In New Zealand, winter is full of snow-capped mountains, hot tubs, and cosy chateaus, as well as moody landscapes. Hiking tracks are ideal in winter on many popular trails. Many tracks in the North Island are snow-free all year round, so you can still enjoy the great outdoors.
Natural hot pools around the North Island are great to explore during winter. The natural hot springs in Rotorua and Taupo are great for relaxing and warming up. The North Island’s top skiing destination, Ruapehu, offers both thrilling slopes and excellent views of Tongariro National Park.
The winterless North, with its milder climate, is another option for people who enjoy getting away from the snow. During the winter, Hawke’s Bay offers delicious citrus fruits and hearty vegetables. Take your rental car, a puffer jacket, and head out to discover the North Island of New Zealand.
Rotorua’s geysers, adrenaline-pumping activities, and Maori culture make this place one of the world’s most exciting vacation spots. Take a trip in your rental car to the geothermal wonderland of Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Visit the Pink and White Terraces and crater walkways on a self-guided eco tour in the valley, then take a boat ride on Lake Rotomahana. Afterwards the mineral spring hot pools at Polynesian Spa soothe aches and pains and nourish the skin as you take in the lakeside setting, or lather geothermal mud over your body and then soak in Hell’s Gate’s sulphur spa for a mind and body detox.
With Rotorua Canopy Tours, zig-zag through prehistoric native forest as you cross 20 meter high suspension bridges. The Redwoods Nightlights tour will immerse you into a world of colour and light at Redwoods Treewalk at night. You can take the entire family on this tour.
If you have a need for speed try the rush of a downhill luge ride at Skyline Rotorua, or head to Zorb Rotorua and roll down the hillside in a giant inflatable ball. Alternatively head to the Whakarewarewa Forrest for some world class mountain biking.
The centre of the North Island has magnificent forests, exciting activities and hot pools to unwind in, all while taking in the impressive landscape. Admire bubbling hot pools, springs and geysers at Korako Cave and Thermal park which can be reached by a short ferry trip over the tranquil Lake Ohakuri.
You can bathe in therapeutic waters containing silica at the Wairakei Terraces and Thermal Health Spa, which aid in restoring collagen, strengthening bones, and boosting immunity. Visit the silica terraces or experience a Maori cultural performance before indulging in the steam.
At Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort you can relax in the fresh forest air at these outdoor pools with bubbling hydrotherapy spots, surrounded by lush landscaping and native bush. At the spa, you can find many treatments to restore body, mind, and spirit, try the highly recommended full-body thermal mud wrap, you will be enveloped in bliss.
Experience the force of nature that is Huka Falls, where the Waikato River (New Zealand’s longest) rushes up a narrow volcanic ravine before crashing 11 metres below. Admire the falls from the viewing platform or footbridge. If you want to get up close you can also take a jet boat ride or river cruise.
Ruapehu is the oldest National park in the country as well as being a UNESCO heritage site. While the Tongariro crossing is recommended from November to May, you can still do the Tama Lakes track which requires less uphill walking and exposure to alpine conditions than the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and lets you enjoy views of two lakes that occupy old explosion craters between Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe.
Turoa and Whakapapa are some of New Zealand’s best and largest ski areas. Mount Ruapehu is home to some of the longest ski runs with vast views and the latest model ski lifts. Turoa ski field is located on Mount Ruapehu’s south-west facing slopes (accessible Ohakune side) and known for it’s huge snow base, wide trails and awesome terrain park. Whakapapa has beginners facilities, night skiing, the longest gondola in the country (Sky Waka) and highest dining facility at Knoll Ridge Chalet. We have SUV’s that are great for driving around the mountains of the central North Island.
Step back in time to the 1930’s and enjoy the views of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro at the Chateau Tongariro, where you can stay the night, or enjoy a meal and a drink around a crackling fire. The Powderhorn Chateau located in Ohakune is a cosy boutique lodge featuring an indoor heated swimming pool and two in house restaurants and bars, perfect for unwinding after hitting the slopes.
Experience New Zealand’s rail heritage on the Ohakune Old Coach road which can be walked or cycled. The road used to be used to carry passengers and goods between two railheads on the main trunk link. Enjoy volcanic and forest scenery over cobblestones, the terrain is mostly flat with a few hill climbs.
Under the rolling green hills of the Waikato, you’ll find Waitomo caves full of underground rivers and sinkholes. Three caves make up the Waitomo caves (The Glowworm caves, Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave) each one is unique and here you will find glow worms, stalactite and stalagmite limestone formations.
If you love adventure, you’ll enjoy Blackwater rafting where you will crawl, swim and float through caves on a rubber tube. Head 80 metres underground over rapids and jump off waterfalls as you float below a sky full of glow worms.
There are some stunning bush walks in Waitomo such as Ruakuri Bush walk which is a loop track that follows along the Waitomo stream down to Ruakuri Natural tunnel. This impressive high-ceiling cave has a viewing platform allows a close-up look at the cave’s limestone formations.
See the Marokapa Falls as you walk though native Tawa and Nikau forest, this dramatic 35 metre high waterfall is referred to by some as “the most beautiful in New Zealand”.
Visit the Mangapohue Natural Bridge, there is a boardwalk which leads to a picturesque limestone gorge to the base of this natural bridge. Although only 17m high this limestone arch is the only, this is a reminder of a once expansive ancient cave system.
Northland is known for it’s beautiful white sand beaches, forests, sand-dunes and multitude of islands. With it’s subtropical climate, the “winterless north” offers natural attractions for those seeking adventure. Northland is perfect for walking and hiking with tracks such as Mangawhai cliffs walkway, Mount Manaia Track, Bay of Islands coastal walkway or Smugglers Bay loop track. Alternatively if a short walk is more for you, visit the beautiful 26m high Whangarei falls though native bush and parkland.
Cruise the sparkling waters of the Bay of Islands and enjoy the breath taking scenery, visit Cape Brett cliffs, the Hole in the Rock or visit Urupukapuka Island. You can also take a short ferry ride over to Russell from Paihia and learn about the country’s first capital in this seaside town.
Take your rental car on a road trip right to the very top of the North Island to Cape Reinga. Visit the iconic Cape Reinga light house where the Tasman Sea meet the Pacific Ocean. Not far from Cape Reinga you will find the Te Paki sand dunes, the largest in the southern hemisphere. Climb to the top then slide down on a boogie board for an adrenaline rush. Then head south along the coast to Ninety Mile beach known for it’s spectacular sunsets and left hand surf breaks.
Visit Northland’s majestic native forests like Waipoua and see “Tane Mahuta – Lord of the Forest”, the largest Kauri tree in New Zealand, approximately 2000 years old. The highway though the forest is just as beautiful with it’s huge trees and ferns running along the edge of the road. Another significant tree is “Te Matua Ngahere – Father of the Forest”, estimated to be up to 3000 years old.
Auckland has it all, with beautiful rainforests, parks, world class shopping, culture and dining with beautiful scenery of ancient volcanoes and beaches that are all close to the city center. There are over 250 kms of walking and hiking trails through lush native forests, past cascading waterfalls, and along the spectacular coastline of Waitakere Ranges Regional Park west of the city center. Auckland’s 26 regional parks include Duder, Shakespear, Tapapakanga and Awhitu, which boast the region’s largest native forest.
Explore the beautiful islands and the magnificent Hauraki Gulf of Auckland. Waiheke Island is a haven of vineyards, olive groves, beaches and fine dining, just a 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland or spend a family-fun weekend spotting the rare marine life on a Whale & Dolphin Safari.
There are many options for every taste and budget in Auckland’s restaurants, cafes, and bars. There are several modern dining options in Auckland’s inner city, including Britomart, Federal Street, and City Works Depot. You can dine and drink on Auckland’s beautiful waterfront in the Viaduct Harbour or Wynyard Quarter.
Find out about the history and traditions of Maori at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and explore the world-class exhibitions at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.
Hawke’s Bay is known for its excellent food and wine. With great year-round weather, food and drink. There are over thirty cellar doors to choose from and a variety of restaurants can be found in and around Napier, Havelock, Hastings, Bridge Pa, and Te Awanga. You can enjoy sharing platters, seafood, and venison. Fine dining will exceed your expectations in the Hawkes Bay.
In Hawke’s Bay, Napier, Hastings, and the surrounding area are connected by a network of cycle trails. Passing through wineries and vineyards, this is the ultimate tour for active-foodies. The Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market is open every Sunday morning. Hastings is the perfect place to stock up on local produce. A wide variety of seasonal goods are available, such as creamy avocados, berries, grapes, watermelons, asparagus, feijoas, walnuts, and nashi pears. The Napier Urban Farmers Market bustles on Saturday mornings in central Napier where you’ll find olive oils, honeycomb, breads, herbal teas and coffee. As well as chocolate, kombucha, freshly squeezed fruit juices, organic meat and cheeses.
Check out the annual Food and Wine Classic Event during the months of June and November, where you can eat and drink like a local at the many unique eateries in the Napier area. While you are there check it’s beautifully restored art deco buildings.
For more information on winter fun in New Zealand visit https://www.newzealand.com/nz/feature/a-winter-journey-through-central-north-island/