Dancing to good tunes, drink in hand, in some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most stunning landscapes – it doesn’t get much better, or much more Kiwi, than that.
From Auckland to the deep south, New Zealand has enough festivals to keep the most experienced party person on their toes. Whether it’s winter or summer, music or wellness, Aotearoa knows how to have a good time.
Every year, Jim Beam Homegrown rules the Wellington waterfront, pushing back at the wind whistling off the water with a mighty barrage of decibels. The festival showcases only New Zealand talent – and there is a lot of it, so much so that five stages (Rock, City, Lab, Electronic and Dub & Roots) are now required to fit it all in to a single day. After last year’s sell-out, the 2018 show will see more than 44 acts take the stage. Those bands haven’t yet been announced, but the calibre of last year’s line-up – including Shihad, The Feelers, Fat Freddy’s Drop, and Elemeno-P – should be a reminder to get your tickets as quickly as possible.
Homegrown returns to the capital on 7 April 2018. Its waterfront location places you at the very centre of the country’s most walkable city: Cuba Street, the epicentre of Wellington culture, is a mere stroll away; and Te Papa – New Zealand’s national museum – is actually within the grounds of the festival.
Time to explore
At Splore, you’re encouraged to “Eat! Sleep! Rave! Repeat!” and embrace moments of the unexplained. The motto for 2018: “Mystic Ritual.” Splore happens in Tapapakanga Regional Park on 23 - 25 February. The azure waters of the Firth of Thames lap at the shore, the Coromandel Peninsula looms beyond and twisted old pohutukawa trees surround the beach. It’s like a distillation of the Kiwi summer experience – swimming, camping, friends – but with added art, weirdness and music. Splore prides itself on its ecological responsibility and its inclusiveness. All ages are welcome (there’s even a fully programmed kids’ zone), which isn’t to say things don’t ramp up when the sun goes down. A truly eclectic range of acts will keep the adults partying all night long.
Splore is a one-hour drive from Auckland and takes place over the weekend of 23 – 25 February. Why not use it as a stepping-stone to explore the beautiful beaches and incredible hiking of the stunning Coromandel Peninsula, just another hour’s drive away.
A taste of the wild
When you cross the Southern Alps you enter a different world: beaches beaten into submission by wild surf whipping off the Tasman, looming kahikatea forest, salt-of-the-earth locals. It is, perhaps, the only combination of elements that could have created the quixotic Hokitika Wildfoods Festival, which has been a highlight of the small town’s calendar since 1990. Among the delights on offer from more than 50 stalls are sheep testicles, horse semen and huhu grubs. But there are more traditional (read: palatable) treats to get those tastes out of your mouth, including two of the Coast’s most treasured delicacies, whitebait and venison. The attractions aren’t solely gastronomic: last year’s event was headlined by New Zealand favourites Salmonella Dub.
In 2018, the festival will be held on Saturday, 10 March. Hokitika is a 3.5-hour drive from Christchurch, across the spectacular Southern Alps via Arthur’s Pass. Use the town as a base to explore the West Coast – from moody Lake Kaniere and Hokitika Gorge to the historic town of Blackball and, further south, the majestic glaciers of Franz Josef and Fox.
While most of New Zealand’s festivals make excellent use of our enviable summers, Queenstown goes in the opposite direction. The Winter Festival on the weekend of 23 – 24 June is just what its name suggests, as befits New Zealand’s snow-sport capital. It’s the southern hemisphere’s biggest celebration of winter in the crown jewel of New Zealand tourism. Take the plunge from the wharf into the icy waters of Lake Wakatipu or strip down for the Undy 500 then fortify yourself against the cold with mulled wine. Enjoy the entertainment and watch as spectacular fireworks dissolve in the inky black of the night sky.
The tourist hub of Queenstown has flights from most major New Zealand cities and Australian capitals. You’re there in winter (June), so you might as well ski: The Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Cardrona are all easily accessible from the town.