New Zealand Summer Music Festivals
Summer in New Zealand runs from December to February which means that, unlike in the Northern Hemisphere, some of the best summer festivals happen around New Year’s Eve and Christmas time. Two of the biggest music festivals of the year is Rhythm and Vines (28-31 December in Waiohika Estate, Gisborne) and Rhythm and Alps (29-31 December in Cardrona Valley, Wanaka). You have two stunning settings to choose from, either the mountainous South Island at the Rhythm and Alps festival or the sunny vineyards in the first city in the world (thanks to its location on the international dateline) to see 2021, at the Rhythm and Vines festival in Gisborne. Check out more things to do in Gisborne here.
New Zealand’s most famous little surf town hosts its own family-friendly summer festival, Soundsplash (22-24 January in the Wainui Reserve, Raglan) has more than 40 music acts performing across three stages.
Splore (26-28 February in Tapapakanga Park, Auckland) is a music festival by the beach in the beautiful location of Tapapakanga Park. Enjoy an extensive line-up of music acts and cultural performances.
WOMAD (22-25 July in TSB Bowl of Brooklands) stands for “World of Music, Arts and Dance” so expect great diversity in one of the most vibrant art hubs of the North Island, New Plymouth. Six stages are set up over three days bringing you energetic performances, workshops and much more! Check out more things to do in New Plymouth here.
How to Get Involved in a New Zealand Festival
For more festivals worth checking out, be sure to check out the 6 Summer Festivals in New Zealand. If you want to get involved, meet new people and save money on a festival ticket, check out How to Volunteer at a Festival in New Zealand.
New Zealand Cultural Festivals
Festivals are a great way to experience the diverse culture of New Zealand. Here are some of the top cultural events to check out in 2021.
Waitangi Day (6 February) induces Maori cultural events all over the country! Top Waitangi Day events include those at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands and Okains Bay in the Banks Penninsula near Christchurch. Learn more about the public holiday in What is Waitangi Day?
Similarly, Matariki (2 July) is the start of many cultural celebrations across New Zealand, which last about one month. Find out more about the event in What is Matariki – The Maori New Year.
And for a slice of the Kiwi culture, check out the wacky mid-winter events of Russell Birdman (date to be announced) where you can participate or watch people launch themselves into the chilly Bay of Islands’ waters from Russell Wharf. There’s also drag queen races, spaghetti-eating competitions and more. Learn more about the Bay of Islands in 10 Must-Dos in the Bay of Islands.
New Zealand Food Festivals
Treat yourself (and your stomach) to one of the foodie festivals in New Zealand in 2021.
The infamous Marlborough Wine Festival (13 February in the Brancott Vineyard, Blenheim) is where around 40 local wineries get together for a huge party and everyone’s invited! Join in for some great music, awesome food, great wine, masterclasses and more in New Zealand’s largest wine-making region. Learn more about the area in the 10 Best Wineries in Marlborough.
On the other end of the dining spectrum, the Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika (13 March at Cass Square) is a Kiwi calendar favourite. Try heaps of weird food on offer like huhu grubs, bats, chicken legs and so much more. Otherwise, enjoy fancy dress, cooking demonstrations and a pretty wild after-party.
Wellington on a Plate (1-31 August all over Wellington) is where New Zealand’s capital city gets our taste buds watering for a whole month with hundreds of events going on around the city and outer region. Learn more about Wellington’s food scene in The Foodie Guide to Wellington.
New Zealand loves seafood, so experience their passion for yourself at the Coromandel’s Whitianga Scallops Festival (September, date to be announced – at The Esplanade). The South Island equivalent is the Bluff Oyster Festival (22 May on Lee Street) to taste Southland cuisine and wild foods. Check out 10 Awesome Things to Do in Whitianga and 5 Fun Things to Do in Bluff.
New Zealand Vintage Festivals
New Zealand loves a bit of “yesteryears”, so much so that they have era-themed festivals!
If you want to experience a town go back in time, don’t miss Oamaru’s Victorian Fete (November, date to be announced – in the Victorian Precinct). Put on your finest Victorian attire (because you packed that for your trip to New Zealand, right?) and join in with the locals for a day of crazy competitions, too much food, too much drink and some more fun stuff.
Finally, we can’t forget the Art Deco Festival (17-21 February) in New Zealand “Art Deco Capital”, Napier. See the city come alive with outfits to match the architecture, parades, air shows, costumes and endless amounts of vintage fun and finery. Otherwise, Napier is a good place to experience all things vintage anyway, just see in 15 Super Fun Things to Do in Napier.
New Zealand Free Festivals
Some of the best festivals are free! Check out the New Zealand festivals in 2021 that you don’t have to pay for.
For the prettiest park you ever did see, enjoy New Plymouth’s Festival of Lights (19 December-31 January in Pukekura Park) with picturesque illuminations, free competitions and music happening in the park throughout the summer.
Christchurch’s World Buskers Festival (15-31 January, all over Christchurch city) is a mix of free and paid events of some of the world’s best street performers, from music to burlesque to comedy. Most free performances can be found at Christchurch‘s Market Square and the Bridge of Remembrance.
Wellington’s Gardens Magic (12-31 January at the Botanic Gardens) has been a crowd-pleaser for 41 years! Just grab a picnic blanket and a group of mates, head to the Botanic Gardens and enjoy some free gigs in the garden. They take place every night except Mondays.
Balloons Over Waikato (16-20 March in Innes Common, Hamilton) is a renowned annual event here in New Zealand! See a sky full of creative hot air balloons, from traditional to the weird and wonderful. Check out more 10 Great Things to Do in Hamilton.
Celebrate the start of New Zealand winter with the Queenstown Winter Festival (June, dates to be announced – all over Queenstown). Suitcase sledge races, dog derbies, musical entertainment, food and fireworks: this festival has something new to offer every year but provides a week of fun before you hit the mountains to ski. The festival offers a mix of free and paid events. Find out more in our Queenstown Winter Festival guide.
New Zealand Sports Events
This is the part of our event guide that we would usually talk about Sevens, which was due to take place in Hamilton in 2021. Unfortunately, however, Sevens 2021 has been cancelled.
Rather than being a spectator, get into the sport yourself in 2021 with one of New Zealand’s marathons! It seems that every town or city in New Zealand likes a good excuse for a running event, but a few to mention are the: Queenstown Marathon (20 November), Wellington Marathon (27 June), Christchurch Marathon (11 April) and Hawke’s Bay Marathon (15 May).