Football fever has gripped Australia in the lead-up to the Matildas’ semi-final clash with England on Wednesday, but the FIFA Women’s World Cup is far from the only great sporting competition to watch Down Under. Here are six of the best events to catch around the calendar.
Where: Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
What to expect: One of only four Grand Slams, the Australian Open brings the world’s best tennis stars to Melbourne Park to sweat it out (literally, as the summer temperatures can be sweltering) for the glory of taking out the world’s first major tennis tournament of the year. They’re joined by thousands of fans and a host of entertainers, with an electric party atmosphere in the city during the two-week competition.
Other reasons to visit: Melbourne summers are short and hot, and the city makes the most of them, with plenty of al fresco happenings in January from outdoor cinemas to rooftop bars with live music.
Where: Bells Beach, Torquay, Victoria
What to expect: One of the premier events of the World Surf League, Australia’s most famous surfing competition sees fans line the iconic cliffs of Bells Beach to watch the world’s top surfers, male and female, work their magic on the waves served up by the Southern Ocean. There’s a two-week window for the event, which is held when the conditions are most favourable.
Other reasons to visit: The seaside town of Torquay, located at the eastern end of the Great Ocean Road, morphs into surfing nirvana during the event, with loads of events held at Surf City Plaza, where all the big surf brands have stores. Local pubs heave, and if you’re a surfer, this is the best time of the year to hit the waves as the big swells roll in.
What to expect: November’s Melbourne Cup might be the (horse) race that stops a nation, but if you’re looking for a uniquely Australia race to catch, it’s hard to beat the Uluru Camel Cup. The camel races are just one part of this celebration of community spirit held over a weekend in May, with off-track entertainment including helicopter flights, whip cracking, and outback-style “fashions on the field” racewear competitions.
Other reasons to visit: Yulara is the jumping-off point for exploring Central Australia’s iconic Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, with May a great time to visit as the weather cools down – don’t miss the spectacular new Wintjiri Wiru drone show. If fast cars are more your thing, there’s the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in April, and the Bathurst 1000 in regional New South Wales in October.
Where: Sydney, Brisbane, and a neutral venue
What to expect: The New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons go head-to-head in this annual best-of-three rugby league series between the two major Australian state representative sides. The banter between the two states in the lead-up to the competition is legendary – often stealing the thunder from the NRL Grand Final (held during the first week of October). The growing popularity of the women’s division saw it expanded from one to two matches in 2023, with a three-game series expected to launch in 2025.
Other reasons to visit: Games are held during the wintertime NRL season, which coincides with Vivid Sydney – an epic annual celebration of creativity that sees the NSW capital erupt in colour. It’s also the beginning of whale-watching season, with tours available in both of the main host cities.
Where: MCG, Melbourne
What to expect: The match to determine the premiers for the Australian Football League (AFL) is traditionally staged on the afternoon of the last Saturday in September at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, affectionately known as “The G” Entry-level tickets are a relatively affordable AU$185 (£94), with pre-match entertainment provided by the likes of self-confessed AFL tragic Robbie Williams, who pumped up the crowd in 2022. Pubs across the country also screen the match – though it’s not as popular in Queensland or New South Wales (unless the “Swannies” make the final).
Other reasons to visit: Is there a city on Earth that’s not great to visit in spring? The grand final also overlaps with a slew of other events including Oktoberfest celebrations, the Melbourne Royal Show, and the Listen Out music festival. This year you can also catch Moulin Rouge! the Musical at the Regent Theatre until 24 December.
Where: MCG, Melbourne
When: 26-30 December
What to expect: The only thing better than Christmas for cricket fans in Australia is the next morning, when this five-day competition between Australia and a national touring team kicks off at one of the world’s best cricket grounds. The Boxing Day Test is arguably more popular among Aussie fans than the Ashes, purely for the fact that it begins on a public holiday. Up in Sydney, all eyes are on the harbour as the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race takes off at 1pm.
Other reasons to visit: If you’ve never experienced a hot Christmas, here’s your chance. Embrace an Australian tradition and swap a hot roast for a cold seafood lunch, washed down with an ice-cold beer (craft, not Carlton).
Future international events
As well as numerous annual events, Australia will host several major international tournaments in the coming years, including the Fifa Women’s World Cup, concluding with the final in Sydney on 20 August. Here are five more coming up over the next nine years…
2027 Men’s Rugby World Cup – For the first time since 2003, Australia will host the Men’s Rugby World Cup. Host cities and venues are yet to be announced.
2027 Netball World Cup – Sydney/Warrane will host the Netball World Cup during Netball Australia’s centenary anniversary year.
2028 Men’s T20 World Cup – Australia and New Zealand will co-host the Men’s T20 World Cup.
2029 Women’s Rugby World Cup – This will be the first time Australia hosts the Women’s Rugby World Cup.
2032 Brisbane Olympics & Paralympics – The Olympics and Paralympics baton will be passed onto the Queensland capital after Paris.