New Zealand is a pretty special place to spend New Year’s Eve, not least of all because it’s one of the very first countries in the world to see the new year. It’s also not one to shy away from an excuse to celebrate, and there a lot of amazing festivals and events taking place across both the North and South Islands on the last day of the year. However, there are few better ways to ring in the new year than by gathering under the night sky to take in a spectacular fireworks display.
So, if you haven’t already got a ticket to one of NZ’s massive end-of-year parties and you’re wondering what to do for NYE in New Zealand for free instead, check out some top picks for where to watch the fireworks, right across the country.
It should really come as no surprise that the fireworks display in Auckland on New Year’s Eve is impressive. Most of the action is centred around the Sky Tower, which makes this is one very popular spot come December 31. If braving the masses at the Sky Tower doesn’t appeal to you (the energy here is electric, but definitely not for the claustrophobic at heart), then another great option is to sail out in the Waitemata Harbour and watch the spectacle from the water. There are a number of NYE cruises that will take you out onto the harbour, but these voyages do tend to have pretty hefty price tags attached and should be booked as far in advance as possible. One insider’s tip on where to watch the fireworks in Auckland? Take a ferry over to the other side of the harbour and watch the show from Devonport.
Not sure what to do in Wellington on New Year’s Eve? Get yourself down to Frank Kitts Park. Every year, this park hosts a wonderful family-friendly party that features live music, food trucks and, of course, a fireworks display. Well, actually, two fireworks displays: one at 9.45pm for the kids and then the main event at midnight. The celebrations start at 8pm, so get down early to catch the Richter City Rebels (New Zealand’s very own New Orleans brass band) and the Cut Outs. And did we mention entry is free? If you’re still not sure what to do on New Year’s Eve, and you’re in Wellington, this is a great option.
The place to be on New Year’s Eve in Christchurch is North Hagley Park. Family-friendly entertainment kicks off at 6pm and includes a range of free activities for kids before the first set of fireworks at 8pm. The celebrations continue afterwards, with live music to dance 2019 away to. Then, at midnight, the second instalment of fireworks really lights up the sky. There are of course plenty of other festivities taking place in the South Island’s capital on December 31, but if you’re wondering what to do in Christchurch on New Year’s Eve that won’t break the bank, North Hagley Park is the spot for you.
Bay of Islands
In the summer, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to getaway in New Zealand than the sunny Bay of Islands. With its pristine selection of beaches, the Bay of Islands is a magnet for people who love water sports, fishing and pretty much everything else beach-related. As such, it shouldn’t be that surprising that the region puts on quite the fireworks display come New Year’s Eve. One of the best places to view the fireworks from is in the small settlement of Paihia, which has a number of beachside bars for late-night cocktails, and a beautiful beach which offers some of the best views of the light show. Alternatively, the town of Russel directly across the Pomare Bay is another fantastic option, as it is much quieter and provides a more subdued viewing platform for the fireworks. You could even consider booking a table at the Duke of Marlborough, which offers front-row seats to the show.
Planning on being around Lake Taupo for New Year’s Eve? Excellent choice. The town of Taupo is a hub for adventure sports and water activities, including parasailing, water skiing, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, skydiving, bungee-jumping – you name it, it can probably be done here! Spend the last day of 2019 exploring and enjoying this special pocket of the North Island, and come nightfall, wander down the main street of bars where numerous DJs and live bands will be celebrating the end of the year. At midnight, make sure you make your way down to the lakefront, as a spectacular fireworks show will take place over the water.
Kaiteriteri to the north of the South Island is a favourite beach destination among locals and its golden shores have become a popular place to celebrate New Year’s Eve. There aren’t many bars here and the area doesn’t have quite the party vibe of other towns – but that’s what makes it so perfect. Here, you can slow down and really soak up the sunset, and come midnight, join practically every single other person in town down on the beach to watch the fireworks display.
Being the unofficial party capital of New Zealand, it makes sense that Queenstown would put on a pretty spectacular fireworks display. The best place to view these pyrotechnics is over Lake Wanaka. Lakefront Earnslaw Park kicks off celebrations at 7.30pm, with live music and entertainment all on-hand to get you excited for the New Year’s countdown. It is worth noting that while entry is free, it is strictly a no alcohol zone. Many bars around town will also be throwing their own parties as an alternative. There will even be some bar crawls happening on the night if that’s more your thing. No matter what you prefer, be sure to head back to the lakefront at midnight for the best view of the fireworks.
A slightly tamer option for families or those in search of more low-key celebrations is Wanaka, which offers the same type of live music, entertainment and midnight fireworks, but with fewer tourists and a more demure vibe.
Another great option for those who find themselves in Auckland at New Year’s but want to escape the city is to head to Waiheke Island. This isle is a joy any time of year, but on December 31, you’ll find DJs, stunning views and, of course, fireworks. Conveniently, there are special ferries and buses running to and from Auckland all night long, making it all too easy to enjoy an island setting to ring in 2020.
On the east coast of the North Island, the town of Tauranga is another striking waterfront destination to spend New Year’s Eve. The first fireworks display in Tauranga happens at 9.30pm for the kids and takes place on the Tauranga waterfront, Gordon Spratt Reserve and Fergusson Park. The midnight show launches from several locations across the city, but you can’t go wrong with a spot down on the beach. No matter where you are though, if you’re awake at midnight, you’re in for a treat.
Like the sound of celebration New Year’s Eve at one of the spots above? Book your last-minute flights with Webjet, or combine it with hotel accommodation to save even more thanks to a holiday package.