• Sam Radford

Treat Yourself At New Zealand's Food Festivals

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

New Zealand, home to the newest expansion of FreeGuides is not just known for its Lord of the Rings vistas, or its action-packed ski slopes, bungee jumping or white water rafting. It is also a prime location for some of the best eating south of the equator, as 2021 looks to be another booming year for the various food festivals held in the country. Thanks to a strict lockdown early last year, these food festivals look to beat out COVID and bring tourists into an experience all kinds of food New Zealand has on offer.

Wellington on a Plate

Wellington on a Plate, with its 2021 theme of “Eat Curious!” looks to expand the collective pallets of locals and tourists alike, as they navigate through the most Avant Garde burger creations during the Burger Wellington section of the festival, to the various Japanese and Chinese cooking wonders from Arashi Kushiyaka Bar and Apache. Classic French dining experiences and hearty Italian bistro's await explorers of the Wellington on a Plate festival, to prepare explorers for the main event, such as a Feast with the Sultan, or A Midsummers Night's Feast. The Wellington on a Plate food festival allows local chefs to pull out their most creative dishes for a crowd looking to move away from the beaten trail of a standard Saturday night out of burgers and beers. Make sure to take advantage of the Cocktail Event joined to the festival at large, as a range of bars, pubs and finer drinking establishments await either your pre-meal or post-meal libations. If you find yourself in Wellington throughout August, make sure to have a look at Wellington on a Plate, and automatically solve the age-old question of what to eat tonight.

Auckland Restaurant Month

Auckland is following suit this August with its 2021 Restaurant Month. Back for its 11th year running, the event aims to be one of the hotspots for foodies around the world. The popular Chef's Table series provides exquisite dining at famous restaurants Euro, MASU and The Grove, hosted by some of the best executive chefs currently working in New Zealand. The month also includes new events called Extraordinary Evenings, in which the old adage of dinner and a show is rolled into one, as the menu will set ablaze the appetites of any guest. Events such as Eating the Italian Alps and MASU Unleased look to send explorers through a whirlwind of culinary experiences, transporting them to distant COVID free settings. As the name implies, Auckland Restaurant Month will run for the entire month of August, with many of the events being free as well. Make sure to book in quick though, I’m not entirely sure how long tickets will last.

Culley’s Smoke & Spice

If you’re around Auckland this September, then make sure to have a wander down to Queens Wharf in the CBD to check out Culley’s Smoke and Spice Festival. Running on Friday, September 3rd and continuing on until Saturday Evening, this festival looks to celebrate all things BBQ. Whether it be slow-cooked, smoked or charred, the event has a range of absolutely delectable products from some of Auckland's best BBQ aficionados. Don't worry if you're on the vegetarian or vegan side of the meat-eating spectrum, as there will be plenty of opportunities for you to dig in as well. Whilst tickets are only $15, it would be a shame to miss out on the BBQ Masterclass, with some of Auckland's best pit masters taking you through steps to upgrade your home BBQ experience, as you learn to baste, smoke and most importantly feast upon all the hard work you achieve during the class. Don’t forget to finish off the evening with a visit to the Fermentation Tent, to try some local distilled Whiskey and brewed Craft Beer.

Whitianga Ocean's Festival

Whitianga Ocean’s Festival

Formerly the Whitianga Scallop Festival, the Ocean Festival this September looks to evolve from the previous editions of this seafood culinary exhibitio

n. Looking to implement sustainable farming practices and sustainable ocean management, the festival this year will diverge from its scallop focus, allowing the scallops to regrow for a year, and instead, centre around a myriad of seafood options for explorers to try. Seafood prepared in a multitude of different styles, joined by an array of locally brewed spirits, beers and wine, the Ocean Festival looks to be a must-go for any budding seafood enthusiast. Enjoy live music or cooking classes brought to you by masters of the craft, a whole range of celebrity chefs will accompany you through improving your home dining experience. Whilst this may no longer be the scallop festival of years past, this new rendition looks to implement environmental sustainability action coupled with some of the freshest seafood ones can find.

Toast Martinborough

Toast Martinborough is held on the third Sunday of November every year and has a wide range of vineyards. As the name suggests, this festival highlights the phenomenal wine culture of New Zealand. Obviously, an 18+ event, your $85 ticket includes tasting glasses and shuttle bus transportation into and between the various vineyards. The vineyards span over 10 locations, with every imaginable type of wine you can try. Food and music options are also available at every location, to complement the range of pallet changing wines. There will be gluten-free, dairy-free vegan and vegetarian food options, and all the Tirohana and Vynfield wines are completely vegan as well, meaning that no dietary restrictions will get in the way of you enjoying this once a year festival. Make sure to arrive in your Sunday best, as there will also be a competition for those best dressed to appear on Toast’s social media, allowing you to live the life as potentially the next big Instagram thing. If you have some extra time to spare before or after the festival, make sure you explore other exciting experiences Martinborough has to offer via the FreeGuides App. The App offers a platform for people share memorable experiences with like-minded others with personalised free mobile walking tours.

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