Ladi6, one of the night's headlining acts, is perched on a submerged rocket, enjoying the late afternoon sun and chatting to fans while killing time before she's due on stage.

Another headliner, Tom Scott, is celebrating after performing with his new band, jazz-rap outfit Avantdale Bowling Club, with a game of basketball. One of the people he's shooting hoops with is my eight-year-old son.

While all this is going on, my daughter is in the tented kids' area crafting as a pirate serenades her. "Do you hunt for treasure?" she asks the guitarist of Captain Festus McBoyle's Travellin' Variety Show. "Yes," he replies. "But we haven't found any yet."

JessB performs at Wondergarden in Auckland. Photo/Connor Crawford
JessB performs at Wondergarden in Auckland. Photo/Connor Crawford

All this took place within our first couple of hours at Wondergarden, a budding New Year's music festival on Auckland's waterfront that's a bit of a hidden treasure itself.

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Tucked away in Silo Park, 3000-odd punters enjoyed the final day of 2018 at the micro-fest that's sited well away from the main New Year's revelries happening in bars around Auckland, and they were a world away in mood as well.

Mostly, that mood is chill. Wondergarden sits somewhere between Womad and Auckland City Limits, combining an eclectic mix of music, food, bars and activities.

Punters enjoy Wondergarden's other activities. Photo/Connor Crawford
Punters enjoy Wondergarden's other activities. Photo/Connor Crawford

It's not just about music. Go searching and you could find a secret bar in a silo, enjoy views across the harbour, and wander across a giant platform to nab a birds eye view of your surroundings.

There was plenty of people-watching to enjoy to, thanks to a suitably mixed-up crowd. There were cool kids who should probably be in a tent in the Coromandel somewhere, parents enjoying their first festival with their kids in tow, and an older crowd settling in for an after-midnight performance by George Evelyn, aka 90s trendsetter Nightmares on Wax.

The best thing about it all is that you can set up camp on the grass, spread out your picnic blanket and safely leave your stuff to go pic up a fried chicken bao or bowl of paella. Likewise, you could head up front to check out the spiky guitar offerings of Wellington stalwarts Cut Off Your Hands or take in rising hip-hop star JessB.

Katchafire perform at Wondergarden in Auckland. Photo/Connor Crawford
Katchafire perform at Wondergarden in Auckland. Photo/Connor Crawford

During the seven hours I was there, Katchafire's early evening reggae hits seemed the most popular, but I loved Matthew Young's electro backdrops, especially when he cut through them with short bursts of 80s hair metal. Likewise, Ladi6 proved she's earned her veteran status by oozing R&B class across an hour-long performance in the dark.

My daughter slept through most of that and onwards, but we managed to stick around long enough for the clock to strike midnight and scored a prime position for the five-minute fireworks display booming off the Sky Tower. It's been a while since that's happened.

Tom Scott performs with Avantdale Bowling Club at Wondergarden in Auckland. Photo/Connor Crawford
Tom Scott performs with Avantdale Bowling Club at Wondergarden in Auckland. Photo/Connor Crawford

Wondergarden's still finding its feet, and it could easily host another 1000 punters, so it's still finding its audience too. But, with a full view of the lit-up Harbour Bridge, its relaxed vibe, and its chilled pale ales and cherry cider costing just $9 at the bar, it's surely just time until more people realise you don't have to head all the way to Gisborne, Mangawhai or Tauranga to see in the New Year at a decent music festival.

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Perhaps Tom Scott said it best at the end of his set, which was punctuated by drum loops, trumpet stabs and jaded political statements. "I'm usually playing in some kind of zombie campground at this time of year," said Scott. "So this is good."

Wondergarden
Where: Silo Park, Auckland
When: Monday, December 31