Transformational Festivals – What are they?
My definition is that the purpose of the festival is not just to entertain, or party, but also to have a transformative effect on participants. If there are workshops like yoga, meditation, personal development, growth-orientated, green-focused, breathwork or education-focused, then it’s likely a transformational festival. If the organisers share their intentions to create change in the people and in the world through the event, then it’s a transformational festival.
Some festivals are clearly transformational – like Evolve Festival down in Nelson – but others are just edging into that transformational territory. Like Splore Festival, now that it has Wendy Douglas curating and holding down Wendy’s Wellness. Wendy is a powerhouse of a woman with a clear intention and mandate to bring the transformation to Splore for those who are ready. And every year, it feels like more people are ready!
This article is for those who like to plan their summer festival season with ease – all the transformational festivals in one place!
You can easily see which ones overlap, where in the country the festival and therefore make logistical decisions based on timing and location.
I’ve also written the article for those who want to contribute – I know how time-consuming it can be to find all the festival websites, with different application dates and processes. I’ve included a handy ‘Apply Here’ link under each festival title, along with dates and deadlines if known. I’ll keep this updated too, as more information comes to hand.
Finally, this article is a labour of love. Nobody is paying me to do it, nor am I requesting payment from any of the festivals to be included. I wanted to include everyone, full stop. The festivals are listed in chronological order, and as much as possible I share from my first experience, which is totally biased. Oh – and I ended up including the after movie for each Festival (when I could find one!) because I wanted to include Dimension’s after movie, as it was just SO GOOD. And then felt like it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t include them all.
NZ’s Best Transformational Festival in chronological order.
Scroll down for more information on each including links for applying to perform or present, images, blurbs and videos.
- Resolution NYE Festival • Dec 29 – Jan 2, 2024 • Tūmanako Hope, Kaipara Harbour
- Aum New Year’s Festival • Dec 30 – Jan 2, 2024 • South Head, Auckland
- Eden Festival • 11-14 January, 2024 • Highden Manor, Palmerston North
- NZ Spirit South Island • 18-21 January, 2024 • Orton Bradley Park, Christchurch
- Ecstatic Paradise • 19-21 January, 2024 • Matauri Bay, Northland
- Kiwiburn • 24-29 January, 2024 • Hunterville
- Evolve Festival • Late January, 2024 • Founders Heritage Park, Nelson
- Lunasa Festival • 1-5 February, 2024 • Canaan Downs, Pikikirunga, Golden Bay
- Dimension Festival • 2-5 February, 2024 • Nukutawhiti, Northland
- Shiva Shakti Festival • 9-11 February, 2024 • Kawai Purapura, Auckland
- Splore Festival • 23-25 February, 2024 • Tāpapakanga Regional Park, Auckland
- Yatra Festival • 23-26 February, 2024 • Golden Bay, Nelson
- New Earth NZ • 29 Feb – 3 Mar 2024 • Paradise Valley, Bay of Islands
- NZ Spirit North Island • 7-10 March, 2024 • Tūmanako Hope, Kaipara Harbour
- EarthBeat Festival • 20-24 March, 2024 • Ātui Creek, Kaipara Harbour
Resolution NYE Festival • Tūmanako Hope, Kaipara Harbour
December 29 – January 2, 2024 • Apply Here before August 31
This is THE place to party on NYE if you prefer a sober vibe – Resolution Festival is resolutely billed as alcohol-free, and drug-free.
It’s not completely though, of course. When you’ve got 3000 adults all in one location partying, there will be some consumption of substances. The difference at Resolution is that consumption tends to be ceremonial, respectful, and under the radar. It’s been one of my favourite places to party for years as I adore being on dance floors where most people are mostly sober – the level of consciousness available is a delight.
Plus the standard of DJs and musicians is always high, even if sometimes there can be a feeling of same old same old. That musician? Again? Of course, I’ve been going to scores of festivals for nearly a decade, on the same circuit as said musicians and they probably think the same thing about me when they see me on the workshop schedule, or dance floor! And I have to say, some of the best dances of my life have been on a Resolution dance floor. The After Movie is below!
Aum New Year’s Festival • South Head, Auckland
December 30 – January 2, 2024 • Apply Here
I haven’t been to this festival – yet. I do remember being at Prana Festival in one of the last years, and getting chatting to a young guy, who was talking about this festival he was starting up called AUM. I remember him inviting me to come… and being curious. But Prana was my preference for NYE, and then Resolution. But hey, maybe I’ll switch it up this year and head over to AUM. Some of my friends will do both – playing gigs at one, and then heading over to the other, as Resolution and AUM are only less than an hour’s drive from each other.
The festival is billed as ‘a family-friendly, music, arts and camping festival’ where ‘music is sacred and the dance floor is our church’. I thought it was mainly psytrance with all that goes along with that… but the website also promises ‘techno, live rock and psychedelic rock, drum & bass, house, dub and downbeat, bass music, chill-out, world music and more across four curated festival stages’. I’m definitely feeling the pull. I like the idea of mixing it up and going somewhere completely new this year… although would I miss my Resolution family!
Eden Festival • Highden Manor, Palmerston North
11-14 January, 2024 • Apply Here
The only festival on the list that happens on the grounds of a manor – Highden Manor – and the only festival focused on sexuality. Billed as a ‘four-day immersion into LIFE – a life that awaits through the integration of heart, body, sexuality and spirituality’, Eden Festival is not without controversy. Highden Manor is the venue for ISTA, a conscious sexuality training organisation that has faced criticisms and concerns over abuse between facilitators and participants. There’s significant overlap between organisers, facilitators and participants between ISTA and Highden, and Eden Festival.
I was invited to present last year and said yes because I wanted to experience the venue and community for myself. I could absolutely see what the critics were pointing at in terms of culture, and I could see what the proponents were pointing at in terms of community. I had the most intimate conversations at Eden Festival out of all the festivals – there was something open-hearted and open-souled about the field there that invited a certain kind of intimacy, which I adored.
And, as someone who doesn’t do cuddle puddles, polyamory, public nudity or have any desire to explore sexual edges in workshops, I felt both completely OK about opting out of all of that AND I also felt the ways in which some people would transgress their own boundaries because of the nature of human’s social programming.
Best for people that can hold their centre, know their boundaries and are ready to take radical self-responsibility for their experience.
NZ Spirit South Island • Orton Bradley Park, Christchurch
18-21 January, 2024 • Apply Here
This was my favourite festival last year – the location is spectacular. The park has mature trees creating glades along the river that are perfect spaces for each stage. The Centre for Change was right inside a forest, with the trees standing guard as people danced their pain and trauma into the mother. Plus the mountains that surrounded the site are those epic south island maunga with a certain kind of rock and wind-swept vibe that just lights me up.
I’m not sure if it was because of the energy of the land, or that it was the first year ever for this festival, but the energy felt so clean. There was a crispness, a clearness, a glacial transparency that permeated the festival site. And of course, there was the usual line-up of talented musicians and DJs, plus workshops, and healers. This is the ideal family camping holiday disguised as a Festival.
It’s a long, long away from where live in Thames, but it was SO worth the travel.
Ecstatic Paradise • Matauri Bay, Northland
19-21 January, 2024 • Apply Here
I’d never heard about this festival until I researched this article, but it’s focused on the transformative power of ecstatic dance so it’s in, for sure.
There’s not a lot of media out there about the festival either – even the Instagram channel is light on glimpses of what’s actually going on at the festival. There’s a river that runs through the Festival site – always a bonus in the heat pf summer! Plus mature native forest, and even kiwis, apparently. What the kiwis make of the music, who knows.
There’s also no phone reception, offering a welcome respite from the interwebs. Nothing to do but dance, and be! If I don’t make it south for NZ Spirit, this would be a great back-up option.
Kiwiburn • Hunterville
24-29 January, 2024 • Apply here
I have not yet had the pleasure of attending Kiwiburn, so can’t speak from direct experience. Word on the street from some of my sources is that while yes, there is way more partying (with all the substances, including alcohol associated) than say NZ Spirit, there are also a lot of workshops.
What really makes Kiwiburn transformational though is its underlying ethos. As it says on the website, ‘Kiwiburn is a collective experience. Everybody contributes, everybody buys a ticket.. there are no paid performers at the event, there are no spectators, and what is shared are the passions and dreams of those who gift them. You cannot ‘attend’ Kiwiburn, though you can be a part of it. There will be no money exchanged for anything at the event (except ice). We are co-creating a gift economy and a different kind of social reality to go along with it.’
Whilst you can’t apply to present or perform, you can register a Theme Camp. Registrations close October 30.
Evolve Festival • Founders Heritage Park, Nelson
January, 2024 • Applications are not open yet.
Evolve is set in an old-time settlers’ village, which means there are regular toilets, plenty of power, various buildings and pavement. There is also a large green field with an old plane for camping. Plus it’s right in Nelson, which means it attracts a strong day-tripping crowd (when the weather cooperates). It’s an easy festival to attend, and delivers all the usual fun and festivities with music, workshops, healers and markets.
Last year, the organisers also had the foresight to hire performers to weave their magic whilst the musicians changed over in between acts. It was a delightful way to keep the crowd engaged, and showcase some extraordinary talent.
The drone footage below perfectly captures the location and some of the energy. Not sure if it’s the best song though!
Lunasa Festival • Canaan Downs, Pikikirunga, Golden Bay
1-5 February, 2024 • Apply here
Once was Luminate Festival, an internationally renowned Festival that had been going since 2008, and had even won a prestigious international award (“Outstanding Green Event” in the 2018 FestX Awards). Then came Covid-19, and concern from the community that Luminate was supporting the far-right . A compassionate letter of concern, signed by 80 members of the community was sent, and the Luminate organisers responded with care.
In 2021, Luminate launched a scaled-down version of Luminate – which used to attract upward of 4000 people – called Lunasa. The event dropped from an eight-day event to a five-day event, and bills itself as a private event. You need to be a Friend of Luminate member to purchase a ticket, underscoring the community nature of this Festival. It’s very muchj for those who care about each other, are heart-centred, and willing to compassionately do the more difficult work of being in genuine community with each other.
The festival is held at the time of Lughnasadgh (Lunasa) in the southern hemisphere, midway between the summer solstice and autumn equinox – hence it’s name.
I attended the last Luminate incarnation with my son and it was one of my most extraordinary Festival experiences. The journey up the mountain to the land, the land itself, the vast swathe of camping in the valley, the trek through the forest to the stages and market place, the vibe and energy of the people. It was next level. Something special has been created on this land, and if you feel the call, honour it.
I couldn’t find any video of Lunasa, however, I’ve included this video from Luminate 2019 as it does capture some of the energy of the land and the people who make up this community.
Dimension Festival • Nukutawhiti, Northland
2-5 February, 2024 • Apply here
Another Festival I have no direct experience with – yet! It’s billed as a mind-expanding four-day music festival, but with the inclusion of workshops, I’m guessing it’s also a transformational festival.
They boost music that goes for 72 hours and includes every genre from psytrance to progressive, DnB, dubstep, house, techno, chill and everything in between. If you adore electronic music, this might be the place for you.
Their after-movie is excellent and definitely makes me want to go – check out that river, the smiles, the vibes. And you’ll get an idea of where the music goes… gotta admit, it went a little tweeky for me… but the beautiful thing about festivals is that you get to pick and choose. Don’t like that music – try another stage!
Shiva Shakti Festival • Kawai Purapura, Auckland
9-11 February, 2024 • Apply Here
Last year was the inaugural Shiva Shakti Festival and it was moved from this time-slot to early April because of weather events. Next year, it’s back in the early February slot, which will no doubt mean the vibe is somewhat different to 2023. It was such a chill time in 2023, and felt like the perfect decompression festival after an intense season of partying.
Shiva Shakti is at that old favourite that once hosted NZ Spirit, EarthBeat and the International Yoga Festival (now defunct) – Kawai Purapura. That’s right in the middle of Albany, but in its own vortex of succession and nature bush. If it wasn’t for road noise drifting onsite when the wind is just so, you’d never know you’re right in the middle of an Auckland suburb.
The theme for 2024 is The Way of the Heart, which I love, and I’m curious how that might thread through the festival and its offerings. I definitely felt a lot of heart and deep community when I was there in 2023!
Splore Festival • Tāpapakanga Regional Park, Auckland
23-25 February, 2024 • Apply for Wendy’s Wellness Here
I’ve been to Splore three times now, always presenting, and I LOVE it. But it also takes the most amount of energy and resources due to the sheer size of the festival – some 8000 people and all their costumes descend upon the land. That takes some serious organising with strict rules – you have to park in a carpark and then schlep all your gear to the camping spot. They do make it easier by running regular shuttles from one location to the next, but it’s still a thing.
Plus the festival is a game of two halves – there’s Up Top where all the camping takes place, plus markets, Wendy’s Wellness Zone, food stalls and a bar. Then there’s Down Below where you’ll find all the rest of the stages, plenty of food options, more markets and the beach – yes the beach!
I’ve had moments of pure bliss, dancing at Mainstage with the beauty of the beach and the Firth of Thames to my left, thousands of partygoers to my right, and outstanding intentional acts on the stage.
Rightly billed as the greatest costume party in Aotearoa, Splore is big on the arts, the spectacle, the extravaganza, and alcohol. Oh yes, there’s plenty of bars, with constant line-ups and lots of booze. It’s a festival where you can go to loose yourself and escape, OR you can go to transform and expand. It’s entirely up to you, but now that Wendy’s weaving her magic in the wellness zone… there’s no reason not to add Splore to your list of New Zealand’s best transformational festivals.
Yatra Festival • Golden Bay, Nelson
23-26 February, 2024 • Apply here before December 10
Splore not your thing? Try Yatra instead. It’s billed as a ‘co-creative, community-driven artistic (r)evolution. It’s a free expression of electronic music, Innovative visual arts and awe-inspiring performances with a focus on transformation, knowledge sharing and learning sustainability for a better day after.’
I love the clarity of their intention and vision, and when I scroll through the images of the festival in action – particularly when I see the river – I’m like YES, I want to be there.
But it clashes with Splore, which is just over an hour away from where I live. And Yatra is in Golden Bay, so for now, I will admire Yatra from a distance. I adore their website – the images, the words, the vibe – and can’t wait to see what they seed out, year after year, by bringing their vision to life.
New Earth NZ • Paradise Valley, Bay of Islands
29 Feb – 3rd March 2024 • Apply here
This event was canceled in 2023 because of extreme weather events so 2024 will be the first year. It is the love child of Bashia Meier, a longtime Prana Festival stalwart and experienced space-holder. The Festival is billed as boutique, and is limited to 500 tickets. It’s alcohol and drug free, zero waste zone and Family friendly, and encourages people to car-pool.
NZ Spirit North Island • Tūmanako Hope, Kaipara Harbour
7-10 March, 2024 • Applications not open yet
The original NZ Spirit Festival here in New Zealand, and the sibling to Bali Spirit and Byron Spirit. This is the vision of Franko Heke, and he’s done a masterful job of keeping the fires burning through a relationship break-up (he founded it with his ex-partner Nikki Rhodes), Covid, weather events, shadow-bans on media and location shifts.
We are all beings of spirit, and when we can access and move from that space, there is a different quality of communication that begins to flow that doesn’t require words. This is the promise I see in NZ Spirit – reminding us of who we are, and inviting us to become that once more. It’s something I’ve tangibly experienced many times – the Spirit crew, and what joins us as a collective.
I always feel expansive at a Spirit Festival, like I can dream so big and everything is possible. It is the place to liberate yourself, and gives permission for humans to simply be who they are, and freely express. That’s worth gold.
EarthBeat Festival • Ātui Creek, Kaipara Harbour
20-24 March, 2024 • Applications not open yet.
This is another festival I adore and know well. There’s so much heart in EarthBeat, and deliberate curation of the beat that connects us all…
The festival keeps growing and expanding too – the addition of the Tribal Zone, with three teepees this year was magical. The space was set up with such reverence, ceremony, and respect, paying homage to the ways in which we all once lived upon the land. The ways in which we all once gathered around the fire to make music, dance, share, tell stories, and simply be.
EarthBeat plays the edge too – you’re not allowed to bring any alcohol into the festival, but they do have one bar open for those who like to enjoy a responsible, adult beverage with their partying and music. In the spirit-orientated Festivals, offering booze was a big step, and I know it generated a lot of discussion around the merits or otherwise.
I love the Village vibe, the trek down the hill to the Barn and that level, and the final trek down the hill to the Tribal Zone and then the Main stage. It feels mythical, moving through these zones. Plus no matter what time of day or night, the fires’ always burning at Tribal.
Last festival season – 2022/23 – I did nine Festivals.
And even though I knew on one level that just one festival can be a deep transformation requiring weeks of integration, somehow I didn’t calculate the impact that nine such festivals in three months would have on me. I came out the other side of the season a completely different person. And I’m still figuring out who that person is, or isn’t.
You can watch some of that transformation in real time in the video series I did – I showed up every day for 40 days in a row as I did five festivals back to back, and then intermittently through the final four festivals. Even that was a challenge as I felt more raw, exposed and vulnerable on video than ever before.
But that’s the thing with transformational festivals, if you go in with a clear intention, and surrender to whatever unfolds, it’s possible to burn through layers of masks and identities to discover the free, expressive YOU that lives underneath.
I’m not sure if I’ll do that many festivals this coming season… but I will be back. And maybe I’ll see you there!