The countryside comes to the city in April, with family fun at the Sydney Olympic Park showground. Catch a ferry or train to Homebush Bay in western Sydney to ride the Ferris wheel and carnival attractions, watch the grand parade of animals, see sheep-shearing demonstrations and fill your arms with showbags. With show ponies, rodeos, fireworks, dog judging and prize-winning bulls, the Royal Easter Show is the biggest agricultural get-together in the country.
Autumn holidays in Sydney coincide with festival time in the city. Catch the sequinned tail end of the flamboyant Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in early March, then read up during the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May. Venues for lively panel discussions and readings include the Sydney Opera House and Pier 4/5 at Walsh Bay. Mingle with inner-city locals at the Surry Hills Festival in April, with roving entertainers, dog appreciation parades, food, crafts and music. Jazz, food and wine from local restaurants surround the El Alamein Fountain in Kings Cross in May.
You’ll need to leave your Sydney autumn hotel early to catch the Anzac Day dawn service on 25 April, a public holiday. Hushed crowds paying their respects to family members who fought at Gallipoli in the First World War surround the Cenotaph in Martin Place in the city centre to hear the poignant Last Post bugle call. Later in the morning a parade of pipers, drummers and veterans makes its way from the Cenotaph to the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park, and pubs around the city host long lunches as friends, families and former soldiers unite.
Glamorous frocks and entertainment on and off the track fill Sydney’s autumn racing carnival, running throughout the season from March to May. The premier race is the Golden Slipper at Rosehill Gardens, in western Sydney, the world’s richest race for two-year-old thoroughbreds, while fashions on the field are a highlight of Derby Day at Royal Randwick in south Sydney.
Australians love a competition, and the Archibald Prize is the country’s most controversial and entertaining art prize for portraiture. Coincide your visit to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in March to see the official selection of winners, along with the Packing Room Prize voted by the backroom staff, and vote for the People’s Choice in May. Past winners have included Brett Whiteley with a self-portrait, while local heroes from Nick Cave to the Wiggles have been immortalised in paint for this prestigious prize that has become a who’s who of famous Australians.
It might be too cool for lying on the beach in the sun, but autumn is a prime time to take a walk around the Sydney Harbour National Park from the seaside at Manly. The 9km, four-hour Manly to Spit Bridge scenic walkway has gentle, easy, medium and hard sections of track running past luxurious homes, sandstone headlands, Aboriginal carvings, idyllic beaches, and bays and inlets dotted with sailing boats. Although it’s autumn, don’t forget to bring a hat, sunscreen and water.
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