While Europe is suffering some of the highest temperatures on record this summer, New Zealand is perfectly poised to roll out the welcome mat for northerners in search of a holiday in cooler temperatures.
Not only is a New Zealand winter a lot milder than a European winter, it comes with the super warm Kiwi welcome and hospitality that we call ‘manaakitanga’. Away from the mountains and particularly in coastal regions, balmy temperatures and good conditions often prevail, while the skiing and snowboarding is world class with plenty of room for everyone.
There is no shortage of activities to do on a heatwave escape, visitors can cool down on the slopes, chill out with some wildlife or freshen up with some crystal-clear night skies.
Top 5 new winter things to do in NZ
New Dark Sky Project – Lake Tekapo
In Takapō (Tekapo) a small town in New Zealand’s South Island, local residents Graeme Murray and Hide Ozawa dreamed of turning the skies into a sanctuary for the stars. From this, Ngai Tahu Tourism’s Dark Sky Project was born.
A sustainability project on a major scale, the Dark Sky Project is in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve (the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world). One of the quietest spots on the planet, yet with one the busiest night skies in the universe, the Dark Sky Project connects manuhiri (visitors) to the night skies, combining science and tātai aroraki (Māori astronomy).
Winter is the best time of the year to discover the wonders and beauty of the southern hemisphere’s brilliant night skies – for starters, it gets darker earlier and the cold air means the air is drier and the skies are clear.
New Tautoko Kaitiaki little blue penguins – Dunedin
New Zealanders are lucky enough to share their home with some fascinating creatures. There are plenty of opportunities to see them year-round but one of the best times is during the breeding cycles from winter through to early summer (July - December).
Tiny, cute and endangered, Dunedin’s little blue penguins are the stars of an exclusive new conservation experience at Blue Penguins Pukekura on the Otago Peninsula. Roll your sleeves up to become a conservation worker looking after your precious feathered charges. Under Tautoko Kaitiaki, which means ‘supporting and caring’, small groups of up to four visitors team up with a penguin scientist to help care for the little blues and their environment.
New snow – world class skiing (Central North Island, Southern Alps)
New Zealand is a powder hound’s dream destination with some of the best snow in the world, that’s why you’ll find the world’s top snow athletes training and competing in the Southern Alps during the Winter Games NZ (23 August – 7 September).
Choose your level from beginners to advanced off-piste heli-ski touring in the Southern Alps or in the North Island hop aboard Ruapheu’s new Sky Waka Ruapehu for a scenic ride (no skis or snowboards required) to dine on top of an active volcano inside a UNESCO Dual World Heritage park.
New Geo Dome Heli Camp - Wanaka
You can’t just drive your motorhome into this campsite, as you’ll have to be on a guided alpine tour (skiing, climbing or trekking) with alpine adventure specialists First Tracks Wanaka, but it’s well worth the adventure to get there.
The geodesic domes – a steel-framed structure covered in insulated PVC and with a wooden floor – sit at an altitude of 1600m above Lakes Wanaka and Hawea. It’s an amazing space, warm and cosy, even a bit elegant though definitely over-shadowed by the majestic mountain environment. Activities vary, according to season, from ski touring and basic mountaineering to trekking, and you’ll be in the confident, hospitable hands of some of the world’s leading mountaineering guides.
New luxury eco stays – Ruapehu and Ahuriri Valley
Gorgeous Nightsky Cottage Ruapehu, on the edge of Tongariro National Park in the North Island, is New Zealand’s newest uber eco stay – a 5-star self-catering 2-bedroom cottage surrounded by a private native forest with mountain views by day and a pure night sky by night. Owners Carel and Elsbeth’s intense passion for sustainability includes a zero-waste policy, water collection and processing, handmade soap, candles and firelighters. Nearby activities in Tongariro National Park include hiking, cycling, quad biking, river rafting, skiing or scenic flights.
Try spotting The Lindis New Zealand’s newest luxury lodge – nestled in a conservation park in a dark sky sanctuary, from the air and you’ll likely miss it, look up and you’re surrounded by a myriad of stars. The Lindis is an architectural tour-de-force featuring a roofline that follows the natural undulations of its South Island high country resting place. Interiors are pared back with natural materials, wood and stone, bringing the magnificent Ahuriri Valley landscape indoors. The friendly hospitality is superb with divine food and wine and, if you can tear yourself away from all of that, there’s hiking, horse riding, fishing, gliding and snow sports at hand.