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 mud, Aotearoa knows how to have a good time. If you are visiting the country soon, here are some of the best New Zealand festivals you would not want to miss!
1. Best New Zealand Festivals – Mudtopia
Taking inspiration from the Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea’s famous festival of dirt, is Mudtopia, held for the first time this year among the geysers and hot pools of Rotorua. Cake yourself in the healing, mineral-rich mud, or stay clean all day as you chill to tunes: the choice is yours. “Party, Pamper, Play” is the event’s tagline and all of those options are well covered. Headliners Shapeshifter will take care of the first, while the Mud Wellness and Mud Day Spa options have you sorted for the second. Then there are the Mud Run, Mud Arena and Mud Games for the inner child who just wants to get dirty.
The inaugural Mudtopia runs from 1 – 3 December and – good news – early summer is the perfect time to visit Rotorua, just under three hours’ drive from Auckland. Check out the billowing thermal features (Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Te Puia are must-sees) or grab a mountain bike and explore the beautiful Redwoods forest.
2. Best New Zealand Festivals – Wanderlust 108
Western Springs is an inner-city Auckland oasis. Although hemmed in by Great North Road, the lake is populated by gracious swans and squirming eels, the traffic seemingly miles away. What better place than lakeside to get in touch with your body and mind? That’s exactly what Wanderlust 108 promises.
Among the activities on the agenda is a triathlon unlike any you’ve experienced before, low on stress, high on energising mindfulness – a 5km run, a mass outdoor yoga class, then guided meditation. After the triathlon, take part in your choice of scheduled activities – acro-yoga, aerial yoga, hooping, or walking meditation, for example – under the tutelage of nationally recognised spiritual leaders. Away from your yoga mat, DJs will soothe and entertain.
Organic treats from local vendors will give you all the goodness and energy you require to help spread the love, peace, and compassion message at the heart of Wanderlust 108.
This one-day festival takes over Western Springs on 25 November. The central location – particularly its proximity to the cool inner-city suburbs of Grey Lynn, Ponsonby and Kingsland – makes it the perfect central focus for an urban getaway. Go shopping for Kiwi designer gear on Ponsonby Road before escaping to Kingsland for dinner and a nightcap.
3. Best New Zealand Festivals – Jim Beam Homegrown
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 into 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.
4. Best New Zealand Festivals – Splore Festival
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 around the Firth of Thames?
5. Best New Zealand Festivals – Hokitika Wildfoods Festival
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.
Next year, the festival will be held on Saturday, 10 March 2018. 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.
6. Best New Zealand Festivals – The Winter Festival
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.
We hope we have got you excited about these festivals! You must not miss them next time you visit New Zealand. Have a blast and share with us your experience below too!