New Zealand is famously known for its epic landscapes, natural beauty and indigenous Maori culture. But a lesser-known fact is that there are some amazing festivals in New Zealand, from huge music festivals to more local, cultural and community events. Here are some of the best New Zealand festivals to time your trip for…
From exciting music festivals that have world-famous lineups and large crowds to traditional Māori celebrations that offer a cultural experience, there’s lots of different types of festivals in New Zealand happening throughout the year. However, I think the best festivals in New Zealand happen in winter, which is typically June-August on that side of the world.
The country is fortunate enough to have lots of different landscapes, such as beaches, mountains and major cities. This is one of the reasons why some of the best winter festivals in New Zealand are so different to each other.
If you want to go to a festival in New Zealand here are the details and dates you need. The diversity just shows the eclectic nature of New Zealand’s culture, history and environment. So whether you want to dance at a huge music festival, learn about the culture, or just indulge in lots of wine and beer, there’s a festival in NZ for you.
8 Best Festivals in New Zealand
From music festivals to an epic race down a mountain on skis, here are my top picks for winter festivals in New Zealand.
1. Taupō Winter Festival
30 June – 16 July 2023
The annual Taupō Winter Festival offers an action-packed itinerary over two weeks. It’s definitely a great choice when it comes family-friendly winter festivals in New Zealand, as it has lots of attractions for kids. It purposefully takes place during the school holidays, giving kids of all ages something to look forward to.
There’s the regular lakeside ice rink and ice slide, as well as food trucks that you can enjoy throughout the whole festival. But each edition offers something new too to keep things fresh, usually in the form of performances like music, theatre and arts.
Taupō Winter Festival also has lots crafts as well as free activities to take part in, from rock painting to creating a wishing star. Or you can wander around the Mercury Light Hub (pictured above).
2. Greytown Festival of Christmas
If you’re not from New Zealand, it might seem strange to celebrate Christmas in July. However this is a fun, family-friendly festive festival that takes places in traditional New Zealand fashion. It includes lights displays, Matariki activities like stargazing and artwork, and lots of partying. Overall, there’s around 30 events and even more workshops to choose from, such as chocolate-making, flower arranging, and Christmas jumper-making.
In typical Christmas fashion, there’s also a night market, magical winter wonderland and lots of cosy bars, cafes and restaurants.
3. Winter Deco, Napier
21 – 23 July 2023
Get out your coats, hats and fur wraps and get cosy with the sophisticated and stylish, Winter Deco Weekend. The whole region steps back in time to experience what life was like between 1920 and 1940 as part of the festivities. If you enjoy dressing up then this is by far one of the best winter festivals in New Zealand to try.
Winter Deco is the closest thing you can get to The Great Gatsby. The Winter Deco has glitzy parties, cocktail evenings, jazz concerts, and fine dining at an Art Deco restaurant. There’s also old-school films, classic car displays and more. You could also try Argentinian Tango, swing or other types of dance workshops too.
There’s also some things to do for children, where they can become mini explorers. However, most of the festival centres around adult activities.
4. Beervana, Wellington
18 – 19 August 2023
Beervana is New Zealand’s biggest and most popular beer festival. Held at Sky Stadium over two days, Beervana has lots on to celebrate beer with fellow beer-lovers. From crazy brewery displays to beer cocktail to try out to silent discos, it’s a Willy Wonka Factory for beer lovers. There’s also live music and street performances to try too.
Many beers are brewed especially for the festival and are unlikely to be poured elsewhere ever again. Beervana also includes an annual homebrewers’ competition in which homebrewers are challenged to recreate specific beers from breweries – then the brewer has to pick their own beer out of the homebrewers’ line up (Beat the Brewer).
Fun Fact: Beervana was the biggest beer festival held in the entire world in 2020.
5. Visa Wellington on a Plate Food Festival
11-27 August 2023
For the most of August, you can Eat, Drink and Be Welly with lots of festival events, festival dishes that showcase the best of Wellington region’s ingredients, suppliers and producers. It’s described as the ultimate festival for burgers, which is of course a popular meal in New Zealand and most places.
The festival lets you pick from hundreds of different burgers, and included veggie and vegan options too. There’s also burger-themed events, which are linked to the theme of the festival that changes annually. The events are quite wide-ranging, but include anything from degustations to masterclasses.
So if you’ve always wanted to learn how to make the perfect burger, or literally just eat as many burgers as you want, this is definitely the New Zealand winter festival for you.
6. Winter Pride Festival, Queenstown
25 August – 3 September 2023
Winter Pride is the largest gay pride festival in the southern hemisphere – Queenstown emerges in full rainbow colours, on and off-mountain, with the perfect excuse for people to show their true selves in an accepting, supportive and fun community.
This 10-day festival is jam-packed with fabulous events, talented entertainers, dance parties, skiing, boarding and mountain hikes. It usually hosts some of the best Australasian DJs, epic dance parties, speed dating, skiing, boarding and all-round good times.
Another reason why Winter Pride is one of the best festivals in New Zealand is that a portion of your ticket sale will go to their chosen charity. In 2022, it was Qtopia, a social support service for LGBTQIA+ young people and their communities.
7. Snow Machine, Taupō
5 – 10 September 2023
New Zealand is know for its adrenaline-seeking activities and adventure. If you don’t believe me, read my post about my time skydiving in Taupo, New Zealand. But this thrill for adventure is also found in one of the best festivals in New Zealand, which centres around snow, skiing, and music.
Snow Machine is an alpine music festival that first started in Japan, but was so popular it came to New Zealand. For four days, you can get your fix of action, adventure and partying, with lots on offer. So once you’ve skied til your heart’s content, you can party on the mountains or the main arena to stellar DJs.
There are also side events that are like add-ons to the festival. These are cruises, launch parties, bungee jumping and so on, so are also pretty action-packed and fun too!
8. Peak to Powderkeg | Adventure Race – Ohakune
This is probably more of an event than a festival, but it’s one of the best spectacles in New Zealand. It includes a four stage adventure race from the top of Turoa Ski Area to Mount Ruapehu, finishing at the Powderkeg bar. Peak to Powderkeg has been going for over 30 years, so has seen lots of action over the years.
The race is kind of like a triathlon, with three types of activity involved. It requires participants to ski from the top to the bottom, before completing a 4.8km run and then a 11.5km bike ride. Thankfully it’s all downhill and roads are sealed, but it’s still pretty tough.
Even if you don’t want to take part, it’s a great atmosphere. You can always support those doing it, who will definitely appreciate the claps and cheers as they make their way down. There’s also a great BBQ to feast on at the end for both spectators and racers!
Quicklist of the best winter festivals in New Zealand
- Taupō Winter Festival
- Greytown Festival of Christmas
- Winter Deco, Napier
- Beervana, Wellington
- Visa Wellington on a Plate Food Festival
- Winter Pride Festival, Queenstown
- Snow Machine, Taupō
What are the New Zealand hippie festivals?
The Luminate Festival is a popular choice, typically held in the South Island’s lush Canaan Downs. It’s an eight-day celebration with workshops, music, healing practices, and art installations. Another is the Prana New Year Festival, situated on Opoutere Beach. This four-day event celebrates music, meditation, and sustainable living. Both festivals offer a fantastic opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and immerse yourself in the hippie culture. However, most of these aren’t winter festivals in New Zealand and take place at different times of year.
What is the most important holiday in New Zealand?
Arguably, the most significant holiday in New Zealand is Waitangi Day, celebrated on the 6th of February each year. This public holiday commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, marking the founding of New Zealand. On this day, People across the nation engage in various activities and events reflecting the culture, history, and partnership between the Maori people and Pākehā (European settlers). It’s a day filled with music, dance, storytelling, and food.
Is New Zealand worth visiting in winter?
New Zealand in winter is special, especially if you’re into winter sports or simply enjoy stunning winter landscapes. The ski fields of Queenstown, Wanaka, and Mount Ruapehu are popular destinations for skiing, snowboarding, and even snowshoeing. Beyond sports, winter is a fantastic time to visit because of the fewer crowds. Plus, you’ve got brilliant events like the aforementioned winter festivals to go to.
What is the warmest place in New Zealand in winter?
If you’re seeking some winter warmth, then look towards the North Island. The Bay of Islands and Northland regions boast mild winters compared to the rest of the country. In particular, the town of Whangarei is often the warmest, with average high temperatures in winter hovering around 16-17°C.