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Winter months in New Zealand are known for being varied weather conditions, depending on where in the country you are situated. For most, winter holidays consist of snow sports, après skiing, and sightseeing snowy capped mountains. We'll cover the best day trips to include when on your winter holiday, as well as must-do activities you can't miss doing in the winter.
The most popular winter holiday destinations in New Zealand are generally closer to the ski areas like Queenstown, Wanaka, Canterbury, and surrounding areas of Mount Ruapehu, such as Taupo and Turangi. We'll explain some day trips to do close to these areas that you won't want to miss!
Queenstown is one of the most popular areas to visit for a holiday during the winter months. Not only is the alpine vistas unlike any other, but the township is also the perfect destination for an apres-ski holiday. There are two ski areas located in Queenstown and a multitude of bars to find mulled wine and hot chocolate.
The township of Wanaka is Queenstown's smaller cousin. It's an incredible winter paradise for anyone who enjoys activities in the colder months, as it is home to New Zealand's only cross-country ski area at Snow Farm and a world-class freestyle facility at Cardrona Alpine Resort. This town has slightly slower paced nightlife but has plenty of activities to do during the day and delicious restaurants for dinner.
Mount Ruapehu is over 500 hectares (1,200 acres), meaning that there are several townships you can stay in when visiting Mount Ruapehu, such as Taupo, Ohakune and Turangi. Mount Ruapehu has two commercial ski areas, Whakapapa and Turoa, and a smaller club managed ski area named Tukino Ski Field.
Canterbury holds some incredible scenery, including the filming location for the Lord of the Rings and Narnia. Furthermore, there are numerous ski areas, including both commercial and club managed ski areas. The closest city, Christchurch, is at least 1 hour from these, as there are only rural townships surrounding this semi-remote area of New Zealand.
There are plenty of activities to do in the winter months. If snow sports aren't your thing, or you've already allocated time to do this, our comprehensive list of things to do in the winter will ensure the rest of your time is packed with fun things to do.
Walter Peak is a high country farmstead on the shores of Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu. You can travel to Walter Peak via a leisurely cruise on the TSS Earnslaw, a historic steamboat that is perfect for a relaxing winters day! Once you arrive at Walter Peak, enjoy a gourmet buffet BBQ dining experience with the best view of Lake Wakatipu from The Colonel's Homestead.
2. Te Anau
Visiting Te Anau for a day trip is a must-do when you've planned a holiday to Queenstown. Te Anau is considered to be the gateway to the Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Te Anau Glowworms Caves is an excellent activity for the whole family to enjoy too. You'll be guided through spectacular caves to glow worms that are native to New Zealand. For the ultimate day trip, make sure you take a day cruise in the stunning Milford Sound.
Driving from Queenstown to Glenorchy takes less than an hour, which is one of the reasons why it's a great day trip from Queenstown. There are plenty of walking tracks here and other things to do like zipline tours, skydiving, and plenty of filming locations from Lord of The Rings.
The Fiordland area is one of the most beautiful and untouched areas New Zealand has to offer. To travel to Fiordland, you can grab a scenic flight which will take you less than an hour. There are plenty of walking tracks, waterfalls and wildlife to immerse yourself in as well as numerous locations to grab a striking image to remember your journey. Many companies offer sightseeing cruises in Fiordland, so anyone can enjoy this beautiful area even if hiking isn't their thing.
The Omarama Hot Pools are a must-do on your winter holiday. It will take approximately one and a half hours to travel from Wanaka to Omarama, making it a slightly longer journey but more than manageable within a day. You can book a tub for yourself or a group, and there are sauna options too, meaning you can feel assured you'll be feeling relaxed and rejuvenated after your holiday. The alpine views from this location make sitting in a wood-fired hot tub that much more magical and is the perfect recovery day activity after hitting the slopes!
Find the doorstep to Mount Aspiring National Park in Wanaka, don't forget to take advantage of this! Enjoy the alpine vistas from above with a scenic flight around Mount Aspiring National Park. There are numerous landing areas where you can grab a spectacular image of the scenery to remember it with.
If you need a relaxing activity on a winter day in Wanaka, check out the movie cinemas in town. Wanaka's movie theatres are a great option to take advantage of when you're on holiday in the winter months. Cinema Paradiso is not your standard seating arrangement, including comfy couches and even a Morris Minor! The café serves homemade ice cream and even half-time movie cookies fresh from the oven.
Hanmer Springs is commonly known for its mineral water thermal pools and spas located in the township. This resort town is small and receives snow falling in the town centre during winter months, meaning you can be sitting in a hot pool with snow around you! There is also a small ski area in Hanmer Springs and many other things to do, such as fishing, walking, and even bungee jumping.
There are plenty of horse treks around the Canterbury area, meaning you can choose which journey looks the most interesting for you! This land is perfect for adventures via horse trekking, as you can travel greater distances and enjoy the journey to your destination. Furthermore, you can find popular movie filming locations for scenes seen in "Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "Lord of The Rings".
The International Antarctic Centre is an immersive, interactive museum experience that educates children and adults about the Antarctic. This dynamic attraction includes an indoor Antarctic storm simulation, Hägglund Field Trip, Husky Zone and the chance to see real-life Little Blue Penguins!
The Tongariro National Park is one of the most popular day hikes in the country and considered a World Heritage Site, being acknowledged for its natural and cultural significance in Aoteroa. This park holds three active volcanos, including Ngauruhoe (also known as Mount Doom from "The Lord of the Rings" films), Tongariro and Ruapehu. This area is excellent to visit during the winter as the snow-capped mountains make the views genuinely magical.
Taupo is known for its various volcanic landscapes, which create geothermic energy, including mineral waters (hot springs) and mud pools. The warm water and mud produced by the volcanic energy have been known for their healing properties by local Māori for hundreds of years, which is why this is such an excellent spot to visit on your winter holiday. You can be sure that you'll walk away feeling relaxed after enjoying its famous medicinal benefits!
What winter activity will you do first on your holiday this year? Whether you need some rest after some action-packed snow sports or are looking to find the best view of snow-capped mountains possible, New Zealand really has it all! Don't forget to tag us in your social media posts with #RealJourneys and let us know!
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