New Zealand in winter

Embrace the magic: New Zealand in winter

New Zealand is a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers year-round, but there’s something uniquely enchanting about exploring the country during winter. Adventure-seeker and storyteller Sophie Piearcey finds joy in exploring corners of Aotearoa in her Jayco JRV Campervan and shares some of her favourite winter must-dos.

Winter unveils a tranquil beauty that makes for a magical adventure, from snow-capped mountains to serene lakes. Motorhome travel offers the perfect blend of comfort and flexibility for those looking to embrace this winter wonderland. With a home on wheels, you can chase the snow, stay warm, and experience the best of New Zealand at your own pace. Here are eight must-visit spots and experiences that will make your winter journey unforgettable.

Glenorchy Air, Queenstown: a fresh perspective on snow-capped mountains

New Zealand in winter
Take to the skies at sunrise

For a truly spectacular experience, take to the skies with Glenorchy Air. Seeing the snow-capped Southern Alps from above offers a perspective that’s nothing short of awe-inspiring. The pristine white peaks and expansive landscapes are a sight to behold. Cruise past Mt Aspiring, touch the tip of Fiordland, and head back through the iconic Queenstown Alps. It’s the perfect way to appreciate the grandeur of New Zealand’s winter scenery. It’s a flight to remember and only available in the winter months.

Moke Lake: a winter wonderland

Nestled among the mountains in Queenstown, Moke Lake transforms into a serene winter wonderland. The lake is calm, and reflective waters mirror the snow-dusted peaks, creating a picturesque scene perfect for photography and peaceful walks. Moke Lake is also a fantastic spot for stargazing, with the clear winter skies providing a stunning display of the Southern Hemisphere’s stars.

Key Summit Trail, Milford Sound: a hiker’s dream

The Key Summit Trail in Milford Sound offers one of the most rewarding winter hikes in New Zealand. This trail, part of the renowned Routeburn Track, takes you through lush rainforests and up to panoramic views of the Humboldt and Darran Mountains. The snow adds a layer of beauty to the landscape, making the already spectacular views even more breathtaking. It’s easily accessible for all and a great half-day adventure during your time in Fiordland.

Exploring Mt Pirongia
New Zealand in winter
Key Summit: The perfect day hike in Fiordland National Park

Lake Hāwea: tranquil beauty

Lake Hāwea is a less-crowded gem that shines in the winter months. A short drive from the iconic Lake Wanaka, Hāwea deserves a spot on your winter road trip itinerary. The lake’s stunning turquoise waters stand out against the mountains, and there’s even the addition of a secret sauna for those brave enough for a cold dip. It’s an ideal spot for kayaking, fishing, hiking, or simply enjoying the peace of the winter landscape.

Wye Creek: a hidden gem in the South

Wye Creek, located in Queenstown, offers a mix of adventure and beauty. The hike, not typically on the tourist route, is known for its rock climbing, stunning views, and dramatic landscapes. The waterfalls partially freeze in winter, creating a unique and mesmerizing sight. It’s an excellent spot to escape the Queenstown hustle and bustle, allowing you to enjoy the natural beauty in peace.

Queenstown: the winter capital

A winter trip to New Zealand would only be complete with a stop in Queenstown. Known as the adventure capital, Queenstown offers everything from skiing and snowboarding to bungee jumping and zip-lining. The town is charming, with cosy cafes and restaurants where you can warm up and enjoy the local cuisine. Of course, you must hit the slopes and link some turns with some of the country’s best views guiding you down.

New Zealand in winter
Winter hiking, The Remarkables, Queenstown

Mount Cook National Park: majestic peaks

Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, is another must-visit in winter. The park offers a range of activities, including hiking, glacier exploring, and stargazing. The clear winter nights provide some of the best stargazing opportunities, and the snow-covered landscape adds a touch of magic to every view. Be sure to add the iconic Hooker Valley track to your winter itinerary.

Kumara's Sweet Success

Tekapo Springs: relaxation and recreation

After days of exploring, visiting Tekapo Springs offers the perfect way to relax. Located by the stunning Lake Tekapo, the hot pools provide a warm escape from the winter chill. The complex also offers ice skating and tubing for those looking for fun in the snow, making it an excellent spot for families and solo travellers.

Hot winter tips

Winter is here. Although some will shy away from the prospect of minus temperatures, we welcome them. Packing up the van, throwing in an additional blanket, and stocking up the tea cupboard is ideal, but let me share some of my tips for winter van life in New Zealand.

New Zealand in winter
Wake up with the mountains at your door — The Camp, Lake Hawea

Stay warm: Ensure your motorhome or caravan is well-insulated and equipped with a sound heating system. Bring plenty of warm clothing and blankets (a hot water bottle is a little treat, too).

Check road conditions: Winter weather can affect road conditions, so always check for updates and be prepared for snow and ice.

Stay connected: Ensure you have a reliable communication method, such as a mobile phone with good coverage, especially in remote areas.

Plan your route: Have a flexible itinerary, but plan your key stops and ensure you know where to find the best campsites with hot showers; we heard Milford Sound Lodge has some of the best in the south.

Stock up: Keep your RV well-stocked with food, water, and other essentials, as some remote areas may have limited services. Hot chocolate never goes amiss on a winter road trip.
New Zealand in winter is a unique experience, offering a peaceful and picturesque adventure. With these tips and must-visit spots, you’re set for an unforgettable journey through this winter wonderland.

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