New Zealand is a popular travel destination, attracting visitors from all over the world during the Southern Hemisphere summer. At Kathmandu, our glorious antipodean summer is a source of immense pride. We love summer! As an expression of our love for the silliest season - we embrace it by engaging in outdoor activities by the bucket load. That doesn’t mean we retreat into hibernation when the sunshine fades. We come from the adventure capital of the world, where there’s something to cheer throughout the year.
Take advantage of the quiet time this cold season; bag yourself cheaper flights and accommodation; and plunge into a plethora of winter adventure activities. To help you plan the perfect winter vacation, here are five reasons why you’ll fall in love with NZ winter.
1. Queenstown Winter Festival
If the South Island of New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown is the town square! Running during the last week of June, the Queenstown Winter Festival is a 10-day celebration of all things ‘Qtown’. It is jam packed with free and ticketed events and activities. Check out some comedy, food, and music, all in typically cruisy Queenstown style. If you decide you don’t want to be part of the festivities, there is still skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, hang-gliding, or paragliding – to name just a few awesome activities - to keep you occupied. Just don’t forget to layer up, it gets pretty chilly down there!
2. Whale watching in Kaikoura
Kaikoura, colloquially known as the ‘whale capital’, is a small town on the east coast of the South Island. It is one of the best Whale watching spots in the world. Sperm Whales are native to the local waters and can be seen all year round. During June and July, visitors are treated to the spectacular sight of Humpback Whales migrating North from Antarctica. Humpbacks are known to venture as close as 50 metres to the shore to feed, so this a great opportunity to get up-close and personal with one of the world’s most amazing animals. Kaikoura is only 150 km north of Christchurch, so it’s a great day-trip option. As a tip, you’ll need a pair of binoculars, and if you’re prone to motion sickness (and there’s no shame in that) travel bands could work wonders.
3. Skiing the alps (Aoraki Mount Cook)
Warning: This one’s not for the faint hearted! Mighty Mount Cook is the exclamation point of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. The Maori name for Mt. Cook is ‘Aoraki’, which translates as ‘cloud piercer’. This makes perfect sense, as it is the country’s highest peak, reaching an elevation of around 3,755 metres. It is a popular destination for alpine sports enthusiasts, such as climbers, skiers, and snowboarders keen to test themselves on the glaciers and local ski fields - against the best that nature can throw at them. Even if you’re not an adrenaline junkie, there’s still plenty to love about this awesome spectacle, with its crisp conditions and majestic panoramas. Approximately 3 hours drive from both Christchurch and Queenstown, pack a daypack, rock your thermals, and head up the mountain – you won’t be disappointed.
4. Hanmer Springs
No trip to New Zealand can be complete without a visit to one of our volcanic hot springs, and Hanmer Springs is among the best natural thermal pools you’ll find anywhere in the world. The town of Hanmer is located about 130 km north of Christchurch, and is great place to relax. Mountains and forests border this picturesque little town, and there are heaps of cafes and boutiques to occupy your downtime. However, if you’re still up for some excitement, you won’t have to look far – with bungy jumping, jet-boating, and mountain biking available for those insatiable adventurists!
5. Tongariro National Park
The oldest national park in New Zealand, Tongariro is located at the centre of the North Island, approximately 330 km north of Wellington and south of Auckland. The park is home to three active volcanic mountains (Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro) and has one of the world’s best one-day hikes, along the famed Tongariro Crossing. This place is a playground for experienced hikers, so newbies should be sure to check the local weather report – and seek advice before you take it on. You’ll be in awe of the wildlife (brown Kiwis are native to the park…) and the scenery – and you may well recognise bits of the landscape if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan? You will need a good pair of hiking boots, and some breathable – yet warm gear to take on Tongariro in comfort; but you’ll never forget the experience.