Food, festivals, frolics and frocks. New Zealanders celebrate the approach of the warmer months with a burst of energy and creativity, and in ways that are uniquely Kiwi.
Spring in New Zealand puts a (ahem) spring in everyone's step. The outdoors beckon with new adventures and activities and road trips and throughout the country food lovers celebrate the fresh bounty of the season with festivals. Springtime is also a spur to creativity, whether in events that celebrate the past or imagine future possibilities.
All Blacks vs South Africa, Wellington
2018 is a busy year as usual for New Zealand's mighty All Blacks rugby side, with visits by national teams from France, Australia, South Africa and Argentina, and a late-year tour that will take them to Tokyo, London, Dublin and Rome. One of the most eagerly anticipated matches is the All Blacks' encounter with a young and talented Springbok side in Wellington on 15 September. The South Africans lost to the All Blacks in Cape Town in 2017 by just a single point and will certainly be looking for a different result. Prepare for a physical game.
All Blacks Fixtures
International Hobbit Day, Hobbiton Movie Set, Waikato
Fancy a pint of handcrafted ale and a feast where second helpings are encouraged? On Saturday 22 September at the world-famous Hobbiton Movie Set near the Waikato town of Matamata you can enjoy all that and more as Bilbo and Frodo Baggins's special day is celebrated in style.
Festivities at the five-hectare (12-acre) site will include a guided tour at dusk and a specially created event and party marquee area with individually themed stalls offering traditional Hobbit fare. Guests will be entertained by roaming minstrels and at the Green Dragon Inn, where Hobbits traditionally gather to chatter about the day, the Hobbit Southfarthing range of traditional ales, apple cider and non-alcoholic ginger beer will be on tap and there will be prizes for best (Hobbit) dress on the night.
International Hobbit Day
World of WearableArt, Wellington
27 September to 14 October
It has no narration, no explanation and needs none. The World of WearableArt is simply a two-hour tour de force of breathtaking costumes, choreography and music that crosses all language barriers and, as a judge of the event once put it, "makes Lady Gaga look like a librarian". Now in its 30th year, the spectacular annual stage show and design competition draws thousands of people to Wellington from across the globe.
This year's event season presents six "worlds" including Reflective Surfaces, Under the Microscope and Bizarre Bra (always an audience favourite). More than 60,000 attendees are expected to see the dreamlike and magical shows at TSB Arena where innovative designers from around the world vie for prizes including a four-week residency at Cirque du Soleil in Montréal.
The World of WearableArt
SCAPE Public Art Season, Christchurch
6 October to 18 November
For the last eight years, the people of Christchurch have been coming to terms with an environment that changed forever when an earthquake devastated large parts of their city in 2011. Amongst the many initiatives that are helping to rebuild and reimagine Christchurch, art is proving to be a powerful form of urban renewal. The springtime SCAPE Public Art Season offers free events, exhibitions and workshops as well as walking trails that showcase temporary and permanent artworks around the central city.
The biennial Festa public festival of architecture, design and food also returns to Christchurch with pop-up projects, family events, tours, live performances and artworks with a theme of food and city-making. The highlight will be a giant street festival on 20 October with plenty to eat and drink and installations that celebrate the city's post-disaster revival.
Scape Public Art
Diwali Festival, Auckland
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an ancient and important festival celebrated by Indian communities around the world. Auckland's annual two-day Diwali Festival, held in downtown Aotea Square, brings thousands of Aucklanders and visitors of all ages and ethnic backgrounds together to celebrate traditional and contemporary Indian culture. Highlights include local and international dance, music and theatre performers, food and craft stalls, a wedding expo, seminars and workshops. Wellington also celebrates Diwali on 28 October.
Auckland Diwali Festival
ASB Auckland Marathon
If you like sightseeing and exercise, the ASB Auckland Marathon on Sunday 28 October 2018 is an excellent way to combine the two. The race route follows the shoreline of Auckland's beautiful harbour and the marathon, half-marathon and 12km traverse take runners over the Auckland Harbour Bridge – an experience in itself and illegal at all other times.
Offering a range of distances (42km, 21km, 12km, 5km and a 2.2km kids' run), and concluding with a "Party in the Park" celebration, the ASB Auckland Marathon raises important funds for causes including mental health, cancer treatment and Auckland’s Starship Children's Hospital. Fast gaining an international reputation, this colourful marathon is a great way to take in the spirit and diversity of New Zealand's largest city.
The New Zealand Cider Festival, Nelson
3 November 2018
The New Zealand Cider Festival is back for its third year on November 3rd in Nelson, hot on the heels of a sold-out event in 2017. This year the organisers of the festival will showcase over 80 New Zealand cider varieties from all over the country. Set in the historic village of Founders Heritage Park in Nelson the Cider Festival is a celebration of diversity – whether that’s ingredients, producers and consumers – there’ll be a chance to sample both traditional and ‘new world’ varieties in a relaxed festival environment.
New Zealand Cider Festival
Taste of Auckland 1-4 November
Food and Wine Classic, Hawke's Bay, 2-11 November
Toast Martinborough, Wairarapa, 18 November
A November road trip around the North Island can easily take in three big events on the New Zealand food calendar. The Taste of Auckland Festival at the start of the month serves up a cross-section of the best food and drink in the city including uniquely New Zealand culinary experiences such as hangi (food cooked in a Māori earth oven).
The spring edition of the Hawke's Bay Food and Wine Classic, aka FAWC! – there’s also a winter FAWC! in June – is a chance to sample the inventive offerings of leading chefs, producers and purveyors in restaurants, wineries and pop-up venues across the Hawke's Bay region.
At Toast Martinborough, the entire province of Wairarapa, northeast of Wellington, takes part in a day of fine wine, cuisine and music in the open air. You will find yourself staying longer though because this beautiful part of the country studded with charming colonial-era small towns produces some of New Zealand's best pinot noir, aromatic white wines and dessert wines.
Taste of Auckland
Food and Wine Classic
Oamaru Victorian Fête, Oamaru
The town of Oamaru on the southeast coast of the South Island is a place where you can turn back time. Established at the height of Victorian-era expansionism, Oamaru once exported the products of its rich pastoral hinterland across the world, its prosperity reflected in grand commercial buildings made from locally quarried limestone.
Times change but thanks to the visionary efforts of a local civic trust, Oamaru has the finest collection of heritage-listed buildings in New Zealand. The Victorian Precinct, open for business year-round, hosts a week-long annual heritage celebration culminating in an old-fashioned fête. It's a fun day of contests, performances and eating and drinking with townspeople dressed in Victorian garb.
Victorian Oamaru Fete
Pioneer Mountain Bike Stage Race, Central Otago
The hearts of mountain bikers around the world are bound to beat faster this November as the Pioneer Mountain Bike Stage Race unfolds in Central Otago. Already a classic after only two races in 2016 and 2017, the Pioneer is expected to draw several hundred bikers and supporters from as far away as Europe and North America.
This year's race has a six-stage format, with two-person teams heading off for six days on a 450km loop from Queenstown through the remote back country of the South Island. The route includes farm tracks and historic mining tracks and traverses three Great Rides in the New Zealand Cycle Trail Nga Haerenga (the journeys) network. With a backdrop of mountain peaks, crystal-clear blue lakes and golden South Island high country, it's hard to think of a mountain bike race more beautiful or inspirational than this.
The Pioneer MTB Race