If you’re looking for fun and quirky things to enjoy in NZ then you’re in luck – this country is brimming with possibilities. While any time of year is worthwhile, the wintertime brings snowy mountains alive with skiers and snowboarders.
Traveling to New Zealand in the winter months will expose you to some real gems that this country has to offer. In fact, for nature and adventure enthusiasts, winter is a great time to visit, when the numerous winter activities are in full swing.
The already stunning landscapes and natural beauty are only enhanced by snow-clad mountains and the winter wonderland scenery is an idyllic time for cycling, walking, and soaking in hot pools.
And as a bonus, in some parts of NZ, winter is considered the offseason. This means that if avoiding tourist crowds and enjoying cheaper tour rates sounds appealing, then this is the ideal time for you to visit this beautiful island country.
My first visit to New Zealand was during winter, and I couldn’t have been happier with such an introduction to the country.
Depending on the day and where I was on the north or south island, the weather would vary from a comfortable temperate temperature, which was great for hiking, to cold and snowy (though cold and snowy only happened once and on the southernmost point of the south island).
What is the Weather Like During New Zealand Winters?
New Zealand winters are during the months of June, July, and August. These winter months bring cooler weather and rain. Temperatures typically range around 12 – 16°C (53 – 61°F).
New Zealand has a rather temperate climate. The northern parts have subtropical weather while inland alpine areas of the South Island can be as cold as -10 C in winter. But most of the country lies close to the coast, which means mild temperatures, moderate rainfall, and abundant sunshine.
A New Zealand summer will reach temperatures of 20 – 30ºC so if you want to enjoy the incredible beaches of this beautiful country then visit in summer when the country becomes the ultimate beach bum’s paradise.
Fun Things to do in Winter in NZ
Many people think that winter means staying indoors and waiting for summer to roll around before being able to explore, adventure, and have fun. That’s simply not true. New Zealand winter months bring a whole host of exciting activities and opportunities for excursions.
These are some of the most popular activities to enjoy in NZ’s winter months:
Visit the South Island
Arguably New Zealand’s most picturesque island, the south island is the place to be during the wintertime. Although exquisite all year long, the winter brings with it a touch of magic.
The snow-capped alpine ranges become extra enchanting in their powder-white coats. Between glacial valleys, shimmering lakes, rugged coastline, and flourishing flora & fauna, you’ll feel like you were dropped in paradise.
Don’t miss Visiting the Beautiful Milford Sound
Milford Sound is one of the most spectacular fjords of New Zealand with towering mountains and one of the tallest waterfalls in the world.
You can choose to observe marine life underwater from the observatory, take the 2-hour cruise along the fjord to enjoy the waterfalls, seals, and the playful dolphins swimming next to the cruise. Or, you can kayak along the river, surrounding yourself with these magnificent mountains towering from the water
You can also explore the nearby village of Milford Sound, the lakes or go hiking across the terrain for an unforgettable experience.
Visit the Tongariro National Park
While the Tongariro National Park is better experienced during the warmer months, it is still a must-do stop during winter to enjoy its snowy scenery and even enjoy some skiing and snowboarding.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the world’s best-known single-day hiking trails that traverses through volcanic peaks and around sacred Maori lakes, is a popular hike during the summer, but if you’re an experienced hiker with crampons and ice ax in alpine terrain, then this hike should be on top of your list.
Also, if you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings, Mount Ngauruhoe is one of the iconic settings in Peter Jackson’s movies – Mount Doom. Did you ever picture Mount Doom covered in snow?
Hop Across the Country Looking for Lord of the Rings Sceneries
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was fully filmed in New Zealand, with many of its shots done in places like Queenstown’s Remarkable Mountains to represent the Caradhras Mountains, Te Anau was used for Fangorn Forest, Matamata for Hobbiton (you can still visit the Hobbiton Movie Set), Canterbury as Edoras, and many more.
There are tours specially dedicated to visiting these LOTR locations, and from personal experience, they are well worth it!
Skiing and Snowboarding
Located in New Zealand’s North Island, Mount Ruapehu is one of the country’s biggest wintertime playgrounds. It houses two ski areas with provisions made for beginners too.
Here you can indulge in some of the famed winter activities like snowboarding and skiing. So for those thrill-seekers, whether beginner or intermediate, you will have no shortage of runs and slopes to tackle.
If you find yourself in the South and you’re looking to shred some powder, then popular South Island fields include Cardrona, Mount Hutt, and Treble Cone.
The nutrient-rich waters of Kaikōura Bay are visited by pods of sperm whales all year round. There are many boat tours and even whale watching helicopter tours you can join.
However, if you’re particularly looking to be wowed and don’t mind cooler weather, then the winter months between June and August are prime whale-watching times. At this time you’re likely to strike gold by spotting these magnificent creatures.
This is because many migrating whales pass through the area on their long journeys. These include humpback whales, pilot whales, blue whales, and southern right whales.
Humpback whales, for example, leave the icy Antarctic waters during the winter period and head further north in search of warmer tropical waters like Tonga and Australia.
But lucky for us, they usually make Kaikōura a pitstop on their long-haul trek. Other places to catch them are Wellington and Picton.
Kick Back in a Hot Spring
It seems counterintuitive to whip out the swimwear in winter, but new Zealand’s geothermal hot springs are something to be experienced. Rotorua is famous for its warm-water wonders, as well as Hanmer Springs in the south island. You can even experience these geothermal gems on a guided tour.
Along your travels, you can check out Taupo, Tongariro, and the Bay of Plenty’s White Island for some more geothermal activity. This is the perfect addition to a freezing ski trip and a truly rejuvenating way to end off your holiday.
Cultural Activities to Enjoy in New Zealand in Winter
Whether you’re an outdoor junkie looking to slow the tempo down a little, or you prefer the cultural element to travel, there’s something in NZ for everyone.
This country is so diverse in its landscape, people, and culture that you won’t have trouble finding just the right activity to suit your tastes. These are our top picks:
Celebrate the Maori New Year
Matariki, the 7 stars known as the Pleiades star cluster, is also the name of the Māori New Year and is rich with tradition. It is celebrated throughout NZ and marks the beginning of the winter solstice.
This ancient celebration commemorates the arrival of the Matariki (Pleiades) constellation to the southern skies, and thus the end of the harvest season. It is celebrated with festivals, ceremonies, and cultural performances.
The country is home to some fantastic wine regions. Adding a tasting to your itinerary will make for an exciting addition to your trip. You can even join a guided wine tour and meet fellow wine lovers. There’s nothing cozier than sipping on a delicious glass of ruby-red wine while it warms you from the inside out.
Depending on where your travels take you, central Otago is a good place to sip on some reds, as well as Napier. And while you’re in the area why not check out some of the other fun things to do in Napier. Most wineries have restaurants where you can sit snuggled up inside while you enjoy your glass of vino.
Final Thoughts on Winter in New Zealand
As you can now see, there is no shortage of wintertime activities to choose from in New Zealand. Whether you’re looking to embrace the adrenaline and adventure enthusiast in you, see some beautiful landscapes or throw yourself into their vibrant culture – you’re in for a treat in NZ.
Essential Info: Logistical Tips and Tricks to Book your Trip to New Zealand
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Kayak. These are two of the sites I use the most due to their exhaustive search on several websites and airlines around the world. They usually bring the cheapest fares.
BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION
If you’re looking to save money by staying at a hostel, HostelWorld has the largest inventory of hostels. On the other hand, Airbnb offers a wide variety of rooms and apartments at affordable prices. (Get $40 off your first Airbnb booking with this link.)
For hotels, guesthouses, and other types of accommodation, I also recommend Booking.com. They usually have the cheapest fares for guesthouses and hotels. I always book my hotels with Booking.com.
DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel insurance with comprehensive coverage will protect you against unexpected events like theft, cancellations, injury, and illness. I use World Nomads and highly recommend it.
If you’re a nomad and travel often or long term, then SafetyWing could help you save a lot of money on travel insurance.
FIND THE BEST TOURS AT THE BEST PRICES
If you’re looking for the best day-tours and cheapest ticket entrances to local attractions, I recommend checking Viator, as they have the largest selection of attractions, passes, and activities all around the world.
OTHER TRAVEL AND MONEY-SAVING TIPS?
Lastly, check out my resources page for some of the best products and companies to use for your trip. If you like saving money (like I do!), then this page will help.
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