About an hour and a half drive from the CBD, is a little town called Portarlington. Every year on the June long weekend of the Queens birthday, this small quiet town comes alive with the National Celtic Festival. With 3 main stages and other smaller ones scattered around, performers from both Australia and international come together for 3 nights and 3 days of constant music, dancing and singing.
Portarlington is located 102km from Southern Cross station by car. You can expect the journey to take around an hour and a half. It is mostly dual carriage freeway driving with the exception of the last 15km or so it goes to single lane road. However it is all sealed and the scenery is lovely. As Portarlington is located on the beach overlooking Port Phillip Bay is spectacular. In the evenings you can watch the sunset over the bay. You can catch public transport but expect the journey to take around 3 hours.
National Celtic Festival @ Portarlington
The National Celtic festival is a great weekend away. It has live performances of musicians and dancers plus around the festival is stalls with people selling goods that link closely to the Celtic heritage plus there is also food and drinks on offer. So if you are not a fan of violins, drums, bagpipes, tin whistles then there is a good chance you might not like the event but for everyone else, its awesome! There is the Bellarine Bayside Holiday Parks that offers camping right through to deluxe cabins. There are also hotels and resorts around that you can also use. Check out Hotels combined to see the prices. A word of warning if you want to come to the festival and stay for a couple of nights- it gets busy, like really busy. If you can, book early. However if you wish to put up a tent or park a caravan then you should be right.
The event has 3 main stages- Parks hall, Wine bar and Celtic club. Parks hall is the biggest but is a dry area (no alcohol permitted), Wine bar is the smallest of the 3 and the Celtic club is where the party is at. At the Celtic club you will find a dance floor and access to a bar plus on stage you will have artists who will make you get up off your seat.
You have a choice on what pass to buy, there are single passes to whole weekend passes. While it is free to attend the event to gain access to the 3 main stages you will need a pass.
But don’t let that discourage you as there is plenty to do around the festival which is free. You can learn some basic traditional Scottish dancing, take a workshop on how to play the Bodharn drum or maybe warm up your vocals with some singing. There is plenty to choose from. While I was there I did a writing songs for Australian audiences workshop with 2 members from the band The Bushwackers (very informative). Plus with only being an hour and a half from the city, it’s a nice day trip or a weekend away.