The Havelock Mussel Festival is known around the world. It's a highlight on the local calendar, and if you're visiting New Zealand for the first time it's bound to leave a lasting impression. Here, we point out some highlights, new events and a how-to guide for the Havelock Mussel Festival 2017!
Food, Glorious Food at the Havelock Mussel Festival
Surprise, surprise: the Havelock Mussel Festival is all about food. It's a showcase of delicious eating, and the star of the show is the famous Marlborough greenshell mussel, a particularly beautiful type of New Zealand green-lipped mussel. The Havelock Mussel Festival is covered with stalls offering these tasty little numbers any which way - from straight up old-school style to glammed up with parsley and lemon, kissed by a touch of smoky bacon, given some crunch by a sprinkling of breadcrumbs or lifted by a dollop of tangy sauce.
However, as outstanding as the mussels are, they are not alone. There are stalls offering all kinds of amazing local produce and products, from honey to coffee. The New Zealand King Salmon cooking marquee will be a hive of activity throughout the day. Here, some of New Zealand's best-loved chefs (including Hell's Kitchen winner Chris Fortune and 2014 Master Chef winners Karena and Kasey Bird) will be turning Marlborough's very best fare into a vast range of delicious dishes.
We don't know the menu for sure (that's part of the fun) but some of New Zealand's best edible flora and fauna are sure to be involved, especially the stunning seafood. Think things like Cloudy Bay clams, freshly shucked Kiwa oysters, pristine king salmon skewers, Kenepuru Sound snapper or incredibly fresh crayfish and you might be on the right track. Servings can be complete meals or small samples to allow a taste of everything, and of course, being where we are, along the way this mouthwatering food will be joined by exceptional local wines and craft beers - this year will feature the inaugural Havelock Mussel Festival Beer University!
As well as eating all this incredible stuff, cooking demonstrations throughout the day will give you inspiration and an expert's insight into how to re-create them at home. The Havelock Mussel Festival is a rare and precious culinary event, and you won't get many chances as good as this to learn something special.
Entertainment, Competitions, Shows and World Records
Besides the food, there is plenty to keep all ages entertained at the Havelock Mussel Festival. There's a special NIWA Kids Zone kitted out with face-painting gear, inflatable toys and everything else to keep little ones (and older children, too) occupied. This is also a day for the record books. Every year, the Havelock Mussel Festival hosts the famous 'Fastest 100' mussel opening challenge. Havelock Domain has seen the record smashed time and time again, and defending champ Angela Fredericks will be back in 2017 to defend her title and attempt to beat her own individual record.
There are other Guinness World Record-judged attempts to be had on the day, and they're easy to be a part of for everyone - you don't want to have to tell your grandkids one day that you were not part of the largest ever Kiwi Can exercise routine when you had the chance, do you?! There's also the ever popular Mussel Munch competition - see how fast you can down 15 mussels and scull a beer - and the adults and kids competitions of the Mussel Pot Mussel Hustle race, to see who's the fastest at being dragged across grass in a giant mussel shell.
There's also plenty of live entertainment on stage throughout the day, not to mention buskers and circus performers, go karts, climbing walls, and basically anything else you can think of to provide for a fun day out, no matter what your age.
What Do I Need to Know about the Havelock Mussel Festival?
Date and Location
Saturday 18th March, Havelock Domain, 10am-6pm.
Cheap early bird tickets for the 2017 Havelock Mussel Festival are already available online! Or you can simply rock up on the day and pay a slightly higher door rate. Remember that kids under 12 get in free!
How Do I Get There?
If you're already in or around Havelock for a kayaking tour up the Pelorus river, a stay in the Sounds, a tramping trip or the like, then it couldn't be easier to find the Mussel Festival - just aim for the big bit of green (the Havelock Domain, or War Memorial Park if you're following Google) in the middle of town, just between the state highway Havelock Main Road and the Havelock Marina. Don't stress if you're not already nearby, because there are public buses on the day ready to run you to and from Blenheim, Nelson, Picton, the Rai Valley and Canvastown.
What Else Can I Do after the Havelock Mussel Festival?
Any Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit film nuts should not miss the chance to get a look up the Pelorus river while in this beautiful part of New Zealand. It was here that the dramatic dwarves made their barrel escape down the river in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and you can follow their lead (plus take in the stunning scenery) with a tour from Pelorus Eco Adventures, who will take care of you the whole way. This is also one of the best fishing spots in New Zealand, so it's well worth staying around an extra few days - we strongly recommend using the Blue Moon Lodge, which offers gorgeous, cosy accommodation just a short walk from the Havelock Domain (for the Mussel Festival), close to the marina (for Pelorus Sound boats and water taxis) and it's also at the exact spot for the pick up on The Hobbit Kayak Tour.