Australia’s Natural Settings Paint Perfect Backdrop for Events

October 26, 2018

On par with its world-class cities and cultural icons, Australia takes pride in its array of natural wonders, from its famed red center to the world’s largest coral reef. Even urban hubs like Melbourne and Sydney get in the mix with beachside sports, wildlife parks and other open-air options.

“The availability of exclusive experiences in spectacular natural settings is a big trend at the moment,” said Monica Armesto, marketing and communications manager for Tourism Australia. “Examples range from an event on a private pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef to a degustation dinner under the stars at Uluru (Ayers Rock). These two experiences literally can’t be had anywhere else.”

Partaking in outdoor experiences is just one way to draw international groups.

“Earlier this year, we also launched a Business Events Bid Fund Program (BFP) which provides assistance to secure new international group events for Australia,” Armesto said. 

To date, six bids supported by the BFP have converted as new business for Australia, according to Armesto.

“We have also just announced that Perth will be the host city for Dreamtime 2019, our signature incentive showcase, designed to increase awareness of, and interest in, Australia as an incentive events destination,” Armesto added. 

Cleland wildlife park, south australia
Cleland Wildlife Park, South Australia


Sydney’s famed beaches and harborside views translate to a multitude of outdoor options. According to Business Events Sydney (BESydney), a strategic bidding organization that secures global meetings for Sydney and Australia, the city is seeing an uptick in its Asian incentive market. 

Popular activities among that market, and incentives in general, include activities on Sydney Harbour, such as sunset cruising and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a teambuilding option. 

During a 2016 incentive trip with NU SKIN Greater China, for example, NU SKIN’s top distributors broke two Guinness World Records, according to BESydney, as 4,000 of NU SKIN’s top performers climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge over six days with BridgeClimb Sydney. This was the largest corporate group to have ever climbed the Bridge, with the previous record set at 2,100 in 2013.

Younger attendees are interested in action and adventure, such as diving, jetboating, learning to surf and sailing. Incentive groups can also organize day trips to the Blue Mountains for hiking or to Port Stephens for dolphin watching and quad biking, as well as tobogganing at Nelson Bay.  

BESydney said it is starting to see significant growth in global corporate meetings, “going from nothing five years ago to averaging 10 percent of its total secured revenue over the past three years.”

Lone Pine Sanctuary, queensland
Lone Pine Sanctuary, Queensland

Those groups are wanting to visit Sydney icons, such as the Sydney Opera House, which offers outdoor space in its forecourts, as well as branded skywriting options, which make for great corporate photographs. The Sydney Opera House is also opening in 2019 the Function Centre, an event space with direct access to the Northern Broadwalk, with capacity for up to 500 standing or 190 seated.

Other new city venues include the Endeavour Pavilion, next to the HMB Endeavour, overlooking Darling Harbour. New hotels include Four Points by Sheraton Central Park and five-star West Hotel Sydney, by Curio A Collection by Hilton.  


As Australia’s coastal capital of the state of Victoria, Melbourne is known for its colorful laneways, or arcades, as well as its theaters, museums and outdoor art. 

The newly expanded Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre is now Australia’s largest convention and exhibition center, with over 430,000 square feet of exhibition space.

There is growing demand from groups for immersive cultural experiences such as cooking classes and teambuilding activities with a local flavor, said Karen Bolinger, CEO of the Melbourne Convention Bureau.

Groups can also head outdoors and organize a personalized bespoke walking tour with a practicing Melbourne street artist to guide the group through the city’s laneways followed by a create-your-own artwork to take home, according to Bolinger.

Other outdoor options include Crown Aviary, a new rooftop space for outdoor events located at Crown Towers, which can host up to 550  for a cocktail reception. 

Melbourne is also a gateway to some of Australia’s most popular wildlife adventures, including Phillip Island Australian Wildlife and Nature Parks—home to the world-famous penguin parade. The park can cater for up to 4,000 people. A penguin protection program is available for groups to help the little penguin species by working with the rangers on a two-hour interactive, educational ecotourism project. 

“Delegates assist the Australian rangers to build homes for the creatures before heading down to Summerland beach to experience the parade,” Bolinger said. 

Groups can also explore nearly 25 acres of bushland at Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park, meeting endangered species, feeding kangaroos and wallabies, cuddling koalas and enjoying encounters with a variety of birds, reptiles and dingoes, among others. Behind-the-scenes tour options are available for groups.  

bridgeclimb, sydney harbour bridge
Bridgeclimb, Sydney Harbour Bridge

Hot-air balloon rides over the Yarra Valley wine region, less than a one-hour drive from the city center,  include a champagne breakfast after the flight. Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort & Spa, located in Yarra Valley, and Balgownie Estate Winery Retreat Bendigo just released exclusive corporate retreat packages this spring.


Queensland’s capital of Brisbane, which hosted last year’s Dreamtime event, is seeing large growth in hotel developments, with 20-plus 3.5- to 5-star hotels opening since 2014. 

“We have a further $12 billion worth of tourism-related infrastructure underway, including the Howard Smith Wharves entertainment and lifestyle precinct positioned beneath our city’s iconic Story Bridge, opening in late 2018, and the Queens Wharf Brisbane integrated resort and casino, opening in 2022,” said Juliet Alabaster, Brisbane Convention Bureau general manager. “We have also worked hard on product development across Brisbane to prepare for an increase in incentive business and ensure we can cater for larger groups. Out of that work, we developed ‘Brisbane Signature Experiences’ itineraries and packages for incentive groups.” 

Set on the Brisbane River, groups can set up rock-climbing adventures at Kangaroo Point, kayak down the river, charter a yacht and abseil the cliffs around the river. 

Queens Wharf Brisbane, an upcoming entertainment precinct in the heart of the Brisbane CBD, will include hotels, 50 bars and restaurants, a cross-river pedestrian bridge, boutique shopping, green spaces, a sky deck, casino, meeting spaces, theater and nine restored heritage buildings.

Brisbane is also planning a new zipline experience. The Mt Coot-tha Zipline will feature a treetop canopy zipline and a separate scenic zipline that will travel from the summit of the mountain into the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. 

Close to Brisbane, Lone Pine Sanctuary is the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, with 130 koalas. Visitors can hold a koala, hand-feed kangaroos and meet a large variety of Australian wildlife.

The northern Queensland city of Cairns is the jumping off point for excursions to the Great Barrier Reef as well as hikes in the Mossman Gorge. 


South Australia’s capital of Adelaide is surrounded by parklands along the River Torrens, as well as a wine country region.

“We have a new tree climb adventure just opened in the parklands, or you can conquer the Adelaide Oval RoofClimb for a birds-eye view of the city—or check out a cricket of football match from above,” said Damien Kitto, CEO, Adelaide Convention Bureau.

Nearby are the Flinders ranges, some of the oldest dated landscape on Earth, offering a number of bespoke options from horseback trail rides to hiking and helicopter tours. The more adventurous can skydive onto the beach where the Murray River flows to the sea.

“Wildlife experiences of course remain popular,” Kitto said. “We are lucky to have Cleland Wildlife Park 20 minutes from Adelaide where visitors can pat or hold a koala and feed kangaroos or emus.”  

Further afield, the seafood capital of Australia, Port Lincoln, offers wildlife interactions, such as shark cage dives and swimming with sea lions or dolphins.  

Australia CVB Information

Business Events Australia

Tourism Australia


What’s New

● The newly expanded Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre means the space is now Australia’s largest convention and exhibition center, with over 430,000 square feet of exhibition space.

● Sydney’s newest waterfront development, Barangaroo, is set over 54 acres of prime Harbourside land in the heart of the city center. It’s also connected to Darling Harbour and nearby ICC Sydney. The precinct is home to more than 40 new restaurants and bars and other purpose-built event spaces for groups of up to 5,000.

● A major development on Brisbane’s waterfront is nearing completion. Howard Smith Wharves will feature an overwater bar, a converted heritage wharf building, four boutique venues known as The Houses and Howard’s Hall, a nearly 12,000-square-foot venue due to open in November.

● In South Australia, the Adelaide Convention Centre redevelopment has increased the multipurpose convention floor space by 46,000 square feet and created a new public boulevard linking the Riverbank Promenade to the Centre. The redevelopment has replaced the original Plenary Building with a multipurpose facility with plenary capacity of up to 3,500 seats.

● In Perth, the newly opened Optus Stadium in Perth features 18 specially designed event spaces that can host from two to 2,000 guests, while the stadium itself seats 60,000. Near Crown Perth on the Swan River, the Stadium’s event spaces include rooftop venues with views of the river.

Profile picture for user Marlene Goldman
About the author
Marlene Goldman | Contributing Writer