New Zealand – Summer 2011 / 2012 — what to do

Visit New Zealand during the summer months and you might not find anyone at home – that’s because when the sun is out, so are Kiwis and with so much to do, it’s hardly surprising.

Not only is the beach beckoning, the boat waiting and the family ready for fun, but there are wineries and cafés to visit, bush walks and bike rides to enjoy, farmers markets, food festivals and outdoor concerts everywhere – along with Christmas celebrations and long holidays.

In a country surrounded by an enticing ocean with a vast and varied landscape to explore, escape and relax in, there are plenty of options – but add a full calendar of special outdoor events and summer in New Zealand is hard to beat.

Events planned for the 2011/2012 summer season are a prime example of the things New Zealand does best and give a flavour of the Kiwi lifestyle.

Covering all areas of interest – sport, music, arts and culture, food and wine, nature and the outdoors – the coming months offer visitors plenty of choice and, as well as a taster of major festivals and events listed here, there are many smaller scale happenings all over New Zealand.

Christmas celebrations

Christmas in New Zealand involves lights and late nights – as people take advantage of summer evenings to wander or drive down the many residential streets and public places that have become famed for fairy lights and lavish Christmas decorations.

Communities also gather to sing Christmas carols by candlelight, towns and suburbs stage their own Santa parades, and major public celebrations include family favourite Christmas in the Park – the biggest outdoor Christmas concert in New Zealand which happens in Auckland, and Christchurch.

The festive season continues with New Year’s Eve celebrations in most towns and holiday resorts. In Queenstown, there’s a spectacular lakeside fireworks display, live music and parties in the streets – kick-starting the month-long Summerdaze Festival of sports, arts, cultural, musical and family entertainment.

Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park – Hagley Park, Christchurch
26 November, 2011
Christmas in the Park

Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park – Auckland Domain
10 December, 2011
Christmas in the Park

Auckland Sky Tower precinct lights up
8 – 12 December, 2011
Sky Tower Christmas lights

TSB Bank Festival of the Lights – New Plymouth
18 December, 2011 – 29 January, 2012
New Plymouth’s magnificent Pukekura Park, a vast 52ha domain, provides a dramatic backdrop for a lighting festival in the heart of the city.
TSB Bank Festival of Lights

Auckland Lantern Festival
3 – 5 February, 2012
Hundreds of colourful lanterns light up central Auckland’s Albert Park in a family celebration with entertainment, food and crafts – this year celebrates the Year of the Dragon.
Auckland Lantern Festival

Outdoor concerts

Summer nights in New Zealand are about outdoor eating and entertainment, and this season there’s a long list of concerts for all tastes and age groups.

Younger Kiwis swarm to Rhythm & Vines – a three-day festival of international and national bands performing in natural amphitheatres at a vineyard near Gisborne, which is the first town in the world to see the sun.

Vineyards in New Zealand’s wine regions are an attractive venue for summer concerts. This year’s big names include Rod Stewart, who will be performing at the 20th anniversary Mission Estate concert, in Hawke’s Bay, on 25 February.

Legendary rock bands the Doobie Brothers and Little River Band will play against the stunning backdrop of Gibbston Valley Winery, in Central Otago (11.02.2012) while Australian roots band the John Butler Trio and funky American soul singer Aloe Blacc & The Grand Scheme will perform at Peregrine’s award-winning winery (9.02.2012).

Auckland’s ‘The Big Day Out’ (20.01.2012) is one of New Zealand’s largest outdoor concerts with a huge lineup of international and top local artists, and new music festival ‘La De Da’ at Alana Estate, in the Wairarapa, returns bigger and louder for a second outing – adding a new dimension to the ever-expanding summer programme.

Rhythm & Vines – Gisborne
29 December, 2011 – 1 January, 2012
A mix of rock ‘n roll, funk and hip-hop, R&B, pop, country, blues and even sci-fi, the programme includes international superstars and top Kiwi talent. The three-day festival is internationally famous as the ‘place to be’ for new year, and attracts 20,000-plus festival goers to camp, swim, enjoy world-class entertainment and be the first in the world to see the new year in.
Rhythm & Vines

EarthTonz – Queenstown
30 / 31 December, 2011
Queenstown will also host EarthTonz – a new annual music festival which features more than 30 hours of live music over two days. On 30 December there’s a great line up of Kiwi bands at Gibbston Valley Station, while on New Year’s Eve the big guns include Tommy Lee (Motley Crue) & DJ Aero, big beating Americans Crystal Method, and British break beat band The Freestylers. Also on the bill, New Zealand’s own Minuit, and other international dance and electronica acts.
EarthTonz NYE Music Fest

La De Da – Alana Estate, Martinborough
31 December, 2011
New Zealand’s newest music festival – with a long lineup including SkisM, Kora, Katchafire, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Sola Rosa – will also provide bars, gourmet food and a Kiwi-style new year party.
La De Da Festival

Raggamuffin – Rotorua
27 – 28 January, 2012
New Zealand’s newest music festival – with a long lineup including SkisM, Kora, Katchafire, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Sola Rosa – will also provide bars, gourmet food and a Kiwi-style new year party.

Recreation & Sport

Warmer weather entices sports-mad and leisure-loving Kiwis out of doors even more frequently, and everywhere people are exercising, playing some kind of sport or engaging in outdoor leisure pursuits.

It might be as effortless as dangling a fishing line from a jetty, or something more active like ocean swimming, or even completing a mega multi-sports event that involves cycling, running and kayaking from one side of the South Island to the other.

Opti Worlds 2011 – Napier
31 December, 2011 – 10 January, 2012
Napier will welcome 200-plus young sailors from 50 countries for the nine-day Optimist Sailing World Championship – a first-ever for Oceania in the 50 years of optimist competitions. Each country will be represented by five sailors (11 – 15 years) for this challenging event that brings together some of the world’s top young sailing talent.
Opti Worlds 2011

Waka Ama Sprint Nationals – Lake Karapiro
16 – 21 January, 2012
The largest Waka Ama – or outrigger canoe – event in the world is  held on Lake Karapiro, in the Hamilton Waikato region, and attracts up  to 3000 paddlers, from 7 to 70 years. The 2012 event celebrates 23 years of competition.
Waka Ama Sprint Nationals

Challenge Wanaka – Lake Wanaka
21 January, 2011
The world’s most scenic iron distance triathlon (226km) takes place against the lake and mountain backdrop of Mount Aspiring Park in the South Island. A half iron distance triathlon staged on the same day involves a 1.9km swim, 90km cycle and 21.1 km run.
Challenge Wanaka

Bay of Islands Sailing Week – Northland
23 – 27 January, 2012
New Zealand’s premier sailing regatta offers a variety of divisions and numerous post-race social events on Opua Wharf, in the picturesque Bay of Islands.
Bay of Islands Sailing Week

Auckland Anniversary Regatta
30 January, 2012
Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour comes alive for a fabulous day on the water and one of the world’s biggest one-day yachting regattas. The Auckland Anniversary Regatta, which began 172 years ago in 1840, brings together a glorious spectacle featuring vintage sailing superstars and the high tech heralds of the future.
Auckland Anniversary Regatta

NZ International Sevens – Wellington
3 – 4 February, 2012
One of eight HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments held annually, the NZ International Sevens in Wellington are the pick of the bunch. Tickets are highly sort after, and Wellington transforms into a carnival atmosphere as fans turn out in colourful costumes to party their way through the tournament.
NZ International Sevens

2012 New Zealand Masters Games – Dunedin
4 – 12 February, 2012
New Zealand’s largest multi-sport fixture covers 64 separate sports and more than 550 different events. The 2012 games theme is ‘great mates’ and a number of social events will surround the sporting action.
NZ Masters Games

Speights Coast to Coast – Southern Alps

10 – 11 February, 2012
A premier international multi-sports event, the Speights Coast to Coast is an international benchmark. The one to two-day event traverses New Zealand’s South Island with competitors cycling 140km, running 36km and kayaking 67km.
Speights Coast to Coast

Goldfields Cavalcade – Central Otago
18 – 25 February, 2012
This annual pilgrimage – retracing the footsteps of early NZ gold-miners – takes thousands into Central Otago’s dramatic, tussock-covered hills on foot, horse and wagon. The 2012 Cavalcade journey will end in Crowmell with a carnival and hoedown.
Goldfields Cavalcade

Food and wine

New Zealand boasts some of the greatest cuisine in the world, and freshly harvested ingredients from gardens, land and sea, never taste better than when straight off the barbecue or eaten alfresco-style.

Apart from weekly markets – which have become very popular with local consumers particular about buying good quality, locally grown fresh produce – there are many food and wine festivals throughout the country that are a perfect way to spend a lazy summer’s day.

Great Fitzroy Mussel Fest – Great Barrier Island
14 January, 2012
Mussels farmed in the clear waters of Port Fitzroy, on Auckland’s Great Barrier Island, are mostly exported but each year there’s a special allocation for the annual mussel festival – served au naturel, smoked or as kebabs and fritters.
Great Fitzroy Mussel Fest

Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration
26 – 28 January, 2012
Wine and food enthusiasts from around the world come together in late January for one of New Zealand’s premier wine events, the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration, showcasing the region’s best wine, cuisine and scenery. The programme includes a masterclass, grand tasting of 35 wineries, parties, lunches and samplings.
Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration

Auckland Seafood Festival
28 – 30 January, 2012
New Zealand’s ultimate seafood celebration showcases the catch from the Hauraki Gulf and waters surrounding Auckland city. Freshly caught delicacies are matched with wine and beer, cooked by top chefs and sampled in an alfresco atmosphere with live music. This year ‘the feastival’ moves into Auckland’s new Wynyard Quarter down on the waterfront.
Auckland Seafood Festival

Kawhia Kai Festival – Waikato

4 February, 2012
A unique celebration of traditional Māori food and culture where thousands of visitors flock to the coastal fishing village of Kawhia, on the North Island’s west coast – rich in history and fruits of the sea. This year there’ll be 25 kai stalls serving local delicacies like kōki / shark liver paté, hāngi and fermented corn – served up in traditional Māori kono / woven food baskets created for the festival.
Kawhia Kai Festival

Marlborough Wine Festival
11 February, 2012
New Zealand’s longest running wine festival – held at Brancott Estate – offers the chance to sample the best from Marlborough’s award-winning wineries matched with local food. Activities include wine tutorials, cooking classes, entertainment and ‘Fashion in the Vines’.
Marlborough Wine Festival

Art & Culture

Summer celebrations involving New Zealand’s diverse culture and strong artistic talents usually have an outdoor focus.
Art is set in the environment, cinema screens move outside and stage performers take to the streets as the summer programme offers entertainment by day and night.

Black Barn Open Air cinema – Hawke’s Bay

27 – 30 December 2011 / 2 – 6 January 2012
A natural amphitheatre at Black Barn, one of New Zealand’s best known vineyards, in the foothills of Te Mata Peak, Hawke’s Bay, is a popular spot to enjoy outdoor movies with wines and local fare.
Black Barn

World Buskers Festival – Christchurch

19 – 29 January, 2012
The 18th annual World Buskers Festival is set to get Christchurch laughing again with street, circus and comedy shows rolling out for 10 days of fun – more than 500 hours of entertainment – for the huge crowds that attend this iconic Christchurch event. This year’s talent includes 44 top international acts, and Busker Park – in Hagley Park – is the new place to be.
World Buskers Festival

Waitangi Day and Festival – Northland
6 February, 2012
New Zealand’s national day celebration – commemorating the ‘Treaty of Waitangi’ signing – focuses on the Waitangi Treaty grounds, in the Bay of Islands, with official ceremony and a family festival of sports and cultural events.  For 2012 there wil also be an aerobatic display from the RNZAF ‘Red Checkers’ and concert with Dame Malvina Major.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Burst! Festival of Flowers – Christchurch
17 February – 4 March, 2012
The 23rd Festival of Flowers is themed as ‘colour me beautiful Christchurch’. It will take place in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and leads into the Ellerslie International Flower Show (7 – 11 March). Attractions will include a floral wall, florally decorated portaloos, pop-up floral art by local designers, and a topiary menagerie.
Festival of Flowers

Art Deco weekend – Hawke’s Bay
14 – 19 February, 2012
Napier – New Zealand’s art deco capital and one of the best-known collective examples of 1930s architecture in the world – celebrates in style with classic cars, aircraft and guests in Deco clothing, adding authenticity and 20s glamour to events – many of which are free.
Art Deco Napier

New Zealand Fringe Festival – Wellington
18 February – 5 March, 2012
Fringe is recognised as a launch pad for the arts in New Zealand, and features fresh theatre, dance, comedy, live music, visual arts and multimedia acts in a number of Wellington venues.
NZ Fringe Festival

NZ International Arts Festival – Wellington
24 February – 18 March, 2012
A big top circus from Belgium, a punk accordion player from Finland and a world première are among the 300 shows in the 2012 International Arts Festival lineup. Germaine Greer will headline ‘writers and readers week’. The festival attracts over 300,000 attendances.
NZ International Arts Festival