Nightlife in New Zealand - Ultimate Guide to Bars, Clubs & More

New Zealand is a foodie’s paradise. The sheer range of bars, restaurants and cafes that abound here will leave you mesmerised. The country might not have a typical larger-than-life night life as most places are wont to have, but the options placed in front of you are incredible.

The country isn’t densely populated and its few big cities and small towns are all that you need to check when you step out for the night. The bigger cocktail bars and nightclubs are naturally found in the larger cities of Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin. Smaller clubs and cosy bars are spread all across the country, and you can be sure that wherever in New Zealand you go, you will definitely find some place to sit down for a glass of wine or beer.

Let’s embark upon a food and wine journey that is original, fresh and absolutely world-class. Are you ready?

Auckland Night

Bars :
New Zealand knows its wines and beers. And the country takes this stuff seriously. Fancy cocktail bars, micro-brew bars, student bars, and of course, the backpacker hangouts; you will find bars of all kinds all throughout New Zealand. You will have greater choice in larger cities and larger towns, but smaller towns are not far behind. Those are great places to visit for a taste of the local beer or a house wine.

Here’s a list of the more popular bars that are scattered around New Zealand's main centres:

  • Auckland: Hit Queen Street and the Viaduct Basin area to look for a spot of nightlife. Craft beer aficionados should head to Dr Rudi's Rooftop Brewing Co. in Viaduct Basin for amazing views. For cocktails, the Housebar at Hotel DeBrett with its Art Deco setting is perfect. 
  • Wellington: Cuba Street Mall and its surrounding areas are densely populated with restaurants and bars. Step back in time when you step inside Hawthorn Lounge, a 1930s-style speakeasy cocktail bar. The Library might be an unusual name for a bar but it totally lives up to it with its book-lined walls. And it has amazing tapas, cheese, and desserts as well as drinks. 
  • Christchurch: Go straight to the Central Business District to get lucky. O.G.B. sits in a heritage building and its outdoor courtyard and frequent live music make it the perfect destination for a lazy summer evening.
  • Dunedin: This area caters more to the students around the University of Otago. Inch Bar, as you would expect, is tiny! But it makes up by serving amazing beer in a cosy, youthful setting. Scout around the Octagon, and on George Street and Princes Street for other bars that catch your fancy.

Clubs : If you’d like to spend your evening dancing, then a club with pulsating music is highly recommended. However, as we mentioned earlier, New Zealanders aren’t that big on clubbing, so chances of finding them outside the bigger cities in towns are scant. Popular tourist destinations, and towns and cities with a large student population will be a good bet.

Champagne Pool

Late-Night Restaurants :
Fancy a late night meal? Most people in New Zealand have early dinners so dinner service in most places usually end by 9 p.m. The busiest meal time is between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. However, New Zealand’s liquor licencing law requires that all places that serve alcohol must serve food too. This blurs the line between restaurant and bar somewhat, with some restaurants turning into bars late into the night. And if there’s music and space to dance, well, what’s to stop you from grooving also just a little bit?

New Zealand is a popular destination among Indians. And not just because of the possibility of a fantastic holiday. As a country, New Zealand has taken pains to offer its guests an authentic Indian experience even when miles away from their country. There are numerous restaurants that serve Indian vegetarian and vegan options that make Indian tourists feel right at home. If you want something with a bit of a twist, head over to the award-winning Cassia in Auckland, a modern Indian bistro that is quite the rage among locals too.

Live Music : People in New Zealand like their live music shows. On weekends, you will find a cover band playing somewhere or the other in small cities and large towns. In larger cities, you might get lucky to be able to purchase tickets to an original band too. Check your travel dates and try and coincide it with any shows that you would like to see live.

Festivals : New Zealand is a wine and beer drinker’s paradise. And the people here take their drinks seriously. Which is perhaps why the country regularly organises wine and beer festivals to celebrate the excellent wine and craft beers produced here. We’ve clubbed the festivals into nightlife even though they aren’t usually held at night as you can start any time in the afternoon and carry on well into the evening after the sun has gone down.

Here’s a list of some of New Zealand's most popular wine and beer festivals:

  • Rhythm and Vines (Gisborne): Music and wine create a heady combination in this premier wine-producing region.
  • Beervana (Wellington): It’s a celebration of craft beer in New Zealand’s capital.
  • Gabs Festival (Auckland): This Australian festival is a gala of good beer, cider, and food.
  • Toast (Martinborough): When in wine country, focus on wine in this sunny late spring festival.
  • Marlborough Wine and Food Festival (Marlborough region): One of New Zealand's longest-running festivals.

Tips for going out in New Zealand

New Zealand is quite a laidback country, but there are a few ground rules that you must know before you head out for a night out in this beautiful country.

  • New Zealand is very strict about its drinking age. On paper it is 18 but anyone who looks under 25 will be asked to show some ID. If you’re a tourist, a passport or driver's license are the only forms of ID that are acceptable. You will be required to show this before entering a pub. If you're in a restaurant and you order a drink, the chances of you being asked for ID proof are miniscule, unless, of course, you look very young.
  • Your choice of clothing will depend upon where you are heading out for the night, a big city or a small town. In the bigger cities and larger towns, the dress code is more formal and is usually applicable to men. You will be required to wear closed-toe dress shoes only. Please avoid flip-flops or sports shoes. Certain places could also specify a collared shirt and may prohibit men in singlets (sleeveless vests) or shorts from entering their establishment. Smaller towns are more relaxed and there is rarely a dress code. One thing that nearly every reputable bar, restaurant or club will disallow is gang insignia or gang colours. Of course, as a tourist, this needn’t worry you. Whether you’re in a large city or a smaller town, stick to smart casuals in most places, and you should be just fine.
  • You will not be expected to tip in New Zealand. In fact, it could even be considered odd if you leave behind any tip. Labour laws and its implementation are very fair in New Zealand, and bar and restaurant workers (as well as everyone else in the country) are certainly paid the minimum national wage, if not more. Hence tipping is considered to be unnecessary.
  • Transport is easier in the big cities, where taxis or rideshare apps are available at night once public transit has shut down. In smaller towns, you might face a bit of a difficulty since there isn’t much public transport nor are there taxis available at night. You need to make sure you are within walking distance of the nightlife, or you will need to designate a sober driver to get you home if you decide to drink.
  • Drinking in the street is illegal in most cities and towns at any time of the day. You will come across signs that clearly state it to be a ‘liquor ban area’. You might be able to have a quiet lunchtime picnic in a park with food and a few discreet drinks. However, be aware that this might be illegal and you could get into trouble depending on which city or town you are in. Drinking in the streets at night is illegal.
  • You cannot smoke in bars, clubs, restaurants, or any public indoor areas in New Zealand.
  • Popular clubs in larger cities could have a cover charge, especially on weekend nights or if there's a live band playing. These can range anywhere from a few dollars to up to $20 per person.
  • Closing hours will vary depending upon location and type of establishment. The law states that bars and clubs must close no later than 4 a.m. Some venues, especially those in smaller towns, could close earlier.

New Zealand is a tourist paradise in more ways than one, from mind-blowing natural attractions to stunning culinary experiences. At Thomas Cook, we would love to help you plan a holiday of a lifetime to New Zealand. Allow us to present the many special New Zealand packages and deals, and you could choose the one that suits you the most.

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