Hit the bloom towns
Star turn ... admiring the scene at Toowoomba's Carnival of Flowers. Photo: Paul Harris
There's no shortage of options for celebrating spring, so let the good times grow, writes Mal Chenu.
Sydney's cold, wet winter is but a fading memory. As we tentatively stick our noses out from under the doona and sniff the air, fresh with the scent of new buds and lawn clippings, we find a nation gearing up to celebrate the season of growth with dozens of marvellous festivals. Here are just a few.
Spring in the Valley
Swan Valley, east of Perth, WA
Amid blooming vineyards and vast carpets of wildflowers, choose from dozens of daily events - including tapas lunches and art exhibitions or play a round of golf at the championship-standard Vines Country Club.
You'll find wine, beer and rum tastings at cellar doors, including Houghton, Sandalford and Lamont, or get into the weisswurst and frankfurters at Mash Brewing's Oktoberfest.
Sandalford Wines' concert series features Simply Red, Pat Benatar and the Bangles, Robin Gibb and Bonnie Tyler. Tickets from ticketek.com.au. Swan Valley is close enough to Perth for day trips by car.
October 1-31, springinthevalley.com.au.
Bright Spring Festival
Mother Nature stars as snow melts, creeks and rivers roar, spring colours burst forth and locals proudly show off their gardens.
ABC gardening guru Angus Stewart will run workshops; Patrizia Simone of Simone's Restaurant (two chefs hats in The Age Good Food Guide 2009) will demonstrate her skills at the Herbs and Flowers Spring Luncheon ($45 a person). The Bright Art Gallery showcases handmade crafts, with quilters welcome at the Stitch and Quilt Exhibition tutorials.
Alpine wine tastings are popular, as is the huge Rotary street market. The Alpine Four Peaks Climb will shake off winter lethargy and there's bush poetry and local beers around open fires at the Bright Brewery.
October 22-November 2, 1300 551 117, brightspringfestival.com.au.
Bowral Tulip Time Festival
The Southern Highlands celebrates its 50th show with more than 100,000 tulips and 25,000 annuals planted in Corbett Gardens and other parks. Free daily Tip Toe Thru the Tulips tours headline events, including a free breakfast on September 24. Corbett Gardens hosts a food, wine, house and garden fair and Tulips after Dark puts the flowers under lights.
Historic Milton Park Country House will host the Veuve Cliquot Golden Tulip Cocktail Party ($150 a head), with entertainment by jazz and opera singer Katie Noonan; Mittagong RSL will hold a Rock'n'Roll Dinner Dance ($85 a head) featuring Normie Rowe, Glen Shorrock, Brian Cadd and Little Pattie.
September 21-October 4, 1300 657 559, tuliptime.net.au.
Fleurieu Folk Festival
South of Adelaide, SA
Willunga hosts professional concerts and blackboard music sessions where anyone can perform, so bring your instrument and get ready to jam. Scheduled performers range from the renowned (Doug Ashdown, Winter in America) to the lesser known.
Discover a hidden talent at the dance and music workshops, lend an ear to the bush poets and browse the stalls at the Saturday Farmers' Market. Willunga is 50 kilometres south of Adelaide, not far from the McLaren Vale wine region.
October 22-24, fleurieufolkfestival.com.au.
Bloomin' Tulips! Festival
Table Cape, north-west Tasmania
Table Cape is another nirvana for tulip-ophiles. The Van Diemen Quality Bulbs farm is open for tours and the Bloomin' Tulips! Festival on October 9 at Richard Gutteridge Gardens in Wynyard is a bucolic picnic opportunity. Photographers will love the endless rows of tulips growing alongside the Table Cape Lighthouse and Bass Strait.
Hobart's Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens also celebrates the bulbed beauties in October at its Spring Community Festival.
Commonwealth Park is the setting for a million blooms, concerts, gardening displays and the Da Vinci Machines exhibition.
Be pampered with complimentary mini massages, facials and hair styling; pick up advice to improve your garden, cooking and hanging basket skills at the Look 'n' Learn Marquee and try Lindemans Wines' early harvest range.
Nightfest illuminates the floral wonderland amid non-stop entertainment, including movies, DJs, cocktails and night markets.
September 11-October 10, floriadeaustralia.com.
Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers
Australia's longest-running floral festival celebrates spring with an energetic street parade attracting 40,000 spectators. Floral floats, decorated bicycles, stilt walkers and bands fill the city centre and the town parties down. The Flower, Food and Wine Festival in Queens Park is true to its name, while gardening and floral design lectures and workshops will green your thumbs nicely. Many of the festival's culinary exhibitors offer signature dishes matching local produce with regional wines.
September 17-September 26, tcof.com.au.