How To Survive A Day At Melbourne Cup Carnival.

Australia, City Breaks, Fun Stuff, Lifestyle, Melbourne, Planning, Travel Tips
Amy and I smile with our glasses of champagne overlooking the track at Flemington Racecourse

The Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival is Australia’s most famous racing series held annually during October and November and with the six incredible race days taking place just up the road from North Melbourne at Flemington Racecourse how could we resist! I had done a couple of quick Google searches to see what reviews I could find and read how it was “glamorous, refined and layered with history” as well as “better than Royal Ascot,” which neither of us have been to so at $65 for a general admission ticket it seemed too good to miss while we were here.

The major sporting event is ingrained in Australian’s Culture with a public holiday on the first Tuesday of November for the pinnacle of the series, Melbourne Cup Day.


two racegoers pose for a photo at the Melbourne Cup Carnival

No heels or headpieces in site but suitably dressed.

Now, this one is debatable and one thing I would recommend is don’t fret! Despite the fact that it’s such a high profile racing event, the same rules apply to any other race day in terms of dress code and what to wear, which basically means the poor folk who opted for general admission (us) are exempt. Having said that, everyone wants in on the upper class culture and dresses immaculately so you don’t want to show up in your thongs and board shorts and stick out like a sore thumb. Traditionally, the race track is one of the few places where high society and lower classes come together socially and everyone really makes an effort to keep up with the fashion on the field so even though you won’t be turned away at the gate for having mismatching accessories you might want to make sure you’re at least smart enough to blend in.

With all this in mind and guys this one is aimed at you, if you knew it would be 30 degrees and you didn’t HAVE to wear a suit…would you? Exactly. Same for girls and their shoe choices. If you’re on your feet a lot, mostly walking back and forward over grass, and are drinking all day then flats will do. Saves any embarrassing tumbles as well after a few too many glasses of bubbly. We attended Derby Day where traditionally black and white is the prominent colour palette chosen (again it’s optional) and luckily I already had a black and white dress although it wouldn’t have typically been a style I’d think was suitable for the races so i considered buying a new one. I quickly changed my mind when I weighed up spending $80 on a new one or $80 on drinks. James, opted to go with his pink chino shorts and white shirt, quickly becoming the envy of many overheating gents in 3 piece suits.


If you’re someone who doesn’t mind being organised and doing a little carrying then you’ll love this rule! There are plenty of food vendors and places to eat inside Flemington race course but there is also a huge lawn in front of the track where everyone happily sets up a blanket and tucks into their picnic, fabulous. Since we had saved money on outfits, we didn’t want to then blow a load of money on food so the picnic option was a winner. Bare in mind, your bag will be searched for alcohol on entry and security often scours the lawn in case anyone was tempted to hide a bottle of gin in a loaf of bread. I also find continuous picking or nibbling helps alongside alcohol consumption rather than waiting till your too drunk/hungry and having to wait in a queue for food you shovel down in 3 minutes then instantly fall into a coma.

We were typically British with our picnic selection. Bread, cheese, pate, crisps, dip and strawberries and I think the lot was polished off leaving us with an empty cooler bag to take home. We’d also started the day with bacon, egg and avocado muffins as well as some pink fizz 🙂


I can’t really make a definite statement with this one since I technically only queued once at one bar for drink and didn’t venture too far down the track to suss out the other options, but I’d recommend making use of the fairly generous alcohol limits available per person. Something like, up to 4 cans (small) and 1 large bottle of wine/bubbly OR 2 bottles of wine/bubbly. I figured the bubbles would go down slower meaning less trips back and well, it’s the races after all. At $38 it wasn’t too bad of a price either, happy days! As with most events like this, they insist on opening every bottle or can at the bar though so James’ 4 cans probably went down a lot quicker than planned! We’d heard some stories about race goers drinking behaviour and to expect a lot of falling over etc which seemed to come as a warning from Aussie’s as if they were assuming we’d never experienced such a thing…come on now. It’ll probably be us!

Everyone was actually very well behaved. Us included. It was quite a difference to York Races in the UK and people here definitely lived up to the way they dressed.


Even if you love a bet on the nags and enjoy the rush of cheering on a horse you’re not entirely convinced you can even see, there’s nothing worse than knowing you’ve lost out and walking away having blown 100’s of dollars, so set a limit. How much would you realistically be willing to lose? Between us, we went for $100 and since we’d missed the first couple of races we stuck to $5 each on the remaining races. Pretty sensible behaviour from us I know, but it was worth it and we still had just as much fun. After backing a losing tip from a friend of a friend, we went our own strategic way, making snap decisions based on numbers and names just a few minutes before each race…you know..the proper way bet. It paid off though, literally, and we won $95 on the last race! So from a betting perspective we were up 🙂 Happily a couple of bottles of bubbly and beer heavier, we made our way home for a quick pit stop and then out to celebrate with dumplings and more bubbles.

If we’re in Melbourne this time next year, we’ll definitely go again! Only this time, we might make use of the public holiday on Tuesday and hit up Emirate Melbourne Cup Day with the other 350,000 people who attend, although we might struggle for a picnic space then.

Rachel x

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    Melbourne’s Best Sporting Events – Daily Watermelon
    March 9, 2016 at 8:37 am

    […] What better way to launch into spring than some fun with the gee gees! The Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival is a series of horse racing meets which all build up to the ‘race that stops the nation’ on Cup Day when the whole of Victoria is given the day off work to place their bets and it’s something you don’t want to miss. The series starts late September and builds up to Cup Day on the first Tuesday in November with the most famous horse race in the world. It’s a fantastic way to introduce yourself to the culture of the city where you can dress up, sip champagne and cheer your chosen horse over the finish line in the Australian sunshine. Read my guide to surviving a day at the Melbourne Cup Carnival here. […]

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