Travel to New Zealand: the best spring and summer events from Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin

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The Air Between Us is a captivating dance event coming to the Dunedin Arts Festival. Photo / Oliver Crawford

A city break doesn’t have to mean overseas – there’s plenty to see and do in Aotearoa’s main hubs, writes Jessica Wynne Lockhart

With many events returning for the first time in two years, this spring and early summer festival season is shaping up to be like never before. From cultural celebrations and artistic performances to sporting and agricultural competitions, New Zealand cities are once again hosting annual favorites and innovative new events. Here are 15 that are worth checking out.

The hugely popular WOW: World of Wearable Art returns to Wellington.  Photo / Stephen A'Court.
The hugely popular WOW: World of Wearable Art returns to Wellington. Photo / Stephen A’Court.

World of WearableArt Awards Ceremony

September 29 – October 16, TSB Arena, Wellington

After a two-year hiatus, New Zealand’s biggest theatrical event is back on stage. For 14 nights, models will parade down the catwalk in creations from international artists and costume designers, including entries in this year’s special themes: ‘Gold’, ‘Mars & Beyond’ and ‘Bizarre Bra’. Tickets start from $50. worldofwearableart.com

The Bizarre Bra event is always popular at Wellington's World of Wearable Arts.  Photo / provided.
The Bizarre Bra event is always popular at Wellington’s World of Wearable Arts. Photo / provided.

ice days

September 29 – October 9, Christchurch

As one of only five Antarctic gateway cities in the world, Christchurch celebrates the opening of Antarctica’s summer science season with this truly unique 11-day festival. You can learn from an expert on the Northern Lights, take a virtual reality tour of Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1950s Antarctic cabin, or head to the main event at the Arts Center on October 1, when kids can pet huskies and try polar ice creams.
christchurchnz.com/explore/whats-on/days-of-ice

Whangarei Fringe Festival

September 30 – October 26, various locations, Whangārei

Dedicated to celebrating all things weird and wonderful, the multidisciplinary Fringe Festival takes to the streets of Whangārei in October. Held over two weeks, there are dozens of free or low-cost plays, cabarets, buskers and circus acts to experience. Don’t miss the annual Quarry Ceramic Awards; award-winning comedian Ryan McGhee as “The Scottish Kiwi”; and the Imaginarium, an installation that transforms spectators into voyeurs. whangareifringe.co.nz

STEMFest

October 2, Tauranga CBD

The first event of its kind in New Zealand, STEMFest is Aotearoa’s largest science, technology, engineering and maths festival. The free family event sees over 50 exhibitors line Durham St to share information in a fun way. Little kids will love creating giant bubbles and driving robots, while participants of all ages can learn about geology, 3D printing and electric vehicles. taurangastemfestival.co.nz

Auckland Diwali Festival

October 8-9, Aotea Square and Queen St, Auckland

Signifying the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and the renewal of life, the annual Festival of Lights once again illuminates Auckland. During this November weekend, thousands of performers and spectators will gather to brighten up the streets and showcase the city’s diverse Indian communities. The event – which includes live music, market stalls and a final fireworks display – is free. aucklandnz.com/cultivate/diwali

Wanganui Heritage Month

October 8-30, various locations, Wanganui

For those longing for days gone by, there’s no need for a time machine. Whanganui Heritage Month celebrates all things classic and cherished, with events like tea parties, historic walking tours, and even the first-ever heritage parade and parking lot featuring horse-drawn carriages and vintage cars. Most Events of the Month are between $10 and $20, but it’s worth splurging to have your portrait taken using the same photographic wet plate process that was pioneered in the 1850s. whanganuiheritagetrust.org.nz/whanganui-heritage-month

Dunedin Arts Festival

October 12-24, various locations, Dunedin

The 12th annual Dunedin Arts Festival brings together local and international artists, dancers, graffiti artists and thinkers. Highlights include Rebel, a live circus rock tribute to the late David Bowie (tickets from $43); a performance by renowned Canadian musician Frazey Ford (from $38); and a festival within a festival, the Ōtepoti Hip-Hop Hustle. dunedinartsfestival.co.nz

Nelson Arts Festival

October 20-30, various locations, Nelson

In 1968, Aotearoa-born composer Annea Lockwood set an upright piano on fire on the banks of the River Thames in London. And in 2022, she will return to a secret location in the Nelson area to recreate the act. His performance is just one of dozens at this year’s Nelson Arts Festival, which also includes exhibitions, talks and the brand new sculpture exhibition at Brook Waimārama Sanctuary. nelsonartsfestival.nz

Taranaki Garden Festival and Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival

October 28 – November 6, various locations, New Plymouth

Considered one of the biggest spring celebrations in the country, the stars of this 10-day festival are the more than 40 gardens in the Taranaki region. Events include tours, gin tastings and Japanese tea ceremonies. But for something completely different, there’s also the Fringe Garden Festival, which puts you in the backyards of local green thumbs for just $2 per garden. gardenfestnz.co.nz, taranakigardens.co.nz

The New Zealand Agricultural Show

November 9-11, Canterbury Farm Park, Christchurch

Canterbury is home to the oldest and largest A&P association in the country, which is part of what makes the “show” such a special celebration of the region’s agricultural heritage. There are 2,400 contests in a range of disciplines – from flower arranging to barbecuing to sheep shearing – but our favorite is probably the rubber boot throwing contest, with cash prizes up for grabs. Demonstrations, live music and vendors complete the weekend. theshow.co.nz

FAWC! Classic Food and Wine

November 4-13, various locations, Napier and surrounding areas

In an area as bountiful as Hawke’s Bay, it only makes sense that there would be both a winter and a summer edition of its signature dining event. Bring your stretchy pants, because you’ll need them for events like Smith & Sheth’s Chardonnay Masterclass, Hands Down Tortilla Factor Parking Lot Taco Night, and Wallingford Homestead’s Seven-Course Tasting with Wine Pairings. fawc.co.nz

There's plenty to tempt the taste buds at the FAWC event in Hawke's Bay.  Photo / Paul Taylor
There’s plenty to tempt the taste buds at the FAWC event in Hawke’s Bay. Photo / Paul Taylor

Crankworx Rotorua

November 5-13, Skyline Rotorua

There’s no better place for the world’s biggest mountain bike festival than in its (arguably) New Zealand epicenter: Rotorua. As well as seeing professional athletes compete in downhill, jumps and tricks events, there is an exhibition and demonstration area, training for children, a photo contest and the crowning glory of a Crankworx king and queen. Passes start at $70 for adults and $39 for children ages 5-14. www.crankworx.com/festival/rotorua/

Queenstown Writers Festival

November 12 – 13, Te Atamira, Queenstown

Hosted at Queenstown’s new multipurpose, community-focused arts and culture space in downtown Remarkables Park, this long literary weekend celebrates the written word with talks, book launches, performances and jams by poetry. Workshops include playwriting with award-winning playwright Whiti Hereaka, while investigative journalist Stephen Davis will present on how to tackle misinformation. qtwritersfestival.nz

Woof party

November 12, Trustpower Baypark, Mount Maunganui

With the growth of dog-friendly accommodation, there’s no better excuse for a road trip than New Zealand’s premier festival for doggos and their hoomans. The organizers have experience coordinating some of the biggest music festivals in the country, so we have no doubt it will be a perfect Saturday, complete with stunt dog shows, an adventure playground, a market and an area reserved for children. Tickets are $33 for adults, $22 for children, and free for four-legged friends. woofest.co.nz

New Zealand Blues and BBQ Festival

November 25-27, Village Green, Rotorua

Rotorua’s Blues Fest is a mainstay on the spring events scene, but this year it’s been taken up a notch with the new barbecue competition. As well as performances by Kiwi and Australian musicians, there will also be plenty of activities for families, including music lessons, local junior DJs and even a children’s barbecue competition. bluesandbbq.co.nz

campaign days

November 30 – December 3, Mystery Creek Events Centre, Hamilton

This is it: the biggest agricultural event in the southern hemisphere. A&P shows don’t get any better (or bigger) than Hamilton’s multi-day event, which attracts over 100,000 people and thousands of exhibitors each year. This year is shaping up to be the biggest yet, with plenty of demonstrations and even more competition, including the tractor pulling event. Tickets start from $15 for children and $30 for adults. fieldays.co.nz

Fieldays is a popular event that always draws crowds.  Photo/Stephen Barker
Fieldays is a popular event that always draws crowds. Photo/Stephen Barker

Rhythm and vines

December 29-31, Waohika Estate, Gisborne

The summer music festival season is fast approaching and soon the new year will be too. Rhythm and Vines in Gisborne is the first to host in the light of 2023, with major international musical groups like Bonobo, Ladyhawke and Spacey Jane rounding out the end of 2022. Festival and camping packages start from $475 plus fees for the full weekend. rhythmandvines.co.nz

The Rhythm and Vines festival will rock again in Gisborne this year.  Photo / supplied
The Rhythm and Vines festival will rock again in Gisborne this year. Photo / supplied

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