New Zealand has a temperate climate – which means it doesn’t get excessively hot in summer (most of the time) and equally, doesn’t get incredibly cold in winter, despite the fact that it’s the last populated country en route to Antarctica.
The southernmost parts of the South Island can certainly feel the bite of southerly winds blowing up from the Ice, but overall, New Zealand is an easy place to spend a holiday – no matter what time of year it is.
Having said that, there are some key things to remember if you plan on having a wonderful winter holiday in New Zealand.
- There may not be snow on the ground, but there will be plenty of rain, possibly hail from time to time, and occasional fog.
- There will also be a high likelihood of frost, especially if you are anywhere from Lake Taupo south. The great thing about frosty days, is that almost without exception, they turn into a beautiful blue sky, sunny day once the icicles have thawed.
- So pack warm clothes and head for the places you can really enjoy the best of winter outdoors – the snow fields and skating rinks.
- Make sure your hire vehicle comes with chains if you are headed anywhere near the mountains – and make sure you know how to put them on the car or van.
- Try to plan your driving so you are travelling during daylight hours – and remember it gets dark by about 5.30pm in mid-winter.
Skiers and Snowboarders Welcome
New Zealand is very well endowed with great ski areas – most of them in the South Island, including the largest ski area with the longest season in Australasia, Mt Hutt. In all, the province of Canterbury has 18 ski fields, if you include the commercial fields of Hutt, Porters Pass, Mt Lyford, Round Hill, Mt Dobson and Ohau, as well as a range of club fields and heli-skiing opportunities.
Further south, Queenstown and Wanaka are the dominant players, boasting Treble Cone and Cardrona at Wanaka, and Coronet Peak and the Remarkables in Queenstown.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about all of these ski fields is that they are at most a day’s drive from the furthest north, to the furthest south. So you have plenty of options within driving distance should one field be closed.
A great way to follow the best snow conditions and combine your transport and accommodation into one, is to hire a six berth campervan and get a group of your friends together for the trip. You can park at the bottom of the ski field road and take a shuttle up to the top, or with fields like Coronet that have fully sealed roads all the way up the mountain, you can easily drive your campervan up to the carpark, so it can act as your base for the day’s activities.