Festivals in New Zealand

New Zealanders love festivals, with various communities gathering together throughout the year to celebrate just about anything worth celebrating. Some festivals may occur as once-only events and it is worth researching what is coming up in different parts of the country.

The following is a mere snapshot of some of the festivals that are recurring from year to year, and indicate the main festival categories of food and wine, music, sport, the great outdoors and arts and culture.

  • Sea, Sky and Bushwalk (March) – A bushwalk through some of the most stunning rural scenery of the Central Hawke’s Bay region, eventually ending at the Pacific Ocean.
  • Golden Shears (March) – A unique cultural experience – watch some of the world’s best sheep shearers in action and learn about wool processing.
  • WBS Masterton A&P Show (February) –  An agricultural fair providing a snapshot of rural New Zealand, with machinery displays, fairground entertainment and arts and craft stalls.
  • The Pacific Rose Bowl Festival (November) – A festival celebrating the beauty of spring and the magnificence of blooming roses, with entertainment and competitions for the whole family.
  • Parnell Festival of Roses (October/November) – A celebration of the approaching summer months with live entertainment, food stalls and markets.
  • Hunter’s Garden Marlborough (November) – New Zealand’s largest garden event held in Marlborough Sounds, with tours of some of the areas most beautiful private gardens, expert tips and seminars and a garden fête.
  • Taranaki Rhododendron & Garden Festival (October/November) – get some landscaping and gardening tips from some beautiful public and private gardens of Taranaki, which open their doors to visitors for this 10-day celebration.
  • Gay Ski Week NZ (August/September) – Queenstown comes alive for Gay Ski Week, featuring parties, charity dinners, live performance and top skiing.
  • American Express Queenstown Winter Festival (June/July) – A fun festival atmosphere hits Queenstown featuring fireworks, live music, street parades and winter sports.
  • Carterton Daffodil Carnival (September) – The main street of Carterton comes alive with market stalls and golden daffodils to raise money for the Cancer Society.
  • Marlborough Sounds Water & Wilderness Festival (September/October) – This festival celebrates the beauty of the outdoors with bushwalking, biking, kayaking and cruising activities.

Food and Wine Festivals

  • The Amuri Estate Retreat Olive Harvest (June/July) – A sociable day of olive picking, with lunch provided. A medium level of fitness required, but no experience needed. Participants take home a bottle of virgin olive oil.
  • Hawke’s Bay’s National Red Wine Expo (July) –  Held in Auckland, Wellington & Christchurch, a showcase of the regions best red wine varieties.
  • Hawke’s Bay Olive Festival (September) – Celebration of olives, with products for sale, cooking demonstrations, olive-growing and preparing information and tastings.
  • Harvest Hawke’s Bay (February) – Summer celebration of olives, wine and gourmet food with music and entertainment.
  • The Food Show (July/August) – Auckland’s food and wine extravaganza, with exhibitions, demonstrations, visits from celebrity chefs and competitions.
  • Whitianga Scallop Festival (August) – A weekend celebration of indulgent cuisine with a focus on local seafood. Featuring food stalls, cooking demonstrations, competitions, entertainment and more.
  • Great Tastes Food Show (September) – Northland-based food festival with barista competition, wine tasting, cooking competitions and wine-tasting classes.
  • Marlborough Wine Weekend (October/November) – a weekend of wine appreciation, wine tastings and fine foods.
  • The Marlborough Wine Festival (February) – A festival of fine wine, food, fashion and music. Wine-tasting tutorials and gourmet food on offer.
  • Waipara Valley Wine and Food Celebration (March) – wine stalls with local products, fine cuisine, music and children’s entertainment.
  • Dunedin Cadbury Chocolate Carnival (July) – Chocoholics around the country flock to this fun celebration of all things chocolate, with classes, tastings and demonstrations.

Music Festivals

  • National Country Music Awards (August) – Held in Hamilton, these awards acknowledge New Zealand’s best in this category, from established industry professionals to rising stars.
  • New Zealand Schools Choral Festival (July/August) – an international choir festival featuring some of the world’s best choir groups, including local Maori and Polynesian choirs.
  • Fuel Festival of New Zealand Music (July) – Hamilton music festival, each year featuring a line up of popular New Zealand music.
  • Rhapsody Rotorua (June/July) – Music festival featuring a wide variety of performance groups from bands, choirs, orchestras, jazz groups, singing ensembles, percussion groups, stage bands to guitar ensembles. Performers benefit from 3 days of instruction, performance, criticism, classes and workshops set in the stunning indigenous cultural hub of Rotorua.