Thinking of a holiday down south? How about Port Macquarie?
BARBECUES, bands and billycarts feature in a bumper line-up of eclectic events in Port Macquarie this year.
This guide will help you plan your visit around one of the many foodie, cultural and sporting fixtures that will spice up any weekend in this gorgeous coastal town.
The highlights include the nation's biggest barbecue festival, grooving to the sounds of New Orleans at the Big Band Blast and the Beechwood Billycart Classic - all are a hilarious excuse to plan a hinterland holiday.
FOOD AND WINE EVENTS
Australian Blues and BBQ Festival (this weekend) - Smoky flavours waft through town as teams battle it out in the Australian Barbecue Wars and on Saturday Tex Perkins will hit the stage along with a huge line-up of blues bands. http://www.bluesandbbq.com.au
Slice of Haven (May 29) - spend your day by the Camden Haven River and meet more than 80 local producers of nuts, cheese, wine, beer, vegetables and bush foods. This year's Magic beyond the Plate theme will feature cooking demonstrations, workshops, dancing, quirky stilt walkers and games. 10am-4pm.
Farm Gate Trail (June 11-13, long weekend) - learn where your food comes from at this unique event run by Landcare, which visits about 12 farms that aren't normally open to the public. From the oyster farms of the Hastings River to the lush grazing valleys of the Wauchope hinterland, see cows being milked, chickens free ranging and baby animals being fed.
Jazz in the Vineyards at Bago Vineyards (monthly, every second Sunday) - a fixture now for 15 years, Jazz in the Vineyards is the best way to experience the magic of this hinterland winery.
Port Macquarie Beer and Cider Festival (September 24) - enjoy tastings from about 50 beer and cider makers, live music, a beer garden and fun games, including the beer keg toss competition inspired by the long tradition of the Highland Games.
Tastings on Hastings (October 28-30) - the region's biggest culinary festival begins on Friday night with celebrity chef dinners, continues on Saturday with intimate events and culminates on Sunday with the main event, a huge outdoor festival. Held on the banks of the Hastings River with more than 120 local artisans, farmers, wine growers, brewers, restaurants and cafes.
Port Macquarie Big Band Blast (May 27-29) - pack your dance shoes for a series of free and ticketed events including an outdoor jazz concert, New Orleans parade and swing dance party. Featuring more than 30 bands, it is presented by John Morrison and his band Swing City, Australia's most celebrated 1940s big band show.
Ekam Yoga Festival Port Macquarie (September 18) - a day of music, play and connection, this event features talks by some of the most senior yoga teachers in Australia, plus classes, workshops and a sustainable living and natural health expo.
Beechwood Billycart Classic (November) - the gorgeous town of Beechwood, just 7km from Wauchope, is home to this hilarious and fun day out. Watch the thrills and spills as kids and adults race down Mt Pappinbarra at speeds of up to 100kmh, finishing at the Beechwood Hotel, a great landing place for post-race festivities.
Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail (daily) - now a permanent event, this free tourist trail features 50 one-metre high hand-painted koala sculptures set up at various locations including attractions, wineries, beaches, parks and hotels. http://www.hellokoalas.com
IRONMAN Australia (May 1) - one of ironman's original events steeped in triathlon history and a must-do for lovers of sport. This year the inspirational Turia Pitt will make her return to the field at one of the most scenic Ironman circuits in the world. http://www.ironman.com
Suck it up Buttercup (May 20-21) - It'll be muddy, messy, and so much fun, featuring a special opener with Mini Mudder on the first day. Big crowds are expected for this outdoor obstacle race at Bago Vineyard, so get in early.
Just a three-hour drive south from Coffs Harbour or a one-hour flight from Sydney and Brisbane with connections to the rest of Australia.
More at 1300 303 155 or go online at: