What to do at the EKKA – 13 Things You Shouldn’t Miss!

If you’re in Brisbane in August, you should visit the EKKA at least once, as it’s Queensland’s largest annual event that attracts around 400,000 people each year. Otherwise known as the Royal Queensland Show, the EKKA unites the urban and rural parts of Queensland in a festive celebration of agriculture. And if you’re wondering what to do at the EKKA, there are rides, food and drinks galore, sideshow capers, woodchopping events, over 10,000 animals, show bags and much more!

Gregory Terrace – the main thoroughfare at the EKKA

However, before we get into the fun stuff, let’s look at how it all began…

A Brief History of the EKKA

What does EKKA mean and how did it all start? Firstly, the word EKKA is an abbreviation of the word ‘exhibition’ in the state’s vernacular. Of course, Aussies like to shorten everything and this is QLD’s version. It’s also officially been known as the Royal Queensland Show since 1921 after his Majesty King George V gave the fancy prefix the OK.

However, the EKKA dates even further back, to 1876, when it was first held in nearby Bowen Park. From that year forth, a public holiday was declared in honour of the event (thank you very much for that!). Today, it’s still very much a celebration of agriculture – there’s now also a lot of modern, carnival stuff thrown in as it expands every year.

The EKKA has been well and truly modernised to include the usual carnival craziness

So, getting back to what to do at the EKKA, here are 13 things that I personally tried and think you shouldn’t miss: 

1. Visit a Funhouse

Of course, this post is subjective but I think all fairs and carnivals should include the classic funhouse, which is certainly a fun thing to do. Why? Well, it’s a bit of a classic and being pretty mellow, it starts off the day in a celebratory mood without being too wild. Funhouses are also great places for photography! As there are mirrors, slides, spinning walls and lights galore, a funhouse is just that – fun! If you’re looking for some insta-worthy pics for your EKKA experience, this is arguably the best place to do it.

The Enchanted Circus funhouse

We visited two funhouses at this year’s EKKA – The Pirate’s Nest and The Enchanted Circus. Well, my son went to both and I sat out The Enchanted Circus to save a bit of money, although my 12-year-old Olin said this was the best one. Check out my video at the end for a bit of Pirate’s Nest action – where I’m filming while going down the slide.

The Pirate’s Nest funhouse
The slide at the Pirate’s Nest funhouse

2. Try a Sideshow Alley Game

If you find yourself in Sideshow Alley wondering what to do at the EKKA, try a game. It might seem a bit gimmicky, but more often than not you’ll win a prize. This is especially handy if you’ve got kids in your company. We encountered some pretty fun sideshow alley games, such as duck shooting, basketball, axe throwing and I even saw a plate-smashing game, which I was tempted to try. Olin tried his hand at axe throwing, which you can see in my video. In all, this is a classic EKKA thing to do and the money goes back the independent business owners who help make this event the fun place it is today.

Olin trying his hand at axe-throwing

3. Eat at a Food TruckWhat to Do at The EKKA

There are so many food trucks at the EKKA and they’re a great way to participate in a bit of clean street food the fair has to offer. They also give you the most immersive eating experience as they’re amongst the clamour and the colour of the showgrounds. Try a classic Aussie battered sav or a classic swirly potato stick in trucks such as the ‘Old School Food Van’ pictured below.

Swirly potato sticks at the Old School Food Van

However, if it’s a hot day, which often happens in Brisbane’s wintertime, there’s a food truck alternative that gives you plenty of shade and a bit more peace and quiet. We did just that this year at the Railway Café, which is a permanent fixture at the EKKA. As you can see in the picture below, this place really does offer quiet and shade! The food is simple here but decent. 

Shady, peaceful respite inside the Railway Cafe

4. Watch the Horses

It’s not a complete day at the EKKA until you go to the main arena and watch the horses strut their stuff around the grounds. Wondering what to do at the EKKA main arena? Grab a seat in the expansive grandstand and check out the showjumping, the sulkies (picture below) and the fine breeds as they parade in front of judges. There are also blacksmiths and farriers on display – just make sure to check out the EKKA timetable so you don’t miss them!

What to do at the EKKA – check out the fine horses!

6. Experience the Crowds and Cultural Diversity of Gregory Terrace

The EKKA is a great place to witness the congregation of Brisbane masses and soak up the city’s cultural diversity. I would say the best place to experience this is Gregory Terrace, which is the longest street at the EKKA and packs in lots of activities. On Gregory Terrace this year, I saw a band, a squad of 8-foot-tall chickens and more people than I’ve seen in Brisbane in one place in a long time. I have to say, it reminded me how multicultural Brisbane is, which I love!

Vibrant Gregory Terrace in full swing at the EKKA

7. Ride The Flume Ride

When you’re wondering what to do at the EKKA, or more specifically which ride to go on, you can’t go past the good old classic flume ride. Why? It’s family-friendly, you get some good views over the EKKA from up high, and you’ll get a tad wet, which isn’t a bad thing in hot Brisbane. Even in the winter! I would say the flume ride we went on at this year’s EKKA – Pirate’s Revenge – is good for timid types too. Olin’s a bit timid and this was at a nice level for him. He said on the last dip, “that was awesome!”. Check out my video at the end.

What to do at the EKKA – don’t forget the flume ride!
Getting ready for our first dip on Pirate’s Revenge

8. Buy A Showbag

Showbags and the showbag pavilions give me good memories of the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, my hometown. They’re not quite as cheap as they used to be, but they’re more jam-packed with goodies. Olin got the Kit Kat back which had so many Kit Kats in it. Thankfully he’s being true to his word and has been pacing himself since our visit. He also got a gladiator bag because it had a big sword in it and he’s being annoying the crap out of us, practicing slicing off our heads when we’re unaware.

The Showbag Pavillion at the EKKA

However, what I hadn’t noticed before this visit is the EKKA also has some good adult show bags too! Not so much for the gents – unless you’re into something like Assassin’s Creed, but even then the bag wasn’t so good – but the ladies have some good options here! Bags like Better Homes & Garden, Women’s Weekly, Marie Claire and Miss Coco await!

Awesome show bags for the ladies

9. Watch Some Whip-Cracking – What to Do at the EKKA

The EKKA hosts the AWPA Australian Whipcracking Championships, which would put Indiana Jones to shame. Here some of the best whip crackers across the country whip it out for the top spot under the dome. I like how this educates us city folk on some of the hobbies the crazy country folk get up to. There are even categories of 8, 12 and 16 and under, and lastly – men’s and ladies over 45s. There’s also the ‘Accuracy Champion’ contest as well as the cream of the crop, the ‘Work Bullock Whip Title’. Check out my video at the end for some cracking action.

This was a fine bit of whip-cracking!

10. Visit The Agricultural Hall

If you’re exhausted from being amongst the noise or if you’re stuck wondering what to do at the EKKA, definitely pay a visit to the Agricultural Hall, as it’s essentially the heart of the EKKA’s message. There’s also quite a lot to do inside, particularly if you’re looking for something more sedentary. Things to do here include:

The Wool and Fleece Displays

Check out the vast array of wool and alpaca fleece on display, which come from all around the state and are judged at the Agricultural Hall for their excellence. Here some of Queensland’s finest fibre producers strut their stuff. Keep your eye on who is producing the best for future purchases! Competitions cover 12 classes of both flock and stud rams.

Fine wool and fleece in the Agricultural Hall at the EKKA

Agricultural VR

There are a few VR experiences going on in the Agricultural Hall, but the one Olin and I experienced was a five-minute video on cotton, which was certainly educational! We got to see how and where cotton is produced and I was looking in all directions in the hall, trying to see different parts of the farm, which the VR experience allows you to do. Check out the other options as there are a few VR experiences to try in the hall.

Olin and I enjoying the cotton VR experience

11. Watch It All From a Laze-worthy Seat

Wondering what to do at the EKKA when you’re tired? Sit down and chill out! There are some good spots in the EKKA where you can take a break from the sun, so you can watch all the action or even hide from it. There are beanbags like this (below) in various parts of the EKKA, as the place is super accommodating.

Patrons enjoying the strategically placed beanbags in the Agricultural Hall at the EKKA

12. See a Dog Show/Competition

Dog lover? So am I! There are canine competitions on at the EKKA, with roughly 180 breeds in action over 9 days. Highlights include the crowning of the Champion of Show, Dances with Dogs, and the Trick Dog Test. We stopped by and saw this cute border Collie doing some tricks for us, which my son loved. Best check out the program well in advance as there’s so much on and you don’t want to miss anything!

Those border collies…..so clever!

13. Do these classic things we missed

Visit the RACQ Animal Nursery

One really cool part of the EKKA – which we missed this time around because of the line-up – is the RACQ Animal Nursery. We’ve been here before and if animals are your thing definitely put this place on your list. The place is home to 500 animals including lambs, puppies, piglets rabbits, pigs, calves, ducks, llamas, donkeys and more! If your kids are a bit bored and wondering what to do at the EKKA, take them here. They will love this place! And of course the adults too.

Woodchopping & Sawing, and the Stockman Bar & Grill

Other classics that have alluded me the whole two times I’ve been to the EKKA include the woodchopping and sawing competitions – which have loads of events – and the Stockman’s Bar & Grill, which is the EKKA’s licensed watering hole. I’ll definitely have to check these out (particularly the woodchopping & sawing events) next year!

The Stockman Bar & Grill at the EKKA

Getting There and Getting In

  • Car Parking – car parking within walking distance of the EKKA includes: King Street Car Park, Cornerstone Parking (the Royal Brisbane Hospital) and Secure Parking – the Valley Metro Car Park and McWhirters Car Park.
  • Public Transport – this year, nearby Exhibition Station wasn’t operating with the Cross River Rail – who knows about next year. Otherwise, you can catch the EKKA shuttle to Herston Station and walk approximately seven minutes to the EKKA. You can also catch a train to Fortitude Valley Station, which is a similar walk.
  • Ticket Prices – adult entry prices are $39, children under 14 are $24, concession prices are $29, 1 adult and 1 child is $49, kids under 4 are free and there’s a twilight ticket available for $24.

That’s a wrap for this year’s EKKA! Did you go this year or have you been previously? Have you got any other ideas for what to do at the EKKA that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments, on social media, or send me an email.

Might see you next year…

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