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We’re polishing up our dance moves and sharpening up our taste buds in preparation for an outrageous summer of festival fun. Check out our best of the fests.
Highlights of the culinary calendar include Gincredible (February 12 – 14), which is back in Tauranga with food trucks rolling in, gin masterclasses from the experts, and samples from boutique distillers. On the same weekend, the Wellington Wine & Food Festival (February 13) will bring together drool-worthy foodsters like The Crab Shack, Rogue Burger and House of Dumplings, as well as bevvies from unbeatable breweries and vineyards. At Gindulgence in Wellington (January 30 - 31) and Christchurch (February 27 -28) the country's best artisan gin producers are sharing the zesty goodness of their favourite tipples. The Great Kiwi Beer Festival is back with more than 40 craft breweries rolling their kegs into Christchurch (January 30) and Hamilton (March 13) so we can sample all of the amber delights the Kiwi brewing industry has to offer.
On March 7, the North Canterbury Wine & Food Festival brings the region’s harvesters, artisan producers and all kinds of drink-makers turn out in force so we can totally fall in love with everything North Canterbury has to offer. Grow Ōtautahi (March 12 – 14) is Christchurch's free garden festival with how-tos, demonstrations from chefs including Jax Hamilton, and stunning gardens on display. For a taste of an absolute speciality right at its roots, head to the Havelock Mussel and Seafood Festival (March 13) in the heart of the Marlborough Sounds. Sample New Zealand greenshell mussel, king salmon and Pacific oysters with celebrity Chef Michael Van de Elzen, and relax to old-skool favs Zed and Nelson singer-songwriter Robinson.
Hokitika Wildfoods Festival (March 13) is always a total hoot, with stalls full of weird and wonderful goodies, as well as a feral fashion show and wonderful West Coast beer – this year's music headlines are blast-from-the-early-2000s bands Stellar* and The Feelers. Ripe: The Wānaka Wine & Food Festival (March 21) is a new taste sensation on the festival map this year. Head south to the home of stunning vistas and vineyards, where you’ll find Central Otago’s best food and wine producers, breweries and distilleries – and they’ve got tasters. And to round out an absolute feast of a summer, Feastival is bringing food, drink and fun times to Hanmer Springs (March 27).
Start the summer shakedown at Taupo’s Le Currents culture and arts festival (27 December). Groove out to indie and rock bands like Mako Road, The Beths and Soaked Oats.
You’re spoilt for New Year’s party choices, with an epic all-Kiwi Rhythm & Alps lineup featuring Six60, Shihad and The Phoenix Foundation on New Year’s Eve, while Benee and Fat Freddy’s Drop are headlining Rhythm & Vines in Gisborne. Camp among the vines for the exclusive Waiohika Warmup event, and don’t miss the man-made waterslide. The Edge NYE20 is Christchurch’s biggest New Year’s Eve party featuring homegrown Kiwi music talent that’ll have you cutting shapes all the way to midnight with The Black Seeds, Dillastrate and more, topped off with a midnight fireworks display. Highlife NYE is bringing together the country’s best DJs for one massive night of body-thumping electro beats in Matakana, and if you’re still thirsting for tunes, head to Mount Maunganui (January 3) or Nelson (January 5) for Bay Dreams, with big international DJs Peking Duk an Sub Focus quarantining just to be there, and they're joined by local heroes like Dave Dobbyn, Mitch James, Concord Dawn and The Upbeats & Tali. Or make the pilgrimage north for the Bay of Islands Music Festival (January 8) just outside of Kerikeri, featuring Benee, Dave Dobbyn, The Beths and Tami Neilson.
Raglan will be humming for Soundsplash’s (January 22 – 24) three days of multi-genre festival fun, featuring an incredible lineup (Che Fu is our pick for sizzling tunes) across four stages and an always-incredible Kai Village. Slow it down a notch at the Auckland Folk Festival (January 29 – February 1) with Lyttelton legends The Eastern energising the dance floor among markets and workshops at the Kumeu Showgrounds. Ben & Jerry’s Lazy Sundays (February 7 - March 14) brings local artists to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens through February and March.
Waitangi weekend brings One Love (February 6 – 7) to Tauranga Domain, with Fat Freddy’s Drop, L.A.B, Kora and Sean Kingston. Held in the 1900s replica township of Ferrymead Heritage Park in Christchurch, Nostalgia fest is a day to rock out to a lineup of New Zealand’s finest musicians across three stages, with the one and only Bic Runga headlining. Located on the sun-drenched side of Lyttelton Harbour, the Banks Peninsula Festival (February 20) will be jam-packed with tunes from The Butlers, Delaney Davidson, Deep Water Creek, Volts and more; top-notch artisan food (don’t miss Giulio Sturla’s guaranteed great eats); and local wines and beers.
Tāpapakanga Regional Park’s Splore (February 26 – 28) always attracts a conscious crowd of party animals. Electric Avenue (February 27) is bringing Benee, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Kora, L.A.B, Shapeshifter and way more to Christchurch's Hagley Park. It'll be packed with food trucks, carnival rides and interactive experiences all set to a non-stop 12-hour soundtrack of tunes across multiple stages, with over 30 bands pedalling their best funk, house, hip hop, drum and bass, and rock bangers. Beloved Kiwi musicians will be living it up in Lincoln for the 5th anniversary of Selwyn Sounds (March 6), with Jon Stevens from INXS, Stan Walker and the Jordan Luck Band headlining the day.
Hurl yourself into the speed, sunshine and spying antics of the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland with Summernova, an all-summer series of music, food and drink, and arts festivals. You’ll find great vibes, blissful days and family-friendly fun at the Aroha Essence Festival (January 15 – 17) at Journey’s End Campsite in Loburn. The festival embraces and honours sacred Māori arts, wisdom and spiritual knowledge. In January, SummerTimes sees Christchurch Symphony Orchestra presents a series of special performances: Pita me te Wuruhi Peter and the Wolf, The Latin Lounge, and Music of the Movies. There’s also Kite Day at New Brighton beach and Anthony Harper Summer Theatre’s hilarious Around the World in 80 Days in the Botanic Gardens. Bread & Circus 2021 (January 15 - 31) will be on show with weird and wonderful buskers packing the Christchurch streets with free entertainment of the mystifying, magical, hilarious and downright physics-defying kind.
Auckland Fringe (February 14 – March 6) has been described as a “little artistic hurricane that blasts out the cobwebs”. It’s a feisty, independent festival that brings sassy fringe shows celebrating otherness and inclusivity and satisfies all creative palates. Head down to Wellington for NZ Fringe (February 26 – March 20), a cutting-edge arts festival of Aotearoa’s best and quirkiest performers.
The 2021 edition of Auckland Arts Festival (March 4 – 21) will feature over 70 events across 18 days and many genres, with Voices New Zealand performing Taonga Moana – A Love Letter to the Oceans in Auckland Town Hall, and a massive celebration of the 20th anniversary of Che Fu’s Navigator with an epic gig from the legend himself. Finish the festival with Pūmanawa, a powerful kapa haka performance from four of our finest Māori cultural groups. Dunedin Arts Festival (April 6 – 25) will celebrate the city's erupting arts scene with extraordinary performances throughout the month.