What’s On in Gizzy – Gisborne Events and Festivals 2020

Contributor Justine Tyerman gives the low-down on the best Gisborne events and festivals for 2020, along with fun things to do for locals and visitors alike


Tairawhiti Gisborne may be small in size, but we certainly punch well above our weight in the festival stakes.

Visitors and residents alike will enjoy the fact the town is hosting not only the always-popular First Light Wine & Food, but also one of the world’s top – and certainly, the first – New Year’s Eve music events.

To help you plan which upcoming Gisborne events to attend, be sure to refer to our handy guide to what’s on in Gisborne. Enjoy!



Gisborne Beer Festival: November 28, 2020


Gisborne event beer festival flyer
Gisborne's beer festival is back for its second year (Image, plus Main Feature Photo, courtesy Gisborne Beer Festival)


Gisborne is not all about wine. We now have our very own beer festival. The second annual celebration of craft beer takes place on November 28, 2020, in the paddock area adjacent The Royal, Raglan Roast Matawhero (formerly the Jolly Stockman).

The festival features 12 award-winning breweries (up from the seven who participated in 2019), including:

  • Sunshine Brewery
  • 8 Wired
  • Bassline Brewery
  • Boneface Brewing Co.
  • Brave Brewing Co
  • Deep Creek
  • Double Vision Brewing
  • Giant Brewing
  • Mean Doses
  • North End Brewery
  • Zeelandt Brewery
  • Behemoth Brewing Company

In addition to the great beer, visitors can enjoy delicious food and a variety of live music, including sessions from TrinityRoots and The Electrons. Other fun things to do include a hop-growing workshop and a home brew competition

For tickets and further details of what promises to be one of the top upcoming events in Gisborne, visit the festival’s website at https://gisbornebeerfestival.nz/.


First Light Wine & Food: Labour Weekend, October 25, 2020


The Gisborne event team for First Light Wine & Food Festival
The First Light Wine & Food Festival team are ready for another great year (Photo courtesy First Light Wine & Food)


When the buds start bursting on the grapevines, the cherry trees are a riot of shocking pink blossom, the tui are chortling and temperatures are rising... all of them sure signs that spring madness and Gisborne's First Light Wine & Food festival are approaching.

Now in its 23rd year, what the festivals have all had in common over the two decades we have been attending them is an atmosphere of irrepressible joie de vivre and energy; it’s as if everyone has suddenly awoken from hibernation and flung open the doors to spring after a long winter.

The urge to banish winter with all its sombre hues is also played out in colourful attire and mad-cap antics: crazy costumes, bright colours, sunhats, bare skin, and big smiles express the urge to get outside in the warm sunshine, take deep breaths of fresh spring air, socialise madly, and imbibe... and not always in moderation.

The premier event for 2020 features three vineyards – Matawhero Wines, TW Wines and Bridge Estate – releasing the new season's wines. Gourmet food is provided at all three venues along with live music. The region’s many celebrated vineyards and wineries will open their cellar doors for visitors to savour a variety of stunning wines and food.

For further details, visit www.firstlightwineandfood.co.nz.



Rhythm & Vines (R&V): December 28-31, 2020


View of the Rhythm & Vines Gisborne event stage at dusk
The main event... Rhythm & Vines (Photo Courtesy Rhythm & Vines / Hayato Clearwater)


Rhythm and Vines is an awesome three-day international music festival held from December 28th to the 31st at beautiful Waiohika Estate on the outskirts of Gisborne… just a few country blocks from where we live.

Recognised as one of the world’s top New Year’s Eve destinations, R&V holds the distinction of being the first festival in the world to welcome in the first sunrise of the New Year. Because of our close proximity to R&V, for many years we were a popular base for dozens of our daughters’ university friends who used to camp in our orchard. It was like having a mini-Glastonbury Festival on our doorstep! They were hectic but fun times and we got caught up in the euphoria of the festival and ended up attending for many years… as VIPs.

The festival, now in its 18th year, was founded in 2003 by University of Otago friends Hamish Pinkham, Tom Gibson, and Andrew Witters. They wanted to hold an event for their university friends to bring in the New Year in a safe and beautiful location with entertainment from up-and-coming and established New Zealand musicians. The festival has been held each year at Waiohika Estate, which was originally Witters’ family home, but is now run as a full-time event centre by the Rhythm Group.

Rhythm and Vines continued to push the boundaries in creating a world-class festival that showcased top international talent while supporting emerging Kiwi talent.

The 17th edition was another one for the history books with stellar performances from over 100 acts. Headliners took the stage on New Year’s Eve to bring in 2020 with 21,000 festival goers, not to mention 14,000 on-site campers.

Heading into 2021, Rhythm & Vines shows no sign of slowing down. Our daughters, now both married and living overseas, are planning a reunion at our place for the 20th anniversary of R&V!

For further details of this exciting Gisborne event, visit the festival’s website at www.rhythmandvines.co.nz/.




Contributing Editor Justine Tyerman is an award-winning travel writer, journalist, and sub-editor from Gisborne, New Zealand, with 20 years’ experience in newspaper and freelance work. Check out her work at www.just-write.co.nz and Tyerman’s Travels Facebook.