For the Love of Travel
For the Love of Travel

Top holiday hits in New Zealand

The great New Zealand summer calendar is liberally bedecked with some guaranteed summer hits to add some a bucketload of fun to your family holiday.

We’ve rounded up up a selection of signature events and exhibitions, strung across the length of the nation, that you may well want to thread into your domestic vacation plans this summer.

Auckland international buskers festival
Auckland international buskers festival. Photo: Supplied

International Buskers Festival in Auckland

Are buskers your bag? Get set for the 30th-anniversary celebration of Bread & Circus World Buskers Festival. After the disruption of Covid in recent years, Christchurch will be pumping with an action-packed event programme of world-class busking pitches, ticketed shows and eye-popping free spectacles. The 2023 festival will run from 13 to 29 January, in central Christchurch. Not to be outdone, Auckland will be revelling in mind-boggling and audacious performances too, as the 23rd annual Auckland International Buskers Festival makes its return. With a four day programme brimming with street artists from across the globe during Auckland Anniversary Weekend, the festival will play out around Auckland, including night shows at Market Square and Viaduct Harbour.

Peter and Barbara at Auckland Museum

If you’re heading to Auckland, particularly with the kids in tow, check out a world first at Auckland Museum. Double Trouble! First there was Peter, now meet Barbara. For the first time ever, Auckland Museum is the only place in the world to exhibit an adult male and female T. rex together. They are two of the rarest, real T. rex skeletons discovered. Peter is one of only four black T. rex ever found, while Barbara is one of only three female T. rex on record. Standing over 3 metres high and 11 metres long, the enormity of these prehistoric creatures is gob-smacking. Barbara joined Peter in the gallery just a few weeks ago, who has been a huge crowd-puller since April. The skeletons were discovered in Montana and Wyoming.

Barbara the T-Rex
Barbara the T-Rex. Photo: Auckland Museum

The ASB Classic

New Zealand’s premier tennis tournament, the ASB Classic, is roaring back into life this January in Auckland, after a two-year hiatus. Fans can expect the same great experience as previous editions, as some of the best players in the world head to Auckland. The tournament runs from January 2 to 14. One of the strongest fields in recent years has already taken shape, with three of the world’s top 15 men’s players already confirmed, while Emma Raducanu, last year’s US Open winner, lines up in the women’s Classic, as does French Open runner-up, Coco Gauff.

ASB Tennis Classic
ASB Tennis Classic. Photo: Supplied

TSB Festival of Lights

It might well be our favourite Kiwi summer headliner, the TSB Festival of Lights, which transforms New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park into a lavishly illuminated night-time wonderland. It opened on December 17 and runs through to January 22, featuring 13 massive lighting installations and over 40 bands playing around the park, by day and night, over five weeks. One of the fan favourite lighting installations is called, UV Spaghetti, which will have 9km of glowing rope to get tangled in! Over 150,000 people flock to the annual festival – half from out of town.

TSB Festival of Lights in Pukera Park
TSB Festival of Lights in Pukera Park. Photo: Discover Taranaki

Caroline Bay Carnival

We also have a major soft-spot for one of New Zealand’s oldest summer beach carnivals, the Caroline Bay Carnival. Timaru’s big bash celebrates its 112th outing this summer, running from Boxing Day for a fortnight, with a daily and nightly programme of family fun, live entertainment, fairground rides talent quests and competitions. There’s a timeless, down-home vibe to the carnival. Some say it’s a bit hokey. I think it’s as classic as Hokey Pokey.

Caroline Bay Carnival
Caroline Bay Carnival. Photo: Supplied

Opunake Beach Carnival

Not to be outshone, and now in its third decade, one of the best beach festivals in the North Island is the Opunake Beach Carnival in South Taranaki. There’s the old-time Miss Opunake and Mr Muscle competitions, alongside all the traditional carnival capers which is a major community fundraiser. The summer’s big bash is set down for January 7 and tens of thousands will flock to it.

Driftwood and Sand

For a complete change of scenery, if you happen to find yourself on the wild West Coast in late January, make a date with Driftwood & Sand. Staged annually at Hokitika beach, this incredibly creative festival, transforms the beachscape, as participants compete to construct the most artistic, whimsical and wondrous sculptural pieces, washed up from the Tasman Sea. The size and audacity of some of the sculptures is outrageously good. The next festival is held from January 25-29.

Hokitika driftwood sign
Hokitika driftwood sign. Photo: Supplied

Marlborough Food and Wine Festival

Towards the latter part of summer, wine buffs should make a date with the Marlborough Wine & Food Festival, New Zealand’s longest-running wine and food festival, now in its fourth decade. It’s next outing is set down for February 11. Blenheim accommodation will book out, so lock in your in plans, pronto.

Marlborough Food and Wine Festival
Marlborough Food and Wine Festival. Photo: Supplied

Waihi Beach

Our beach of the year? Waihī Beach. Imbued with a salty, care-free spirit, it enjoys the warm-clutch of an inclusive village embrace and it resolutely beats to a leisurely pace. Located in the bountiful Western Bay of Plenty, just 2 hours drive from Auckland and 50 minutes from Tauranga, it embodies the very best vibes of old-school, kiwi beach holidays. That feel-good golden glow faithfully rises with the sun, every day. When in town, do not miss the Surf Shack Eatery, a community-focused cafe that’s scooped a stash of awards, including winning NZ Café of The Year. If you’re up for one of their legendary burgers, whistle up a Ha-waihi Surf Burger – with a pattie topped with double charred pineapple, double bacon and double cheese.  One dollar from every burger sold is donated to the local Surf Life Saving Club. What a star specimen of a community-centric enterprise.

Scenic Hotels

Wherever you happen to be holidaying in New Zealand, a Scenic or Heartland Hotel is never far away. With the boom in summer concerts and overall visitor flows, the growing demand on Auckland airport area is massive – particularly hotels amongst Kiwis staying overnight, in between flights to and from home. Heartland Hotel Auckland Airport is just five minutes’ drive from the airport and the hotel generously lays on a complimentary 24-hour shuttle service which operates every 30 minutes – unlike some hotels’ which require you to catch a bus. On-site facilities include a fabulous outdoor swimming for a refreshing, head-clearing dip; spa pool; fitness room; business and conference facilities; and on-site dining.

Trip you way around the country with the low-fares leader. Jetstar’s domestic network connects Auckland, Queenstown, Christchurch and Wellington. When you book on, you’re guaranteed the lowest fare. With their Price Beat Guarantee, if you find a better fare online, they’ll beat it by 10% – and that includes Jetstar flights you find on other websites.

Also read: Best sights and bites in Tauranga