While most tourists come to New Zealand during the warm summer months, the winter is also a magical time to visit. The country transforms into a snowy wonderland and activities like skiing, snowboarding, and snow-shoeing become available across both the beautiful islands. Interested in checking out Kiwi land during its snowy months? Then check out our rundown of the most unforgettable places to visit in New Zealand this winter.
At the top of the list sits Hakatere, a conservation park that’s known for its spectacular scenery. A landscape of soaring mountains carpeted with powdery snow and glistening lakes await visitors. If you truly want to explore the area, hire a 4WD and drive up the gravely Hakatere Potts or Hakatere Heron roads. You can also drive around Lake Clearwater, where you’ll find staggering beautiful views of Mount Potts and Sunday.
No matter the time of the year, Lake Wanaka is a sublime place to visit. During the winter months, however, the mountains around the lake are covered in snow which makes for some seriously instagramable photos. If the weather is good and you’re feeling energetic, you can always take a hike up Mount Roy where you’ll be treated to the most breathtaking views around.
Adrenaline-junkies shouldn’t skip a visit to Queenstown during the winter, where the nearby slopes become packed with skiers and snowboarders. Don’t worry if you’re just a beginner — there are plenty of easy runs to choose from and nabbing one of the Queenstown ski packages isn’t nearly as expensive as you may think. If you’re looking for a bit of a leisurely day off, then take some time to drive up Crown Range Road over the mountain pass.
If you’re visiting New Zealand but don’t particularly enjoy the cold, the West Coast has surprisingly good weather during the winter months. While it may not be balmy enough for the beach, there are still plenty of things to do, from visiting Fox Glacier to viewing the snow-capped Southern Alps. And don’t skip a trip to the gorgeous Lake Matheson!
Another option is to make a dash for Rotorua, where you can slip into one of the hot thermal springs. There are few things better than soaking in a steamy thermal bath while the weather is freezing. You’ll find plenty of springs to choose from, including the free national hot pools or the Polynesian Spa if you want something a little more luxurious.
Bay of Islands
To start ticking off that bucket list, head to the Bay of Islands where you can go whale watching. During the winter, a major migration of whales pass through the bay, making it the best time to spot them. and if you have a bit more time, you can always visit Kaikoura, which is the only spot in the world where you can catch a glimpse of giant sperm whales.
If you’re visiting Lake Tekapo, don’t skip the chance to visit the underrated nearby Lake Alexandrina. It’s far less crowded than other lakes, and winters cover the landscape in a carpet of snow. Be sure to pack some warm clothes and stay to watch the sunset and the starry night sky in the dark sky reserve.
If starry night skies are your thing, then you could always visit Nugget Point. Not only will you be able to catch a glimpse of the mighty Milky Way, it’s also the perfect time to see the Aurora Australis, more commonly referred to as the Southern Lights.