8 great autumn must-dos

8 great autumn must-dos

There’s much to celebrate about autumn; it’s a magical time of the year as landscapes slowly transform through a riot of colours from yellow and gold to amber and deep red

It’s a particularly great time to travel by RV as you can avoid the heavy summer crowds but still enjoy the sunshine and spectacular scenery. It’s also the last chance to make the most of more stable weather before the heavy winter chill sets in.

While destinations such as Marlborough, Wairarapa, and Arrowtown are globally renowned for their autumn colours, so, too, are the many national parks, botanical gardens, and new riverside cycle trails around the country. There’s no shortage to choose from whether you’re planning to tour the North or South Island. Editor Lisa Potter has collated some of her favourite autumn offerings.

1. Punting on the Avon

8 great autumn must-dos
Views from the Avon River

Enjoy a fresh perspective of the beauty of Christchurch Botanic Gardens, soaking in the views from the Avon River. Autumn serves a kaleidoscope of foliage colour, and an Edwardian-style punting tour is a particularly iconic way to drift along and absorb the startling leaf display, as well as the spectacular flora that the garden city is famous for. If you prefer firmer terrain, stroll through Hagley Park or hire a bike and enjoy the Port Hills.

2. Tee time

8 great autumn must-dos
A spectacular backdrop at Arrowtown Gold Course

You don’t need to be an avid golfer to appreciate the splendour of immaculately groomed golf courses around Aotearoa. Arrowtown Golf Club is ranked as one of the top 10 in New Zealand and even made it to Golf.com’s list of the 25 best short courses around the world. With breathtakingly picturesque mountain ranges as the backdrop, the grounds offer a variety of elevated terrain interlaced with towering trees in hues from brightest yellow to deepest red.

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3. Waikato wonderland

Boasting year-round visual delights the likes of Hamilton Gardens, Pirongia Forest Park, Taitua Arboretum, and The Sculpture Park at Waitakaruru Arboretum, autumn is one of the most spectacular times to visit any (or all) of the above. Te Awa River Ride also offers several exceptional cycling and walking trails, spanning 65km winding along the Waikato River and mature forests of trees.

4. Vineyard explorations

8 great autumn must-dos
Chard Farm Winery is one of many stunning vineyards around NZ

As harvesting season comes to an end, vineyards around New Zealand transform into calendar-photo perfection. Framed by russet leaves, it’s the perfect time to embrace the season. One standout, eye-catching destination is Chard Farm, an elevated sanctuary perched at the meeting place of the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers. Located 20km from Queenstown, its Cellar Door is open seven days a week.

5. River rides

8 great autumn must-dos
Alexandra River Track

There’s nothing quite like the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot, so take this opportunity to discover some new trail rides. Central Otago Cycle Trails are pure visual gold, taking you across soaring railway viaducts and amazing landscapes, including the epic Lake Dunstan. The Alexandra to Clyde River Track is a dual-purpose track specifically designed for both walkers and bikers. It meanders alongside the Clutha River/Mata-Au and is framed by stunning trees and foliage along the way.

6. Scenic journeys

8 great autumn must-dos
Great Journeys NZ is a relaxing way to discover fresh views

Sit back and watch in wonder as the landscape unfolds in front of you. A scenic rail adventure with Great Journeys NZ is the perfect way to get off the beaten track and enjoy the peaceful serenity of off-peak travel. Autumn offers the perfect canvas, whether you’re aboard the Coastal Pacific (with a front-row seat to Mother Nature) or transfixed by picture-perfect scenes on the TranzAlpine, the changing light and moods are an experience of their own.

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7. Majestic landscapes

8 great autumn must-dos
Lake Pukaki is the largest of three roughly parallel alpine lakes of the Mackenzie Basin on NZ’s South Island

There’s something otherworldly about Lake Pukaki over the autumn months. With the majestic Mount Cook in the background, the lake is the largest in the Mackenzie region and is renowned for its deep aquamarine colour and glacial water. The depth of colour and texture from trees in autumn is a truly magnificent sight and you can stroll along the foreshore for hours, drinking it all in (over 13km return in total). There are also easier shorter tracks taking as little as 20 minutes to enjoy a taster of the landscape.

8. Coastal escapes

8 great autumn must-dos
Autumn cycling in Hawke’s Bay

Brimming with vineyards, the east coast of New Zealand’s north island is visually appealing year-round. One of the best ways to put yourself among the foliage is to enjoy Hawke’s Bay trails, part of Ngā Herenga’s 23 Great Rides of New Zealand. The majority of these are wide and flat, treating you to views of Cape Kidnappers and Te Mata Peak. Pākōwhai Regional Park is also well worth a visit for its specimen trees and tracks crossing the Raupare Stream. Spend some time in Napier: visit Anderson Park for a nature fix, immerse yourself in birdsong along Rorookuri Hill Summit Track, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, try whitewater rafting down Mohaka River.

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