Planning a winter holiday at home in New Zealand sounds anything but warm. And really, unless you are a winter sport fanatic, winter in New Zealand can be downright chilly. Because of this, many Kiwis hop on a plane to the nearest warm country, and stay far away from their own homes. But New Zealand in the winter time is absolutely stunning, and there are ways to stay warm and cozy while enjoying the stunning scenery and the less crowded roads and hotels, even if you are planning a ski or snowboard holiday. We’re going to help you organise the perfect winter getaway, right here at home. Whether it’s a weekend trip that you’re after or a cozy romantic getaway, we’ll share with you the best places to go, and the how to organise the trip.
Hit the slopes
We had to start with the most obvious winter getaway in New Zealand. Hitting the slopes in New Zealand is as natural as going for a swim for some Kiwis. With absolutely stunning slopes covered in perfect powder, there is no reason to leave the country for this type of holiday. While some parts of the world might have to travel to whole other states or even countries to get to the mountains, Kiwis are blessed with some epic ski fields on both the North and South Island.
Queenstown is the obvious choice for skiers, but is certainly not the end all be all. Depending on the time of year, tickets to Queenstown via plane can be a bit expensive, even if just traveling domestic. Search for deals ahead of time, or consider driving down if you’re able to. With four amazing slopes to choose from, and plenty of accommodation, the hardest part will be deciding how long to go for and what slopes you want to tackle. For the even more intense adrenaline junkies, you might consider heli-skiing as well in Queenstown.
Other slopes around NZ have just as much to offer as Queenstown, and can be easier for a quick weekend ski trip depending on where you live. Here’s a good list of some of the best ski fields around both islands.
It’s winter, and it’s cold. Why not try and get a bit warmer and head north? While the South Island draws the crowds and adrenaline seekers, the very far north of New Zealand boasts stunning views and a much more mild temperature.
The Bay of Islands is an excellent option for a long weekend, or even a week or two adventure trip. With 144 islands to choose from, this subtropical region is almost begging to be explored. If it’s in your budget, we would highly recommend taking a sailing trip that visits multiple islands. Or if you’re feeling curious, learn to sail yourself in the protected and sheltered bay.
Take a dip
For most North Island inhabitants, Rotorua is a perfect road trip and long weekend adventure. Winter is a perfect time to visit this popular tourist destination, because it will be cheaper, easier to book, and delightfully empty of tourists than in the summer months. Plus, what better way to warm up in the wintertime than by jumping into a perfectly warm thermal pool? There are plenty of thermal pools that are more formal, with private pools and a more swimming pool like atmosphere, or you can go eau naturale and visit a natural hot spring in the wild. Here is a great list of your options. Thermal pools do more than just warm you up, they’ll also help loosen tight or arthritic joints, and help boost circulation.
After you have soaked in the benefits from the thermal pools, take further advantage of lesser crowds and visit some of the other fun parts of Rotorua. Again while visiting at peak season can be expensive and busy, visiting in the off season is the perfect time, as temperatures tend be manageable, and the savings you’ll enjoy will make it worth a bit of shivering!
Maori culture experiences are a fabulous way to insert some education into the weekend trip, and are always a fun time, especially if you get to enjoy a traditional Hangi afterwards.
Go on a road trip
Road tripping in New Zealand is almost a rite of passage. Either island offers incredible drives, with hairpin curves and one lane bridges, or mountain passes that take your breath away. The only problem with a road trip in NZ? All of the campervans and rental cars on the road! But once again, you are at an advantage if you choose to take your road trip during the winter. The campsites will be nearly empty, and roads free for you to leisurely drive and take in your surroundings.
Van rentals are a good bet for winter driving, as they’ll have a comfortable bed that you can snuggle into after a day of driving. Do be aware that in the far South, the temperatures can be pretty cold, so you might want to bring a heated blanket or stay in hotels if you tend to get cold easily. Speaking of hotels, bring along the dog and look for pet friendly motels to include the whole family on the trip. And if you’re camping or spending time outdoors in the evening, keep your eyes peeled for the Southern Lights, a truly stunning spectacle!
Head out hunting
Winter is the best season for hunting big ticket animals like Red Stags, Sika and Fallow deer. A weekend hunting trip is perfect for hunting down a pair of impressive antlers for your collection. Layer up to battle the cold and wear sturdy, warm shoes, and you’ll have a grand old time.
Hopefully we’ve proven to you that winter in New Zealand is a perfect time for that getaway, and one that you won’t even have to leave the country for! Have a great trip!