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Queenstown Winter Festival Guide

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We have beautiful scenery all year round, whether you are sunbathing on our lakefront “beach” in the summer or wrapping up to hit the slopes in Winter. Also with nightlife to die for, it’s no wonder so many of you come to see us every year. But the most iconic festival, event, fun filled 10 days that we have gracing our town every year is The Queenstown Winter festival! This is what kicks off our winter, it’s what makes Queenstown, Queenstown!

History of The Queenstown Winter Festival

If you visit Queenstown one thing you’ll see is how much the locals love their town. And what better way to celebrate it, and winter, than throwing a festival every year. Winterfest came from the ripe old time of 1975, when a few locals got together that really wanted to celebrate winter in Queenstown and have a huge party to kick off the season. That’s exactly what they did. They organised races up on the mountains, had a few beers for the adults and sweet things for the kids and some live music spread across a couple of days for locals and visitors all to enjoy. Now we expect 45,000 people each year to kick off Winter with us.

queenstown winter festival guide
Competitors at QRC Hospo Race 2017

About the Queenstown Winter Festival

The beauty of the Winter festival is that it’s for everyone. These days, it’s a 10 day festival which caters for adults, kids, locals and visitors. Something for everyone! So what exactly can you do during our Winter Festival? Every year it changes slightly, some of the same events remain but we like to mix it up and throw in some new things too!

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The festival kicks off with the opening party at Earnslaw park. Live music will get you in the spirit from early evening followed by a firework show out on Lake Wakatipu that would put New Year’s Eve to shame. Live music is a constant during the festival, the stage is kept at Earnslaw park throughout the 10 days. You can experience comedy nights, comedy debates, street parades, markets, pop-up caravans to keep you going with nibbles and coffee, quiz nights and seminars. You can watch an ice hockey game or two during the festival with Queenstown’s own Southern Stampede taking on the challengers (always makes for a great night). International DJ’s keep the nights going in many of Queenstown’s bars, and there’s even a masquerade ball.

a guide to queenstown winter festival
Country winner Jacob Mackie from Blackmount number 14 with Rev on the run to the front of the pack at Monteiths Dog Derby 2017 ES

What happens if there’s no snow?

But what is a Winter Festival without snow you say, don’t you worry there’s plenty of action happening up the mountains too. We have the hilarious event, that is a bit of a favourite here, Mountain Bikes on Ice, grab your bike and head up to Coronet Peak. If bikes are not your thing then grab your suitcase instead, for a bit of Mountain Mayhem. Hitting the slopes with a suitcase… nothing better!! Night skiing up Coronet Peak is not to be missed and an amazing Slopestyle event to finish your week off!

There is a hype in the air, the buzz is infectious and keeps going all throughout the festival. It really is an amazing time of year in Queenstown. We are here to get you involved, to show you what Queenstown is about. We are lucky enough to live here, so we’re going to make sure you have the best time of your life. Forget about the beach holidays this year, because this is where you want to be. Have a beer, chat to the locals, get up to Coronet Peak, listen to the music, watch the fireworks and the parades and remember that WINTER STARTS HERE!

You’ll see Queenstown transform into a winter wonderland! Make sure you book your Queenstown accommodation early if you’re heading this way to experience the festival as Queenstown gets very busy!

  • Check out our guide to Skiing and Snowboarding in Queenstown and Wanaka here.
queenstown winter festival
Community and cultural groups at the Community Walking Parade 2017 JG 05

Queenstown Winter Festival 2018 Guide

Here’s a taster of what’s in store…

  • Winter Festival Welcome:
    Thursday – From 5pm to 7pm Marine Parade/Queenstown Bay. Watch the Waka Ama and Powhiri to officially welcome the launch of winter then enjoy NZ’s amazing Tiki Taane.
  • Comedy:
    Thursday / Friday – fancy a bit of a laugh? Book tickets to see some of NZ’s comics! Justine Smith, Ben Hurley and Jeremy Elwood and David Correos.
  • Matariki Torchlight Procession:
    Thursday – Watch the procession of lit torches through Queenstown.
  • Mountain Festival Village at Cardrona:
    Friday – 10am to 4pm. Free! Head up to Cardrona to see the mountain transformed into a festival village.
  • Monteiths Dog Derby:
    Friday – 12pm. Free to watch. Watch dogs and their owners take o the challenge of a new track at Cardrona Alpine Resort.
  • Real Journeys Friday Fireworks:
    Friday – 5pm to 9pm Queenstown Bay and Earnslaw Park. Live music and fireworks, what more could you ask for?
  • Jucy Undy 500:
    Saturday – 12pm in Queenstown Bay. Watch the crazy and entertaining obstacle course that is Jucy Undy 500. (Yes, the participants are in just Undies!) It’s free to enter and watch!
  • The Hits 90.4 Birdman:
    Saturday – 12pm. Queenstown Bay. One of the funniest things to watch. See people attempt to fly, and fail, and then drop unceremoniously into the cold water!

These are our top picks for the Queenstown Winter Festival and there is SO much more going on – comedy nights, live music everywhere, party nights, dog barking competitions, mountain bikes on snow and so much more! For more information check out the Queenstown Winterfest website and don’t forget to book your accommodation at Nomads Queenstown.


Event details

Event name: Queenstown Winter Festival

Start date: June 21, 2018 12:00 am

About: A celebration of the arrival of winter

Who will like this event?: Everyone but especially those who love the snow.

Venue: Queenstown

Address: Various Locations, Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand

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