Whether you want to toast marshmallows around an open campfire, or toast each other with a glass of scotch in front of a grand fireplace, here are the best spots — from luxury lodges, to restaurants, to family campgrounds — to feel the heat this winter.
Wairua Lodge Rainforest River Retreat
A short drive inland from Whitianga on the 309 Road, Wairua Lodge offers rooms and apartments within the Coromandel's lush rainforest environment. In 2020, it was named TripAdvisor's best B&B in the South Pacific, in part owing to its amenities such as the outdoor fire pit. If you're sitting fireside and can manage to pull your gaze away from the belly of the beast for long enough, you'll notice you're not alone: Watching over the space is a 2.3m-tall macrocarpa and whalebone carving of He Uri o Mahuika, the Māori goddess of fire. Rooms start at $225 per night.
Russell-Orongo Bay Holiday Park
Even in the winterless north, the cooler months call for campfires. At the Russell-Orongo Bay Holiday Park — midway past the ferry docks on route to the historic township — you'll find a rustic bonfire spot designed for family gatherings. Start your night by making pizza in the wood-fired oven, and ended it with marshmallows roasted over the fire.
If there's one thing you can count on in an alpine village, it's that it'll manage to effortlessly create a cosy apres-ski ambience. The ski resort town of Ohakune doesn't disappoint, with restaurants — including the Powderkeg Restaurant & Bar — warming things up with an open fire. Our pick for the best hygge vibes in town? Head over to the Craft Haus in Ohakune's heritage railway station. There, you'll find locally designed merino clothing, displayed beside the hearth.
It's only the start of the winter season, but chances are you've already heard at least one person gripe about how antiquated New Zealand homes are when it comes to heating. That may be true but they don't at all compare to homes of yesteryear — like the fire-heated Totara Estate just outside Ōamaru. Not only will you learn more about domestic and farm life during Victorian times, a visit might just help renew your love for your heat pump. The entry fee is $10 for adults, and visits must be arranged in advance from June to August.
The Free House
Yes, even in Nelson, one of New Zealand's sunniest areas, it gets cool during winter. The best place to warm up from both outside and within is beside the fire at The Free House, a pub in what was formerly the city's Reformed church. If you don't manage to score an indoor seat, don't sweat; the outdoor tables and chairs are heated by warming pipes, which will keep you toasty warm.
Emberz Restaurant and Bar
After reading the name of this restaurant, there should be little confusion about what's contained within. Named after its grand fireplace, the fine-dining Emberz Restaurant and Bar — within the Ascot Park Hotel — may just be the "hottest" place for a drink or meal in Invercargill.
Secret Spot Hot Tubs
After nearly two years in operation, Rotorua's Secret Spot Hot Tubs is no longer a secret. During the summer, the local favourite is the go-to spot for an after-bike bevvie and a "shinny dip". But what you may not know is that during the winter, it embodies the best of Europe's Christmas markets, with mulled wine and hot cocoa offered beside an outdoor fire.
Dawson Falls Mountain Lodge
A traditional mountain lodge in Egmont National Park, Dawson Mountain Falls sits on the southeastern slopes of Maunga Taranaki at an elevation of 905m. Spend your days exploring the goblin forest, then warm up at night next to the guest lounge's fire with a nip of whisky at hand. Rooms start at $110 per night.
Hobbiton Movie Set
In the NZ tourism industry, some are arguing that it's time to put an end to resting on our Lord of the Rings laurels. But we'd argue that it's now — when the country minus international tourists — that we should truly revel in it. There's no better way to do that than by visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set and enjoying an apple cider beside the Green Dragon Inn's roaring fire. Tours start at $89 for adults and $44 for those aged 9 to 16.
Whakatā Massage and Wellness
Don't have the time to devote to a weekend-long retreat? Te Anau's Whakatā Massage and Wellness caters to the time-strapped with three-hour retreat packages on Fridays and Saturdays. After a massage and use of the private spa, participants retire to the outdoor fire area to share a grazing platter. Packages for groups of up to six begin at $100 per person.