10 Winter-Friendly New Zealand Trip Ideas
Here are the top ten things to do in New Zealand this winter:
Winter in New Zealand rocks. It's one of the country's most picture-perfect seasons, when much of the South Island is painted with white snow, the North Island is mild and sunny and a bunch of brand new activities appear out of nowhere.
New Zealand is known for its extreme sports and breathtaking landscapes, and wintertime is no exception. The mountains turn to a glistening bright white and you get to see the country as its finest. What's more, hotel prices drop because you are technically travelling out of season – bonus!
Another great reason to explore New Zealand in the winter is to experience this unique landscape in almost peace and quiet. Unlike the summer season, many tourists stay away from New Zealand's top attractions in the winter months – so there are many activities, sites and vistas that you will get to experience all to yourself.
1. Rotorua Geothermal Springs
Distance from Rite Price Rentals Rotorua Car Hire/ Rental: 30 mins/35km
There is nothing like sitting in a tub of steaming hot 42-degree water on a cold day. There's frost in the air but you are snug as a bug in a beautifully hot pool of natural spring water. If this sounds like an appealing winter activity to you then head to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. The beautiful collection of pools range in temperature from 32 degrees right up to 42, and are sourced from the Te Manaroa Spring, the largest source of 100% geothermal water in the country. You can rent a private pool and sit and soak all night. The spa is open until late and offers stunning views across Rotorua's green countryside, as well as a bar for a warming glass of wine to finish off a perfect winter evening.
2. Skiing from Turangi
Distance from Rite Price Rentals Taupo Car Hire/ Rental: 35 mins/44km
Head to the largest mountain on the North Island, Mt. Ruapehu, to try your hand at winter sports. Skiers and snowboarders swish down to the Whakapapa Ski Area or the Turoa Ski Area during the winter months when the area is covered in snow. Although the South Island might be more famous for its skiing culture, these two ski areas are in fact the largest area in New Zealand dedicated to skiing. Most skiers in the region base themselves in Turangi, situated on Lake Taupo, which offers an array of apres-ski activities, including bars, restaurants, bungy jumping and nearby geothermal spots for a hot soak after a day on the slopes.
3. Dogsledding in Wanaka
Take part in another winter must-do activity and try dogsledding! Underdog NZ, based in Wanaka and Alaska in the northern winter seasons, are the only dog sledding company in all of New Zealand who take tourists on the ride of their lives across the snowfields of Wanaka on a sled pulled by huskies and other Arctic dog breeds. The journey can be taken overnight, in a basket, with you leading the dogs or even during the night – and it's a real thrill!
4. Ski the Treble Cone in Wanaka
Not only can you take to the mountains and glide down via snowboard or skis, but you can also get some incredible views of white mountainous landscape and the blues of the magical Lake Wanaka as you soar. Get a winter high as your adrenaline peaks and enjoy some of the best views in New Zealand – all at the same time. What's more, Treble Cone is perfect for beginners and those who have never skied before, with instructors for hire to help you stay upright and laugh at you when you fall. Perfect. And if skiing or snowboarding isn't your thing – you can just take the chair lift for AMAZING views, minus the pain.
5. See the Southern Lights
You've probably heard of the Northern Lights, but have you heard of the Southern Lights? New Zealand's Lake Tekapo is one of the best places in the Southern Hemisphere to see them, but you have to be patient. The best time to see the incredible spectacle is during the winter months (between March and September) and at around midnight, but they are unpredictable. There are websites that track the geomagnetic movement of this area and can give you some indication of when the night's glow may occur, but usually you will only get around 30 minutes notice – so bring your hot choc and plenty of blankets.
6. Hot Water Beach bliss
Distance from Rite Price Rentals Auckland Car Hire/ Rental: 2 hrs 16 mins/163km
The great thing about heading to the beach in winter is there's no one else there! You can have the entire stretch of sand to yourself, and the water if you are brave enough. In fact, in the northerly parts of New Zealand's North Island the temperature in winter often never reaches below 14 degrees – ideal beach climate. Although, if you are worried about being a little bit chilly don't miss the incredible Hot Water Beach. Here, for around two hours a day either side of low tide, hot water bubbles up through the golden sand. Here you can literally dig your own spa pool and escape the cold ocean! Bliss.
7. Cafe hop in Matakana
Distance from Rite Price Rentals Auckland Car Hire/ Rental: 1 hr 15 mins/84km
The green seas of the Matakana Village are a popular destination during summer, but the village is also on-point for a winter getaway. Every Saturday Matakana plays host to a popular Farmers' Market, serving up hot and tasty food from local vendors. The village is also a great base for taking it easy between nearby hikes in Scandrett National Park, which are just a short drive away from the village and accessible for hiking all year round.
8. Explore the Waitomo Caves
Distance from Rite Price Rentals Hamilton Car Hire/ Rental: 35 mins/44km
Whatever the weather, Waitomo Caves are the perfect activity. The tours take you deep underground by foot or boat to see the world-famous Waitomo Glowworms, a stunning natural phenomenon, and its intricate interior. For the more adventurous travellers, you can try abseiling and caving through the network of underground tunnels or even maximise your adrenaline-rush by trying black water rafting (that's rafting through the caves in the pitch dark!).
9. Apres-ski in Queenstown
Unlike some of New Zealand's other towns, Queenstown truly comes alive in winter. Resembling the hustle and bustle of a European apres-ski party town, Queenstown is the place to be in winter if you love to ski, or if you just want to party apres-ski style. July and August are New Zealand's snow season, when white powder lovers flock from across the country to the South Island for music festivals and an endless bar scene.
10. Try some wine at Hawke's Bay
Distance from Rite Price Rentals Taupo Car Hire/ Rental: 1 hr 37 mins/133km
Wine-lovers and foodies from all over will adore the Hawke's Bay region during winter. Famed for its excellent wines, the region seems to stay sunny all winter long, is much quieter and offers views of the nearby Te Mata Peak and Sugar Loaf Reserve that are more beautiful than ever. A large number of wineries remain open during the off-season (winter), and the chances are you will be one of the only people sipping on local, world-famous New Zealand wines during the cooler months. The local Farmers' Market in nearby Hastings is also the perfect way to warm up with a freshly roasted coffee and bacon sandwich between wineries. Yum.
Explore New Zealand this winter with Rite Price Rentals! Rent a car from Rotorua, Hamilton or Tauranga and explore everything that New Zealand has to offer. Rite Price Rentals are the number one car rental company in NZ, and can make your winter trip in New Zealand easy, affordable and unforgettable.