Festivals and Events

from the New Zealand Handbook by Jane King, which you can order right now.

New Zealand seems to have some festival or event going on somewhere almost every day of the year. Sporting events of all kinds are very popular, as are the multitude of excellent agricultural shows that draw large crowds of locals and visitors alike. Drama, ballet, and musical events are also highly recommended. Head for the nearest Visitor Information Network Office (look for the green "I") for the latest info on current festivals and events. Agricultural and pastoral shows are held throughout the year. Events include animal handling, sheepdog trials, horse jumping, local crafts, and fruit and vegetable displays and competitions. These shows have a distinctly local atmosphere and typical "New Zealand feeling." Horse racing is another part of life in New Zealand. Thoroughbred horses, bred to race, compete internationally. The trots (harness-racing) is also very popular throughout the year, as is greyhound racing; meetings are generally held in the evenings under floodlights, gather an enthusiastic crowd, and are lots of fun! Following are but a few of a multitude of events throughout the year; some large festivals are held only once every couple of years.


The Trentham Thoroughbred Sales take place in Wellington; in Auckland is the Annual Yachting Regatta--a spectacular event in the harbor of a city known for its water sports. Auckland also offers both the New Zealand Open Tennis Tournament and the New Zealand International Grand Prix.


The Treaty of Waitangi Celebrations in the Bay of Islands area commemorate the signing of the Treaty on 6 Feb. 1840. This national holiday's events are televised throughout New Zealand. Go to Wellington for the Auckland Cup Harness Racing Meeting.


The Ngaruawahia River Regatta, the only Maori canoe regatta, is held mid-March near Hamilton. Events also include horse swimming, rowing, and speedboat racing, tribal dance competitions, and much more. Check out the Golden Shears Sheep Shearing Contest in Masterton, and up in the Bay of Islands, the exciting International Bill-Fish Tournament. If you're lucky enough to meet some of the competitors, you may be invited aboard one of the deep-sea fishing boats participating in the tournament (if you suffer from seasickness, stock up on Dramamine--it can get pretty rough out there).


Auckland offers the New Zealand Easter Show and Auckland Festival; the Hastings Highland Games are held during Easter. There is a real Scottish atmosphere at these games; expect haggis, hurling, caber tossing, Highland dancing, and bagpipe bands.


New Zealand National Field Days, at Mystery Creek near Hamilton, offer everything a modern farmer would like to see. Watch the D.B. Draught Steeplechase in Auckland.


International Ski Racing contestants gather at the Mt. Hutt ski field. Wellington offers the Wellington Hurdles and Steeplechase Meeting.

November and December

The Canterbury Show runs a week in Christchurch during November, and in November and December visit Rotorua for the International Trout Fishing Contest.


On major nationwide holidays (see chart) a newcomer can quickly feel stranded as New Zealand appears to close down. Try not to travel to a new place on a holiday, don't count on attractions and restaurants being open, and stock up on neccessities the day before. Also, many regions, individual cities, and towns celebrate their anniversary days by taking a holiday (see chart). If the holiday falls Tues.-Thurs., it's celebrated on the previous Monday. If it falls on Fri.-Sun., it's celebrated on the following Monday. Almost all the shops close except for milkbars, usually on the outskirts of town; plan accordingly.

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