Queenstown Winter Festival© Queenstown Winter Festival
Queenstown Winter Festival

10 Best Winter Festivals & Events in New Zealand ❄️ [2023]

© Queenstown Winter Festival

Which Winter Events to Check Out This Year in New Zealand

Winter is coming and so are some of the best parties of the year! What better way to warm yourself up than pulling some shapes at a music festival, seeing some amazing light displays, and indulging in some warm and wonderful cuisine? That is how New Zealand celebrates the winter season. Skiers and snowboarders come from all over the world to hit the slopes for ‘summer skiing’, so going to a festival or two makes a really cool après-ski session. With all that in mind, here are some of the best winter festivals and events in New Zealand.

1. Taupo Winter Festival

In the heart of winter and the New Zealand July school holidays, the Taupo Winter Festival is a family-friendly event with a jam-packed programme of art, music, food and free and ticketed events. There’s something going on right across the North Island lakeside town with free light shows in the park, igloo art galleries, a onesie fun run and, the highlight, the mid-winter swim in Lake Taupo! There are also some cool ticketed events going on, like comedy shows, gigs of all genres, an ice rink, a roller disco and more. Find somewhere to stay in the 20 Best Places to Stay in Taupo.

When? 30 June – 16 July 2023

5 Best Winter Festivals in New Zealand© www.lovetaupo.com

2. Mardi Gras (Queenstown and Ohakune)

Celebrate the start of the winter season in two of New Zealand’s biggest ski hubs, Queenstown and Ohakune. Mardi Gras is the ultimate ski season party with local and international electronic musicians giving you the time of your life! The festival is R18, and you can book accommodation at the 50 Best Places to Stay in Queenstown and 20 Best Best Places to Stay in Ohakune.

When? 17 June (Queenstown) and 24 June (Ohakune) 2023

10 Best Winter Festivals & Events in New Zealand ❄️ [2023]© Destination Queenstown

3. Dunedin Midwinter Carnival

Get down to The Octagon and the First Church Grounds in the South Island city of Dunedin to marvel at a wonderful array of lights and a projector show on one of the city’s most iconic buildings. Enjoy lantern workshops, street performances, tempting street food and more at this city centre event! Plus, find somewhere to stay in the 20 Best Hotels in Dunedin.

When? 23-24 June 2023

10 Best Winter Festivals & Events in New Zealand ❄️ [2023]© DunedinNZ

4. Russell Birdman

Check out the wacky mid-winter events of Russell Birdman in the Bay of Islands where you can participate or watch people launch themselves into the chilly waters from Russell Wharf. There are also fancy dress races, spaghetti-eating competitions and more. Learn more about what to do while you’re there in the 20 Best Things to Do in the Bay of Islands, as well as places to stay in the 15 Best Hotels in the Bay of Islands.

When? 8 July 2023

10 Best Winter Festivals & Events in New Zealand ❄️ [2023]© Northland Inc

5. Matariki

This nationwide event celebrates Matariki, the Maori New Year, which begins when the Matariki star cluster becomes visible in the night sky. In Auckland, the Matariki Festival features cultural performances, light shows, Maori art workshops and stargazing, but you’ll find that most cities in New Zealand have their own Matariki event. There is also a national public holiday for Matariki. For more information, check out What is Matariki – The Maori New Year.

When? 14 July 2023 with Matariki events happening throughout the month.

10 Best Winter Festivals & Events in New Zealand ❄️ [2023]© James Heremaia - Tourism New Zealand

6. Winter Pride

Another one in the winter capital, Winter Pride is Queenstown‘s celebration of diversity, love, community and inclusion! Enjoy free events like après ski sessions every evening, as well as ticketed events like cocktail masterclasses, a pride dinner and ball, fun runs, ski field events, burlesque, boylesque, drag, beatboxing, cabaret and more. Combine the experience with some of the 45 Best Things to Do in Queenstown.

When? 25 August – 3 September 2023

10 Best Winter Festivals & Events in New Zealand ❄️ [2023]© Pexels

7. Wellington on a Plate

Wellington on a Plate is where New Zealand’s capital city gets our tastebuds watering for a whole month, on the lead-up to winter, with hundreds of events going on around the city and outer region. Cooking classes and workshops are the aim of the game, while Wellington‘s top eateries and bars host their own special events. Learn more about Wellington’s food scene in The Food Guide to Wellington.

When? 5-21 May 2023

10 Best Winter Festivals & Events in New Zealand ❄️ [2023]© WellingtonNZ

8. Loemis Festival

Another one in Wellington, the arts are brought to the capital in winter at the Loemis Festival. The captivating program features theatre and musical shows, degustation events, art installations, outdoor ceremonies, workshops and an experiential art market. Make sure you get a hotel room quickly by browsing the 25 Best Hotels in Wellington.

When? 10-21 June 2023

10 Best Winter Festivals & Events in New Zealand ❄️ [2023]© WellingtonNZ

9. Te Ramaroa – Nelson Light Festival

The darkest nights of the year are the perfect time to host this biannual event in the South Island city of Nelson. Te Ramaroa, previously called the Nelson Light Festival, is a free outdoor event with light installations on every scale, from tiny discoveries to multi-storey projections. Book your room from the 20 Best Places to Stay in Nelson and accompany the festival with the 20 Best Things to Do in Nelson.

When? 10-21 June 2023

10 Best Winter Festivals & Events in New Zealand ❄️ [2023]© Light Nelson and Daniel Allen - www.nelsontasman.nz

10. Whitianga Oceans Festival

Wrapping up the winter season (technically, September is the first month of spring), the Whitianga Oceans Festival celebrates the start of the scallop season with a festival of all things seafood! The festival in the Coromandel boasts around 60 food and wine stalls, cooking demonstrations, scallop-shucking competitions, muscical acts, street performances and more.

When? 9 September

10 Best Winter Festivals & Events in New Zealand ❄️ [2023]© NZPocketGuide.com

[CANCELLED] Queenstown Winter Festival

Queenstown Winter Festival has been cancelled indefinitely. See our Queenstown Winter Festival Guide to find out more.

Winter starts with the Queenstown Winter Festival‘s huge fireworks display. The 10-day event is full of fun/daft competitions, such as the dog derby, dog barking, dodgeball, iHeart Radio Day on the Bay and 70’s disco workout. There are live music and comedy acts to enjoy in the evening. Make sure to book accommodation in advance for this busy festival. Check out the 5 Best Hostels in Queenstown.

[CANCELLED] Nelson Winter Festival

Weird how a music festival must-see is the poetry slam: a comedy poetry competition. The Nelson Winter Festival is a celebration of New Zealand’s popular music. Learn more about the city in The Complete Guide to Nelson.

More Winter Events in New Zealand

That’s it for our list of the best winter festivals and events in New Zealand. For more winter antics, take a look at these guides:

Finally, prepare your suitcase with the Packing List for Winter in New Zealand.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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