From outback camel races to DIY grape crushing, quirky events are pulling travellers to regional Queensland

For vineyard owner Greg Kentish, seeing Queensland’s tourism industries bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic has created a sense of relief.

“We love having tourists and Brisbanites here for weekends, day trips, or however they want to come,” he said.

Mr Kentish is among the producers in the heart of southern Queensland’s wine country celebrating the region’s biennial food and wine festival, Apple and Grape.

“It’s a very exciting time for people to come and experience what is our picking and crushing season, so it’s an important time of the year,” Mr Kentish said.

Greg Kentish says it’s an opportunity for people to experience the picking and crushing season.(ABC Southern Qld: Brandon Long)

The 10-day festival concludes this weekend, and according to Southern Queensland Country Tourism (SQCT) boss Peter Homan, the harvest celebration has led to motels and camping spots in Stanthorpe being booked out.

“The majority of visitors are coming out of that south-east Queensland corner, but all the way from right down in Coffs Harbour,” he said.

Tourism and Events Queensland said speciality events across the state, including Apple and Grape, helped boost Queensland’s economy by $850 million each year.

CEO Patricia O’Callaghan said the plan was to grow that to $2 billion by 2032.

“Events are a huge driver of tourism into Queensland and it’s one that has a significant economic contribution,” she said.

“But whilst they’re [visitors are] here, they’re experiencing the destinations and dispersing throughout the state.”

a wide shot of a flower display in a botanic garden

Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers attracted 360,000 visitors to the city last September.(ABC Southern Qld: Peter Gunders)

With hundreds of thousands of visitors at some events injecting millions into local economies, “these numbers are quite significant,” Ms O’Callaghan said.

Here are some ideas if you’re keen to jump in and experience a uniquely Queensland festival or event this year.

Stanthorpe Apple and Grape Harvest Festival

February 23–March 3

The Apple and Grape Festival in Stanthorpe concludes this weekend, but not before a final couple of days full of festivities.

The town plays host to busking championships on March 2, while many orchards will be open for apple picking.

A food and wine fiesta will also take place on Saturday.

A close up image of three pairs of legs crushing grapes.

Stomping on the grapes at Stanthorpe.(ABC Southern Qld: Tobi Loftus)

Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race/Easter in Gladstone

March 28–April 1

The central Queensland harbour city of Gladstone comes to life at Easter for the annual Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race.

The race sets sail from Moreton Bay on March 29, with the first yachts crossing the finish line in Gladstone early the next morning.

The event kicks off a whole Easter celebration in the city, which includes a harbour festival, long lunches and regattas.

Four boats sped forward by billowing sails. Two blue and white, one red and white and one bright yellow.

Boats in the 2022 Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht race. The race is held over the Easter weekend.(Supplied: Queensland Cruising Yacht Club)


March 29–31

Calling all petrolheads, RockyNats is one of Queensland’s top car festivals.

The three-day event includes plenty of burnouts and street drag-racing action.

There’s also bound to be plenty of mullets.

Pink smoke rises from a car doing a burnout, a crowd can be seen behind a barrier

RockyNats is a three-day car festival in Rockhampton.(Supplied: RockyNats)

Beef 2024 – Rockhampton

May 5–11

Beef Week kicks off on May 5 in the central Queensland farming capital.

The week-long celebration of all things beef includes cattle competitions, seminars, cooking demonstrations, special lunches, and live entertainment.

The 2024 event will include the newly introduced M’Eat Street.

a showground ring with cattle and people with cattleyards in the foreground

The centre ring at Beef Australia 2021.(Supplied: Beef Australia)

The Big Red Bash – Birdsville

July 2–4

Billed as one of the world’s most remote music festivals, this event requires festival goers to make their way to the edge of the Simpson Desert in outback Queensland.

While the journey is half the fun, once on site there’s plenty of musical acts to keep visitors entertained.

Another popular fixture is the annual Nutbush world record attempt, which peaked with 5,838 participants in 2023.

An aerial view of an outback music festival held in the desert

The Big Red Bash injects about $11.5 million into the local economy.(Supplied: Big Red Bash)

Boulia Camel Races

July 12–14

The Boulia Camel Races take over the outback town for three days in July.

Organisers say attendees are left in awe as the camels race, leaving a trail of red dust in their wake.

Beyond the races, the event includes live entertainment, food, fireworks and novelty races.

A man in a blue shirt tries to reach a camel in a red dirt arena

At the “camel-tagging” event, contestants try to stick a piece of tape on a camel.(Supplied: Boulia Camel Races)

Australian Festival of Chamber Music – Townsville

July 26–August 4

This celebration of chamber music brings together more than 30 events and concerts in tropical Townsville.

Many are free to attend.

Alongside world-renowned musicians, emerging local artists are given the opportunity to shine.

A woman stands on a beach holding a violin

The Australian Festival of Chamber Music calls tropical Townsville home.(Supplied: Australian Festival of Chamber Music)

Mt Isa Rodeo

August 8–11

Queensland’s premier rodeo event, the Mt Isa Rodeo is the largest in the southern hemisphere.

The four-day event is home to Australia’s highest rodeo prize and attracts more than 700 competitors every year.

Organisers say the event is where “the east meets west and man meets beast”.

Crowd watches on as a bull bucks its rider during Mount Isa Rodeo

The Mount Isa Rodeo brought in 7,000 visitors and $10 million according to Tourism Queensland.(ABC News: Harriet Tatham)

Pacific Airshow – Gold Coast

August 16–18

The clear skies of the Gold Coast are the stage for this adrenaline-pumping aerial event with the best civilian and military aviators from around the world showing off their skills.

The event claims to be the “largest airshow event to ever take place in Australia” with an estimated 250,000 spectators watching on from the beaches of Surfers Paradise.

a military aircraft flies low over a beach filled with spectators

Organisers of the Pacific Airshow in Huntington Beach, California bring the event to the Gold Coast.(Supplied: Pacific Airshow)

Hamilton Island Race Week

August 17–24

Queensland’s Whitsundays is the stunning backdrop to this world-class sailing event.

For those more inclined to land, there’s plenty of onshore events ranging from food markets to cocktail parties.

Yachts in the blue water of the Whitsundays

Hamilton Island Race Week is Australia’s largest offshore keelboat regatta.(Supplied: Hamilton Island Race Week)

Gympie Music Muster

August 22–25

This event is unashamedly for the country music fans.

Live acts delight crowds for four days in the Amamoor State Forest, with some of the best-known names in country music taking to the stage.

The muster gives back to the bush communities it champions, returning more than $20 million to community groups and charities since its inception.

Two girls sitting on someones shoulders rise above a concert crowd waving cowboy hats

The crowd enjoying the music at the 2019 Gympie Music Muster.(Supplied: Leeroy Todd)

Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers

September 13–October 7

Now a month-long event, Queensland’s Garden City comes alive in spring for the annual Carnival of Flowers.

The town’s historical parks bloom with speciality flower displays, while the Festival of Food and Wine showcases the best produce from across the Darling Downs.

Residents open their home gardens to visitors as part of a region-wide garden competition.

A thick carpet of flowers growing in a public garden.

Toowoomba celebrates its the Carnival of Flowers every September.(ABC Southern Qld: Peter Gunders)

Woodford Folk Festival – Moreton Bay

December 27–January 1

Taking the mantle as Australia’s largest outdoor festival, this unique event brings an estimated 132,000 people for a week of camping, community, and arts.

It’s best known for its environmentally and philosophical program, with musicians, artists and presenters putting on more than 500 acts.

The village of Woodfordia constructed for the festival lays claims to being Australia’s 67th largest town for the duration of the event.

ABC presenter Sarah Howells at Woodford Folk Festival.

Woodford Folk Festival features concerts, dances, street theatre and comedy sessions.(Supplied)

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