With travel borders now officially open, Aussies are returning to travel with gusto. But while long-haul trips are certainly exciting, you shouldn’t overlook the benefits of giving our pals in New Zealand a visit – especially during the winter months.
Sure, Australia has its own gems to see in the cooler months, but New Zealand is arguably one of the most beautiful countries you can visit over winter and it’s only a few hours away.
If you’re looking to plan a trip across to NZ this winter (or next), the country’s Tourism Board has offered a helping hand by sharing its top tips on everything from skiing to hiking. Check them out below.
How to see New Zealand in the winter months
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New Zealand skiing
If you’re after skiing – which, if you’re visiting New Zealand in winter you assumedly are – it’s worth noting that both islands offer fabulous ski fields.
Tourism New Zealand shared that on the North Island, “Ruapehu is a winter lover’s paradise”. This mountain is home to two particularly well-loved ski fields, Turoa and Whakapapa. If you’re a beginner, it’s recommended you check out Happy Valley in Whakapapa, which Tourism New Zealand described as “some of the best beginner terrain in the country”.
Moving across to the South Island, Canturbury is the recommended home of skiing. Here, you’ll find Mt Hutt which “has the longest season in the country and has been voted the nation’s best [ski resort] for six years in a row.”
Porters, Broken River and Hanmer Springs are also worth adding to your must-see list.
“Queenstown and Wanaka round out the South Island offerings; regions known for their exceptional slopes,” Tourism New Zealand added.
“State of the art chairlifts… groomed runs, playful super pipes and spectacular views make for a fun day of play no matter where you choose.”
Moving on from the slopes to more grounded activities, hiking is another hugely popular experience to try while in New Zealand over winter – just dress warmly.
Tourism New Zealand shared that you should:
“Head far South for the snowy tracks of Ben Lomond or Queenstown Hill and mountainous panoramas. Rakaia Gorge walkway is a good option for a down day near the Canterbury fields, alongside the turquoise waters of the Rakaia River. If you’re after a hike with less snow, head north to Cape Brett for milder temperatures.”
“Wherever you head, make sure you’re prepared with snacks, water, and plenty of layers for the dropping temperatures.”
Adventure during New Zealand’s winter
The adrenaline experience doesn’t end with hiking, either. If you’re heading over to New Zealand in winter, you can try a little dog-sledding at Underdog, cruising with Queenstown Snowmobile or even heli-snowmobiling if you’re game.
HeliBike NZ or Southern Lakes Helibike offer more action-packed tours, or if you’d like to slow it down a little “the Timber Trail is a great, scenic option by bike or for [an even] slower option, take a rail car on the Forgotten World Highway”.
Go whale watching
Winter in New Zealand is the perfect time to witness the magic of whales in the wild.
The tourism board shared that you can “Catch the migration of humpback whales as they escape the chilly winter temperatures of Antarctica and move to the warmer New Zealand waters in the South Island.”
“Whale Watch Kaikoura offer boat tours for a closer look, take to the skies for a spectacular birds eye view with Wings Over Whales or watch from land and keep an eye out for the seals that line the rocky Kaikoura coast.”
Winter food and wine in New Zealand
New Zealand wine is premium stuff, and if you enjoy a tipple it is an absolute must that you visit a few wineries while visiting over winter.
Tourism New Zealand recommended:
“Head to Waipara in Canterbury for a tipple at Waipara Hills or Greystone, or there’s no going past a pinot noir while in Central Otago, a region famed for it.
“Gibbston Valley run tours offering a deeper understanding of the grape journey, or Amisfield and Akarua are well regarded for their options, plus set in stunning locations.”
Mount Difficulty near Cromwell or Rippon in Wanaka are other spots worth considering, too.
Moving over to food, Knoll Ridge Chalet is probably your top choice – sitting 2,020m above sea level on the edge of Mt Ruapehu.
“Take the Sky Waka up for a meal with stunning views stretching across the horizon in this architecturally award-winning building. Finish the day with a meal at the cozy Powderkeg in Ohakune or grab a classic [meal] from The Chateau Tongariro Hotel…”
Other winter experiences in New Zealand
Haven’t seen anything to your taste yet? How about a chance at seeing the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights? Winter in New Zealand is the perfect time for that.
You can also take in the majesty of centuries-old glaciers with Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, while the Onsen Hot Pools are a short distance from the slopes of Queenstown if you’re after something a little more relaxing.
There really is an option for every kind of traveller. Now, is anyone else feeling that old, familiar itch to travel again?