Early December each year, revellers travel to the paradise that is Festival of the Sun. Situated on the beautiful coastline of Port Macquarie, FOTSUN is a boutique festival that has been running for more than a decade and is the highlight of the town’s calendar. On-site camping with BYO on the beach along with some of the best Aussie bands creates a recipe for a rowdy but tasteful festival that you can’t miss if you’re in New South Wales at the beginning of summer.
If you’re looking for a weekend that truly encapsulates the experience of Australian summer with incredible music, FOTSUN will be the perfect festival for you. Often described as more of an Australian barbeque than a festival, Festival of the Sun can also feel like an enormous dress-up party - with more costumes than your primary school on book week. (It also features more shoeys (the act of drinking from your shoe) than has people wearing shoes). FOTSUN is a festival where you can see your favourite bands with the sand in your toes and if you’re really game you can watch the best acts on stage and backflip into the ocean at the same time. And the stunning location along the East Coast means there are some incredible places to visit on your way there and on your way back. So have a read of our guide to going to FOTSUN to enjoy a magical adventure under the sun.
Port Macquarie is four-hour trip north of Sydney with some glorious beach spots to stop off at on the way. As you pass through Newcastle, stop off at The Bogey Hole—a heritage-listed sea bath. It is thought to be the oldest surviving European construction in the city area and is perfect for cooling off and beating the heat. The ocean pool was cut into rocks by convict labour in the 1800s and is a favourite place to relax in during the summer months.
Often used as a location for weddings, Glenrock Lagoon a bit further north, is a small coastal creek that you can’t miss. If you are have the time, we definitely recommend you travel inland of this region and take a stroll through the Yuelabah Walk at the Glenrock State Conservation Area. Here you can enjoy an incredible nature escape that leads you to a secluded beach. Keep an eye out for the beautiful native flora and fauna including the blue-tongue lizards and the rosella hanging in the trees.
What to bring
Bring your togs (swimming costume), a broad-brimmed hat and lots of sunscreen because you will be, as the Australians would say, needing to ‘slip, slop, slap.’ In addition, if you have a gazebo or something for shade, make sure you pack that as well because the Aussie sun is bloody scorching, and it’s not called Festival of the Sun for nothing, so please do be protect yourself from the sun. A special part of FOTSUN is chilling out and making new friends at your campsite, and festival goers really put a lot of time and effort into making the set up at camp a perfect one for the duration of the weekend. FOTSUN sets up different games to play with your neighbours, like ping pong, but if you have a Frisbee, a swing ball or any other games for summer fun, bring those with you as well.
Definitely don’t forget to bring a chair, because there’s nothing better than relaxing at your campsite with your buttocks cushioned. And as FOTSUN is BYO, don’t forget to bring eskys for your booze or, if you’re able to get a powered campsite and have the room in your car, bring along a small fridge, as some very clever punters do, to ensure their beverages are kept deliciously cold across the weekend.
There are a few different ways that you can choose to sleep over the festival. For most, general camping is the way to go. However, if you’re wanting a bit more luxury, you can camp at a powered site or in some of the cabins available - if you can book one before they’re all booked out!
Where to go
FOTSUN is more than just a music festival. There is a strong focus on the arts with exhibitions of local street artists and other artwork scattered around the festival, on display for attendees to admire. Visit the artist village area where you can sell your own art and appreciate the works of other festival attendees.
Silent Comedy is a recent (and bizarre) addition to the line-up of FOTSUN. Similar to silent disco but minus the dancing, attendees can see some of Australia’s best local comedians while wearing wireless headsets and enjoy hilarious stand-up as onlookers watch the audience in fits of laughter but with no understanding of what’s actually being said.
There are craft workshops where you and your friends can make your own merchandise and even places to have some downtime and do some knitting, drawing or painting. And then there’s the glitter bar if you would like to glam yourself up and get in on the festival vibe in a slightly more sparkly way.
The recent installation of a bigger side stage is an example of how FOTSUN just keeps getting bigger and better. Sound and line-up quality is incredibly important to the festival organisers so be sure to check out the quality curated line-up in all areas!
And then set yourself up front and centre for Australia’s best rock and punk bands if you’re rowdy enough to get amongst the mosh pit. This is only advised for anyone who doesn’t mind getting other people’s sweat on them and doesn’t mind a bit of a knock around in the name of music.
If being thrown around and pushed in a mosh pit is not your ideal way of having fun (and understandably so), there are plenty of areas where you can relax and chill from the back of the stage and still get a great view of the bands.
After the festival, you’ll be ready to chill out without hundreds of other people surrounding you, so we recommend having some downtime on the quiet beaches of Port Macquarie. Lighthouse Beach is a picturesque nine-kilometre stretch of beach out of town that is perfect for relaxing or even amateur surfing if you’re up for it. You can even take a camel safari ride here!
Following a few unruly and wild days under the sun with all kinds of activities from dancing, to ping pong and cricket, you’ll want to have a good feed. Stop off at the beautiful Rainforest Café that is set amongst the Sea Acres Rainforest. Try the Australian dory with homemade slaw and chips to really treat your belly. This little oasis is tucked away beneath the trees and provides a tranquil and calming setting to relax in and indulge in once the festival is over.