5 Reasons Why You Should Travel To New Zealand in Winter
When we talk about New Zealand, often we emphasise the stunning beaches, and the possible epic outdoor adventures, all best seen in summer. So how about in the depths of winter? Is there enough to do to make an off-peak trip worthwhile?
Short answer; hell yeah! New Zealand's mountainous terrain makes it a snow sports mecca, with plenty of options for non-skiers too. While the snow is a main winter draw card, there's heaps of other cool stuff to do. Here are our top 5 reasons to plan your trip to New Zealand in the winter.
Let it snow!
Yes, let's get this most obvious one out of the way. Opportunities for snow sports exist in both islands. In the North Island you can head for the centre; to Mt Ruapehu. There are two commercial ski fields there; Turoa and Whakapapa. Both offer a range of options for experienced and novice skiers alike. But it's the South Island where there are many more choices. Head to Mt. Hutt from Christchurch, or Coronet Peak from Queenstown. For even more ideas read our 8 Extraordinary Snow Experiences out of Queenstown article.
With the snow, comes the Southern Hemisphere's biggest winter party, The American Express Queenstown Winter Festival is timed each year just before Australian and New Zealand school holidays. This gives visitors a chance to immerse themselves in everything Queenstown has to offer before the crowds arrive. There's lots of free events; from fire works displays and markets to a birdman competition and dog derby. In Dunedin there is the Cadbury Chocolate Carnival, held each year in July. Wellingtonians love to head indoors; they stage their annual Jazz Festival in June, and follow it up with New Zealand's largest culinary festival Visa Wellington on a Plate in August.
Winter is the time to view the Southern Lights, Aurora Australis. You need to head south, and wait for perfect conditions, as they don't appear to a schedule. The most likely spots are Stewart Island, The Catlins, Lake Tekapo or nearby Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. Those last two are inside the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the largest area of protected night sky in the world. Read more about it on our Cheap as Chips, Chillin' with the Stars page.
Matariki - Maori New Year
Speaking of stars, Matariki is the Maori name for a cluster of stars otherwise known as the Pleiades. It appears in the sky, in late May or early June. Traditionally, it was a time to honour those that had died in the previous year, but also to appreciate that harvest were completed, and the storehouses full. In the 21st century, Matariki has been revived as a celebration, a kind of New Zealand thanksgiving. Most main centres have Matariki events, with kite-flying often a feature, as a nod to traditional celebrations.
There's nothing nicer than a hot pool on a cold day! Soaking in therapeutic mineral water is also particularly beneficial after a hard day on the slopes. It's easy to combine the two at Hanmer Springs, just 90 minutes out of Christchurch. Combine cycling the Hauraki Rail Trail and soaking on a clear day in the Waikato town of Te Aroha, or head to the ultimate geothermal destination of Rotorua. Famous Polynesian Spas in the city, overlooking Lake Rotorua has been voted as one of the top ten day spas in the world.
Of course, the off-peak winter season has other advantages. You will have fewer tourists generally, lines will be shorter and hotels will offer better deals. This is true for car hire too! VroomVroomVroom finds you the best deals all year round, with even better value on offer in the winter months. Book now!