This provocative midwinter festival was created by the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and began in 2013. Celebrating dark and ancient pagan rituals, attendees will revel in extreme merry-making and create memories that will last a lifetime. Everywhere you turn in Hobart (and beyond), there is music, art, food, and film that explore the links between ancient and modern mythology, dark and light, birth and death. Image thanks to Adam Gibson.
Gaining in popularity every year, nearly half a million attendees from around the globe come to celebrate this much anticipated annual event. Visiting artists and musicians share their talent in museums and on stage, stretching imaginations and dropping jaws with their artistic expression. As a festival that values independent thinking, Hobart becomes a virtual playground for the fun-loving, yet twisted fantasies of residents and visitors alike.
Each year there is a variety of new exhibits and artists, as well as old faithfuls, that bring an enthusiastic crowd back over and over again.
A popular event that has created numerous headlines is the nude solstice swim. In celebration of the return of the light after the longest night of the year, courageous crowds rush into the cold waters of the River Derwent at sunrise. As the name suggests, they “bare all”, which seems to add to the fun! Try if you dare.
Another event that draws a crowd and is based on an Indonesian spiritual cleansing ritual is the ogoh-ogoh parade and burning on the solstice night. Thousands witness sculptures traditionally burned after being paraded through the streets. This is meant to represent the start of a new year and is aimed at restoring the natural balance between the seen and unseen worlds of Balinese Hinduism. Image thanks to Adam Gibson.
For those that enjoy fantastic visual shows, the lasers at Dark Park are a must-see. This abandoned shipyard transforms into a night fun park that will keep you and the family entertained for hours with light, art, and film exhibits galore.
The Winter Feast is held almost every day of the festival, and provides exceptional food and drink for when you’re ready to put your feet up and sink your teeth into local cuisine. Discover why Tasmania is home to world-class, award-winning food and drink. Wear loose-fitting clothing and don’t say we didn’t warn you. Image thanks to Adam Gibson.
Musical acts may vary, but the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is a gold standard that creatively blends its talent with visiting artists, as well as gifting audiences with its own mesmerizing sound.
Curated, themed shows are created each year to keep the audience on its toes and represent a wide variety of talent. Examples of past visiting artists and musicians include Hermann Nitsch (Austria), Ulver (Norway), Marina Abramovic (Serbia), United Visual Artists (UK), Ryoji Ikeda (Japan), The Irrepressibles (UK), Chris Levine (UK), Chelsea Wolfe (USA), David Lynch presents Chrysta Bell (USA), along with Pussy Riot (Russia), and more.
For film buffs, Dark Mofo will not disappoint. There is an entire film program created to entertain those interested in macabre entertainment.
These are just a handful of the dark delights that can be expected at this daring festival!
Every June in Hobart (exact dates vary but coincides with the Winter Solstice)
The city of Hobart is lit up (literally) and major exhibitions can be found all over town, including at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), and the Federation Concert Hall, among many other venues. A public art playground called Dark Park in an abandoned shipping yard is a popular place to visit, and international musicians and artists perform around the city at local theatres and public venues. Events take place in surrounding suburbs of Hobart as well. Consult the schedule each year for details on exhibits and shows. Image thanksto Tourism Australia & Graham Freeman.
Although most interstate and international visitors arrive at the Hobart airport, some even come via cruise ship from Sydney. Be sure to book in advance, as this is an extremely popular event that draws hundreds of thousands of people into Hobart.
Almost every night of the festival, the Winter Feast is the place to be for any dedicated foodie. A gastronomic paradise, attendees have a vast option of local food and drink to please the palate. Whether you install yourself inside under the red neon lights at one of the elongated tables, or gather around a pit fire outside while listening to an array of musical performances, you’ll find yourself in jolly spirits with good food and wine (and warm cider). Image thanks to Adam Gibson.
Hobart is also home to world-class cuisine and restaurants that feature a variety of local and international flavours. As with accommodation, be sure to book in advance for popular destinations to ensure you may obtain a reservation.