New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning it welcomes shivers and down jackets from June to September, every year. During the winter season, several key areas in the country magnetize hordes of tourists to mountains lathered in snow. Much of New Zealand’s charm can be attributed to such beautiful precipitation. A few scattered gems around the country, as follow, best manifest this snowy time of year!
So where must you go?
Beginning in the Central North Island, the Mt Ruapehu is the North Island’s highest peak. Its slopes catering to beginner, intermediate, and advanced level skiers provide a thrilling way to revel in the snow. If whizzing down mountain slopes isn’t your preferred source of enjoyment, indulge in the hot pools and waterfalls surrounding Mt Ruapehu’s slopes. These offer unforgettable views of its snow-capped glory.
The North Island provides limited opportunities to bask in chilly sheaths of snow, while the South Island is abounding in destinations that come alive during the winter season.
Proceeding to the South Island Kaikoura, a short drive away from Christchurch, is home to the majestic Kaikoura Range. A unique gem of New Zealand, here, soaring snow-capped mountain ranges meet the waters of the Pacific. A walk along the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway grants views of icy waters and blanketed peaks. Renowned for its whale watching opportunities, the winter season marks heavy migration traffic among several whale species and a consequent influx of travelers. Several whale watching tours are rendered more pleasant by a mesmerizing view of the eternal Kaikoura Range, pure and pristine.
Down South, the Tekapo and Mt Cook National Park region symbolizes an unspoiled utopia, catering to all those wanting ti get closer to nature. The highlight of Tekapo, a small town enroute the Southern end of the island, is the Lake Tekapo. Its turquoise waters are an iconic image of New Zealand, adorned even further by the Southern Alps skirting its periphery. Meanwhile, the Mt Cook National Park, a short bus ride from Tekapo, is an area of absolute solace. The only modern development interfering with the natural landscape are three centers for accommodation – one hotel and two hostels – and the tourism center/museum. Several walking/hiking routes such as the Hooker Valley Trail, the Kia Point Trail, and the ultimate challenge, the Mueller Hut trek are testing yet rewarding ways to revel in the winter’s offerings. For a gentler taste of New Zealand’s natural beauty, a simple walk around the town or a variety of nature trails are at your disposal. No matter what you choose to do, the mighty Alps are in clear sight at all times, their immensity deeming all your worries negligible.
The Christchurch-Canterbury region on the east transforms into a winter wonderland. Extensive plains turn into the fetching Alps, which are in omnipresent.
Methven, a quaint town an hour and a half away from Christchurch draws recreational skiers, snowboarders and Olympic athletes to its most prized possession – the eminent Mt Hutt Ski resort. Other ski resorts comprise the Porters Ski area, Hanmer springs Ski area, and the Broken River Ski Area. While in the main city of Christchurch, a plethora of cultural activities, relaxation spas, and outdoor trails provide equal opportunity to chill in the snowy climate. A short drive from Christchurch lies the Hakatere Conservation Park, best associated with Lord of the Rings. A bewitching landscape amidst an iconic scenery is made even charming as the area is blanketed by snowfall. Seek out Lake Heron, Lake Camp, or Lake Clearwater in the Park to witness the finest views of all.
Further west, the remarkable Queenstown and Wanaka area flaunt The Remarkables range. Mountains with massive terrain painted in golden rays and idyllic snow sheets. The Coronet Peak, Cardrona, and Treble Cone – the country’s largest ski area - are popular spots for skiers, snowboarders, and winter lovers in general. Queenstown boasts a range of adrenaline spiking activities such as skydiving and bungee jumping accompanied by unimaginable views of the majestic Remarkables. Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu draws travelers in, to soak in its serenity whilst providing opportunities for kayaking and jet boat rides across the scenery. So impeccable that one can only marvel at the reality of Nature’s heavenly gifts. Meanwhile, Wanaka’s appeal lies in its local dining and wining outlets, relaxing water bound activities, and the one and only Lake Wanaka. The Lake featuring a lone tree, an icon of New Zealand’s identity is the perfect spot for a cup of hot coffee and meaningful conversations. On an inviting day, hike up Mount Roy in Wanaka or Mount Isthmus in Hawea – resting on the outskirts on Wanaka – for once in a lifetime sights of the lakes and Mount Aspiring.
Central Otago is a whole lot of sweet nothing. Miles and miles of plains, farmland, mountainous terrain, gravel road and grasslands dominate here. Cruising through Central Otago at a leisurely pace is an indispensable joy. The route traverses from Clyde/Alexandra to Omakau or Lauder to Idaburn. The 50km long Hawkdun Range marks the area’s appeal. Fairly flat and smooth, the row of ceaseless peaks make for ideal photography breaks en route. The St. Bathans Blue Lake in the neighbourhood is a glistening gem, while the road to Falls Dam marks a rugged journey culminating in hard-earned, sensational perspective of the Hawkdun range
June-October marks the winter season in the Southern Hemisphere. June signifies the “early-season” for skiers, as tourists begin to trickle in. At this time, the snowfall is restricted to a gentle drizzle and mountain peaks are just beginning to display the winter glory.
July brings with its school holidays, booked-out ski resorts, populated hot pools and springs, and the thickest of down jackets. Precipitation alters between rain and snow and white blankets begin form on the expansive mountain terrain. Around August, snow sheaths are ankle-high, perhaps knee-high in the mountains and snowstorms aren’t an anomaly. Come September, the blankets thin out, but yet retain their winter glory. The temperatures warm up and flowers bloom throughout the icy land. Snowfall is rarer, and sunny days frequent this charismatic land.
Whether you crave the thrill of zipping down a mountain, learning the keen ways of snowboarders, hiking along demanding terrain, or simply, soaking in geothermal pools, New Zealand will not disappoint.
It gratifies the excited, the calm, and the curious. It brings thrill, it renews vitality, and provokes utmost tranquility. All you need is an open mind, a welcoming heart and a sense of wanderlust to make yourself at home among these therapeutic snowy lands.