We know, normally you might be packing your snorkel, flippers and jandals for your escape from the winter to sun right about now, but we're in one of the luckiest positions in the world here in New Zealand — we have its entire length to explore with no restrictions on our movements.
Now's your chance to try something new and embrace a New Zealand winter holiday. Maybe you haven't strapped on a pair of skis and been to the snow in years — if ever. Or perhaps you haven't enjoyed the thrill of walking along a deserted beach rugged up against the elements and enjoying the power of the crashing surf.
Here are some ideas for short breaks around our beautiful country, from top-to-toe.
If you're not entirely ready to break out the thermals and chains for the car just yet, a holiday in the winterless north could be for you. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds at Paihia is a must-visit for every New Zealander. Here you can visit the excellent Te Rau Aroha museum and Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi; , a carving studio, the historic Treaty House and Te Whare Rūnanga, as well as see traditional Māori waka and enjoy a full programme of tours and cultural performances.
After a morning spent at this historically significant part of Northland, jump on the ferry and make the short journey across to Russell to visit the Duke of Marlborough hotel. This grand old lady has been serving food and drinks from its pretty waterfront location since 1827.
A unique experience in our biggest city is, well, out of the city, on one of the island jewels of the Hauraki Gulf. Waiheke Island, with its laid-back island vibe and world-class wineries, is the best-known with the most creature comforts on offer and is just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. For a more rustic experience consider a few days further afield on beautiful Great Barrier Island accessed via small plane or ferry, or perhaps a long weekend on Rotoroa Island, a former Salvation Army alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre which is now a conservation park.
Central North Island
One of the great things about a mid-winter break at the North Island's ski fields is that you have lots of options when it comes to your home base. Mt Ruapehu's Turoa and Whakapapa ski areas can be easily accessed from Taupō, Ohakune or National Park, with regular shuttle buses available if you want to ditch the car. Whakapapa's Happy Valley is one of the best places in the country to learn to ski or snowboard (or refamiliarise yourself if it's been a few years), while if you'd rather a more leisurely visit to the mountain, be sure to catch a ride on the new gondola. Spectacular at any time of year, the Sky Waka travels 1.8 km over spectacular volcanic terrain to the award-winning Knoll Ridge Chalet, which houses New Zealand's highest cafe.
For many, winter means soaking in therapeutic hot springs, and those at the famous Hanmer Springs alpine resort town, 90 minutes from Christchurch, have been providing relaxation and rejuvenation for people for hundreds of years. Immersing yourself in one of the Hanmer Springs Thermal Resort & Spa's mineral-filled outdoor hot pools after a day on the slopes at the Hanmer Ski Area is guaranteed to ease those aching muscles, or if you're more of an active relaxer, this large complex is also home to hydroslides, a lazy river and other exhilarating play areas.
If rugged coastline, plentiful wildlife, spectacular scenery, wild surf and fascinating small-town New Zealand intrigues you, a road trip through The Catlins will definitely appeal.
Some of the highlights of this remote part of the lower east coast of the South Island, which is tucked in between Balclutha and Invercargill, include the remote lighthouse at Nugget Point, the petrified forest at Curio Bay, the spectacular Purakaunui Falls near Owaka and the blowhole at Jack's Bay, also near Owaka.