New Zealand after a long and glorious summer is now heading into it’s short winter and there is no better time to visit the country particularly as everything is less bust and cheaper, apart from the ski resorts of course.
Here is our list of things to do in the winter. If you are visiting NZ make sure you have taken out long stay travel insurance if you are there a while for over 80s holiday insurance if you are senior heading out to NZ.
Taking a hike on the Franz Josef or Fox glaciers is at the top of many travellers’ New Zealand must-do lists, and there’s no better time to make the trek than in winter. First of all, the chances that it will rain are considerably less in winter, so a drizzle-free hike is on the cards, and the ice won’t be as slippery. Secondly, the ice that makes up the glacier is much more, well, icy in winter! The glacier will be at its biggest and best, meaning you get the best possible glacier experience.
Wellington’s Te Papa
Te Papa is New Zealand’s’ national museum and what’s more it is open 365 days a year. Situated in the nation’s capital ‘Wellington’ it is a ‘must do’ during your time in New Zealand.It has been open since 1998 and over this time it has attracted over ten million visitors. Te Papa is the perfect way for tourists to experience all things ‘New Zealand’ housing some of the nations most prized treasures and depicting its’ most famous stories.
New Zealand is dotted with hundreds of natural hot pools on both the North and South Islands. Many of these pools are used as spas with extensive facilities attached. Fancy a facial, massage and soak in the pool? I thought so.
If being pampered isn’t up you alley, there are also plenty of un-cultivated springs in national parks around the country. They may not be as deliberately clean as the facilities in Rotorua or Hanmer Springs, but what could be better than finding your own, personal hot tub in the middle of the forest? It goes without saying that the hot springs are best enjoyed in the winter, when the chilly air causes steam to rise visibly in the air, tempting even the most stubbornly terrestrial among us.
There’s more to New Zealand than hiking trails and sheep farms. Auckland is a fun city of 1.3 million people and Wellington is often acknowledged as being one of the coolest capital cities in the world. From hip bars and clubs to creative fusion cuisine to world-class museums, there is plenty to do in the climate-controlled indoors.
Wellington’s Te Papa (the national museum) is a fabulously curated peek into all aspects of New Zealand life and culture, while the Auckland Art Gallery holds an impressive collection of local treasures. To really get into the New Zealand cultural scene, look into the plays and concerts going on during your visit: we get a lot of world-class entertainment passing though at lower prices than you’d pay in the northern hemisphere.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Already well-known as a winter sport-lover’s mecca among locals and Australians, Queenstown in the far south of New Zealand, is gaining an international reputation as the place to get your wintertime thrills. In addition to the bungee jumping and skydiving that earned the town its reputation as the ‘adventure capital of New Zealand’, are a whole slew of excellent slopes.
Heli-skiiing provides a fantastic adrenalin buzz
There are plenty of options, so snow bunnies of all levels will find something to do. And if you haven’t had quite enough of a heart-pounding, blood-pumping ride, try a heli-ski: helicopters drop you down on out-of-the-way alpine powder so pristine you’ll swear you’re dreaming.
New Zealand is all about the outdoors, and the fun doesn’t stop in winter. In fact, it gets even better, with an array of activities that you can only do when it’s cold. In the beautiful town of Wanaka on the South Island, for example, you’ll find sled dog or snow mobile tours, and snow and ice driving experiences. Over at Tekapo Springs or the Ozone Tubing Park near Queenstown, you can try your hand at snow tubing – yep, like the tubing made famous in Laos’ Vang Vieng, but over snow instead of a river. Too much fun.
Whale watching is one of the most popular things to do in New Zealand anytime of the year. But did you know that some months are better than others for an up close view of these marine giants?
That’s right. While international tourists may need coaxing to visit New Zealand in the winter, pods of whales are more than willing to stop by. Humpback whales, blue whales and southern right whales leave the frigid waters of Antarctica in the winter and migrate towards tropical Tonga. Catch them mid-migration in Kaikoura, where they spend June and July with the sperm whales that live there year-round and feed on the giant squid living in the underwater Kaikoura Canyon.
Every year, backpacker hot spot Queenstown celebrates the start of winter with a 10 day extravaganza of parties, fireworks, music, comedy and plenty of mountain based fun. I was lucky enough to witness this year’s Dog Derby, where anyone with a dog can get involved racing down Coronet Peak with their furry friend. The winner is the first person across the finish line still holding their dog – cue one of the funniest things I’ve witnessed in ages, and a few hairy (‘scuse the pun) moments where dogs looked as though they were going to take out a few skiers. Hilarious.