Fresh to the Festivals Guide to New Zealand’s most delicious seafood festivals

Imagine sitting in a beautiful outdoor setting, sipping a crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine and enjoying the freshest seafood you’ve ever had.

Imagine sitting in a beautiful outdoor setting, sipping a crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine and enjoying the freshest seafood you’ve ever had. Sounds great, right?

Well, New Zealand can make that dream a reality, thanks to a plethora of seafood festivals throughout the country and right the way through the year. Oysters, mussels, crayfish and more are always on offer in some of the most beautiful parts of the country. 

Kāwhia Kai Festival - 3 February, 2018 

Acknowledged by Lonely Planet as one of the top Māori attractions in New Zealand, the Kāwhia Kai Festival is a full celebration of the indigenous culture with particular focus on native Māori food. Held in early February, the festival is timed to coincide with New Zealand’s national holiday, Waitangi Day (6 February). Locals call Kāwhia "kai food heaven" because of the plentiful supplies of seafood and wild game. Each year more than 2500 kono / traditional flax baskets are specially woven to serve up portions of delicious hangi kai which has been cooked in a series of gigantic underground ovens - often required to feed more than 10,000 visitors. On the menu: toroi / marinated mussels and puha / watercress, inanga / whitebait patties, kanga wai /pirau fermented corn, wild pork and puha spring rolls, koki / shark liver pate, and mud snails.

Havelock Mussel & Seafood Festival - 17 March, 2018

First on the calendar, Havelock, in the Marlborough Sounds, is 'the home' of the New Zealand green lipped mussel. Held each March, the Havelock Mussel & Seafood Festival celebrates with live entertainment, delicious food, fine local beer and wine, and, of course, the finest seafood taking centre stage. It's always a cracker day out for the whole family at the Havelock Domain. Watch out for cooking demonstrations, market stalls, industry displays, music and last year the festival had its first ever ‘beer university’.

Coromandel Seafood Festival - 5 May, 2018

First on the calendar is the Coromandel Seafood Festival on 5 May. With its pristine waters, the Coromandel Harbour is renowned for its mussel and oyster farms, as well as being a great place to haul out your line and catch some fish. The festival held in Coromandel Town is a favourite with locals and visitors for its down to earth and get involved approach. The programme for 2018 will include a fishing competition, oyster and mussel shucking, food demonstrations, live music, fish filleting demonstrations, and local cafés and restaurants showcasing all kinds of seafood.

Bluff Oyster & Food Festival - 26 May, 2018

If you can't make it on the 5 May, the Bluff Oyster & Food Festival is a couple of weeks later on 26 May, and another excellent choice because there can't be a more perfect destination than Bluff to sample the famous Bluff oysters.

The salty seaside township of Bluff is home to this festive winter event brought to you by the locals of Bluff with a uniquely southern flavour. Complementing the sumptuous Bluff Oyster is a variety of seafoods including crayfish, paua (abalone), scallops, salmon, blue cod and whitebait in abundance. Grab your hat, scarf and a winter coat for an event filled day of live music, along with oyster shucking and eating competitions.  

The Whitianga Scallop Festival - TBC September, 2019* 

*NOTE: Whitianga Scallop Festival is having a gap year and will be back, refreshed in 2019. No worries though as scallops are available on the peninsula from July - December.

Once you've had a taste of oysters, it's time to try scallops in The Coromandel. One of New Zealand’s most popular seafood events, the Whitianga Scallop Festival usually features up to 60 food stalls turning out mouth-watering dishes. Entertainment from famous New Zealand performers and seafood cooking demonstrations by iconic NZ chefs help round out the exceptional scallop celebration.

Port Chalmers Seafood Festival - TBC September, 2019* 

The Port Chalmers Seafood Festival takes place every two years. Set on the shores of Otago Harbour, this festival is renowned for showing off local seafood cuisine in a pretty seaside town that welcomes over 90 cruise ships every summer.

The festival is run by local volunteers who work together to create a professional festival that is fun for the whole family. Its roots are in the community it serves and helps support. 

Here you'll find legendary southern clams, crayfish, fresh fish, New Zealand green lipped mussels, whitebait, craft beer, Central Otago wine, fish touch tanks, kids games and story time, live local music, cooking demonstrations, free buses… the list goes on.

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