Interested in our Partner Program for businesses or our Local Guide Program for experienced expats and digital nomads? Click here to learn more.
Expat Exchange - Best Places to Visit in New Zealand for Christmas Cheer
Expat Exchange
Free MembershipSign In
Auckland, New Zealand

Best Places to Visit in New Zealand for Christmas Cheer

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

Summary: Plan a day trip or weekend getaway to get some holiday cheer. This article highlights the best places to visit in New Zealand for Christmas cheer.

New Zealand may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a traditional Christmas, given its Southern Hemisphere location and summertime December. However, the country offers a unique holiday experience with a blend of traditional festivities and summer activities. Expats and digital nomads looking to get into the holiday spirit will find plenty of places across the country that celebrate the season with charm and enthusiasm. From Christmas markets to parades and light shows, here are some of the best places to visit in New Zealand during December.


Queenstown is renowned for its stunning scenery and adventure sports, but during December, it transforms into a festive wonderland. The Queenstown Christmas Market is a highlight, offering handcrafted gifts, local produce, and festive treats. The market is usually held in early December and is the perfect place to find unique gifts while enjoying the holiday atmosphere. Additionally, the town often hosts a Christmas parade and a New Year's Eve celebration with fireworks over Lake Wakatipu.

We Recommend: Don't miss the opportunity to try some local Central Otago cherries, a seasonal delight, or the mulled wine that's often available at the market to keep the holiday cheer going.


New Zealand's capital, Wellington, embraces the festive season with its annual Christmas celebrations. The Wellington Christmas Markets are a must-visit, with a variety of stalls selling everything from artisanal foods to handcrafted jewelry. The city also hosts a spectacular Christmas tree lighting event in Midland Park, and the "A Very Welly Christmas" festival usually takes place on Lambton Quay in late November or early December, featuring live entertainment, carols, and family-friendly activities.

We Recommend: Be sure to catch one of the live performances at "A Very Welly Christmas" and enjoy some of the gourmet food offerings from local vendors.


Christchurch is known for its English heritage, which shines through during the holiday season. The Christchurch Christmas Lightshow is an annual event that dazzles visitors with its impressive display of lights and music. The city also hosts the Christchurch Santa Parade, a beloved event with floats, bands, and Santa Claus himself. This parade typically occurs in early December and is a hit with families and visitors of all ages.

We Recommend: After the Santa Parade, head over to the Christmas Lightshow for an evening of visual spectacle. The lightshow often features a special area with food trucks where you can grab a bite and a hot drink.

Auckland's Queen Street

Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, lights up Queen Street with festive decorations and a giant Santa that has been a holiday fixture for generations. The Farmers Santa Parade is an iconic event, with elaborate floats, marching bands, and dancers making their way down Queen Street. This parade usually takes place on the last Sunday in November, kicking off the Christmas season in style. Additionally, the Silo Park Christmas Market offers a range of local crafts and delicious eats.

We Recommend: Try the Kiwi summer treat of fresh strawberries and ice cream from one of the street vendors, a perfect way to enjoy the warm December weather.


Dunedin celebrates Christmas with a Scottish flair, reflecting its heritage. The Dunedin Santa Parade is a community event that brings together people from all over the region. Held in late November or early December, the parade features a mix of traditional and Kiwi elements. The Octagon, Dunedin's city center, is beautifully decorated and often hosts Christmas markets and live music, creating a festive atmosphere for all to enjoy.

We Recommend: Keep an eye out for the unique Scottish-themed decorations and performances that pay homage to Dunedin's roots. The local craft stalls at the Christmas markets are also worth exploring for one-of-a-kind gifts.


Napier, in the Hawke's Bay region, is famous for its Art Deco architecture, and this unique style extends to its Christmas celebrations. The city's Christmas Parade and Festive Market usually take place in early December, featuring vintage cars, music, and dance performances. The market is a great place to find local wines, gourmet food, and artisanal products, all with a backdrop of beautifully preserved 1930s buildings.

We Recommend: Sample some of the Hawke's Bay region's renowned wines at the Festive Market, and don't miss the chance to take a photo with the Art Deco Santa.


Hamilton, in the Waikato region, hosts the annual Hamilton Christmas Tree of Lights, a magnificent sight in Garden Place. The city also offers a Christmas market with a variety of stalls selling crafts, food, and holiday decorations. The Hamilton Christmas Parade brings festive cheer to the streets with its colorful floats and entertainment, typically occurring in early December.

We Recommend: Visit the Christmas market for some traditional M?ori arts and crafts, which make for meaningful and unique gifts.

Parnell in Auckland

Parnell, Auckland's oldest suburb, is known for its charming boutiques and cafes, which take on a festive air in December. The Parnell Christmas Market is an intimate affair with a selection of high-quality goods, from handmade soaps to designer clothing. The suburb also hosts a "Christmas at Parnell Rose Gardens" event, with carols and beautiful rose blooms providing a serene setting for holiday relaxation.

We Recommend: Enjoy the serene atmosphere at the Parnell Rose Gardens and indulge in some artisanal chocolates from the local chocolatiers who often have stalls at the Christmas market.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

Auckland, New Zealand

William Russell
William Russell

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
Get Quote

William RussellWilliam Russell

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
Get Quote

Contribute to New Zealand Network Contribute
Help others in New Zealand by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in New Zealand.

Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

Copyright 1997-2024 Burlingame Interactive, Inc.

Privacy Policy Legal Partners & Local Guides