The Port Fairy Folk Festival: Your Soundtrack to Oz

Moms, dads, grandparents, and godparents: Are you looking for a special occasion to dedicate to some one-on-one bonding time with your kid? Check out our series of hip happenings that will give the two of you secrets to share and a ritual to return to year after year.

Whether it’s for spring break or a seasonal solstice, southern Australia is an epic family vacation destination at the bottom of the world. You’re probably planning to hit up the big cities along the Gold Coast, but there’s even more to explore when you make your way into the friendly, small beach towns deep in the heart of Oz.

For 40 years, folk lovers along Australia’s southwest coast have flocked like magical winged creatures to Port Fairy, a small town outside the even more folksy-named city of Warrnambool. Charmed festival-goers gather every March to sway to folk, blues, jazz, bluegrass, and spoken world from across Australia and the world. If you happen to be Down Under, you won’t want to miss the Port Fairy Folk Festival (March 10-13, 2017).

Pre-Fest Prep

Perhaps it’s the genre of music, or maybe just the folksy nature of Port Fairy (population: 2,500), but everything about this festival is quaint and home-grown, as opposed to the very regulated and organized festival atmosphere in the United States or the United Kingdom. That makes it easy to take advantage of hometown charm, but also hard to plan your trip at the last minute.

Go now; directly, no matter how many months it is in advance, to book your accommodation in this small town before it’s too late! Choose from a variety of ocean-side bed and breakfast cottages, locally-owned hotels or hostels in town. Alternately, you can grab a motel in nearby Warrnambool, or a campsite at the Port Fairy’s Southcombe Caravan Park (adjacent to the festival grounds, and only available to festival ticket-holders). If you’re taking the kids, you will want to avoid that last-minute scramble that could have you traveling miles and miles to find a place to bed down.

Unlike many music festivals, there is just one four-day pass available for purchase at the Port Fairy Folk Festival. However, kids 12 and under get in free and 13-17 year olds come at a third of the price of adult tickets so the festival is almost a steal of a deal for families. Book your tickets online, and pick up access wristbands upon arrival.

Festival Arena Fanfare

Pack your low-backed chairs, picnic blankets, sunscreen, and wet naps before you enter the field known as the Festival Arena where the crowd congregates. Dozens of performers take to nice stages during the four days of fest fun offering lots of variety, but within reasonable walking distance of each other.

Performers and showtimes are listed on the festival’s website in the weeks and months leading up to the event, so you will have plenty of time to make a family game plan for what to see and do. The festival grounds are open all weekend from 8:30am - 1:00am, but plan to arrive early and leave early to take advantage of prime family times.

Besides music, check out the craft tents for local DIY treats including a great selection of instruments hand-made in Australia. The folksy spirit of arts and crafts is alive and well in the variety of didgeridoos on display!

Food vendors are available throughout the festival grounds, but there’s no rule against bringing in a picnic or meal from one of the town’s other pubs either. You’re spoiled for choice, no matter how picky your little eaters choose to be.

Drop by the family activities tents, performances by comedians and poets, or performance workshops if you need a break from the music. Or simply head out to the docks of Port Fairy and hitch a ride on one of the fishing boats that head out from the coast daily.

And the Rest

Even if you don’t want to spend the dough on tickets, don’t worry: The festival extends to all corners of Port Fairy, so if you’re in town, there’s no way to miss it. Just follow the crowds to almost any fun venue.

Ask the Port Fairy Visitor Information Centre for a list of participating folk venues throughout town. You’ll be able to listen to some great local folk, blues, and bluegrass performers wherever you choose to picnic or eat. The Information Centre can also tell you which galleries and restaurants offer the best window into the local, small-town culture too.

Want to stick to the beachy, coastal vibe? Take a kayak trip with Port Fairy Surf School. Kayaks, life jackets, and a guide are all included. Rent some snorkel gear to complete the oceanic adventure. And if you’d rather get those namesake surf lessons, you can do that too.

However you choose to enjoy the laid-back days of the Port Fairy Folk Festival, the journey there and the time you spend in this idyllic small town will definitely be a highlight of Oz.

How far are you willing to travel for some tunes? 

Tags : travel   hip happenings   music festivals   Australia   

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