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New Zealand's Best Winter Festivals That Will Make You Actually Want to Go Outside

From slopeside parties in Queenstown to solstice celebrations in Wellington, these festivals are made for winter weekenders.
By Georgia Middleton
May 09, 2019

New Zealand's Best Winter Festivals That Will Make You Actually Want to Go Outside

From slopeside parties in Queenstown to solstice celebrations in Wellington, these festivals are made for winter weekenders.
By Georgia Middleton
May 09, 2019

When winter rolls around, it's natural to reach for anything that screams warm and comfort. And while there's a time and place for that, winter festivals are now giving you a stack of reasons to get out and about. From open-air gigs, to wacky food festivals, to speed dating on the slopes, we've narrowed it down to ten across New Zealand. So peel yourself from the couch, throw on your warmest gears and take your pick.




Mardi Gras is arguably New Zealand's biggest winter party. And this year they're spreading the fun over two weekends. In two different locations. Ohakune is back with a string of favourite dance floor acts, including Chase and Status and Matrix bound, to name a few. For any pop fans out there, Kiwi sensation Mitch James will also strum some of his beloved smash hits.

Down south, things are set to heat up at Coronet Peak, Queenstown — one of New Zealand's best ski resorts. Expect snow-capped, funky beats and an intimate crowd of only 3000. The lineup is similar to Ohakune's, with a couple of dance acts taking the place of Mitch James.


Serena Stevenson


To celebrate the beginning of the Māori new year, Auckland Council's Matariki Festival consistently delivers a series of culturally delightful events. And while exact details are yet to be announced, you can expect everything from street food and live performances, right through to light festivals, stargazing, Māori art workshops and film screenings. It's seen as a time to reflect on Māori identity, as well as an opportunity to look to the future. Matariki Festival 2019 runs from 22 June to 14 July in Tāmaki Makaurau.



Visa Wellington On a Plate is the capital's quintessential foodie festival. Spread over 31 days and five weekends, it infuses restaurants, bars and laneways with one-off culinary delights. Of particular mention is Burger Wellington, which is essentially Wellington's finest chefs and restaurants competing for the title of 'weirdest and most wonderful burger'. You'll also find masterclasses, brewery workshops and family events.



The festival known for encouraging mountain adventures with canines and rocking undergarments in sub-zero temperatures returns to the picturesque lakeside village from 20–23 June.

In line with the Māori new year, a traditional powhiri greeting and fleet of waka ama will kick off the four-day festival on Thursday, 20 June. Cardrona Alpine Resort will once again serve as the festival's host mountain for 2019. The mountain village experience will include crowd-pleasing events like the dog derby and dog barking contest. Festival-goers can also take part in tug o' war on skis, snow tubing, snow cycling or complete a recreational loop of the ski-field in Tour de Cardies.

For those who prefer a different kind of adrenaline rush, the Day on the Bay will return with wharf jumping contest, AJ Hackett Birdman, seeing participants launch themselves into Lake Wakatipu. The JUCY Undy 500 will see brave souls tackle an obstacle course and sprint through ice-cold water in nothing but underwear, and the Splash for Cash is an old fashioned swimming race.



Combining winter sport with community and inclusion, Winter Pride is all about locals and visitors embracing the cool weather — and who they are. Running from Friday, 30 August to Sunday, 8 September, the event is packed with dance parties, speed dating, skiing, boarding and all-round good times. There's a number of different packages to choose from. So whether you're up for wine tasting or winding down at the Onsen Hot Pools, you're sure to be satisfied.


Stellar, Smales Farm


New cultural festival Elemental AKL was developed to make Auckland a more vibrant and compelling place to visit and spend time in during the rain-soaked winter. More than 40 events have been unveiled for the winter festival, including a lineup of light shows, culinary events and cultural performances.

Great Barrier Island is hosting a series of astronomy-themed events, Takapuna's Smales Farm will see the return its three-day light festival, and an interactive light playground will illuminate Albert Park for three days. The Craft'd Wine + Spirits Festival will host more than 40 boutique wine and spirits producers, Eat Drink Love Ponsonby includes a series of special events and will see international guests take over spaces along the strip, Devonport's 'dining corridor' will host a progressive dinner experience spotlighting native ingredients and traditional cooking methods, and Elemental Feast will see restaurants plate up unique dishes or menus using local ingredients and inspired by the elements.

The entertainment lineup will also see Auckland's full-scale replica of the second Globe Theatre stick around for its first winter season. At Silo Park there will be an all-wheels illuminated parade in celebration of Matariki, and Te Taumata Kapa Haka will share the dynamic art form of kapa haka with exhilarating live performances.


Flare Collective


Typically held in the heart of the French Alps, Snowboxx is a multi-discipline winter festival that shines a spotlight on electronic music and snowsports. Last year it was announced that the event will slide down under to host one week of international acts, slopeside parties and off-mountain experiences in New Zealand's adventure capital.

While a date for Snowboxx Queenstown is still yet to be confirmed, it will hit the mountainous terrain of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables with a series of outdoor stages to recreate the European edition.

As well as letting loose in snowy mosh pits and hitting renowned ski fields — from beginner slopes to night skiing — attendees will be invited to enjoy on and off-mountain activities like bottomless brunches, igloo parties, comedy nights, snowball fights and aprés ski experiences throughout the week.


Simeon W


Lōemis Festival returns for its fourth year with a lineup of events celebrating the winter solstice from 14–22 June. The winter solstice is marked by the shortest day and longest night of the year and has often been associated with regeneration, rebirth and self-reflection.

The festival is curated by a talented bunch of local Wellington artists and communities, and takes place in various locations across the city. Each year the festival aims to deliver an innovative program with a strong focus on the ritualistic, mystical and fantastical elements of the solstice.

This year the program has a range of workshops, foodie and arty events for you to get amongst and not all the locations are public knowledge. Theatre-maker Miranda Manasiadis has developed The Devil Made Me Do It, a dance theatre work which explores spiritual intoxication, and delves into landscapes of mania, pathos and conviction. Other highlights include Field & Green's seven-course fish degustation, a spooky storytelling cocktail tasting evening, and an interactive art installation which will be set ablaze on the night of the solstice.



For a dose of EDM, get to George FM's Deep Hard N Funky. Hosted at Ellersile racecourse, the lineup includes a stack of local and international acts, including P Money, Kings, Maximono, Kormak, Bijou and more. There'll be six stages to jump between, so if you need to switch it up, something different won't be far away. It's also the event's 20th anniversary, so it goes without saying that things will be bigger and better than before.



The fourth annual Taupō Winter Festival offers an action-packed program over ten days in 2019. Running from 4–14 July, you'll have the choice of hitting a lakeside ice rink, jumping in a giant inflatable snow globe with snow directly from neighboring Mt Ruapehu, attending a mountain-themed film festival, catching live circus acts and downing free hot chocolates. What's more, 16 of the 32 events are free to attend.


Feature image: Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival.

Published on May 09, 2019 by Georgia Middleton

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