5 New Zealand Festivals to do Before you Die

Moonshine! at Hokitika Wildfoods Festival

Today’s guest poster is Rachael Bruce of todayiateabaguette.com

As an ex-journalist I feel I should probably disclose my conflict of interest up front – I am a staunchly proud New Zealander.

That said, in my new career as a backpacker, I always find that the best advice comes from locals.

So as a local this is my top five festivals you should do when you visit my beautiful country…

1. Wellington Rugby Sevens

If you’re not a sporto bear with me here… because there’s a popular saying that accompanies the Sevens – ‘if you get bored at the Sevens turn around and watch the rugby.’

Basically for the first weekend of February every year the capital city gets taken over by around 35-thousand revellers for a two-day giant dress-up party, staged against a backdrop of a rugby tournament, at the waterfront stadium affectionately known by locals as the ‘Cake Tin.’

Rugby Sevens

It’s serious business, some people put hours of thought and months of work into their costumes. Others, like myself, suddenly remember on the eve of the Sevens that they don’t have a costume and scratch something together like Jem from the 80’s cartoon Jem and the Holograms or more recently a generic 50s house wife.

Dates: 1-2nd February 2013

Tickets and info

If you’re going, our hostels in Wellington start from €11.50pppn (@ The Cambridge Hotel)

2. Hokitika Wildfoods Festival

Each March the ruggedly beautiful town of Hokitika on the West Coast of the South Island with a population of around 3,000 welcomes around 15,000 more for the Wildfoods Festival.

Be warned though if you’ve got a limited palate or you’re a vegetarian this probably isn’t the festival for you as I once saw a souvenir t-shirt reading: ‘Vegetarian: West Coast saying for piss poor hunter.’

Hokitika Wildfoods Festival

The year I went I sampled, among other things: grasshopper, huhu grub, the West Coast specialty whitebait fritters, seagull heart, ostrich pie, wild boar, sheep’s brain, worms and… bull semen. Luckily I don’t think they do that one anymore! Of course there’s plenty of local brews on hand to help you build up your Dutch courage and to wash it all down with.

Date: 9th March 2013

Tickets and info

3.  Wellington Homegrown

Whenever someone asks me what my favourite music is I always reply kiwi music. Seriously it’s really good and this festival is kiwi music’s biggest day and the perfect way for you to sample what I’m talking about.

Wellington Homegrown

The one day event in March sees Wellington’s waterfront transformed into a series of themed stages including rock, electronic, reggae, R&B, and dub and roots.

Date: February 2013 (exact dates TBA)

Tickets and info

4. Rhythm and Vines

Gisborne on the East Coast of the North Island is one of the first places in the world to see in the New Year and this festival will see you do it in style at the picturesque Waiohika Estate on the East Coast of the North Island while listening to around 100 local and international music acts on five stages over three days.

Rhythm and Vines

I have to confess I haven’t actually been yet but many of my friends have and highly recommend it.

Dates: 29-31st December, 2012

Tickets and info

5. Toast Martinborough

Every November 10,000 people descend on the quaint wine village of Martinborough, north of Wellington, to toast the amazing Martinborough wine vintage.

About a dozen wineries take part and match their top drops with great food and music which you can explore on foot or by jumping on the ubiquitous coaches which run between the wineries.

Toast Martinborough

Here’s a photo of me and my sister at last year’s festival. And yes, I am abnormally red in the face in this photo which leads me to my last and slightly off-topic point – wear sunscreen. The New Zealand sun is brutal and you won’t go brown you’ll go red.

Date: 18th November 2012

Tickets and info

Agree/disagree? What festivals have you been to in NZ? Tell us in the comments…

Author bio: Rachael is a 25-year-old New Zealander, who sacrificed her early 20s to climb the career ladder, only to find herself out of a job at the age of 24 – when the politician she was working for retired. And, after putting off travel for weddings and jobs she took this as a sign – if she didn’t do it now while she was manless, childless, financially uncommitted, fit and healthy – she never would. But travelling solo doesn’t come naturally to her, she still grapples with left and right and can’t read a map, so Today I Ate a Baguette is her way of documenting her adventures, and most importantly – laughing at herself.

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Photos via eliduke, Rachael Bruce, Homegrown, Rhythm & Vines, Hokitika Wildfoods. Please note, Flickr images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.

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