Winter in New Zealand
Unless you are specifically bound for the snow it is more likely that you have the summer months in your thoughts for your New Zealand adventure. And what a good time to come! However these months don’t suit everyone – for instance, the longer northern hemisphere school holidays are during New Zealand’s winter. Don’t let this deter you – New Zealand is a great place to visit year round. We have had many winter trips around New Zealand – in fact my very first trip was in July – the last stop on my RTW ticket during a GAP year between university and entering the real world of work. My lasting impression – one day I must come back! And for Graham when he was growing up – winter holidays were the only holidays for dairy farmers – the cows were dried off at the end of May and were back into milk in August so these winter months were without the tyranny of the twice daily milking. We continued this pattern during our joint farming lives without even donning a set of skis – there were so many other things to do! New Zealand doesn’t close down!
It’s a pretty special time – less busy, lower prices, many days with crystal clear skies. And you know – it’s not that cold!
So what’s to do? The obvious one is skiing. Dramatic scenery, relatively short queues, fields to suit all levels from beginner slopes to off piste heli skiing. You could make it a full-blown skiing holiday or just incorporate a day or two on the slopes (gear is easy to hire) as part of your New Zealand adventure. And, as with skiing the world over – there is plenty of opportunity to unwind at the end of the day! Brilliant.
Many of the activities synonymous with a New Zealand holiday – white water rafting, caving, swimming with dolphins, whale watching, jet boating, scenic flights are year round. In fact there are some added bonuses – as well as the sperm whale, who makes his home at Kaikoura you may also get to see some others – pilot, southern right, humpback as they migrate to the tropics. There are some spectacular ice formations on the banks of the Shotover River as you zoom through in a jet boat. The TranzAlpine is a famously stunning journey, perhaps even more so in winter when the Alps are clad in snow.
Beaches don’t close – they are just even emptier! And while some of the Alpine walking tracks are closed, not a day will go by without a chance for you to stretch your legs. Only yesterday we had a lovely walk to Lake Head Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park – we encountered more people (4) than sandflies – that would have to be a first. I took this photo early September on a spur of the moment decision to go to Lake Sylvester in Kahurangi National Park – who wants to stay in the office on a day like this?
And if it is mountain biking you are after how about the Heaphy Track or the Queen Charlotte – these are closed to mountain bikes in the summer!
The drives are stunning too!
But should the weather force you inside, museums, galleries, caving, kiwi house, shopping and wining and dining. A glass of pinot by a roaring fire or a long winery lunch make for a particularly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
Winter comes with its fair share of festivals – The Queenstown Winter Festival in June, the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest celebration of winter has been running for 40 years now. Comedy, street parties, fireworks, family fun and “mountain mayhem”! Wellington on a Plate during the last 2 weeks of August – showcasing the wider region’s food and beverages – over 100 different food and drink events.
And don’t forget the rugby. We’re football crazy and winter is the time, so get to a game be it local or a test match (don’t forget The Lions are coming in 2017) and feel the passion. I don’t think many could bear to watch those closing minutes of the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final!
And one of my favourite things to do in winter? Soak in a hot pool – snow clad mountains, cold crisp air and intoxicatingly warm water – paradise.