Summer in New Zealand is a time for festivals, with an amazing line up of festivals and events, covering everything from music to wine and culture.
Of course, it’s not just about the festivals. This 12-day itinerary through the North Island has a ton of ways to experience New Zealand's outdoor lifestyle, unique culture and truly epic scenery at every turn. Not to mention all the friendly Kiwis you’ll meet along the way!
Auckland is an awesome city to visit during summer. With a vast variety of beaches nearby – like Piha on the rugged west coast – the outdoor lifestyle here is in full swing. You can day trip to Waiheke Island, kayak to the volcanic island of Rangitoto, party in cool bars, or explore the inner city.
If you’re visiting in January, you might catch St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, a music festival that always hosts the freshest upcoming artists and bands. In February, Splore, in the Tapapakanga Regional Park south of Auckland is a must with its chilled, beachside vibe.
Other festivals worth checking out are the Lantern Festival in late February or early March and Pasifika in late-March.
The Coromandel is a popular getaway for Aucklanders as it’s only a two-hour drive away. So hit the road! Once you reach the coast, you’ll feel it: instant relaxation and a laidback vibe. The Coromandel is home to numerous beach towns where you can try out surfing, diving or just grab some fish and chips and chill at the beach with a cold beer.
Places like Whangamata and Whitianga have a great café culture and plenty of places to eat. In March, Whangamata plays host to the Beach Hop, a five-day festival of music, fashion, hot rods and dancing. The Whitianga Scallop Festival is another popular event. Other attractions in the area include Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove.
Mud pools, adventure and unique Maori culture
From the Coromandel, head south and inland to Rotorua.
Rotorua is the heart of the geothermal country, with clouds of steam and bubbling mud pools everywhere. Experience these wonders first-hand at one of the many geothermal parks or soak in naturally heated hot pools and rejuvenating mud at one of the many health spas. Discover more about Maori culture, with live cultural performances, such as the Haka or the Poi dance, and a meal cooked in traditional Hangi style.
Rotorua is also a hub for outdoor adventure activities. This is the place to try Zorbing or OGO, classic Rotorua activities you’ll need to experience to truly understand.
Consider adding a night in Tauranga on the way to Rotorua.
It’s a solid three and a half-hour drive from Rotorua to Gisborne, so get up early and hit the road. Just before you reach your destination, take a sharp turn and head to the 60-metre long naturally formed Rere Rock waterslide. This is New Zealand’s outdoor playground at its best.
Just outside of Gisborne is New Zealand’s best New Year's Eve music festival, Rhythm & Vines. Nestled amongst the rolling hills and vines of the Waiohika Estate, this area is the first place in the world to see the sun rise on a new year. That’s hard to beat. In Gisborne itself, you’ll find lots of water-based activities. Take a boat out to catch crayfish, grab a surfing lesson or simply relax on the beach.
Keep heading south down the coast and spend the day in Napier, with its distinctive Art Deco architecture. This is the Hawke's Bay, known for its abundance of wineries – and that means plenty of wine tastings and delicious lunches to be had. One of the coolest ways to explore is by bicycle. There are plenty of cycle tours to choose from, which can take you from vineyard to vineyard or along the sunny coast.
If you’re visiting the area in February or March, check out the dates the Classic Hits Winery Tour. These concerts are always set amongst the vines and feature 100% New Zealand music. You’ll find the events around other parts of the North Island as well.
Round out your Summer Rhythm tour with some time in Wellington. Our cool little capital city has a crazy amount of great coffee, bars, restaurants and plenty of art and culture to get into. There’s also a thriving craft beer culture, with a beer festival held in August each year. Homegrown is Wellington’s most popular music festival, held on the beautiful waterfront during March or April. As the name suggests the artists are all Kiwis but the music is diverse, from dub and roots to Pop/R&B and electronic.