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Gap Year New Zealand :: essentials :: festivals and events

New Zealand’s Best Festivals and Events

If you want to really experience Kiwi culture, head to those events that have been tried and tested by the natives themselves. You’re bound to find something that takes your fancy at one of these annual shindigs! Take a look at our easy-to-follow guide below to see what’s on offer, there’s always something to celebrate…

:: January

Auckland’s Big Day Out: Mid January. Australia’s hugely popular music festival comes to New Zealand! Expect huge crowds and even bigger international artists enjoying a great day of music and dance.

New Zealand Festival of Rhythm and Dance, Rotorua: Three days in early January. Also known as Jambalaya, this carnival involves music, theatre, dance, parades and parties! If you need anymore encouragement to get moving, try out one of the workshops that will teach you everything from Bollywood dancing to circus skills, capoeira to African drumming!

:: February

Hero Festival, Auckland: All month. This is New Zealand’s biggest celebration of gay and lesbian culture with several huge events including Big Gay Out and the Hero Parade. The festival celebrates gay and lesbian film, theatre, cabaret, dance and sport. There are also huge parties every night with world-class DJs!

Wellington Dragon Boat Festival: Mid-March. Every year over 60,000 people are drawn to the waterfront to witness teams desperately thrashing through the water trying to win the race! The Chinese legend behind the race is just another fascinating part to this exciting event; no doubt you’ll hear it while you’re there so we won’t spoil the surprise for you!

:: March

Pasifika Festival, Auckland: Early March. Every year this event celebrates the art, food, music, lifestyle and culture of Polynesia. This is your chance to visit all the islands of the South Pacific without even leaving the city!

:: April

Propecia Rally, Auckland region: Top international drivers compete in this internationally-renowned rally amongst the stunning landscape of the Auckland region. The rally is part of the FIA World Rally Championship and is definitely worth a visit to see the world’s most high-powered cars hurtling around the spectacular rally course.

:: May

International Comedy Festival, Nationwide: All month. There is sure to be something that tickles your funny bone in one of the huge variety of events taking place through the month. Most acts are concentrated in Wellington and Auckland, but check out the website for full details of other venues countrywide.

:: June

Queenstown Winter Festival: The normally peaceful town of Queenstown is invaded each winter by crowds eager to see the festival events including celebrity ski races, winter parades, concerts, parties and spectacular firework displays.

:: July

International Film Festival, Nationwide: See the most exciting, innovative films in screenings and events across the country. This festival is all about film quality rather than hype so you’re sure to see some eye opening material and maybe some new classics.

:: August

Rally New Zealand, Auckland: This is definitely one for racing aficionados; a highlight of the rally season and part of the FIA Rally Championship. See high-powered cars tackle the unpredictable tracks of the region – it’s definitely worth braving the winter weather for.

:: September

Waikato Boat, Fishing and Leisure Show, Hamilton: There are tons of exhibitors, activities and water-sports demonstrations to keep you entertained at this festival. Learn how to cook delicious seafood, try a new sport or simply enjoy some live music.

Air New Zealand Fashion Week, Auckland: An exhilarating week of talent, glamour and fashion! During the week the runways are strictly for industry professionals but on the weekend fashionistas can check out the latest trends, indulge in some retail therapy and be entertained by great live music.

:: October

Gisborne Wine and Food Festival: Check out the best produce that New Zealand has to offer at this annual celebration of culinary delights. The best wineries open to the public at a reduced rate during the period so grab your drinking mate and make it your mission to visit them all!

Auckland Marathon: Late October or early November. Now attracting over 9,000 runners this is one of New Zealand’s most exciting sporting events. With a generous cash prize awaiting the winner the race is definitely one to catch – follow the example of the thousands of spectators who turn up every year to watch these great athletes compete.

:: November

Wellington International Jazz Festival. Local and international talent fills the city with some of the world’s best jazz during this week-long spectacular. Check out the website and discover what delights this year’s festival has to offer.

:: December

Caroline Bay Carnival. Three weeks of continuous entertainment! Visitors can enjoy everything from fairground rides to brilliant live music acts from around the world. This three week festival also includes an amazing New Year’s Eve celebration complete with a fantastic firework display.

New Years Eve, Nationwide: New Zealand has some brilliant locations for New Year’s celebrations. There are loads to choose from, so why not check out Taupo’s open air concert which attract some big-name music artists. If that’s not quite your cup of tea, head for the other big cities for some great celebrations such as Wellington’s Rhythm and Beats spectacular.



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