Ice skating might be the closest feeling you can ever get to flying. It's a magical sport to watch and experience — from the elegant movements of figure skaters, to the sound of hockey skate blades crunching the ice; the crisp air against your skin, to the ice spray from a dramatic stop.

Most of New Zealand's rinks are commercially operated, but if the conditions are right, there are a few South Island lakes that freeze over for skating.

Take the kids these school holidays, or do something new and learn yourself.

Indoor rinks

AUCKLAND

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Auckland has two ice rinks run by the family business Paradice Ice Skating; one in Botany and the other in Avondale. The Avondale rink was up and running by 1981, and Auckland's Olympic-sized rink at Botany was built in 1999.

The three children of the original owners — Darren, Chris and Rosie — all went on to represent New Zealand in their chosen skating disciplines of ice figure and ice hockey. The business remains in the family and is now co-owned by Chris and Rosie.

Skaters enjoying a temporary ice rink in Auckland run by Paradice Ice Skating. Photo / David Watson, Supplied
Skaters enjoying a temporary ice rink in Auckland run by Paradice Ice Skating. Photo / David Watson, Supplied

WELLINGTON

Wellington's Daytona Raceway is also home to the Frosty Spot Ice Skating Rink, an indoor rink that offers learn-to-skate, ice hockey and ice figure skating lessons. It's the only permanent indoor ice skating rink in the capital.

CHRISTCHURCH

Christchurch's Alpine Ice on Brougham St has been operating since 1985. The complex has endured a fair few adversities in its time — including the famous Christchurch snowfall in August 1992, in which the roof of the ice rink collapsed under the weight of the snow, knocking it out of action for nine months.

QUEENSTOWN

Ice skating has been a popular activity in the Queenstown region since the days of the early European settlers, although back then it was on frozen ponds and dams in winter. The first artificial ice surface in Queenstown was laid in the 1960s. The current indoor Queenstown Ice Arena has been used to host international ice hockey matches in recent years.

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DUNEDIN

Dunedin's first indoor ice rink was built in 1984, and was known as The Big Chill. It shut in 2002, but two years later, the Dunedin Ice Stadium officially opened as an Olympic-sized ice rink, and a four-lane curling rink was built next to it in 2006.

GORE

Gore's rink, Ice Sports Southland, is the cheapest place in the country to skate. It's a member-owned and operated rink. Members do all the work from running the public sessions to grooming the ice and coaching.

Outdoor rinks

ALEXANDRA

Alexandra's Iceinline is the Southern Hemisphere's largest outdoor ice skating rink. It's a full 60 x 30-metre Olympic-sized arena, built largely by volunteers. It's a seasonal rink, meaning it's only open in the winter months.

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TEKAPO SPRINGS

Each year an outdoor ice rink operates at Tekapo Springs, thanks to the extreme winters of the Mackenzie Region.

Each winter, Tekapo Springs opens an ice rink for recreational skating and ice sports events. Photo / Supplied
Each winter, Tekapo Springs opens an ice rink for recreational skating and ice sports events. Photo / Supplied

The area has a long history of ice skating, but the current rink was officially opened in 2007 when 12,000 visitors were recorded in the first three months of operation.

TAUPŌ AND WELLINGTON

These school holidays, Taupō and Wellington have temporary artificial ice rinks, both run by Paradice Ice Skating. The Taupō rink also has an ice slide, which is part of the Taupō Winter Festival. Taupō's Wairakei Estate Ice Rink is open until July 19 and the Wellington rink until August 2.

NASEBY ICE INK

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The Naseby Ice Rink, Luge & Snow Park is located in Ranfurly, Central Otago. The outdoor skating rink has been operating since 1991 and runs each winter between June and August, subject to weather.

FROZEN LAKES

LAKE IDA

Lake Ida is probably the best known natural skating area in Canterbury and regularly freezes over. Lake Ida is now on Glenthorne Station and the owners have closed the road to the lake. But there is a walking track, which takes about an hour each way. Nearby is Lake Evelyn, another popular skating lake, which is more readily accessible from the road, and Little Lake Ida.

A frozen Little Lake Ida in Canterbury, another popular natural ice skating area. Photo / Sebastian Murchison, Supplied
A frozen Little Lake Ida in Canterbury, another popular natural ice skating area. Photo / Sebastian Murchison, Supplied

POOLBURN DAM

In Central Otago, the Poolburn Dam is a beautiful place to skate when the water freezes over, which sadly isn't that often. But when it does, expect to skate around little islands and rocks. Best to only head here if you understand ice conditions on lakes.

CHEESEMAN

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The pond at Mt Cheeseman's Forest Lodge regularly freezes over and is used each winter. The pond is fairly shallow (knee-deep) but a safe thickness of ice to skate on is about 15cm. It's usually at its prime between June and early August and is frequently visited by a keen bunch of curlers from the West Coast.

The pond next to Forest Lodge at Mt Cheeseman freezes over each winter to allow for skating and curling. Photo / Supplied
The pond next to Forest Lodge at Mt Cheeseman freezes over each winter to allow for skating and curling. Photo / Supplied

Beginner tips:

• Beginners should wear a helmet
• Keep your arms out wide for balance
• Always bend your knees
• Stand with your feet parallel like train tracks, hip-width apart.
• If you start to lose your balance, assume the "safety position" of bringing your hands to your knees in a squat.
• Layer up, wear long pants and gloves to stay warm.

Juliette Sivertsen first learned to skate at the age of 24 and went on to compete in New Zealand and Australia in ice figure and synchronised skating.
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