Great journeys to great summer festivals

New Zealand knows how to put on a great festival. From food, beer and wine, to film, art and music, there’s always some lively entertainment going on somewhere – which is a great excuse for a getaway. So if you’re after a little excitement check out these festivals, feasts and fun events based right around the country.

Waikato Ballon Festival

Once you’ve found one that looks like your kind of fun, why not get there on one of the Great Journeys of New Zealand? Between the Northern Explorer, Interislander, TranzAlpine and Coastal Explorer, we’ve got all corners of the country covered. The excellent service and stunning sights you’ll see along the way will make getting there as special as the festival itself.

Hot air balloons over Hamilton.

Looking for a free event the whole family can enjoy? Watch the heavens come alive with colour at Balloons Over Waikato. Balloonists from around the country gather to show off their skills and dazzle the crowds in competitive events and spectacles in the sky. This feel-good festival is held in March over five days, building up to the highlight of the event the ZURU Nightglow.

Get your freak on at Fringe.

Inspired by the wild and world-famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Wellington is home to our very own. NZ Fringe Wellington, held in March, is a chance for both up-and-coming and well-known artists from the worlds of theatre, music and visual arts to leave their mark. An explosion of talent and quirk you don’t see at your average arty event, Fringe is all about cutting-edge creativity. Check out the programme to see all the weird and wonderful scenes you can expect to see.

Wellingtons' most vibrant free festival.

Celebrate the last weekend of summer at Wellingtons CubaDupa festival. Revel in the creative heart of the country’s capital with an abundance of live music, creative installations, parades and activations. Bring your Wildside and CubaDupa will bring the party.


Local legends live at Jim Beam Homegrown.

This is the ultimate New Zealand music festival, home to our own biggest and best acts. Hosted on Wellington’s beautiful waterfront in March, this one-day event showcases our best homegrown talent across five stages. So whether you’re up for some chill jams, classic anthems or soulful vocals, there’s something to suit every festie-goer’s music taste.

Check out the impressive line-up before you go. And if you’re after more things to do in Wellington, here are a few of our top recommendations.

Jim Beam YouTube

Getting there on the Northern Explorer.

Whether your big event is in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington or somewhere in between, the Northern Explorer is the perfect way to get there. Enjoy breathtaking scenery as you ride in comfort past snow-dusted volcanoes, through lush native forest and over deep twisting gorges. It’ll take the hassle out of driving, and it’s a great way to bookend your day of fun at the festival. Check out our fares from Auckland to Wellington and get ready for a stunning journey from start to finish.

Northern Explorer train Tongariro National Park

Run to the finish wine.

It’s easy to rally your friends for a half marathon when there’s wine involved. Set in Marlborough, the wine capital of New Zealand in May, the rolling hills and fruitful grapevines are the perfect backdrop for the St Clair Vineyard Half Marathon. Run, walk, jog or skip your way to the finish line, and reward yourself with the most sumptuous sauvignon blanc the country has to offer. You’ll even get a bottle on St Clair Family Estate Wine. Cheers.

Food, wine and good times.

If you aren’t up for the exercise, but you still want a great excuse to explore New Zealand’s wine country, the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival is just the thing. Held in February, the festival is full of delectable local goodies and the best wine in New Zealand. It’s a great opportunity to get the gang together for a weekend away – just be sure to book your tickets before you go.

Photo Credit: MarlboroughNZ

Crossing the Cook Strait on the Interislander.

If you’re looking at how to hop from Island to Island for your festival of choice, the Interislander Ferry is the easiest way across the Cook Strait. Widely regarded to be one of the most stunning ferry journeys in the world, passengers can sit back and enjoy the scenic sights of the Marlborough Sounds and Wellington Harbour. Plus, if you want to take your car along for the journey, it’s as easy as driving on and off.

Interislander Cook Strait Ferry sailing through Marlborough Sounds

Catch the sights of Kaikoura on the Coastal Pacific.         

Coming up from Christchurch? Hop aboard the Coastal Pacific Scenic Train from Christchurch to Picton and enjoy expansive views of the Kaikoura Coastline. With towering mountains on one side and the open sea on the other, this train ride is a treat for the eyes the entire journey.

Coastal Pacific scenic train north of Kaikoura

Circus in the city.

Come one, come all to a smorgasbord of talented buskers at New Zealand’s quirkiest entertainment festival – Bread & Circus. Some of the best buskers from around the world gather in Christchurch’s Ōtautahi, to show off their fire-breathing, burlesque and circus acts that leave audiences in awe. Secure your tickets for the opening act, and check out the rest of the excitement you can expect to see. And if you’re after more things to do in Christchurch while you’re there, here are a few of our favourites. 

Tickle your tastebuds.

The iconic Hokitika Wildfood Festival is back for the 31st event on March 7th. The festival focuses on food, but the entertainment line-up will provide something for everyone, including the New Zealand Army Band with their international reputation as one of the top five marching bands in the world. Secure your tickets here and dine on everything from delicacy to disgusting.      

Hop on the TranzAlpine.

Wanting to make the most of your South Island event? Get there on the TranzAlpine and be wowed by the untamed natural sights the tracks take you through along the way. Starting in Christchurch and taking passengers all the way to the wild West Coast, the TranzAlpine is an incredible journey through some of New Zealand’s most impressive natural scenes.

An excuse for a holiday.

There you have it. A list of some of New Zealand’s best festivals. Now that you’ve chosen an event that looks like your kind of good time, it’s time to start thinking about how to get there. And between all the great journeys we offer, this is your chance to turn your festival weekend away into an unforgettable holiday from start to finish.

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