To all the winter lovers, step into a world of enchantment as New Zealand’s alpine landscapes embrace a mesmerizing winter wonderland from June to October. Beyond the exhilaration of skiing and snowboarding ingrained in Kiwi culture, an array of captivating experiences awaits in the realm of wintertime exploration. Marvel at the awe-inspiring migration of majestic humpback whales, gracefully traversing towards tropical waters. Embark on a scenic train odyssey through celestial alpine vistas, evoking a sense of pure wonder. And behold the celestial spectacle of the Matariki cluster ascending, a celestial dance that leaves you spellbound.
Unveiling New Zealand’s cherished winter activities, this handpicked list extends far beyond traditional winter sports, offering extraordinary adventures that will ignite your wanderlust.
- Glacier hiking and Ice climbing
Glacier hiking and Ice climbing in New Zealand is considered to be among the best in the world as one gets to explore incredibly beautiful landscapes that will leave everyone in awe. There are opportunities to experience the glaciers for people with all levels of ability. You can follow the walking tracks up to the terminus of either glacier for a close up view or hike through the bush to a viewing point. And if actually touching the ice is on your bucket list then a guided tour (with all equipment included) will allow you to get up onto the glacier face itself. Opt to visit the below locations for an enlightening experience.
To see Fox glacier, you can head towards Lake Matheson on Cook Flat Road for magnificent views. You can arrange an ice-hiking adventure or book a scenic flight. Embark on a mesmerizing helicopter journey from the base, where you’ll be transported to a remote and exceptionally stunning section of the glacier. Immerse yourself in an unforgettable experience on the ice, creating memories that will last a lifetime. After your awe-inspiring time on the glacier, enjoy a second scenic helicopter ride that will bring you back to the base, located in the heart of the charming Fox Glacier township. There are glow worm caves just a short walk from the town centre, where you can also find a good choice of cafes and restaurants. Close to Fox Glacier is beautiful Lake Matheson, one of the most photographed lakes in New Zealand. On a clear day it reflects Mount Cook.
- Franz Josef Glacier Guides, West Coast
Franz Josef glacier is five kilometres from the town of the same name, and a 1.5 hour walk will take you to within 750m of its terminal face. If you want to actually make contact with the glacier, take a heli-hike or a guided ice walk. Embark on a thrilling glacier climbing expedition, renowned for offering some of the world’s finest experiences. Your adventure commences with a comprehensive briefing at the Glacier Base Building, where an experienced guide will equip you with all the necessary gear for your ice climbing expedition. Aerial sightseeing is another option.
There’s a range of natural attractions like rainforests, waterfalls and lakes in close proximity to Franz Josef Glacier Village. In the town, you’ll find plenty of places to stay and eat, or explore the wildlife centre. At nearby Lake Mapourika, you can take a kayak tour or rent a stand-up paddleboard.
- Winter stargazing
Dark, clear skies, unique celestial features and otherworldly landscapes make winter stargazing in New Zealand a breathtakingly magical experience. In New Zealand, the winter months bring forth the emergence of Matariki, experience a mesmerizing cluster of stars that graces the early morning sky at the below locations:
- Chameleon Stargazing, Canterbury
Immerse yourself in a 90-minute astronomy adventure alongside fellow stargazing enthusiasts (maximum 12 participants) and you will be treated to captivating insights about the night sky and get a chance to observe deep sky objects through an impressive 9.25-inch telescope and warm blankets to ensure you can fully enjoy the celestial spectacle. As the tour ends, enhance your comfort with outdoor furniture, cozy pillows, comfortable mattresses, and gather around the cozy fire bowl, where you can bond with friends and family while roasting delicious marshmallows. It’s a magical experience you won’t want to miss!
- Tekapo Star Gazing, Lake Tekapo
Tekapo Star Gazing combines the stunning Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve with the soul-warming hot pools of Tekapo Springs. A 2-hour tour, the first half begins with an introduction to the night sky with star gazing guides, and is complemented by looking through high-powered telescopes pointed at interesting features of the night sky. Then let the real world melt away as you relax in the hot pools on a floating hammock to ensure easy sky viewing. You’ll feel like you’re floating among the stars while your guide tells stories that combine astronomy with local tales and Māori myths.
- Geothermal walks:
New Zealand’s geothermal activity is truly captivating. Within these remarkable geothermal areas, one can encounter bubbling mud pools and awe-inspiring geysers, providing a firsthand encounter with the raw power of the Earth. To fully immerse yourself in these extraordinary natural phenomena, embarking on a geothermal walk is a fantastic choice. Witness first-hand the incredible wonders that New Zealand’s geothermal landscapes have to offer by visiting the below locations:\
- Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, Rotorua
Prepare to be astounded by the breathtaking beauty of Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, an extraordinary display of New Zealand’s vibrant and extraordinary geothermal features crafted over countless millennia of geothermal activity. Its unique features include the world famous Champagne Pool, naturally coloured springs, bubbling mud, steaming ground, expansive vistas, huge volcanic craters and sinter terrace formations. Visitors can choose one or all of three walks which take between 45 and 90 minutes.
- Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Rotorua
Take an eco-focused nature walk or hike through the spectacular Waimangu Volcanic Valley thermal park. This trail will wind down to the serene lake, where a delightful 45-minute cruise awaits you on the tranquil waters of Lake Rotomahana. As you embark on this leisurely cruise, prepare to witness captivating geothermal activity that can only be accessed by boat, unveiling a hidden world of natural wonders. Along the way, keep an eye out for the presence of rare native bird species, adding an extra touch of enchantment to your experience.