Once you scratch beneath the surface of the Australian Festival scene it becomes quickly apparent that there’s a lot more to it than just spending a day listening to Avici with your face rubbing against the dripping back of roided-up 18 year old.

Unless that’s your thing of course.

In fact, ambitious festival organisers in NSW have done an absolutely remarkable job in combining cutting edge artists with even better nature; scouting out the state’s most gob-smacking vistas to craft unique weekend experiences for ‘adventure ravers’.

From secluded mountaintops and enchanted forests to rolling Aussie countryside and mystical river locations, the camping spots rival the best i’ve seen. Throw in the best Aussie and International music around and you’ve got yourself a cocktail for a damn fun weekend.

So grab a handful of your besties, pack up the campervans and go explore these top 7 boutique music festivals this year. These are all within 3 hours of Sydney, making them the perfect weekend getaway:


1) Have you Heard Events / The Yacht Social Club
In and Around Sydney | Varied | 2 days

‘All you need is a little trust and a sense of adventure’. This mantra that the organiser live by run true in every single party these boundary pushers have thrown since launching in 2014, sending hoards of revellers back to their desks on Monday morning with stories to tell and hangovers to quell. Their parties are unique, intimate and embrace NSW escapism to the nth degree. The boat parties are next level and tickets sell like hot cakes – don’t miss out this summer!

2) Subsonic
3hrs N Sydney | December | 4 days

Subsonic is an institution for Sydney alternative party folk, who look forward to this kaleidoscopic wonderland of electronic and roots music more than anything else in their Summer weekend calendars. Including Christmas. Kicking off the first week of Summer, it gathers a killer array of international talent allowing the crowd to swap city lights for hippy-infused mayhem in the sublime surrounds of the Riverwood Downs Mountain Valley Resort (Barrington Tops National Park).

3) Return to Rio
1.5hrs N of Sydney | November and March | 3 days

Hidden away in a little nook of Webb’s Creek on the Hawkesbury River, Return to Rio follows the flowing trend of frivolous fun in an awe-inspiring setting just north of Sydney. It’s also a relaxed small crowd so you’ll lose your mind before you lose your friends. Rent a houseboat for a really unique weekend experience on the river. Everyone really pulls their fingers out on the fancy dress department for this one, the wackier the better so come prepared. Be careful though, the kangaroo you’re fist-pumping next to may well be an actual kangaroo. You’ve been warned. With Carl Cox headlining this year – it’s sure to be an absolute banger of weekend.

rio music festival

4) Lost Paradise
1hr N of Sydney | NYE

The freshest festival on the list, this experience is about far more than just the music, which this year spanned everything from Boy & Bear to Late Night Tuff Guy. Taking place in Glenworth Valley on NYE, it describes itself as “restaurants, stalls, food trucks, bars, smoke ceremonies, holi lights, private helicopter delivery, gypsy villages, boutique luxury glamping, shambhala spa treatments, yoga, massage and healing, art + design installations, paradise kids and action camps where you create your own community contribution.” Sounds pretty darn good to me.

5) Mountain Sounds
2hrs N of Sydney | February/March | 2 days

This is probably the best thing to have ever happened on the Central Coast, showcasing the wild diversity of this part of NSW. Set in epic surrounds of the Mount Panang Parklands, the camping here matches the music and is a sustainable event product of Australian music, art and culture.


6) Burning Seed
5.5hrs SW of Sydney | Sept-Oct | 7 days

Much more than just a festival (and in many ways a damn sight better than it’s yankie cousin), ‘Virgin Burners’ should expect to experience something beautifully alternative and for some, utterly transformative. Containing more than 50 themed camps this 100% participant driven event is set amongst the backdrop of Matong State Forest in deepest, darkest NSW. With an onsite brewery, attendance this year is a #nobrainer.

7) Secret Garden Festival
1hr from Sydney | February | 3 days

Way more than your average music festival, Secret Garden Festival is a true spectacular, brimming with live bands, DJ’s, pop up performances, clandestine dining rooms and bountiful bars. Completely on point but eccentric enough to bring the madness, Secret Garden continues to sell out year after year. 

secret garden festival

 We’re nearing Summer, which means that now’s the best time to start planning the seasons music festies. Don’t forget that buying the early bird tickets can save you big buckeroonies.