Top ways to celebrate New Year's in New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the most special places in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
That’s because it’s the first country to see the new sun – and therefore the first spot to enjoy the rays of the first sunrise of the new year.
If you’re lucky enough to be spending the event in New Zealand, here are a few of the top ways to see in the New Year!
Watch the fireworks in Auckland
Fireworks are synonymous with celebration, and watching them shoot off the top of Auckland’s most iconic structure (the Sky Tower) is something truly special indeed.
You’ll be able to spot them from just about anywhere near the central city, but one of the best places is simply any of the streets surrounding the structure. From here, you’ll get a great view of the spectacular lights, but you’ll also enjoy a real carnival atmosphere as thousands of people fill the streets to watch the show.
Go camping anywhere
Beaches, mountains, open plains – New Zealand is a country of endless gorgeous campgrounds and it doesn’t take much to find a great spot to pitch a tent.
The warm weather at this time of year makes it easy to spend time outdoors, and it’s a truly special occasion for anyone who has never experienced a summery Christmas before. Look for campgrounds if you’re after a few handy amenities, or get off the beaten track for a more remote experience.
Rhythm and Vines in Gisborne
New Zealand may be the first country to see the first sunrise of the new year, but out of the entire country, Gisborne is the first city to experience it. That’s because this town is the easternmost city in the country, and its beachy, fun-loving atmosphere makes it a great spot to celebrate.
Camp out amongst the vineyards and listen to some of New Zealand’s and the world’s top musicians at this epic New Year’s festival.
Rhythm and Alps in Cardrona Valley
Rhythm and Alps is the South Island’s answer to Rhythm and Vines. While the Gisborne event is set amongst vineyards and coastline views, this version is found amongst the spectacular rugged mountain scenery between Queenstown and Wanaka.
This event also promises many fantastic musical performances, and the chance to camp out in some of the country’s most gorgeous scenery for a break from real life with friends and family.
Frank Kitts Park event in Wellington
Wellington’s Frank Kitts Park hosts an evening of films, music and fireworks every year from 8pm onwards. This one is especially good for families as there is a fireworks show at 9.45pm for the kids, followed by another one at midnight for the adults. The entire event is free and a great way to get out and enjoy the community atmosphere!
No matter where you are in the country, there will always be a number of fun community events you can join to celebrate the New Year. Have a fantastic evening and all the best for 2017 from the team at Habitat Tours.
How New Zealanders spend their Summer holidays
The birds are out in force, the landscapes are looking fresh and green, and sunscreen is a top commodity in stores all over the country – New Zealand’s Summer has well and truly arrived.
So how are Kiwis planning to spend their Summer holidays? Naturally, we’ll be out enjoying the sunshine just like any country, but there are a few specifics New Zealanders are proud of in particular. Take a look at our favourite Summer pastimes so you can join in on the fun, too.
Days at the beach
The grand majority of New Zealanders live close to the shoreline. This is because almost all of our major cities and towns are found on coasts, which means practically every Kiwi has grown up spending summers frolicking in the waves.
Many Kiwis will be down by the water this Summer, with kites, Frisbees, soccer balls, plastic cricket equipment and good books to read on the shore. Some will even venture out and take day trips to the islands around our coastlines for something a little extra special.
It’s important to note that the New Zealand sunshine is much harsher than it is in other parts of the world, so you shouldn’t even head outdoors without a good layer of sunscreen to protect you (as well as hats, sunglasses, and light clothing).
Summertime BBQs and picnics
There have been many instances when the Kiwi saying ‘bring a plate’ has caused confusion – and giggles and laughter! It’s a common way of saying ‘bring a snack/meal/dessert to share’, that you’ll hear from party hosts. It may sound as though they simply need some extra crockery to cater to a large crowd (and fair enough, too), but it’s really a way of encouraging guests to bring something of their own creation. Usually, the host will provide the main meal and some sides, while guests will bring along smaller dishes such as starters, breads, salads, or sweet treats for dessert.
This is especially common for Kiwi barbeques and picnics, where everyone pitches in and brings something from home. It’s a great way to get into the community spirit and pick up a new favourite recipe!
Walking and hiking
Kiwis are an active bunch, and there are few things we love more than a good hike during Summer. Fortunately, our entire country is one big walking trail, so we never run out of new places to explore!
We at Habitat Tours are lucky enough to walk and hike as part of our jobs. We regularly get to see the raw beauty of the Waitakere Ranges, and the excitement of visitors as they see it for the first time makes it special – no matter how many times we see it. Then there’s the beautiful Tawharanui. Here, dedicated New Zealanders have created a predator-free space, which has allowed the native and endemic wildlife to thrive. It’s now one of the most special places in the country to take a walk and see many of our wonderful species, from the morepork to the kiwi.
And of course, then there are great hikes such as the Tongariro Crossing, the Abel Tasman track, and absolutely any spot of land in the unbelievable Milford Sound. No matter your plans for this New Zealand Summer, make sure you have at least one hike to look forward to on your calendar.
What’s Christmas like in New Zealand?
In most parts of the world, Christmas is all about cosy meals indoors with family gathered around the fire, snow piling up in drifts outside, and cups of hot mulled wine at the end of the night.
New Zealand is the complete opposite!
If you’ve got your first ever Christmas in Summer coming up, get ready for an entirely new experience!
The weather plays a huge role in the celebrations, and considering December 25 is right in the middle of Summer for New Zealand and Australia, this typically means it is spent outdoors as much as possible.
Many Kiwis will head to the beach for swimming and sunbathing, or will simply spend the day outdoors with family and friends playing backyard cricket, enjoying meals on the barbeque, and playing with new toys.
Foodwise, there may be one or two hot dishes (such as roast turkey or ham), but you can expect far more ‘hot day’ meals, such as salads, snacks, and cold drinks like champagne. Fortunately, all the outdoor activities help balance out the large meals typically enjoyed during the occasion!
Another element that you might not consider is nature itself. Instead of snow everywhere, we have blooming flowers and bright green trees. Plus, one of the most special plants in New Zealand comes to life just in time for the festive season – the Pohutukawa. This native tree is abundant in the North Island and the upper parts of the South, and blooms with bright red flowers right up to Christmas, giving it the nickname of the ‘New Zealand Christmas tree’.
Finally, another major difference is the fact that Christmas is right in the middle of the long Summer holidays. So rather than a quick few days off, it’s when all the schools and universities are closed for the season, so it arrives during a truly laid-back and relaxed time of year. It’s the perfect time to get out and spend some of that time off exploring, so consider taking an eco tour in Auckland to see some of the Summery sights!
New Zealand’s native mosses
You’ve probably passed moss during outdoor walks and excursions hundreds of times and not thought too hard about them. Even though they’re not quite as visually arresting as an ancient kauri tree or a dormant volcano, mosses still hold a very special place in the scheme of things.
In fact, these simple plants date back roughly 360 million years, and are actually the next evolutionary step up from algae. Plus, out of all the plants in the world, they are the most diverse group, with more than 10,000 species on the planet.
In New Zealand alone, there are more than 500 ‘true moss’ species.
Interestingly, only about a fifth of those species are endemic (only occurring in New Zealand). This is a surprisingly low number considering so many of the country’s other plants are endemic (closer to 80 per cent). The reason is because the spores of mosses are so lightweight that they are easily blown around the globe, so it’s not as hard for a moss to grow elsewhere.
The majority of New Zealand’s mosses are ‘true mosses’, which means they are real mosses, as opposed to other plants that are called moss but aren’t really (such as Irish moss). New Zealand also grows some sphagnum moss, which is grown commercially and used as a gardening aid, and even for fuel and packaging. Plus, sphagnum moss is also wonderful as it stores carbon, which keeps carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The last group of mosses is known as ‘granite mosses’, which are those that thrive on rocky surfaces.
Mosses usually grow in shady, damp places such as forests, although a number are best in well-lit areas. During a day tour from Auckland through the Waitakere Ranges or our to Tawharanui, you’ll see plenty of mosses and learn even more about them.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist