Kiwi’s (New Zealanders) love their country and they love to party. They get to display that love with jubilant festivals held throughout the year to celebrate who they are and by sharing with you the wines and food, entertainment, games and gaiety that are uniquely Kiwi. Don’t miss out on the excitement, spirit of adventure, hospitality and joie de vivre that are part of all these celebrations.
Marlborough Wine & Food Festival
Marlborough, sitting right at the top of the South Island, is world renowned for its vineyards and its wine. Each year in mid-February, Marlborough celebrates its bounty with festival goers who sample a unique selection of wines and an exquisite array of local cuisine prepared by celebrity chefs, all while being entertained by some of New Zealand’s finest performers. The vintners and chefs happily share some of the intricacies involved in making wine and preparing world-class food.
Go dressed for the Fashion in the Vines competition. Everyone is eligible to win.
Two things: The festival is for adults 18 years of age and older, and only cash is accepted for all purchases.
Hokitika Wildfoods Festival
Hokitika is a beach town on the West Coast of the South Island. On the second Saturday of March, the townsfolk celebrate the many foods of the region. Don’t take the word “wildfoods” lightly. No food is too bizarre: wasp larvae ice cream, ostrich sandwiches, huhu (beetle) grubs, earthworms, possums, whiskey sausages. It may be the only chance you’ll ever have to be wildly adventurous with food, and think of the bragging rights! Or if you merely want to watch others consume such oddities, there are dozens of stalls with conventional food. There is an eclectic mix of entertainment: bands of every genre, comedians, dancers and bouncy castles, face painting and other fun activities for the kids.
Wear the wildest outfit you can get together—the more outrageous the better—for the Feral Fashion competition.
Waiheke Wine and Food Festival
On the first Saturday of April, ferry over to Waiheke Island off the coast of Aukland. The Wine and Food Festival celebrates the island’s many famed wineries and vineyards. Savor the hand-crafted and distinctive wines and food prepared by artisan chefs as you gaze out at the stunning vineyards, olive groves and beaches that line the clear blue sea. There is live music all day and presentations by the wine growers throughout the day.
During the week leading up to the festival, individual vineyards open their doors for dinner and presentations.
Bluff Oyster Festival
Bluff, a seaport on the southern coast of South Island, claims the biggest, juiciest and tastiest oysters in the world. The town celebrates the peak of the oyster season in May. Don’t miss the opening ceremony when bag pipers present the exalted oyster and the oyster opening and eating competitions. You’ll be amazed at the garments created for the Oyster Sack Creativity competition.
While oysters are definitely the stars of the show, you’ll find other exquisitely prepared foods, including crayfish, paua (abalone), whitebait, muttonbird, venison and lamb, all accompanied by the finest southern ales and New Zealand wines.
Queenstown Winter Festival
Queenstown sure brings winter in with style. The 10-day festival, “the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest winter party,” has the quintessential carnival atmosphere with parades, fireworks and street performers. Entertainment is provided by local and visiting bands, solo artists and DJs. Heaters and mulled wine will keep you warm on the music-filled nights. There are food stalls with everything you and your kids could possibly want.
Highlights are the mountain bike race on snow, the dog derby and New Zealand’s best skiers and snowboarders showing off their best tricks.
Cadbury Chocolate Carnival
Every July, Dunedin honors the mighty cocoa bean. Everywhere you turn there is chocolate. Watch the chocolate go from bean to bar. Have the most delectable hot chocolate ever at the Cadbury World Cafe. Treat yourself to a chocolate facial! The piece de resistance is the Jaffa race—75,000 Giant Jaffas (round chocolate-orange confections enclosed in a red shell) hurled down the steepest street in the world with the children (and some adults) waiting to grab as many as they can.
At the Cadbury Couture Fashion Show, you’ll see amazingly stylish garments created from chocolate foil.
Visa Wellington on a Plate
Held over two weeks every August, Wellington on a Plate offers culinary events throughout the city at its finest restaurants and many food stalls. More than 300 restaurants and food producers and suppliers participate in this fusion of food, culture and creativity. Of course, you won’t lack for a bit of the bubbly or brew to enjoy with (or without) the food.
See how the art of the perfect pastry is mastered. Learn how to forage for wild produce. View films that celebrate food. There are more stimulating activities than you can fit into two weeks.
Beervana is the largest single event during Wellington on a Plate. Held on one weekend at Westpac Stadium, it brings together craft beer enthusiasts from around the world to meet the brewers and discover, imbibe and celebrate beers from across New Zealand and Australia with a few additions from other countries. Local eateries cook up beer-friendly delights from dainty dumplings to lip-smacking ribs.
Whitianga Scallop Festival
Whitianga, on Mercury Bay, celebrates the start of scallop season every September. The top-quality food stalls serve not only scallops, in more ways than you can count, but all seafood, prepared by the best of the best New Zealand chefs and wine from the region’s most popular vineyards. There are three stages conveniently positioned around town for cooking demonstrations, family-friendly activities and entertainment by New Zealand’s best artists.
If you can dream up a really funky outfit, you could win “Best Dressed”!
On the first Saturday of October, Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island, celebrates the abundance of the ocean with good food, good wine and a good time. Seafood dishes are creative and sometimes “outside the box,” but always a feast for the senses. Wines represent local vineyards and the Marlborough and Canterbury regions. There is continuous entertainment throughout the day with a variety of performers of every genre and talent.
The festival starts off with a parade of people dressed in imaginative costumes. Prizes are awarded. Feel free to join in with your own “outside the box” costume.
Gisborne Wine and Food Weekend
Gisborne, on the northeastern coast of North Island, celebrates the start of the wine season every Labour Weekend (Labour Day is the fourth Monday in October). On Saturday, the individual wineries open their cellar doors for wine tasting and food; some may have their own particular offerings, such as art exhibitions, concerts or a relaxing game of croquet.
On Sunday, the day of the actual festival, guests are welcomed at three unique vineyards and given tours. At “Wine Central,” more than 30 individual wines are available for tasting and celebrity chefs provide gourmet food. Live entertainment continues into the night with more wine tastings, an assortment of food trucks and activities that the whole family can enjoy.
Nor far from Wellington, Martinborough is a pretty colonial-era village set around a picturesque town square. The town celebrates its world-class wines in November each year. The festivities are centered in the square and fan out to multiple sites around town, wineries and restaurants. The top-flight Martinborough wineries team up with the best chefs and musicians the region has to offer.
You can choose among the gourmet dishes crafted by the chefs from local produce, cured meats, seafood and cheese and the food stalls with fare such as pizza and ice cream. The festival ends with a musical extravaganza in the town square. Be ready to tap a toe or twirl around the square to the infectious music.
Not sure which event to attend or when to visit? Check out the article When To Visit New Zealand
Ready to start planning your New Zealand travels? Contact The Splendid Traveler