After a long, golden summer and autumn, winter arrived in New Zealand in June with a flourish. Falling temperatures in June brought fresh falls of snow to the nation's skifields and Kiwis dusted off their equipment for cold-weather pursuits.
For many New Zealanders the midwinter months of July and August are a time for drawing close around the fireside and following cultural pursuits. Food and wine shows, music, arts, fashion and festivals of all kinds bring warmth and fun to the cooler months, but Kiwis definitely do not hibernate. Even in the depths of winter you'll find them hiking (the New Zealand term is tramping), kayaking, whitewater rafting and heading along bush trails on fun-run or competitive races.
In recent years the traditional Māori celebration of the winter solstice – known as Matariki for the rising of the Pleiades star constellation in the southern sky – has become an increasingly important item on the New Zealand event calendar. Matariki is marked by a huge variety of community and family events right across the country which continue until late July – look for local notices and signage wherever you are touring. Marking the beginning of the Māori New Year, Matariki is a time of reflection but also of food and feasting in anticipation of warmer days ahead.
New Zealand Steampunk Festival
30 May - 3 June, 2019
The Steampunk NZ Festival, now in its 10th years, is the premier steampunk event of the Southern Hemisphere and based in the steampunk capital, Oamaru, in the town's impressive Whitestone precinct of grand Victorian architecture. This four-day event includes markets and music, feasting, racing of teapots, airships and duelling teacup style - and much more madness. The highlight is the show at the Oamaru Opera House: Moments in Time, a series of short theatre pieces that tell of futures as they might have been and to top it all a Gala Ball.
New Zealand Steampunk Festival
Wellington Jazz Festival
5 - 9 June, 2019
New Zealand's hottest little jazz festival puts the groove in the world's coolest little capital. As the season cools, hundreds of musicians turn up the heat in the capital's famous Cuba Quarter. The three-day programme includes major international acts, home-grown super groups, relaxed afternoon sessions and riotous late-night jams - all crammed into some of Wellington’s best loved music venues, bars and eateries.
Wellington Jazz Festival
Fieldays in Hamilton - Waikato
12 -15 June, 2019
Now in in its 51st year, this iconic rural trade event is the Southern Hemisphere's largest agricultural event, a show place for the latest technology and innovation to the national and international agricultural community. The annual four-day event attracts 130,000-plus visitors, and showcases more than 1000 exhibitors.
Winter F.A.W.C! - Hawke's Bay Food & Wine Classic
7 - 30 June, 2019
Following on from yet another successful Summer F.A.W.C, the best place for winter food lovers in 2019 is Winter F.A.W.C! The iconic Hawke’s Bay winter festival wraps around intimate and authentic foodie events featuring food and wine personalities, roaring fires, glasses of rich full bodied Hawke’s Bay Syrah and lashings of local lamb and venison prepared in warming ways. Locales range from spectacular settings in vineyards and underground cellars to al fresco and Art Deco delights - setting the scene for great food, wine, and music.
Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival
20 - 23 June, 2019
Winter gets underway with a bang in the South Island alpine resort of Queenstown with a long weekend celebration that is billed as the southern hemisphere's most legendary winter festival - and gets bigger, better, more fun and slightly wackier each year. The 45th celebration edition comes with a programme that includes; music, arts, comedy, food and wine and plenty of fireworks to light the snowy night ski.
Matariki - Māori New Year
25 June, 2019
New Zealand celebrates Māori New Year or Matariki during winter. The month long event is associated with the first sighting of Matariki - the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters star group. Matariki is the most important date on the Māori calendar, and each year celebrations become more widespread as families and local communities pay greater attention to the traditional significance of the festival. This is a time to farewell the past year and welcome new life and new beginnings with festivities centred on kai / food sharing, hospitality, art and crafts, cultural workshops, traditional Māori games, concerts and performances. Wellington is planning a big new fireworks show and Auckland has a month-long celebration that puts a modern community spin on this ancient tradition.
Russell Birdman Festival - Northland
12 - 13 July, 2019
The Russell Birdman Festival in the beautiful Bay of Islands is one not to be missed. The free and fun three day event sees people partake in various fun-filled activities. From a unique take on the classic Drag Race (men in dresses) a mini iron man, fancy dress, spaghetti eating, saucy pirates and a street party. The most anticipated event of the weekend is the Famous Birdman jump off the jetty and into the pristine (and likely chilly) water.
Russell Birdman Festival
Elemental AKL – Auckland
1-31 July, 2019
Inspired by the elements of air, fire, earth, and water, Auckland has a new region-wide winter festival with more than 60 free and ticketed celebrating why Tāmaki Makaurau – Auckland's Maori name – is a place like no other. Held in theatres, parks, public spaces and even on islands in Auckland's Waitematā Harbour, Elemental AKL includes light shows, diverse cultural displays and performances, live music, theatre and dance and more than 100 eateries offering special menus, dishes and dining events showcasing Auckland's world-class food scene.
Midwinter Events – Queenstown
July and August, 2019
Befitting its status as a world capital of winter sports and adventure pursuits, Queenstown has an impressive line-up of midwinter events, both large and small. From on-mountain concerts and dining events to women-only camps for skiers and snowboarders, a mountain film festival, and Adaptive, a festival for powderhounds with disabilities, the city and its nearby ski resorts are all participating in the fun.
Highlights include Christmas in July at Coronet Peak skifield on 25 July, complete with Santa’s Workshop and a special visitor from the North Pole. From July 4 to August 22 the Skin to Summit Series is back with four events at The Remarkables and Coronet Peak. If you are new to the world of skinning (attaching synthetic skins to the bottom of skis for an up-trail workout that forgoes chairlifts) this is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and see some amazing sunrises.
On Friday and Saturday evenings from 2-30 August, Coronet Peak offers Queenstown's highest dining experience with authentic banquet-style dinners at Heidi's Hut, a rustic cabin overlooking the Wakatipu Basin. The Winter Games NZ begin in Queenstown on 23 August with events including the Freeride World Tour Qualifiers, and the Winter Pride Queenstown 2019 LGBT festival kicks off on 30 August with an eight-day programme of skiing, boarding and mountain walks, dance parties, pop-ups, free events and more.
Winter Deco 2019 – Napier, Hawke's Bay
19-21 July, 2019
Grab your hat, coat and fake fur wrap and get cosy at the sophisticated and stylish Winter Deco Weekend, a boutique festival showcasing the best of Hawke’s Bay. The cities of Napier and Hastings, rebuilt after a 1931 earthquake, have one of the world's largest collections of Art Deco-era architecture and twice a year the region celebrates this amazing heritage. Whether it's glitzy soirees, vintage cocktail evenings, world-class jazz performances, dining experiences at Art Deco restaurants or design and architectural tours, the Winter Deco Weekend offers a lot to savour.
Art Deco Napier
James Cameron - Challenging the Deep – Dunedin
29 July, 2019 to 9 February, 2020
Dunedin's Otago Museum has secured the exclusive New Zealand rights to host the blockbuster exhibition James Cameron – Challenging the Deep, which takes visitors to the depths of the world's oceans through the lenses of Cameron's underwater cameras and other incredible technological innovations. Developed by Australian National Maritime Museum & Avatar Alliance Foundation, this family-friendly experience offers an immersive look, complete with artefacts and undersea specimens, at the achievements of one of the world's leading film-makers in some of the most challenging and mysterious places on our planet.
James Cameron - Challenging the Deep
All Blacks BBQ – Wellington
26 July, 2019
While the mighty All Blacks have a big and busy season ahead that includes Investec Rugby Championship home fixtures against teams from Australia and South Africa in July and August, and matches in Japan at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in September and October, fans can meet some of All Blacks at a free barbecue at Queens Wharf, Wellington on Friday 26 July from 10am to 12pm. There will be opportunities for photos, signatures and lots of giveaways. #backblack
All Blacks BBQ
MLT Hokonui Fashion Design Awards – Gore, Southland
26-27 July, 2019
2019 marks the 31st anniversary of the MLT Hokonui Fashion Design Awards – the longest running fashion design awards of their type in New Zealand. Held in the Southland town of Gore, the awards are firmly established as a key event on the national fashion calendar and attract sophisticated entries. Designers compete in categories ranging from Streetwear to Natural Fibres and Avant-Garde which are judged by national fashion experts. This year’s event promises to be better than ever and once again, for one wondrous weekend, the farming service town (pop.12,500) will become a fabulous fashion hub where visitors are entertained with musical acts, fashion shows and much more.
Christchurch Arts Festival 2019 – Christchurch
26 July to 4 August
From its opening pōwhiri (Māori welcoming ceremony) to an outdoor spectacle of light, sound and performance and a rich two-week programme of music, theatre, dance and fine arts, the reimagined Christchurch Arts Festival celebrates a city and a region making new beginnings and heading in adventurous new directions. Artists who draw creative inspiration from their home in Ōtautahi/Christchurch are being joined by others returning from around New Zealand and the world. The focus of this year's carnival of cultural delights is on Christchurch as a place of hope, inspiration and change.
Christchurch Arts Festival
Visa Wellington on a Plate – Wellington
1-31 August, 2019
August 2019 sees New Zealand’s most deliciously dynamic food festival return for a full month, shining the spotlight on culinary talent, producers and suppliers who will serve food lovers the most amazing culinary experiences the Wellington region has to offer. WVOAP's first two weeks are dedicated to Dine Wellington, with restaurant menus and dishes featuring regional ingredients and producers, followed by two weeks of Garage Project presents Burger Wellington. Cocktail Wellington will run all month long. Other highlights include the Chef's Collaboration Series presented by Singapore Airlines bringing more than 20 top international chefs from the US, Australia, France, UK, Hong Kong (China), South Africa, Denmark and Japan to cook in New Zealand's culinary capital. From pop-ups to master classes, kids and family events to tastings, art, music and dance, WVOAP has something for everyone.
Visa Wellington on a Plate
We Run the Forest – Rotorua
3-4 August, 2019
Part of the Winter Forest Festival at Rotorua's famous Redwoods Forest at Whakarewarewa, We Run the Forest on 3 August offers fun and friendly 5km or 10km forest runs/walks and for the more adventurous, a 21km trail run. And since Rotorua is a world mecca for Mountain Biking, there's also a cross-country Winter MTB Classic on 4 August over 15km, 30km and 45km trails suitable for all entrants from Social to Weekend Warriors to World Cup Racers. Saturday 3 August also sees the inaugural Gravel Royale, a 100% gravel road cycling event held on forest roads with 17km and 42km options. Put on your brightest clothing and take it on!
We Run the Forest
New Zealand International Film Festival – Christchurch
8-25 August, 2019
Twenty-five highly anticipated films from the Cannes Film Festival are set to premiere to New Zealand audiences at the 2019 New Zealand International Film Festival in Christchurch's historic Isaac Theatre Royal. Joining them are 13 New Zealand films making their debut, plus six Maori and Pasifika short films and six finalists in the annual New Zealand's Best Short Film Competition. Renowned international film director, producer and screenwriter Jane Campion is the Guest Selector for the competition which honours new local talents.
New Zealand International Film Festival
Beervana – NZ's premier festival of beer – Wellington
9-10 August 2019
Take hundreds of different beers to suit everyone's taste, add outrageously creative brewery displays, live music and delicious food by top local eateries and the result is one big beer hug. There's no better place to celebrate craft beer than at Wellington's world-famous annual Beervana event and this year 71 breweries will be represented at Westpac Stadium including three craft breweries from the UK in collaboration with local brewers. For the first time, Beervana will also include two social enterprise breweries – The Independence Collective and Misfit Brewing – with all of their proceeds going respectively towards supporting those living with disabilities or special needs, and the restoration of clean water sources in New Zealand and the Pacific.
fifty/fifty – 50 years of Aratoi – Masterton, Wairarapa
16 August to 10 November
Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History in Masterton (lower North Island) celebrates its 50th anniversary with public talks, a commemorative publication and a special exhibition featuring major New Zealand and international artists plus taonga Māori, botanical sketches and photographs of early settlement. The show includes a few surprises, including an 1869 ship’s biscuit with a tale to tell of the visit of a prince, and items never before displayed. A splendid starting place for exploring the cultural riches of the Wairarapa region, Aratoi is open between 10-4 daily. Entry is free, koha (a donation) is welcome.
Huka Lodge Fly Fishing Event – Taupō
29-31 August, 2019
Consistently rated as one of the best luxury lodges in the world, Huka Lodge on the banks of the Waikato River is also located in the southern hemisphere's top wild trout fishery. The inaugural Huka Lodge Fly Fishing Event promises an exciting three-day experience for a maximum of 50 guests of all angling abilities, with plenty of activity on and off the water. Knowledgeable local guides will take guests to try their luck in the best spots in the area's crystal-clear rivers and streams. In-lodge activities will include a Louis Roederer Champagne station with a five-course dinner; a Glenfiddich "Highland Tasting" featuring seven rare whiskies; a "Tour de France of Wine" dinner starting in Champagne and finishing in Bordeaux, and a grand Prizegiving Dinner hosted by New Zealand celebrity chef Al Brown with a prize pool of over NZ$13,000.