It takes a brave marketing scheme to put “The Ultimate Weekend Away” on their promos and even their wrist bands, but the organisers of Return to Rio definitely have the bite to go along with their bark. This little 3-day terrier of a festival packs an enormous punch. As much as I would love them to, these words do not do it justice. You have to experience Return to Rio yourselves to fully grasp how brilliant it is, and how it has ruined one-day festivals for me, with everything from the music, the facilities, the location, and the attendees all playing their part. Carl Cox & Eric Powel, Incognito, Bedouin, &Me, Fabio & Grooverider, Mr C, and Khen all played their part along with a host of other locals like Ricky Cooper (the event organiser) and Ben Nott, to provide a musically incredibly high quality festival.

Firstly, the location has got to be one of the most picturesque for a festival in the world. Nestled in between the Hawksberry River and an enormous tree riddled gorge, the campgrounds give ample opportunity just to sit in and absorb the drop dead gorgeous slice of Australiana. Del Rio Riverside Resort at Wisemans Ferry one-hour north of Sydney, is normally the stomping ground from family getaways with Mum, Dad, and the three kids. Well step aside kids, because it was a little windy and it was time for the adults to go mental. The resort has a mixture of two campgrounds, parking spots for campervans, and cabins which are all available for hire for the weekend. Our recovery routine became; waking up in the morning, fighting the near dangerous levels of sobriety, cooking a lovely breakfast on the BBQ’s provided, then going for a swim in the river. It cured any aches or pains we may have been suffering from, and refreshed our bodies and minds for the adventures ahead.

Return to Rio has significantly grown in size the past two years, and the organisers have done a fantastic job in creating a larger, more vibrant festival atmosphere for the revellers to enjoy. With light installations with impeccable craftsmanship, posters bearing inspirational slogans and encouraging random acts of kindness were scattered throughout the grounds, bow up inflatables scattered left and right, you can’t help but be put in a good mood. Food trucks with a variety edible delights, somewhere to buy ice for your esky, and even a phone recharging station for those inclined mean you a left wanting for nothing.

There are three stages, with the main stage located by the river. Dressed in deep space themed lights, toilets food trucks, a bar, and an undercover section for when it rained, you could wander into the main stage at 2pm and not leave until the beats ended at midnight. The two smaller stages are housed within the Del Rio Resort site, with “The Shack” and “Pool Side” providing a fun and more intimate setting for a party. The mainstage was host to the heavy hitters of the festival. Unfortunately deep house guru Lee Foss pulled out last minute, with his shoes being filled by main organiser Ricky Cooper and then Carl Cox himself, both hitting us hard with some deep house and deep tech. The mainstage of Saturday was host to the “Carl Cox & Eric Powell Mobile Disco”, with the legends spanning genres and time to work the enthralled crowd into an absolute lather.

“The Shack” was pumping all weekend long, with the revellers stuffed into a small spot but with plenty of wooden tables and hay bales to stand on!. “Poolside” was a little quiet this year and was closed for the Sunday. This was thanks to the inclimate weather that dogged the weekend, with morning rain and evening showers making taking a dip a little too cold apart from the hottest of partiers. The music at both of these stages was top quality, ranging from more chilled tech and deep tech to some more hectic bass bangers. You settle into a stage for the day or float between all three stages which are just a moment apart and would be guaranteed to hear some killer beats.
Many of those who attend Return to Rio make it one of the best festivals I’ve attended. A litany of fun, open, honest people made this festival a great experience. The organisers highly encourage dress up, the revellers take it very seriously. There are some amazing outfits and costumes to be seen, and you need to come prepared with some serious outfits if you want to stand out amongst this crowd.

With the music ending at midnight for the first two nights and then 10pm on the Sunday, the kick-on has to be the specialty in which Rio excels. You can start with your basic and standard camping festival kick-on, playing beats under torchlight in your tent/awning. Or you can upgrade your package to meandering over to the more serious of campsites whom have brought decks, speakers and a generator to blow your mind until 4am. Or you can get the platinum package by being brave and adventurous and find one of the cabins (either close or far) hosting a late night party and get comfortable underneath a solid roof of made of mortar and vibes. On the Sunday we took the last option, and after a 10-minute walk down a dark gravel roadway, following the faint thud of bass, we found a massive cabin, decked out with all the party trimmings, including UK legend Mr C behind the decks (who played on Friday night at the official festival). Hour later after a journey through some serious techno, we wander back to the main resort site to stumble across another cabin with what must be 100 people squeezed into it!

In the spirit of after parties, the Monday after the festival is an opportunity to find your scattered marbles, cook some breakfast, go for a swim, enjoy the sun, and unwind. I can’t recommend highly enough taking a late departure, cleaning up your campsite to some great beats, and enjoying the last of the picturesque scenery. The drive back to reality is long and winding, but every minute back here in the real world makes me appreciate every second up the Rio even more, and think that it may truly be “the ultimate weekend away”.

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author: Anthony Glanville
hero image by: Return To Rio
content image by: Anthony Glanville

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