What better way to occupy the awkward week between Christmas and New Years than by attending a vibrant music festival in the sunny fields of beachside Western Australia? There really are none. Southbound Festival was lighthearted, high-energy, and full of good vibes and happy people, and this Southbound Review will tell you all you need to know before you go. As Western Australia’s premier camping music festival also with loads of places to stay nearby, Southbound Festival was an event not to miss for music lovers all across the state.
This Southbound Review + Festival Guide will tell you all you need to know about this amazing gathering – from the venue, crowd, and camping tips to security, food/drink, and lineup, Keep reading!
Before I go too far – I have a massive photo album from Southbound as well with heaps of photos of both attendees and acts – see it here!
Southbound Review + Festival Guide
Southbound Festival Venue
Southbound was held at Sir Stewart Bovell Park in Busselton, WA. This is just about 3 hours south of Perth, and is not a bad drive at all while still hanging onto leftover Christmas spirit ready to be shifted into festival vibes. This was a new time of year for Southbound, and as I understand they will be permanently shifting to the same convenient dates in the future.
This grassy park is nestled inside bushy farmland, where a lot of the camping is also held. You must drive through a few paddocks to get to the main grassy camping area just outside the actual venue. There is both a camping entrance and a general entrance to the main grassy festival fields, and you must use your respective entrance depending if you are camping or not. The park itself is pretty much a large grassy area that has been done up nicely into festival grounds.
Inside the gates, you will find three main stages, lots of open grass area to lounge and frolic in, ample bar areas, and lots of places to eat. Inside the ‘Base Camp’ area which is open to everyone during the day but just campers after hours, you’ll find another big tented stage area called Commedia dell’Southbound with a different lineup of music, dancers, karaoke, rap, and comedy until 8 each night, the silent disco tent (after hours only!), and loads of food trucks, shopping tents, a craft beer tent, a cocktail tent, and more. Read more details about this in the camping section below!
The three stages didn’t seem to have much difference in type of music on each, but were spread out fairly evenly lineup-wise throughout the days. The big tent (Lefty’s) was the only one open on the first night. Most of the headliners played on the Mainbreak open-air stage, and if you didn’t look for it you might have missed the Hightide stage conveniently situated behind the long main bar insulated by big sea containers.
I would definitely say this crowd was 99.9% Western Australian. I didn’t hear another accent in my whole time there, although on the first day the guy who checked my ticket told me I was the 7th American he had checked in… hmm. So apparently there were more of my kind around but I didn’t see them! Most people drove down to Busselton from Perth or somewhere in the WA country; it wasn’t so big as that people flew in for it.
Most attendees were what would generally be considered as young (18-35?), although there was an inspiring amount of older festival-goers here, holding it down for their generation! Love for music knows no age 🙂
In terms of crowdedness, I almost never felt crowded at Southbound. There was a perfect amount of people for the size of the grounds, and there was always ample space to frolic and sprawl out on the grass with friends.
As far as the size of the festival, it was honestly quite small. The number of amenities and bars supported the crowds very effectively, and there was no need for more ‘stuff’ here. You never had too much of a wait anywhere, and there was just enough to do for the number of people.
Still on the Christmas high and anticipating the New Year, Southbound was a perfect mid-holiday break this year. Energy was high and everyone was just overall smiley, sociable, and happy to be there. But again, this is generally the same at every festival and hence why I love them so much!
I found the people in WA to be especially kind and welcoming, and this definitely carried through at Southbound.
Southbound was more of a music-centered festival rather than atmosphere-focused – not an art or design festival. That being said, the lighting, stage set-ups, and screens were awesome, but they didn’t go above and beyond to do anything up decoratively in any sort of way. The main stage was a big structure, Lefty’s and the Commedia dell- Southbound were massive circus-like tents, and high tide was a smaller covered V-saped tent.
The decorative atmosphere here was largely provided by the lovely blue skies, sunny weather, green grass, and beautiful attendees 🙂
Southbound boasted a great lineup this year of largely highly-acclaimed Aussie artists with a few foreign artists thrown in as well.
There was a pretty good split between popular live bands like Catfish & the Bottleman, the Bennies, Phantogram, Sticky Fingers, and Smith Street Band, with more electronic-focused artists/DJ’s such as LDRU, Hermitude, Just a Gent, and Peking Duk, and and many artists that expertly bridged that intimate gap between live and electronic music, such as Zhu, Kilter, Running Touch, and SAFIA. There were also a good amount of solo artists performing with or without bands as well – like Tash Sultana, REMI, and Nicole Millar.
I would definitely say there was a focus on live performances here, or shows at least partly supplemented by singing/rapping or live instruments (which seems to be the direction music is going at the moment!). There was a good diversity in the performances but they all seemed to be similar enough to be cohesive in the world of good vibe Aussie music!
As the main stage was hosted by triple-J, a lot of that type of artists were playing – familiar to all Australians! Most of the music at Southbound was pretty chilled out, vibey, hang-out-on-the-grass type music that could be taken either direction energy-wise.
There were always 30-minute gaps between performances at each stage, at which point DJ’s would play. Sometimes these moments were nearly as fun as when the artists were playing! I must mention the popularity of what many would call ‘Future Bass’ as a genre in Australia right now – this and other similar genres like future house are definitely the most played on Aussie radio and were played ambiently around Southbound, in the interval DJ sets, and incorporated into many of the live sets as well. Brought on most likely by Flume initially, future bass is sweeping the nation – which is absolutely not a bad thing! It was great to hear all sorts of new sounds and songs at Southbound.
Southbound Festival Camping Guide
I would say that most of the attendees at Southbound camped – there were lots of big camping spaces and areas, and it was conveniently all car camping as well. The first people to arrive will get into a big grassy field to camp in (which many see as favorable), and after those fields are full you will park in a paddock of slightly longer hay-like weeds to camp in. We were just about the 8th car to park in the paddock, and we didn’t mind it at all and were nice and close to the fields. If you are first in the paddock, it will be about a 7-10 minute walk to the Basecamp/Entrance.
The Southbound Campground
We drove into the campground preparing to have our car searched, and when we were told to stop in rows behind the cars in front of us, we initially thought it was to have our cars checked. But we soon found out that this was our camping spot, which was terribly awkward because one of our friends’ cars who we were trying to camp with was a few cars ahead in the next row over. We were able to maneuver her car back, but just make sure to be directly in line with any other cars you want to camp with when you’re coming in!
We were given directions to camp to the right side of our cars, but had no specific marked-off camping area so it was a bit of a free-for-all. It’s always good to have multiple cars so you have more space to play with! We had an awesome massive tent with an overhang, but I usually just safety pin and zip-tie sheets or tarps from tents/EZ-ups to cars to create shade over tents and areas to sit and hang out.
Southbound Alcohol Ban / Car Searches
When we were told to set up camp without being checked first, we were a bit confused. But just over an hour later, a team of security came through the campgrounds to check cars & tents for any alcohol. After a brief search for a few minutes, they moved on – they didn’t check cups or smell water bottles or anything.
Workers periodically walked through the campgrounds during the weekend, but the only comment we ever received from one was to put out a cigarette because it was, understandably so in the Aussie summer, a total fire ban in the campgrounds. They didn’t bring up any issues seeing us drinking juice from plastic cups in the mornings.
They did have sniffer dogs cruising around in the little golf carts with security. I heard a story of some dogs walking into people’s tents on the second morning, but not much other than that.
I had a fantastic experience camping at Southbound. We met lots of cool people from surrounding tents, and had big powwows every morning as we all got ready. Honestly, festival camping mornings are sometimes the best part of the whole weekend! For some reason or another there weren’t many post-festival campground parties at peoples’ tents, which surprised me a bit (it was insanely quiet at night with low music here and there) but I suppose that’s the reason the camping Silent Disco goes until 4am!
Southbound Camping Amenities
The Base Camp area had it all! Open to the whole festival in the day but closed to anyone but camping wristbands at night, it was conveniently located and full of places to eat, shop, and explore.
There were lots of shopping tents with adorable festival fashions – some even had massive sales and it was tough for my girlfriends and I to resist a whole pile of clothes for $10 each! I wish I had gone back to check out a few pairs of flowy pants and other accessories.
There was a hair and makeup tent where gals were getting their hair braided and glittered in true festival fashion. There was a henna tent with some impressive designs, and even a body marbling tent, something I have never seen before, where a couple pro body marblers help you dip your arm into some marbled paint on the surface of some water to produce a colorful, psychedelic design!
Hair & Makeup
This is basically the one thing in Base Camp that normal festival-goers couldn’t experience. And let me just say, you do not want to miss the silent disco. Starting when the festival ended each day, this was the coolest and highest-tech silent disco I have ever been to… strangely, out of a few. Let me explain. At the front DJ stand, there were 3 DJ’s playing, silently… and on your headphones, there were 3 channels. Your headphones would glow red, green, or blue with the color of the channel you were tuned into.
All the channels were a tiny bit different, too – red was usually singalongs, green varied from pop to house, and blue was always the hardest-hitting bass of a few different genres (we were usually on the blue channel and still make jokes about it to this day). Since your headphones would glow with what channel you were on, you could tune into your favorite and immediately go find ‘your people’ on the same channel as you… or you could switch channels and make a nod to your friend to get them to switch to the one you were on, synching your vibes. It. Was. Awesome. It was also bloody hilarious to be waiting in line for the disco (never more than like 15 mins) and see everyone changing channels and bursting out in random song, forgetting that it was a ‘silent’ disco. Too good.
There were lots of options for food. There were Greek, hamburgers, smoothies, cold pressed juice, Cocowhip iced cream, coffee, slushies, curry, pulled pork, and basically anything you could want.
Craft Beer & Cider
We frequented this tent, like, a lot. They had some really nice craft beers and IPA’s, and a gorgeous custard mango cider that seems to be sweeping WA’s trendy bars at the moment. Beers were $10 – standard in this area!
Craft Beer & Cider
Cocktails & Wine
Cocktail & Wine Tent
Base camp also had a tent that sold wine and creative yummy cocktails for $15. They were really good, but slightly over-full with ice (like, 3 sips and done) and maybe not worth it for that price, but definitely try at least one or two.
This was a massive circus tent filled with carpets and couches and comfy sitting areas, with loads of different acts and interactive events going on during the day. There were DJ’s, rappers, battles, comedy, and karaoke going on throughout the fest, and was definitely worth a check out.
Southbound Festival Amenities – Other Stuff to Do
See above for all activities in the Base Camp, which was open to the whole festival during the day! Here are a few amenities actually inside the festival grounds:
There was a big, long bar across the middle back of the grounds, long enough to accommodate all the thirsty Aussies there… which is pretty long. There, they sold basic canned beers, red bull + vodkas (in cups, difficult to be in a crowd), Smirnoff ice in cans that we always seemed to go for, double black’s, and a few more drinks.
Carlton Dry Tent
In true Aussie fashion, there was a very central Carlton Dry tent right between the base camp and the stages.
There was a place to buy durries inside the venue, much to the relief of most people 😛
There was a special tent and sitting area for Yak beers!
If you wanted any Southbound memorabilia or any band t-shirts, the merchandise tent was fully stocked.
I think nearly everyone drove to Southbound. Many/most came from Perth, so I am sure finding a rideshare would be equally possible.
In terms of transportation within the festival, there were shuttles from the festival to and from central Busselton that ran very regularly, available for purchase online.
If not camping, there were lots of places to stay. I know a few people who booked a chalet in a campground nearby, and took ubers to and from the fest each day. There were also lots of rentals and airbnb’s for the weekend in and around Busselton, and hotels too! There were lots of options in terms of accommodation, if you didn’t want to deal with camping. However, as I am always a high advocate of camping (and it was cheap), I recommend it! It might have been nice to stay near the sea and have a swim each morning, but then you’d have to deal with getting back to the house at night, and also missing the silent disco! #bluechannel
As stated above, there was an abundance of food and drink options! From above:
Food – There were lots of options for food. There was Greek, hamburgers, smoothies, cold pressed juice, Cocowhip iced cream, coffee, slushies, curry, pulled pork, kebabs, and basically anything you could want.
Craft Beer & Cider – We frequented this tent, like, a lot. They had some really nice craft beers and IPA’s, and a gorgeous custard mango cider that seems to be sweeping WA’s trendy bars at the moment. Beers were $10 – standard in this area!
Cocktail & Wine Tent – Base camp also had a tent that sold creative yummy cocktails for $15. They were really good, but slightly over-full with ice (like, 3 sips and done) and maybe not worth it for that price, but definitely try at least one or two.
BAR – there was a big, long bar across the middle back of the grounds, long enough to accommodate all the thirsty Aussies there… which is pretty long. There, they sold basic canned beers, red bull + vodkas (in cups, difficult to be in a crowd), Smirnoff ice in cans that we always seemed to go for, double black’s, and a few more drinks.
Carlton Dry Tent – In true Aussie fashion, there was a very central Carlton Dry tent right between the base camp and the stages.
As for water, there were multiple free water taps inside the venue near the stages, never with a long line!
There were a few releases for Southbound tickets at different prices, and it did not sell out (although it came close as I understand).
You could choose a 2 or 3 day ticket option, as well as a 2 or 3 day camping option. (Go 3!!)
The festival ticket started around $170 for 2 and $215 for 3 days, and went up to at $180 for 2 and $225 for 3 days. So, the earlier you purchase, the cheaper… and if you’re going through the trouble you may as well pay the $40 extra for the full three days.
As for camping, it was $30 for 2 and $40 for 3 nights per person, not per campsite. You could also grab a large vehicle pass and camp in a specific area if you have a camper van.
There were booking fees added to all these too… standard.
In the campgrounds, you had your classic porta-potties around, never too far away. These were cleaned multiple times daily and started out very pristine but as usual were quite feral by the end.
Inside the festival there was one set of toilets in the Base Camp, and one on the other side of the stages. These were nicer mobile toilet units with a real flush, sink, and mirror to use. Lines could get long at the toilets near the stages but were never too long of a wait.
There were mobile shower units inside the campgrounds as well, for free. They were like big trucks/sea containers and each would have a few different curtained shower stalls. So refreshing in the morning!
For security info on camping and car checks for alcohol, see the camping section above.
As far as security went when walking to the venue, you would hold up your wristband and have your bag checked upon entry from the campground. I had a fanny pack (bum bag for you Aussies :P) on, and would simply unzip it for the security guard and then be waved though. Friends with backpacks would have the same sort of quick bag check. On rare occasion they would have sniffer dogs standing at the entrance as well, checking people.
December 27-30 is smack dab in the middle of the Australian summer, so coming here you must be prepared for possible fiery temperatures upwards of the mid-30’s, which would not be unusual.
That being said, we were really lucky at Southbound in 2016. The day temperatures were a lovely warm mid-20’s – quite hot in the sun but comfortable in the shade (and often a bit cloudy). However, it seemingly instantly got freezing cold as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon. Jackets were a must after sun-down – it was too cold not to have one. So, if you’re camping, make sure you have warm enough sleeping bags, blankets, or cuddle partners! Because it can get reeeeeally cold.
Wind – on our first day arriving at Southbound, it was unbelievably windy. We were trying to set up our tent in a massive struggle with the high winds, and needed each and every one of us to hold it down plus some help!! Luckily it died down through the rest of the fest, but wind is another thing to be prepared for when considering camping, hair styling, and outfits!
Southbound saw a lot of classic festival fashion – boho, bulky jewelry, flowy pants and skirts, glitter everywhere, ripped shorts, body jewelry, flower crowns, and hippie/gypsy inspired styles. That being said, a lot of girls dressed up, but not everyone. I would say dressing up was encouraged at this festival, but not expected like at some. Some girls got way into it, which was awesome, and some did not, which was also fine! Express yo’self – or don’t, it’s up to you! 😛
As for boys – singlets and hats, with the occasional party shirt. What else would Aussie boys ever wear?!
Acts at the Commedia began as early as 9am, if you’re super eager! Performances at the stages started around noon, and ended at midnight. At midnight, campers would head to the silent disco, and non-campers could head wherever – I’m sure non-campers kicked on somewhere!
Money at Southbound Festival
Some places accepted card, but we usually just paid in cash for everything – drinks, food, etc. There were plenty of ATM’s available by the craft beer tent and near the main bar to get money out, too! See above for drink prices.
Final Southbound Festival Revie Tips
If you’re going to bring alcohol or anything into the campgrounds, just be smart about it and you will be fine. But don’t risk getting your whole group’s tickets voided by being frivolous!
If it get’s hot, make sure to bring water bottles and refill them at the free taps throughout the day. People didn’t seem to be hydrating as much as they should have at this festival!
Busselton is a gorgeous area, with lots to see. Don’t come all the way down here and miss out on checking out some of the sights! Southbound also has a page that arranges travel packages and tours (Margaret River wine tours, skydiving, coastal adventures) here, so this would be a good place to start if you want to do some further adventuring!
Remember, check out my Southbound Photo Journal here and see if you can find any photos of you or your friends!
Thanks for reading guys! If you liked my review-guide, pin it on Pinterest 🙂