Normally music festivals book international artists to lure a crowd, with big-name musicians taking bold-type fonts and local artists sitting at the bottom of the lineup, but with Wellington’s Homegrown festival, it’s filled exclusively with Kiwi musicians. This one-day event should be on your festival bucket list if you have a passion for music and, if you’re visiting from overseas, it’s a great way to delve into Kiwi music culture.
Homegrown takes place in March or April and has been kicking it at Wellington’s gorgeous waterfront since 2008. This well organised event pulls a carnival-like atmosphere with six stages split around the waterfront, with wristbands gaining you access to each. This set-up offers the perks of a festival with the unusual convenience of being able to move freely between the music, city and your accommodation. Each stage is split by genres and, with around 50 acts booked, wandering across stages is the best way to discover new NZ artists.
JUST THE TIP
Tickets to Homegrown are well priced, often for less than you would pay to see one international act. This makes it the perfect excuse to make a weekend of it and you really should make sure you are there until late Sunday. Because, if you know anything about Wellington, it’s that the weather is tumultuous, so Homegrown organisers always pull together a rainy day plan for the Sunday. The event is 1pm to 11pm so effectively you can arrive Saturday morning and depart late-night Sunday, or early Monday to be on the safe side. Tickets go on sale around October time, with VIP upgrades available.
Homegrown is an all ages event. Children under 5 go free and teens 15-17 years old can attend without supervision but, in a bid to crack down on underage drinking, they must pre-register to gain entry. The 20,000-strong Homegrown crowd is diverse; a third of fans are 34 and older, 15% are under 18 and a large portion of attendees are from out of Wellington.
Handy Homegrown hints include getting to the ticket-to-wristband exchange at least 30-minutes in advance of the first act you want to see. You can also bring an empty water bottle for the free refill stations and if you’re on a budget, some food - although the delicious festie-food trucks are worth it. Leave the booze, glass, and umbrellas at home. A poncho will have to do if it looks like rain, but as it’s Wellington, also throw in some sunscreen to protect against the super strong NZ sun.
Drinks are reasonably priced (for a festival) - booze is around $7-10. For sustainability, Globelet drink cups are used at the event to keep waste to a minimum. Wellington has a 24/7 alcohol ban in public places - including the waterfront area – and this is strictly enforced with a $250 fine.
You can find a range of accommodation options from dorms, 5-star hotels, and apartments to suit your budget. Everything books up fast, particularly within walking distance from the waterfront. If you’re travelling by campervan, campsites are 20 minutes away.
HIT THE ROAD
Getting to Homegrown is sweet as it can mainly be done on foot, but if you’re staying out of the city centre, there are extra trains and buses put on for the event. With no dedicated parking - just the pricey CBD car parks – it’s best to leave the wheels at home.
If you’re to coming to Homegrown from out of town, flying or travel by coach is an option, though road tripping to Wellington is the most fun. From any South Island town, park up in Picton and ferry across the Cook Strait, or, arrive in style on the Sounds Air Cessna. If you’re heading south from Auckland or beyond, pop on the Homegrown Spotify playlist and break up the journey with some lake time in Taupo or divert to the stylish art deco district of Napier.