Dedicated dance music fans are always traveling around the world chasing after the most epic festival experiences. Beyond the festivals in themselves, these trips also provide a perfect opportunities to explore new destinations!
In the “Electronic Dance Music Festival Travel Guide” series on the blog, we’re visiting electronic music festivals around the world and turning festival trips into an awesome holiday experiences.
In this first installment, Elise from Travel, Work and Play takes us to Gisborne, New Zealand to the Rhythm and Vines Festival. When Elise told me about this festival over Messenger, I immediately wanted to book a flight to New Zealand for the coming edition. Every year 30,000 festival-goers descend upon Rhythm & Vines to celebrate the end of another year. It’s held in an actual vineyard and by the beach, in the Southern Hemisphere summer…need I say more?
Where are you from and how did you end up at Rhythm and Vines?
I first heard about Rhythm and Vines from a friend, and as I was planning on traveling around Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand that year, I knew I had to make my plans fit the R&V dates. Rhythm and Vines is held in Gisborne, New Zealand annually from the 29th-31st December. Set half on the beach, half in a vineyard, it’s a truly unique festival and a great escape from the northern hemisphere’s winter months!
I love festivals, and even better if they are in a hot country. I’m originally from the UK, and let me tell you, festivals are quite different in floods and mud than four days of sunshine and good vibes!
What is Rhythm and Vines like? What kind of dance music can you hear here?
The music here is pretty eclectic. You can be jamming to EDM one minute, drift to a dub or DnB stage and then chill out with some reggae beats. It’s on for three glorious days, plus a few warm up nights. That’s plenty of time to see many different artists across the whole event.
R&V began in 2003, set up by Otago University students in their family vineyard. It’s got bigger every year and has seen the likes of Netsky, Chase & Status, Sub Focus, Chet Faker, Carl Cox & Major Lazer among MANY more grace its stages.
Its unique location, in the valley of a large vineyard is the perfect backdrop for this picturesque festival. The acoustics here are also particularly good, with the internationally imported sound system bouncing beats off the vineyard hills. It also means you can be down amongst the action, or a little further removed enjoying a more mellow few hours watching the bands from far above.
Wow, amazing! So where did you stay during the festival?
You have a few choices for camping and I would highly recommend the beachside camps. During the day there are sponsored events, music stages, slip-and-slides, food stalls, drinks tents and lots more along the beach front. You can camp among the vines (around 15 mins away) but there is so much more going on in the day by the beach camps, and the free shuttle buses take you to the ‘vines’ each evening anyway. It’s a no-brainer! If you’re not much of a camper, there are luxury and tee-pee options among the vines and even motel packages, but book early as these fill up.
As soon as we set up camp we made friends with our neighbours and headed to the nearest liquor store for supplies. We spent the next four days around a little tent city made out of shady gazebos and makeshift tables and chairs.
We made some great friends who we revisited around the country. Rhythm and Vines is super sociable and kiwis are generally mellow and welcoming – ideal conditions for a festival! Every festival-goer is issued with a wristband that can be pre-loaded with cash to spend on food, drinks and activities. The festival itself is cashless, just top-up at onsite stations with any Eft-pos, Visa or Mastercard.
What are your top tips to have an awesome time at R&V?
When you arrive, definitely find somewhere with some shade as Gisborne gets roasting hot from around 7am onwards. If in doubt, bring a gazebo or tent cover that you can fashion into a shaded area – you’ll thank us later! The campsites are very well maintained with clean toilets and shower blocks with hot water.
There are also regular food stalls, dressing room areas and charge points for your phone. The weather over NYE is mostly sunny but can get cool at night. Therefore, summery clothes with a flannel shirt around the waist is ideal attire. Some years end up with unfortunate flooding nearby so keep an eye on the forecast, and some rain boots on hand.
What are some must-see’s and must-do’s in Gisborne and North Island?
Gisborne itself is a cool, chilled beach town. It’s definitely worth a few days in before or after the festival. There are long distance buses to most locations on the North Island. These buses are really busy immediately following the festival, so it helps to stick around for a few days. Even if you’ve spent a lot of time at the beach during the festival,the post R&V Gisborne feels totally different. Plus hanging at the beach for a few days is the perfect way to get over your post-festival blues!
The setting for this festival is second to none, but it’s also a great start to an exploration of New Zealand’s North Island. Starting in Gisborne, there are wineries, waterfalls and botanical gardens nearby. The surf here is some of the best in the country, so surfers should plan a couple days to ride the waves. The rest of the North Island offers a wide array of activities and sites. From Taupo to the glowworm caves at Waitomo, there are so many quirky places to visit!
We spent a lot of time in Auckland and Wellington, visiting friends and family. Auckland is a super laid-back city and great as a launching point for trips to the northern islands. One of my favourite days in New Zealand was a trip we took to Waiheke Island. There we found ourselves in a magical little isle, stuffed with wineries serving wines from across the country. There’s a hopper bus that you can take to visit each vineyard and the landscape is stunning. It’s also really well set up for visitors, and reasonably priced for backpackers (although everyone deserves a splurge now and then!)
Wellington has a totally different feel to it, less big city and more country town, set on the water. We were based in Paraparaumu, about an hour up the coast from Wellington. There we kayaked, hiked and stuffed our faces with fantastic food. The Weta workshop is based here in Welly – arguably the world leader in animation & design for film, a must visit for film fans!
New Zealand – Kia Ora!
Travel with us to other epic festivals around the world.