Happy Mag’s guide to Wide Open Space Festival 2021

After a brief hiatus, one of Australia’s most-loved festivals is back in 2021. Here’s everything you need to know about making your Wide Open Space the best weekend ever.

The Australian outback is harshly under-utilised as a festival space. Our treasured Red Centre boasts some of the most breathtaking vistas you’ll find anywhere on the planet, a rich history, and some of the friendliest faces around.

Wide Open Space is a musical festival that’s been running out of Ross River Resort for a decade, providing a platform for Northern Territory’s finest musicians, visual artists, and creators to feature alongside Australia’s biggest acts. Testimonials of Wide Open Space are filled nothing but love, and it’s easy to see why – this is quite simply an event like no other.

With the 2021 event well and truly sold out, there’s sure to be a crowd this year. If you’re heading to Wide Open Space on April 30th, here’s how to make the most of this wonderfully unique getaway.

Wide open space ross river resort

Getting there

First things first, Wide Open Space is a pretty long way from pretty much anywhere. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

For most people, getting to Wide Open Space means flying into either Alice Springs or Yulara, which is the airport closest to Uluru. Flights to Uluru will generally be cheaper, but you’ll have to cop a five-hour drive to Red Rocks Resort, rather than the one-hour journey from Alice Springs.

If you’re driving from Alice Springs, Wide Open Space provides the following instructions:

“Follow the Ross Highway out of town (turnoff is just south of Heavitree Gap) and head east until you get to site. One of the most spectacular hour-long drives you’ll ever take.” 

If you don’t want to rent a vehicle, Wide Open Space also run a shuttle bus from Alice Springs. Keep an eye on the website for info there – bookings are set to open soon.

Of course in the times of COVID-19, it’s best to keep across the current travel regulations. Wide Open Space famously harbours festival-goers from all around the country, so if you’re travelling from outside Northern Territory, be sure to keep an eye on the Department of Health’s current domestic travel restrictions.

Once you’re there

Ross River Resort is settled into gorgeous Eastern Arrernte country, at the mouth of the N’Dhala Gorge. You’ll be well and truly amongst nature at Wide Open Space, and fittingly, camping is mostly the way to go.

That’s not to say some glampier options are available. Check out the range below.

  • Camp on the festival side of the river. This is right amongst the action, meaning you’ll never be far from the music – in turn, it may be tough to get an early night. If you’re going to be partying from dusk ’til dawn each day, this is the option for you.
  • Camp in the resort grounds. A cool 300-metre walk from the music, this option is a little more relaxed, and a little spacier. If you want the option to occasionally escape the party, this one’s for you.
  • Private cabins. If you want to glamp up your stay, Ross River Resort offers a select few cabins for solid prices. Get in fast though, these will absolutely book out.
  • Trephina Gorge National Park campground. This is a little down the road, but an option nonetheless. The festival organisers kindly remind you that if you plan on drinking, please avoid driving in and out of the festival each day.

From the camping zones to the big stages, Wide Open Space institutes a dead-serious ‘no dickheads’ policy. At this festival you’ll be on ancient land and amongst people who are hoping to escape the rest of the world for a little while. Be safe and remember that harassment, abuse, sleaziness, or damaging behaviour of any kind will get you booted from the festival with no refund.

It’s really not too hard to be nice, you know? Especially somewhere as beautiful as this.

The music

Having watched the Wide Open Space lineups drop for the last five or so years, there’s a couple of ground rules I’ve noticed they follow. First is keeping true to their Northern Territory roots – here’s a spot where you’ll be able to experience some of the most exciting acts from the state, which is especially rewarding given that a ton of these artists rarely make it to the regular east coast tour spots.

Secondly, there’s always something for everyone. From a couple of the country’s buzziest live acts to the “most isolated metal band in the world”, music fans of all shapes are all but guaranteed to find something they love at Wide Open Space.

If you’re a fiend for a good dancefloor, you’ll definitely want to suss out the likes of Haiku Hands, Opuio, DJ Wrong Banana, and heaps of others. The former is one of Australia’s finest live acts, combining call-out hooks with heavy, EDM-style beats. It’s a party you won’t want to miss.

Those leaning towards hip-hop have heaps of options too, starting with Briggs. A rapper, TV personality, writer, and all-round good dude rolled into one, he’s a regular headliner at Aussie festivals for good reason. You’ll also want to catch Dem Mob, the first rappers to lay down verses in Pitjantjatjara, and 30/70, who combine rap verses with soulful, jazzy band instrumentation.

If you’re wondering where all the guitars are, don’t worry, Wide Open Space has something for the rock fans too. In that realm we can’t recommend Southeast Desert Metal enough – they’re a crew of four who create scintillating metal inspired by their harsh, often unforgiving surroundings.

We’re only just scratching the surface, of course, so check out the full Wide Open Space lineup right here.

The rest

Music is just the beginning – like every great festival, Wide Open Space is a place for local artists, foodies, and educators to strut their stuff. A walk around the grounds will show you past a vivid marketplace, workshops spanning everything from dance to sustainability, non-musical performances, roaming art installations, and heaps more.

The program announcements are yet to come, so stay tuned!


Wide Open Space takes place from April 30th to May 2nd, 2021 in Ross River Resort, NT. For more information, check out the event website.