It wasn't that long ago that Northland was a festival backwater.

A blues festival here, an occasional New Years Eve festival there.

But fast forward a decade or two and the region appears to be beginning to realise its potential.

This past weekend, the Mangonui Waterfront Festival bid haere ra to summer at, you guessed it, Mangonui.


This waterside village is usually an idyllic stop for a traveller - but parking was at a premium on Saturday when thousands turned up for the annual event which celebrates food, wine and local talent.

A few Saturdays ago the Fritter Festival in Whangarei celebrated its fifth year.

Each year, there are refinements made to any annual festival. In 2017, there doesn't seem to have been the "boozy" element that festivals can sometimes attract, and punters enjoyed the food, drink and entertainment, although more craft beer selections is some feedback I've heard.

And this week is the Upsurge 2017 festival - the baby of the Bay of Islands Arts Festival Trust.

There is dance, theatre, comedy, music and much more in boutique venues like the Waimate Showgrounds Hall.

The entertainment looks first class and when the Turner Centre's online booking service allows you to print tickets online rather than have to collect them in person, it will be an even better event.

A refinement for next year, perhaps, given more people are going to start coming to not just festivals, but events. I attended a musical event last year at the Turner Centre in Kerikeri for two artists who bypassed Whangarei.

An hour away, Kerikeri was a viable "same day" option for a mid-week dinner and a show evening. Or better still, stay a couple of nights, as I'm doing for Upsurge.

We hear a lot about tourism, based around our coastal environs and history. Factor in festivals and it's a powerful package.