With snow-capped mountains, clear blue skies and daily dustings of fresh powder, New Zealand is one of the world’s most storied ski destinations. But ask any local, and they’ll testify that there’s so much more to the Land of the Long White Cloud than scenic slopes.
There’s just something special about New Zealand in winter, so to whet your palate we’ve put together a handful of dreamy destinations that will have you reaching for your car keys.
Hidden away in the Canterbury mountains, Hanmer Springs is a picturesque alpine village just 90 minutes from Christchurch. It’s surrounded by snow-capped peaks and dense forests, which makes it feel worlds away from the city. And with more than 15 outdoor thermal, sulphur and freshwater pools, it’s the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. The town centre is dotted with boutique shops, cafes and eateries, as well as plenty of cosy hotels and B&Bs to choose from. If you feel like stretching your legs hit the forest for winter hikes and horse rides. If you’re bringing along the grandkids there are some great child-friendly mountain bike trails in the area.
When winter rolls in there’s nothing quite like a glass of good red by a blazing fire. If the thought of a weekend in wine country gets you daydreaming, you’ll love Matakana. Just one hour north of Auckland, this town is tailor made for weekend getaways. Foodies delight, because Matakana is known for its weekend farmers markets, artisan providores and world class wineries. Take flight on a wine tasting tour, and wash it down with a relaxed gourmet lunch overlooking the vineyards. For a breath of fresh air north Auckland beaches like Omaha, Leigh, Pakiri and Tāwharanui are just a short drive away. Not to mention the rugged Goat Island Marine Reserve. If you have a wedding anniversary coming up Matakana has romance written all over it.
With its charcoal coloured beach, thundering surf and windswept sand dunes, Muriwai serves up scenery for the soul. Explore parts of the famous Hilary Trail walking track, or rug up and enjoy a winter horse ride along the beach. From August onwards Muriwai is home to a busy gannet colony, which makes it a mecca for bird watchers.
Drenched in winter sunshine, Blenheim is a great base for exploring the Marlborough wine-growing region. Mountains frame the area and trap in the heat, which means Blenheim is both scenic and sultry. Rent a bike and cruise the vineyards on two wheels, or take it slow and map out your own self-drive route. More than 30 wineries dot the region, with most offering sampling sessions and cellar door sales. Character accommodation is abundant, with everything from elegant country estates and farmhouse cottages to historic B&Bs and luxury lodges. Nearby Marlborough Sounds is best explored on water, with a string of cruises, sailings and kayak excursions to choose from. If you want to work off all that vino why not take on parts of the Queen Charlotte Track as it winds through native forest, historic bays and skyline ridges?
To you have any winter breaks planned for the next few months? We’d love to hear your recommendations give us a shout and let us know about your favourite getaway spots.