Airshows are not something tremendously uncommon, and they have quite a following in many countries. In fact, it is not unusual to find an airshow in most towns during annual summer carnivals or fairs. What is unique, however, is having a festival that revolves around aviation. Warbirds over Wanaka is perhaps the most incredible aviation festival on the planet, and it is a huge hit with anyone who loves airplanes, military history and the newest technology. Every two years, as many as 65,000 enthusiasts gather to enjoy the spectacular airshow that is now the largest in the southern hemisphere.
History of the Festival
In 1988, Sir Tim Wallis wanted to create an event that brought together aviation enthusiasts from throughout New Zealand’s South Island. In that first year, the event was a single day-long affair, and it was more like a county fair with an airshow thrown in the mix. With overwhelmingly positive feedback after the first year, Wallis decided to transform the event into a biennial festival. Every two years over the Easter weekend, Wanaka comes alive with a three-day Warbirds over Wanaka aviation festival. Although there were just 14,000 attendees on that first year’s event in 1988, the average attendance now is more than 65,000 people, and they come from around the world to enjoy the event. Along with an air show on all three days, the festival includes motorcycle displays, authentic biplanes from World War I, jets from Vietnam and all of the newest planes used for stunt flights and commercial travel.
Successes of the Past
The last Warbirds Over Wanaka festival was held in 2012, and it was a resounding success. Part of what made the event so enjoyable was the fact that it was also the 75th anniversary celebration of the RNZAF, or the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Some of the planes on display in 2012 included a 777-300ER, which is one of the world’s largest commercial airplanes, a C130H Hercules used for humanitarian missions, Seasprite helicopters, the Red Checkers aerobatic team, a Grumman Avenger from World War II and a Fokker D-8 from World War I. The highlight of the 2012 event was a staged battle and a ceremony dedicated to the servicemen and women of the RNZAF.
Get Ready for Warbirds Over Wanaka 2014
The next Warbirds over Wanaka will take place on Easter weekend in 2014. The dates are officially April 18, 19 and 20, but Monday, April 21, will also have some continuing celebrations and attractions for visitors still in the area. The festival will kick off on Friday afternoon with an airshow over the lake to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. Tickets are already on sale, and attendees can choose between a pass for a single day or the whole three-day event. General admission for the entire festival is $180.00 for adults and $35.00 for children. Admission on the Monday after the festival will be free, and there are opportunities to take rides in all of the planes and helicopters that you saw over the weekend’s festivities.
Transport, Accommodations and Attractions in Wanaka
Since the Warbirds over Wanaka is a three-day event, visitors will need to organise accommodations independently. There are some hotels nearby in the town of Wanaka, however they get booked out very quickly over this weekend. The best options is to book a Christchurch Motorhome Rentals and Campervan Hire. Just drive the motorhome from your arrival point at Christchurch Airport, and you can enjoy a scenic journey of the South Island before the event. You can also book packages that include both Motorhome Rental and Warbirds Gold Passes. Staying close to the airshow also saves you a lot of time and money in terms of transport. Traffic during the festival can be heavy in and out of Wanaka, and some taxis charge an extra fee during this busy holiday weekend. Before you leave Wanaka, be sure to take in some of the attractions, such as Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World, Deep Canyon and Lake Wanaka.
Whether you love planes, history or just a good festival, there is no doubt that you will enjoy a weekend of aviation at Warbirds Over Wanaka. With its popularity growing year after year, 2014 will likely be a sold-out event.