A love for outdoor activities and sports is a quintessential part of the Australian way of life. The land down under is known for its variety of climates and landscapes.
From the tropical-influenced climate in the north to a Mediterranean climate in the southern part, with magnificent coastlines, the large Outback, plenty of gorgeous national parks, rugged mountain peaks, rainforests, and islands surrounded by crystal blue waters that are unique to this country.
Whether you’re visiting Australia for tourism, work, or study purposes, it is only right to immerse yourself in one of the countless outdoor activities and sports made possible by the diversity of land and climate.
Popular Sports and Outdoor Activities in Australia
Sports and outdoor activities are popular activities in Australia both for the average person and professional athletes. According to data from the Australian Government, more than 90% of adults in Australia are interested in sports, with about 13 million adults and 4 million children taking part in sports each year. But which sports and activities are most popular in Australia, and are they any different from other countries?
Below, we will list some of the most common forms of physical recreation among Australians and some interesting facts about them.
The term “football” can mean a different kind of sport to you, depending on which part of the world you’re from. In Australia, there are several versions of this sport that are quite popular; however, Australian rules football or Aussie rules is what Australians typically associate the word “football” with. Here are some of the versions of football you may encounter here:
- Australian Rules Football. Also referred to as Aussie rules, AFL (Australian Football League), or “footy” among locals, this type of football is a contact sport played between two teams of 18 players. This indigenous sport dates back more than 150 years ago and is characterised by an oval playing field and no set positions in its rules.
- Rugby League. This sport is most popular in Queensland and New South Wales but has a high viewership across all of Australia. Different from rugby union, this sport has 13 players instead of 15. As this type of football is played professionally more often than casually, the National Rugby League (NRL) competition is something you will want to check out if you enjoy watching matches.
- Rugby Union. With some of the highest participation rates in the world for this sport, Australia’s history with rugby union dates back to 1864 when the first club was established. Governed by Rugby Australia, this 15-player team sport is represented by the Wallabies, the national rugby union team in Australia.
- Association Football. While professionally, it lacks the viewership of other types of football in the country, association football (or soccer) is still popular among Australians who play the sport for recreation. If you want to watch matches in this sport, the A-League is the highest-level professional league in the country.
Cycling is popular both as a form of transportation and as a sport in Australia. With the country’s improving efforts in biking infrastructure, many people have taken up cycling as a way to get from one place to another or just get some exercise in.
As for professional cyclists, AusCycling represents one of the largest cycling communities in Australia, with more than 400 clubs in BMX racing, road bike, track, cyclo-cross, and other forms of cycling.
Australia’s warm climate in parts of the country and the multitude of beaches make swimming another common sport and hobby. Australian governments (national and local) and other organisations play a big part in its popularity, since funding is allocated to many aspects of swimming, be it in public swimming pools, water safety education, and swimming as a performance sport.
The fact that nine of Australia’s top 10 Olympic medal winners are swimmers is a testament to the country’s love of swimming.
Cricket is considered to be Australia’s national sport due to its popularity, especially in the warmer months. Due to the sport’s popularity and top-notch facilities across the country, Australia has produced some excellent cricket players both at the national and international level.
When many think of Australia, they picture beautiful beaches with talented surfers riding mighty waves. And they’re not wrong; it is one of the greatest countries for surfing.
From New South Wales to Queensland, you’ll find a variety of beaches and destinations for surfing, including iconic spots such as:
- Bondi Beach and Manly Beach in Sydney
- The coastal town of Byron Bay and its main beach
- Snapper Rocks in Gold Coasts
- Clifton Beach near Hobart
- Stradbroke Island in Queensland
- Noosa Heads in Sunshine Coast
With more than 19,000 races held each year in the country, horse racing, or thoroughbred racing, is an entertaining sport that gains quite an audience in Australia. The horse racing industry is a large source of employment for Australians, as well as a large source of gambling activity, with nearly one million Australians gambling on horse and dog racing in 2015.
Being out in the “bush”, the Australian slang word for backwood and hinterland areas outside of urban spaces, is another favorite pastime in the country. With some of the nicest campgrounds and camping spots to fit any budget, such as Sydney’s Cockatoo Island or Ayres Rock, Australia is a dream destination for many backpackers and hikers who want to enjoy its natural wonders.
When you embark on your adventure, ensure that you camp on designated sites and remain respectful of nature and the people around you.
With thousands of kilometres of coastline and countless rivers and lakes with an abundance of fish and wildlife, it is no wonder that fishing is a popular leisure outdoor activity in Australia. With more than four thousand fish species in the country, Australia’s harbours, bays, beaches, rivers, and lakes offer an amazing opportunity for fishing enthusiasts.
Whether you want to catch Barramundi fish in Northern Territory’s rivers or Australia Snapper fish in South Australia, there really is something for everyone.
Professional Sports Leagues in Australia
If you’re an avid sports enthusiast, you’ll want to catch up with the numerous professional sports leagues and teams in Australia. Football and rugby leagues include the Australian Football League (AFL) and AFL Women’s, the National Rugby League (NRL) and NRL Women’s, the Super Rugby Pacific in rugby union, as well as the A-League Men and A-League Women for soccer.
Other popular leagues include the Australian Baseball League, the cricket Big Bash Leagues for women and women, the National Basketball League, and much more.
Major Sporting Events Taking Place in Australia
To add to being a sports and outdoors lover’s paradise, Australia is also host to some prestigious sporting events and races that gather people from all over the world. Here are some exciting events to look forward to in Australia:
FIFA Women’s World Cup
Together with New Zealand, Australia is hosting the largest FIFA Women’s World Cup to date in 2023. This event will host 32 senior women’s national teams in the Australian cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.
The Tennis Australian Open
The Australian Open is one of the world’s major tennis tournaments taking place annually in Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia. First, out of the four Grand Slam tennis events, this tournament hosts elite tennis players in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, mixed doubles, and wheelchair competitions.
The Australian Grand Prix
If you like cars and you like speed, the Australian Grand Prix is the event for you. Each year, Formula One fans gather at Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne to watch the adrenaline-inducing races. This year, you can expect to see some famous drivers such as Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso, and Sergio Perez compete for the title.
AFL Grand Final
Since 1989, the AFL Grand Final has determined the premiers of the Australian Football League season in Australian rules football. You’ll want to save the date, September 30, 2023, to catch one of the most watched and awaited for sports events in Australia.
NRL Grand Final
The National Rugby League (NRL) club competition grand final is another thrilling event that Australians look forward to, as it determines the champions among clubs from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, and New Zealand teams. This event is expected to take place on October 1, 2023.
Horse Racing Melbourne Cup
The Melbourne Cup is a 3200-metre distance thoroughbred horse race held in Melbourne as part of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival each year. This four-race days event attracts around 300,000 punters and is so important that it is a state public holiday in Victoria. This year, the races are held from November 4th to 11th, 2023; therefore, make sure to buy your tickets in time if you want to attend.
Santos Tour Down Under
The Santos Tour Down Under is a 10-day event that brings together professional male and female cycling teams to race in Adelaide and regional South Australia roads each year in January. This opening event of the UCI World Tour dates back to 1999 and is one of the biggest cycling races in the southern hemisphere.
Another annual competition, the Bledisloe Cup, is an event staged between the national rugby union teams of Australia’s Wallabies and New Zealand’s All Black, who match for the winning title. The first match of this year will kick off at the Melbourne Cricket Ground stadium on July 29, 2023; therefore, if you’re in Melbourne, make sure to check out this fun event.
Regardless of whether you like sports and outdoor activities as a way to stay fit or just enjoy watching sports matches, Australia offers the best of both worlds. From professional leagues and teams to plenty of ways to engage in outdoor sports and activities yourself, the land of the long weekend provides unique and fun ways to spend your leisure time.