Discover New Zealand's best winter attractions

To mark the start of the trans-Tasman bubble, here are some of the best things to do in New Zealand in winter. Most attractions, activities and locations are open all year and tend to be quieter during the down season.

Canoe the Whanganui river
The most popular section of the river to canoe is Whakahoro to Pipiriki and can be completed in three days. It’s part of the Department of Conservation’s ‘Great Walk’ network and you’ll be enchanted as you paddle (or float) past rugged terrain covered in lush native forest.

The three-day trip includes around 15 hours of paddling and 1.5 hours of walking.

It’s an easy trip, the Canadian canoes used are well suited for both the rapids and the long still water of the gorges, and they hold plenty of gear.

You’ll receive dry barrels for your belongings, I recommended taking some tape and stick a list of what’s inside each tub to the top to save you rummaging through each one to find your torch.

Read more: Max and Jenny sail the sounds of New Zealand

If you go at the start of winter, you’ll likely have the river and the huts to yourself, and it won’t be too cold. Whenever you go, you’ll need some warm clothes, sleeping bags and a bunch of enthusiasm.

Soak in hot springs

If you’re keen to move on from the Central North Island, Rotorua is particularly famous for its hot springs with just about every accommodation offering private spa pools filled by a natural spring.

Down south, the Hamner Springs spa complex is one of the region’s top attractions and only a 90-minute drive from Christchurch.

Whale watching

Kaikoura sits on the northwest coast of the South Island and is one of the prime whale-watching spots. Autumn and winter are great seasons for whale watching but the majestic creatures are at the peak of their migration period in July.

You’ll often get to see an assortment of whales such as humpbacks, pilot whales, blue whales and southern right whales. The elusive sperm whale has even made appearances in Kaikoura.

It’s common to see other marine animals, too, such as fur seals, dolphins, and albatross.

Other places to catch sight of the whales include Wellington and Picton.

Wine tasting

Read more: Discover New Zealand’s secret wine region: Waitaki

Marlborough, at the top of the South Island, is New Zealand’s largest wine-producing region and is home to some of the land’s most famous white wines.

Most of its wineries can be reached from the city of Blenheim, just 20 minutes from the stunning Marlborough Sounds.

If reds are more your thing, pinot noir flourishes in the Central Otago region, with a range of stunning expressions being crafted in the numerous sub-regions.

Hit the slopes

Popular South Island fields include Cardrona, Mount Hutt and Treble Cone, with Mt. Ruapehu the one to check out on the North Island. And if skiing or snowboarding is a tad too adventurous, many fields offer other winter activities such as snowshoeing, sightseeing and tobogganing.

Plan a trip after the mid-July school holidays to dodge the crowds and enjoy the best chances of dry powder.

Read more: When is the best time to book your New Zealand snow trip?

Celebrate the Maori New Year

Matariki is a special occasion in the New Zealand calendar that marks the start of the Maori New Year. It’s signified by the Matariki cluster of stars reappearing in the night sky and is a time of celebration and reflection.

Various community festivities are held each year, which usually include dawn ceremonies, cultural performances, art exhibitions and the sharing of local myths and legends.

Have you visited New Zealand in winter? What’s your favourite thing to do? Do you have plans to go to NZ and make the most of the trans-Tasman bubble?

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Written by Ellie Baxter



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