Summer music festivals in NSW
From the Outback to the coast, NSW plays host to a huge range of music festivals celebrating blues, rock, country, jazz and everything in between. Join thousands of Elvis fans, camp with the bands on the South Coast, learn to play an instrument or dance along to your favourite DJs all across the State.
Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival – 25-27 October
Held in Dorrigo, a small town on the Coffs Coast, this not-for-profit festival has been running for 17 years. A mix of international and Australian artists will play, including Rachel Baiman from Nashville, Andrew Collins Trio from Canada and the Jellyman’s Daughter from Scotland. It’s a great event for kids, who will love the workshops teaching instruments such as the banjo and mandolin.
Gundaroo Music Festival – 26 October
Gundaroo is a beautifully preserved colonial village in the Southern Tablelands – a delightful location for a music festival that raises money for Motor Neurone Disease. Blues, rock and alternative artists such as Bluesmoke, Chasing Giants and Rhiannon are performing this year. Guests can enjoy wine tasting from local wineries, a kids’ zone with jumping castle and face painting, evening fireworks and delicious food stalls.
Ballina Country Music Fest – 1-3 November
Spread across six venues in the North Coast town of Ballina, this festival will feature over 100 artists, with almost all shows free to the public. New Zealand’s ‘Queen of Country’ Jody Direen will perform an uplifting set, The Pigs will play their latest album Hillbilly Synthesiser, and comedian and musician Pete Denahy will put on a family-friendly show. A family zone will offer rides and a jumping castle on the Saturday and Sunday.
Return to Rio – 8-10 November
Held at picturesque Wisemans Ferry on the Hawkesbury River, a 90min drive north of Sydney, Return to Rio is one of the State’s most unique music festivals. Along with dance music icons The Martinez Brothers, Acid Pauli, Eli & Fur and many more, this three-day camping festival offers a pool and water park, swimming in the river, yoga and meditation, and a fancy dress day.
The Lakes Festival – 8-17 November
This 10-day festival features multiple events to enjoy in the Northern Lakes district on the NSW Central Coast. Highlights include Light Up the Lake to open the festival; the new Lighthouse Festival, a day of music, food and wine on November 16 at Norah Head; and the Budgewoi Festival on November 16. There’ll also be sporting, cultural and art activities for guests of all ages.
This That – 9 November
Along with a great roster of artists, Newcastle’s This That festival is all about creativity and creating unusual experiences. One stage features electronica, rock, hip hop and pop, and the other will focus on DJs and dance music. Expect artists such as Hermitude, Meg Mac, Middle Kids, Thundamentals and more.
Fairgrounds Festival – 6-7 December
This fantastic festival in the town of Berry offers an impressive line-up including Liam Gallagher, Julia Jacklin, DMA’s, The Babe Rainbow and Hatchie. Swim in the pool, try the best of the South Coast’s produce, sip craft beers and wine, and shop at the markets. There are on-site camping options or stay at nearby towns of Berry, Gerringong, Kiama, Nowra or the Kangaroo Valley.
Parkes Elvis Festival – 8-12 January
The Parkes Elvis Festival is a must – a huge celebration of Elvis Presley’s iconic music and rockabilly culture in general. This year’s theme for costumes is the film Frankie and Johnny. The feature artist is Elvis tribute act Dean Z, who is an ambassador to Graceland. There are numerous competitions for dancing, costumes and performances, as well as dance lessons, ukulele workshops, 1950s hair and make-up workshops, and more.
Illawarra Folk Festival – 16-19 January
This long-running folk festival is held at Bulli on the South Coast. Fans of folk, roots, bluegrass and Celtic music will love this festival, with more than 150 artists attending, as well as poetry, comedy and dance performances. Guests can camp on site or stay in accommodation nearby, and there will be international food stalls and a festival bar.
Tamworth Country Music Festival – 17-26 January
The biggest music festival in Australia presents more than 2,800 free and ticketed events over 10 days in multiple pubs, clubs and hotels in Tamworth. The festival is a celebration of Australian country music and artists such as Troy Cassar-Daley, Fanny Lumsden, Lee Kernaghan and Kasey Chambers will be performing. See the Tamworth Strongman competition, the presentation of the coveted Golden Guitar awards, and have a go at performing yourself at the Coca-Cola Country competition.
Inland Sea of Sound – 28-29 February
This major arts, music and cultural festival is held on a traditional corroboree site of the Wiradjuri people (with the blessing of the local Aboriginal elders) on the summit of Wahluu – Mount Panorama near Bathurst. The line-up for 2020 is yet to be announced, but last year’s headliners included The Cat Empire, Deborah Conway and Megan Washington. The family-friendly festival will also have a Kid’s Space with workshops, performances and games.