The Northern Territory of Australia is a hidden gem when it comes to its rich cultural diversity and vibrant music, arts and festival scene.
Brimming with unique and captivating experiences, the NT offers a variety of events that showcase everything from Aboriginal art and cultures, to native food and wildlife, fashion shows and music festivals, and even red desert drag extravaganzas.
With over 180 diverse and vibrant events taking place across some of the Territory’s most iconic destinations, including Darwin, Uluru, Alice Springs, Tiwi Islands, Katherine, Arnhem Land and beyond – the 2023 calendar is sure to bring something different.
Whether you’re a fan of live music, unique culinary experiences or want to learn about the area’s uniquely rich culture and history, the Territory has the event for you.
So if you’re keen to try a new experience that you won’t soon forget, we’ve rounded up some of the music festivals, cultural events and experiences to check out on your next trip to the NT that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
FABAlice: March 10 – 13, 2023
Escape the concrete jungle and immerse yourself in a weekend of fabulousness of FABAlice in Alice Springs as the spirit of Mardi Gras is brought to the Outback, offering a platform for expression and celebration in a close-knit community.
Ditch the daily grind and pack your wigs, chicken cutlets, and fly nets for an adventure in the land that inspired “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.”
You’ll experience a lineup of magnificent drag and cabaret performances, alongside a variety of spectacular events while celebrating fabulousness, love, and diversity in a fun and inclusive environment.
Parrtjima – A Festival in Light: April 7-16, 2023
Parrtjima is an extraordinary free 10-night festival held in the stunning Red Centre, with an incredible program that features a wandering amalgamation of arts, culture and music and is the only authentic Aboriginal light festival of its kind.
The unique experiences include several large-scale immersive and interactive light installations, the animated artworks projected onto the red dirt of Grounded, an amazing line-up of music, live talks, food demonstrations, workshops and children’s activities, plus an open-air food and beverage area.
This year, the festival theme is Listening With Heart, inspired by the artwork surrounding the Statement from the Heart.
The theme will embody the concept of coming together, meeting, and taking the time to contemplate and reflect, and provides guests with an insight into Aboriginal cultures.
Wide Open Space Festival: April 28-30, 2023
Wide Open Space Festival is a three-day annual music and arts festival known for its unique setting, taking place in the breathtaking natural surroundings of the incredible Tjoritja / MacDonnell Ranges.
The festival promises to feed your mind and get your body moving as it celebrates art, music and creativity amidst the stunning landscape of the Red Centre.
It would be hard to find a more diverse lineup of music on multiple stages than at this festival, with music ranging from folk to live hip hop, to poolside disco and Indigenous reggae and everything in between.
Not just an event for music lovers, punters can check out a colourful mix of cabaret and burlesque, circus and aerial acts, and get amongst plenty of opportunities for dress-up fun.
Attendees are also able to participate in forums and workshops covering topics from dance and culture to sustainability and politics, or refuel at one of the locally run food and drinks stalls before hitting the dance floor.
The festival prides itself on its inclusive ethos, providing a safe and welcoming environment for all visitors, while also having a strong focus on sustainability to minimise the impact on the local environment.
It’s a unique and unforgettable experience, offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy music and arts in a stunning natural setting, surrounded by the beauty of the Northern Territory’s rugged landscapes.
So whether you’re a music fan or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, Wide Open Space is a must-visit event for anyone visiting the Northern Territory.
Karrimanjbekkan An-me Kakadu – Taste of Kakadu: May 13-21, 2023
One of Australia’s premier Aboriginal food and culture festivals, Karrimanjbekkan An-me Kakadu – Taste of Kakadu – is a wonderfully unique bush food experience that takes place in the World-Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.
A cultural food festival 65,000 years in the making, the event sees guests experience an array of culinary and cultural events in some of Australia’s most spectacular scenery.
A must for anyone with an interest in food or Aboriginal culture, the event offers a delightful program that includes everything from traditional ingredient cooking classes at Cooinda Lodge, to heading on a bush tucker walk foraging for superfoods like delicious Kakadu plums.
The program also features workshops on Aboriginal painting and weaving techniques, as well as a stunning display of food-related art pieces by local artists.
The event culminates with the awe-inspiring Kakadu Dreaming Dinner under the Stars at Warradjan Cultural Centre, with the dinner showcasing a selection of locally-sourced ingredients including barramundi, buffalo, kangaroo, and crocodile.
BASSINTHEGRASS: May 20, 2023
This laidback tropical festival is the NT’s biggest and longest-running music festival, held next to Darwin’s iconic Mindil Beach, and is an absolute must on the Aussie festival calendar.
The one-day festival is a celebration of all things music, featuring top artists from around the world, with this year seeing Angus & Julia Stone, Baker Boy and Amy Shark among the star-studded lineup that is bound to get you dancing.
Also infused with the tastes of Mindil Beach Sunset Market, attendees can sample both local and international cuisines, dance their hearts out in the silent disco, or take in the stunning beachside surroundings which is just a 20-minute stroll from the CBD.
With a focus on bass-heavy beats and immersive visuals, BASSINTHEGRASS is most certainly a unique and unforgettable experience for fans of everything from rock and hip hop to electronic and indie.
Darwin Fringe Festival: July 14-23, 2023
A community-driven, arts-based event, the Darwin Fringe Festival is a vibrant and exciting annual event that showcases the best of local and national talent over ten days and provides a unique cultural experience for visitors to Darwin.
Providing the biggest platform for emerging artists in the Top End, the festival showcases a diverse range of artistic experiences while providing a space for emerging and established artists to experiment with innovative forms of expression in a supportive and inclusive environment.
The festival includes free and ticketed events, including outdoor performances, exhibitions, and workshops where people from all walks of life can come together to celebrate the arts and engage with new ideas.
Garma Festival: August 4-7, 2023
The Garma Festival of Traditional Cultures, commonly known as the Garma Festival or the JUL Garma Festival, is one of Australia’s largest Aboriginal gatherings showcasing traditional miny’tji (art), manikay (song), bunggul (dance) and storytelling.
The festival is held over four days in the remote community of Gulkula, near the town of Nhulunbuy, sharing cultural activities that inform and educate while also providing great entertainment as guests are immersed in the cultural heritage of Yolŋu.
The festival also provides a space for Aboriginal leaders, artists, and academics to engage with the broader community and discuss topics related to Aboriginal culture, history, and current events and provides a unique opportunity for visitors to experience both traditional and contemporary First Nations cultures.
In addition to the informative cultural events, the festival also features a range of local food stalls, art and craft markets and other activities, making it an engaging and exciting experience for visitors of all ages.
Darwin Festival: August 10-27, 2023
Darwin Festival is Australia’s hottest winter arts festival that sees Darwin’s Civic Park, known as Festival Park, transform into an outdoor amphitheatre under the stars to celebrate music, theatre, visual arts, dance, cabaret, comedy and more.
This 18-day annual festival is one of the largest cultural events in the NT and a truly unforgettable experience, as it features a lineup of local and international artists such as Alex the Astronaut, Carla Lippis Mondo Psycho and NT locals Cable Ties, who all performed at the 2022 festival.
But the extravaganza isn’t just for music lovers, there’s also a vibrant program of events that capture the spirit of the region among the fabulous festival wonderland, including Aboriginal artists showcasing their work, as well as dance performances and a whole lot of other fun.
Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair: August 11-13
The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF), now in its 17th year, is one of Australia’s most significant and internationally recognised art events that is a must-see for anyone interested in art and Aboriginal culture.
Visitors can browse and buy Aboriginal art in an ethical manner from over 1,500 creative individuals from 70 Aboriginal communities across the country.
The fair also offers a lively schedule of events, including traditional dance performances, workshops, talks, and fashion shows.
National Aboriginal Music Awards (NIMAs): August 12, 2023
Recognised as Australia’s most prominent Aboriginal music awards, the NIMAs highlight the rich musical landscape of Australia and showcase artists from all corners of the country.
The event celebrates the achievements of First Nations musicians and features an amazing lineup of some of the country’s leading musicians – last year’s event saw artists such as Thelma Plum, King Stingray and Yirrmal take the stage for the epic night of festivities.
From new artists to those who have gained worldwide recognition, the NIMAs ceremony recognises and celebrates a diverse range of talent while being held in a beautiful setting under the stars at Darwin’s historic Amphitheatre.
Darwin International Film Festival: September 14 – 24, 2023
The Darwin International Film Festival (DIFF) is an annual event that showcases a vibrant program of events and festivities, including contemporary films from around the world, documentaries, shorts, and feature-length films.
In contrast to your average film festival, DIFF has a strong focus on Aboriginal storytelling, providing a platform for local and international filmmakers to share their stories with audiences and giving guests an experience unlike any other.
In addition to the film screenings, the DIFF also features a range of cultural events, including live music, sampling of delectable local food and drink, and so much more.
Taking place over several days during September’s balmy tropical nights, the festival provides visitors with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of film while enjoying a unique cultural experience in the heart of Darwin.
So whether you’re a film buff or simply looking to expand your horizons, the Darwin International Film Festival is a must for anyone visiting Darwin.
East Arnhem Live: Dates TBA
East Arnhem Live is an exploration of the best music from East Arnhem Land and across Australia, bringing together music lovers looking for fun, adventure and something a little different.
The festival is located just outside the township of Nhulunbuy, gathering the most talented Yolŋu musicians for an unmissable event that is both informative and great fun.
The festival, which began as a free online concert series during the pandemic, brings the culture, history and beauty of East Arnhem Land to audiences and features three days of Aboriginal bands, DJs and Yolŋu culture.
To see what other exciting festival and events the NT has to offer, check out their event calendar here.