Now in its second year, Wanderer Festival at Pambula Beach is a wonderful celebration of everything NSW’s Sapphire Coast has to offer – arts, culture, welcoming locals, and breathtaking scenery.
As soon as we arrived, there was a very relaxed and local feel. Everything fits within two fields separated by a grassy knoll and – much like many of the surrounding towns – it has a chilled-out, hippie, and boutique vibe.
The lower field hosts two areas – the Main Stage and Wanderer. Between them are a bar and several food trucks serving Uruguayan, Jamaican, Indian, and Middle Eastern food as well as classics like burgers, chips, doughnuts, and pizzas. Yum!
On the other side of the knoll lies The Lost Lands – a smorgasbord of performance areas, immersive theatre, and interactive workshops. From yoga, Zumba, and line dancing to acoustic sessions and performances by the likes of Flying Fruit Fly Circus – there’s plenty to see and do here. There are also dozens of stalls selling everything from musical instruments to sustainable clothing.
Small festival – big line-up!
Wanderer may be small but the schedule is impressive. With over 70 acts, the 2023 line-up was an eclectic mix of Australian and international artists. Big names, up-and-comers, exciting First Nations artists, and a diverse offering of genres – from blues, hip-hop, and ska to indie rock, electronica, and folk.
Ocean Alley, The Jungle Giants, Sampa The Great, Rum Jungle, and Django Django were all as awesome as expected. My personal favourites were Art vs. Science. They absolutely nailed their energetic Friday headliner and had the crowd – myself included – dancing like lunatics.
Headlining on Sunday night was the Melbourne Ska Orchestra. This choice summed up Wanderer for me – resisting a chart-topping band-of-the-moment in favour of an awesomely fun act that appealed to a diverse audience. I defy anyone not to succumb to MSO’s infectious energy – I was enjoying myself so much that my Garmin told me to please calm down!
Easy, clean, and sustainable
At the risk of sounding every bit my age, Wanderer was the cleanest festival I’ve ever attended. All the crockery was reusable (washed by volunteers) and recycling was a prominent feature with art installations for empty cans. The bars were accessible with little wait times. The only downside was the limited choice of drinks – but even then, we happily made do. There were rarely lines for the toilets – most of which had plenty of soap. This isn’t the glitzy stuff that’ll make it onto your Insta page, but it sure makes a difference when you’re living in a field for three days!
For those who decide to stay off-site, the buses are well-organised. With one or three-day passes available, it’s $10 per day – a convenient and cost-effective way to get to and from the festival. Even on the last bus each night, everyone had a seat. Unlike my dance moves, it was all very dignified.
Exploring the Sapphire Coast
One of the founding principles behind Wanderer is to celebrate the local area and culture. We stayed in the nearby town of Merimbula which had plenty of accommodation, shops, cafes, and eateries. We also explored Pambula and the nearby towns of Eden and Tathra – all of which have plenty of beaches, walks, and spectacular views. There were several hikes that we wanted to try but for lack of time (and energy after all the dancing), we opted for the easy yet gorgeous 3.4km Merimbula Boardwalk.
If you’re only in the area for the long weekend, I would recommend getting a one or two-day festival ticket and spending the rest of your time exploring the area. We tried to do a little of both across the three days and, while we had a great time, I couldn’t help but feel that we spread ourselves too thin.
Would we go again…? In a word – yes!
Wanderer is an inclusive, family-friendly festival with a more than decent line-up. There’s plenty of space for kids to run around at all hours, but there’s also plenty for both younger and older crowds to enjoy. Basically, it’s all the good parts of a music festival without the idiots, filth, and overcrowding. If you have a broad taste in music and prefer your festivals with a more relaxed and casual vibe – this is definitely one to try next year!
Our new addiction?
Art vs. Science – We’ve listened to ‘Flippers’ on repeat for a week. (Yes, we know we’re a bit late to the game on this one!)
Our favourite coffee spot?
Fleetwood Coffee in Merimbula. They also make glorious toasties – perfect for post-festival hangovers.
Our biggest regret?
Getting stuck in traffic and missing the welcome to country and smoking ceremony by the Thaua people of the Yuin nation.
Our top tip for next year?
Pack a warm coat. It gets chilly at night!