It may seem counter-intuitive to visit New Zealand in June, July or August, when it’s warm and sunny (or at least warmer and sunnier than usual) in the UK in contrast to the the middle of winter down under. However, visit the ‘land of the long white cloud’ during the winter months and you might be pleasantly surprised. Here is a quick overview of ‘should do activities’ on a winter jaunt to New Zealand….
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.
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.
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.
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.
The New Zealand winter is off-season for tourism, and you know what that means: cheaper airfare and accommodation. You’ll find you can stay longer and do more with the extra cash you save (which can be significant if you grab a good deal on flights).
You’ll also find that the typical tourist hotspots like Milford Sound and Te Papa are quiet and even downright pleasant. You may even be able to take photos that don’t have tour buses and mobs loitering in the background. Imagine.
And if you’re still dying for a dash a warm weather, look into a long stopover on your way back home. Depending on the direction you fly, most airlines will allow you some extra time in Dubai, Bangkok, Sydney or the Pacific Islands at no extra cost.