South Australia's regional festivals

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Sarah Thomas looks at the vibrant regional festivals worth organising a holiday around.

Driving hundreds of cattle across the outback, tossing a 10-kilogram tuna as far as possible and rocking out at a guitar festival are just a few of the options for something different to do on the South Australia calendar. From gourmet food and wine festivals to a day at the races, there's plenty of tempting ideas.

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Adelaide Hills Food and Wine Festival, January 24

Get up close and personal with the region's wine producers with tastings, tours and live entertainment across more than 30 wineries. The theme is enjoying the good life and this wine country's finest tipples, while kicking back in the most beautiful garden settings. Past events have included champagne breakfasts, expert guides to chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and cool-climate shiraz, gourmet dining and a wide variety of music from blues and roots through to jazz and folk. Most wines are sold by the glass or bottle, although some free tastings are run by some of the region's top winemakers.

Port Lincoln Tunarama

January 23-26

It's all about the tuna at this annual four-day free festival that brings up to 45,000 visitors to the small fishing town of Port Lincoln to fling a big fish or two. The highlight of this family orientated party is the championship tuna toss, where competitors prove their mettle by chucking a tuna, which weight between eight and 10 kilos, as far as they can. Last year's male winner managed a whopping 32.25m.

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Next year sees the 49th event in this picturesque seaside destination.

Taste the Limestone Coast Festival

February 12-14

Get loved up with Italian food at the Valentine's Day weekend festival in the breathtaking scenery of this region. The festival is centred in the town of Naracoote. On Friday, there's golf, a dinner event and an art gallery exhibition, followed by a food festival highlighting the area's best produce (themed around Italy for 2010). On Sunday, the Naracoote Cup is held, a vibrant racing event matched with plenty of activities for kids, including face-painting and a jumping castle.

Coopers Kangaroo Island Cup Festival

February 18-20

The beautiful eco-haven of KI is taken over by race fever for this annual cup. Racing takes place on the Thursday and Saturday at the Cygnet River Race Course at Kingscote, with some of the most incredible scenery as the backdrop. Racing aside, everything over this three-day event is just one big carnival, followed by a big street party in Kingscote on the 19th, with street stalls, music and an abundance of gourmet local produce.

Oakbank Racing Carnival

April 3 and 5

Spend Easter weekend in style at this massive racing carnival, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors. The event started in 1876 and is now an outdoor spectacular, mixing the thrills of steeplechase racing with picnics, sideshows, fashion and parties. Cars start arriving before dawn at this Adelaide Hills' destination, so plan your trip carefully -and don't forget your fascinator. Admission is $20, with free entry for under-16s.

Tastes of the Outback

April 16-26

Go bush and head to the Flinders Ranges for the Tastes of the Outback festival, a lengthy event designed to encourage visitors to bring wine and dine their way through the region. The best of local produce and wineries are the highlights of this festival, but visitors also have the opportunity to hunt for opals, go kayaking on the Cooper Creek and get to know native plants. There are also various music events ranging from opera to jazz and country music - the perfect accompaniment to sitting back and enjoying the outback's night sky.

Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend

May 1-2

The small country towns of this rural pocket of SA are taken over every May in a big celebration of food and wine. Now in its 26th year, this Clare Valley weekender includes a wide variety of foodie-pleasing options, including degustation and black-tie dinners offering authentic tastes of the county. The area's winemakers also have various events including tutored tastings, and there's a huge variety of cellar doors and farm stores offering the chance to stock up on the region's finest produce.

Willunga Almond Blossom Festival

July 17-30

What began in 1969 as a fundraising ball to spruce up Willunga Town Hall is now an annual event coinciding with the height of the blossoming of the town's almond trees. So with the backdrop of pink and white blossoms, the community gets together to hold events including farmers' markets, concerts, a street parade and a fireworks display. There's also art exhibitions and craft stalls and pony rides. And don't forget to try the traditional home-made almond soup - the speciality of the festival.

Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive

July 30-August 29

This once-in-a-lifetime experience only happens roughly every three years (depending on the rainfall), so seize the opportunity in 2010 to embrace your inner Jack or Jillaroo. Participants can join one of six tours herding cattle across the Oodnadatta Track, taking spectacular scenery from sand dunes, and the original Ghan railway track and the Overland Telegraph Line. The tours are open to all level of riders, and expert drovers are on hand at all times. And after a hard day in the saddle, guests can relax around the campfire with a cold beer, and enjoy a good night's sleep in the luxury camping facilities.

Adelaide International Guitar Festival

November 25-28

This biennial festival has brought world-leading artists to celebrate all kinds of guitar-based music, from classical to heavy metal. A packed program sees performances at several stages over the event, workshops and panel debates. Last year it attracted acts such as the Hoodoo Gurus, Magic Dirt and Shihad, and under the guidance of new artistic director Slava Grigoryan next year's event promises to be equally eclectic.

For more festival information see southaustralia.com or phone 1300 671 082.

South Australia Experiences is published by Fairfax Media in conjunction with South Australia Tourism Commission. Details are correct at the time of publication and may be subject to change. All writers travelled courtesy of SATC.

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