Mud at a festival usually signifies a fail - with videos cropping up seasonally of attendees dancing front of stage in goopy mud pools - but with New Zealand’s latest offering, mud is to be embraced not evaded. Mudtopia is a Southern Hemisphere first, where mud meets music for two and a half days of utter mudness.
Based in mud capital, Rotorua, this December festival is a place to party, play and get pampered, emulating sister festival, Boryeong in South Korea. While music is a fun aspect of the festival, it’s really the muddy mayhem that attracts, and organisers have not held back. Get down and dirty across the muddy obstacle course, in the giant mud pools, jogging the 2km mud run or on the mud bungee (this is New Zealand after all). If there was one place to bring to life your mud wrestling fantasies, it’s in the mud playground. Kids under 10 have their own muddy play area too. Iconic Kiwi artists accompany this sludgy shindig, throwing down their dirty beats for an R18 crowd on Saturday evening.
Mudtopia is not just playful, it’s also a sensory experience and there are a range of wellness activities and treatments available, including walks, yoga and Rotorua beauty treatments utilising the mud’s restorative minerals.
DISH THE DIRT
Tickets for Mudtopia go sale in August, and with early bird deals, you’ve no excuse not to be a stick in the mud on this one. If you’re over 18 and going all in then the Mud Pass + Concert is your deal; if you like an early night, grab the Mud Pass only; and if you want to take the whole tribe, then nab the family pass. If you’re local, you score a 20% discount with proof of address. The event is on Friday 3pm to 8pm, Saturday 10am to 10:15pm, and Sunday 10am to 4pm. In and out access is permitted.
Alongside the mud madness, prepare to be tempted by multiple food and drink vendors. The festival uses the AWOP cashless system and you can top up your wristband at the dedicated booths. Make sure you add a little extra to treat yourself at the spa. This is not a BYO festival so leave food and drink at home.
While you’ll be head-to-toe in mud, you won’t want your phone coated in it so bring a dry bag for your secure items. You can store a small bag/backpack for free at the Stow and Go area. Pack a change of clothes (duh), towel, and shoes for the Mud Run, and warm clothes for the evening. This is not the time to wear your finest threads – bring clothes that you don’t mind getting trashed. There are outdoor freshwater showers and changing rooms to clean up.
Popular tourist hotspot Rotorua has over 125 hotels and motels to choose from, as well as holiday homes and apartments, providing something for every budget. If you’re coming by campervan/RV, Rotorua offers affordable parking spots, including free spaces at Trout Pools Reserve. During the day, park for free at the dedicated parks behind the Arts Village.
DRIVE ME MUD
Mudtopia is an accessible festival, especially on foot or by public transport. Parking is available for $10 a day or, if you’re grabbing a ride, there is an appointed pick up/drop off zone.
Getting to Rotorua you can fly or take the bus, but there is nothing like the flexibility of a road trip. This gives you freedom to take in attractions in the area, including whitewater rafting at Tutea Falls, luging, a canopy tour, zorbing or even splurge on a skydive. Rotorua is famed for more than its sulfurous smell, rent a mountain bike for the world-class trails. If you’re looking for immersion in Maori culture, consider adding a couple of night’s glamping at Totally Tarawera.