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New Zealand Music Festivals: An insider’s guide

By Holly Booth 26 August 2020

Header image courtesy of @splorefestival (Instagram)

Kiwis love their food, they love their drink, they love their outdoors, and they really, really love their music so it makes sense that they play host to a vast amount of music festivals throughout the year. While New Zealand may currently have its borders closed to international visitors, these festivals are still planning to go ahead for next year. Keep the dates in mind so you’re ready to book those flights as soon as you’re allowed to do so!

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Rhythm & Alps: Wanaka

December: A time for merriment, overindulgence, and for Kiwis, music, as the majority of New Zealand’s festivals take place over their summer months.

Before you consider putting away your party hat, why not end the year with one final blow out at a New Year’s Eve party with a difference? Rhythm & Alps takes place over three days, from 29 December until sunrise on 1 January, and is the South Island’s only three-day camping festival. Previous line-ups have included Bastille, Chet Faker, Shapeshifter, Rudimental, , and Disclosure, to name a few.

Located in the stunning Cadrona Valley (think pristine lakes and big, beautiful mountains), venues don’t get much better than this. Arrive a few days early for some Wanaka and Queenstown adventuring or stay a few days afterwards for some well-deserved R&R. If you’re not planning on venturing down South this time, no worries, as the sister festival—Rhythm & Vines—runs on the same dates on a wine estate (yep, you read that right) near Gisborne.

Bay Dreams: Nelson (South) and Tauranga (North)

Bay Dreams originated in Tauranga on the North Island in 2016 but started running in sunny Nelson on the South two years ago. A one-dayer, Bay Dreams takes place at the start of January so is another perfect excuse to further delay dry January.

Whether you’re into reggae, dance, R&B, or a bit of everything, Bay Dreams pumps out some mega beats and has previously hosted Katchafire, Pendulum, Grand Master Flash, Halsey and Mitch James.

Other than its forever sunny vibes, Nelson is also known as the gateway to the Abel Tasman National park. About an hour’s drive away, this slice of coastal paradise is home to fur seal colonies, bottlenose dolphins, little blue penguins, and seals and can be easily explored by land or by kayak. So don’t forget to pack your hiking boots and swimsuit for one of the best hangover cures you’ll experience.

Electric Avenue Festival: Christchurch

Sticking with the South Island, Electric Avenue Festival gets a mention for its stellar line-up history, accessibility, food trucks, and all-round good times. Only taking place over one day, usually around the end of February, this is a good option if you don’t have a tent (or the energy) for a camping festival.

Set in the heart of the picturesque Hagley Park, Electric Avenue invites international and local acts to play over four stages to a 20,000-plus strong crowd. The festival has only been running since 2015 so it’s relatively young, but previous line-ups have included the likes of Pendulum, The Black Seeds, Matt Corby, Ben Harper, Dizee Rascal, Primal Scream, and Safia so there’s something for everyone, despite what the name might suggest.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Splore: Auckland

Labelled as a boutique music festival, Splore takes place on the shoreline of the stunning Tapapakanga Regional Park about an hour outside of Auckland’s CBD and is considered to be one of the most beautiful festival settings in the world.

Held over three days in February, Splore invites an eclectic line up of musical artists as well as installations, performing arts, workshops (think laughing yoga followed by a quick dip in the sea followed by a Dizzee Rascal dance party). Camping access is included in all ticket types and there’s a range of options from the more luxurious glamping end to teepees and everything in between.

Splore is a themed festival and each year, attendees are encouraged to dress up in line with the year’s theme, with Saturday night culminating in a huge carnival to celebrate all things weird and wonderful. Definitely one worth adding to your festival bucket list.

Homegrown: Wellington

Hopping over to the country’s capital, Wellington has been hosting its Homegrown festival since 2008, showcasing some of the best local artists New Zealand has to offer. With five stages representing pop and hip hop, dub and roots, reggae, EDM, and rock, you and your ears can easily get your money’s worth.

Held in March, the festival accommodates around 20,000 people. It’s set up along the Wellington Waterfront, meaning it’s close to the CBD for those looking to keep the party going but also close to a range of accommodation options for those needing their bed.

Like many of New Zealand’s festivals, Homegrown is a green event and actively encourages environmentally-friendly behaviour, resulting in 86 percent of festival waste being successfully recycled at last year’s event.

Womad: Taranaki

Celebrating the world of music and dance (hence Womad), this international festival invites artists, musicians, dancers, poets, and more from all over the world for a three-day bash in March.

Founded in 1980 by the legendary Peter Gabriel, Womad originated in the UK but has since grown to also take place in Australia, New Zealand, Abu Dhabi, Spain, Italy, Gran Canaria, and Chile. Womad isn’t just about the music—attendees can also enjoy interactive art exhibits, spoken word performances, workshops with artists and musicians, and of course, a huge variety of mouthwatering food vendors.

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Holly Booth


Born in England but raised in Hong Kong since she was one, Holly is a freelance writer recently returned from a six-weeks-turned-six-months trip to New Zealand. When she’s not catching up with her friends and family, Holly can usually be found on a trail, at a gig, or hunting down Hong Kong’s best margarita. She is passionate about conservation, eco-travel, music, and fitness.