Here’s an extract of a blog post I wrote for STA Travel back in 2013. It’s been a long runner – it’s still in the top 20 most viewed posts every month. You can see the original post here. Or here, because Tourism New Zealand published it too (just saying).
11 REASONS TO HEAD TO NEW ZEALAND IN WINTER
If you’re anything like me, summer holidays are for spending somewhere hot. We get enough cold weather in the UK, after all, so why spend summer trying to keep warm when you could be lying on a beach soaking up the rays, right?
Yep, that was pretty much my train of thought. So I was incredibly excited when I found out I’d be spending a week in New Zealand in June. Until it slowly dawned on me: New Zealand is in the Southern hemisphere. Their seasons are opposite to the UK. So in December and January they’re soaking up the sun, and from June – August… you guessed it, it’s the middle of winter.
But guess what? New Zealand in June was so beautiful, so snow-covered, so full of amazing outdoor activities that could only happen in winter and so much fun that hitting the beach was the last thing on my mind.
The Queenstown Winter Festival Dog Derby contestants get serious | Image courtesy of Stefan Haworth
11 REASONS TO TURN YOUR SUMMER INTO WINTER AND HEAD TO NEW ZEALAND
Spending a winter week in a place that embraces the great outdoors and nature as much as New Zealand was inspiring. In fact, it was one of the best weeks I’ve spent on my travels anywhere, full stop. It may not have been scorching, but the sun certainly shone, and made each day one of those perfect winter scenes where the sky is blue and the sun is bright.
1. PICK AND CHOOSE YOUR ACCOMMODATION
Off-peak travel means less people. Which means less demand for hotels and hostels. Which means lower prices, better rooms, emptier dorms, more food at the breakfast buffet and more money in your pocket for you. YES!
2. HIT THE SLOPES
New Zealand’s slopes are legendary. The South Island boasts the most resorts, with 5 acrossQueenstown and Wanaka alone. Alternatively, head to Mount Cook Mackenzie and hit the powder as Mount Cook soars above you, or combine a city break in Christchurch with skiing or boarding at Mt Hutt, just 1.30 hours from the city. The North Island doesn’t let the South take all the glory, though. Step forward the country’s only skiable volcano at Mt Ruapehu! Half pipes on old lava flows, anyone?
Get your skis (or board) on at Cardrona Alpine Resort, Lake Wanaka
3. EMPTY ROADS
New Zealand is home to just 4 million people, which means much of the country is incredibly sparsely populated. Take hordes of tourists out of the question, and you’ll find that in winter, you’ll have many of the roads to yourself. Making our way from Christchurch to the West Coast on our Kiwi Experiencebus, I could count the number of other vehicles we saw on two hands – and it’s a 5 hour drive! For the ultimate wilderness experience, cruise along in a campervan and feel properly at one with nature, with no other traffic to ruin your epic road trip shots.
4. THE GLACIERS ARE AT THEIR BIGGEST AND THEIR BEST
Taking a hike on the Franz Josef or Fox glaciers is at the top of many travellers’ New Zealand must-do lists, and there’s no better time to make the trek than in winter. First of all, the chances that it will rain are considerably less in winter, so a drizzle-free hike is on the cards, and the ice won’t be as slippery. Secondly, the ice that makes up the glacier is much more, well, icy in winter! The glacier will be at its biggest and best, meaning you get the best possible glacier experience. WIN.
5. TWO WORDS: HOT POOLS
What could be better after a winter’s day outdoors than stepping into an outdoor hot pool surrounded by snow? Not a lot, that’s what. New Zealand has hot springs all over the place – my kinda country. Making the dash through the cold air from the changing rooms at the South Island’s Tekapo Springsmakes those piping hot pools all the more rewarding, and with awesome views of Lake Tekapo and the snow-covered Southern Alps, you may never want to leave.
It's all about relaxing in the hot pools, like this one at Tekapo Springs