix of international acts and emerging local artists. It’s one of the biggest festivals in the country, hosting both big-ticket shows alongside free events covering a range of genres and vibes. For a more intimate experience, head to Surry Hills for the Sydney Folk Festival, three days of traditional, revival and multicultural folk sounds. 

Bend in the River Tribute to Archie Roach at Vivid Sydney 2023, Town Hall

Tribute to Archie Roach at Vivid Sydney 2023, Town Hall

Up in the tropical winter climate of Byron Bay, Splendour in the Grass attracts 50,000 people a day to watch some of the world’s biggest musical acts over three days of outdoor revelry. Past festivals have been headlined by superstars like Kendrick Lamar, Coldplay and Lorde. 

Head west and into the desert near Broken Hill for the Mundi Mundi Bash, a weekend-long family-friendly rock and roll festival on the red sands of the Mundi Mundi Plains.  

The Broken Hill Mundi Mundi Bash in Silverton, Broken Hill, Outback NSW - Credit: Born To Run

The Broken Hill Mundi Mundi Bash, Outback NSW - Credit: Born To Run


Springtime is festival season in NSW. In Sydney alone there are four major music festivals. Volume at the Art Gallery of NSW combines a variety of artists and musicians pushing the boundaries of both live performance and genre, all hosted in the gallery’s new underground North Building. Harbourlife is a one-night-only inner-city dance party powered by the beats of international house DJs. Listen Out’s multi-city schedule lands in Sydney in mid-spring, giving you a lineup of cutting-edge hip hop and electronic artists. If you want a pure hip hop festival, then see the biggest names in the genre at Light it Up festival at Sydney Olympic Park. In south Sydney, By the C offers a relaxing, by-the-beach vibe headlined by a big-name act. If you can’t make it to Cronulla, they take the same performers to Coffs Harbour too. The star event in the southwest’s calendar is Valleyways, a mini music festival launched, curated and headlined by famed indie rockers and Camden locals, The Rubens.  

Maissa Alameddine and Hamed Sadeghi perform for Volume - Festival of Sound and Vision at AGNSW, The Domain

Volume - A Festival of Sound and Vision at AGNSW, The Domain - Credit: Jordan Munns

Outside Sydney there’s even more on. South of the city, the award-winning music festival Yours and Owls takes over Wollongong for two days of genre-diverse partying (note, sometimes the festival is hosted in autumn, check their website for the yearly schedule). Clearly Festival brings folk, surf rock and dulcet indie tunes to their wellness-focused schedule in Kiama. Further south, on the Sapphire Coast, Wanderer is a self-described boutique music art and culture festival that takes off where the now-defunct festival The Lost Lands left off, namely, focusing on creativity, community and sustainability.  

Festival goers enjoying gig at sunset at the Wanderer Festival, Pambula Beach

Wanderer Festival, Pambula Beach - Credit: David Rogers

North of Sydney, the Del Rio Riverside Resort at Wiseman’s Ferry hosts Return to Rio, a weekend of dancing, river swims, pool parties and DJs. Newcastle’s biggest day on the dancing calendar is THIS THAT, a one-day mix of genres and performers held at Wickham Park. Just inland, Thrashville completely subverts the Hunter Valley stereotype with two days of punk, rock, metal, skating, graffiti and tattoos. 

DJ performing at the 2018 Return to Rio Music Festival, Wisemans Ferry

Return to Rio Music Festival 2018, Wisemans Ferry

Two more unique festivals are found inland. Broken Heel is the aptly named, several-decade-old celebration of the iconic film The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert that turns Broken Hill into a showcase of disco, drag and divas. At the other end of the cultural spectrum is the Deni Ute Muster in Deniliquin. While the program is mostly informed by ute-worshipping and mustering, there’s also a main stage featuring country music and rock acts.  

Crowd enjoying the concert at Deni Ute Muster 2013, Deniliquin

Deni Ute Muster 2013, Deniliquin


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