When winter hits, you have two options: flee for the tropics or tough it out here under the long white cloud.

The islands may sing a siren song of seductively swaying palm trees and coconutty cocktails but there are plenty of fantastic options right here on our own back door if you're looking for a mid-winter getaway to offset that seasonal affective disorder.

Whether you want to hibernate in luxury or head into the great outdoors to see some spectacular scenery, here are 10 of our favourite spots inside New Zealand.

1. St Bathans, Central Otago


This may well be the hidden treasure of Central Otago. St Bathans, with its vast population of about five, sits at the foot of the Dunstan mountains northwest of Naseby. The town was born out of the gold mining operations that once covered this part of the country, but now it is truly a place to tune out.

It's popular with cyclists travelling the region's rail trail, which passes near, though not through, the town. It's situated next to the stunning Blue Lake, which has an easy 2km walking track around it and is surrounded by an almost eerie rocky landscape caused by a mixture of mining and the minerals within the rock.

St Bathans is the perfect spot from which to explore further afield in Central Otago or to simply hole up with a good book and a bottle of pinot.

There are several accommodation options, all in original town buildings. The most traditional is the Vulcan hotel, complete with requisite ghost. The others worth checking out are the Constables Cottage and Gaol. The cottage sleeps six but if there's just the two of you, try the gaol, which as the name suggests is a surprisingly cosy converted cell.

Need to know more? www.stbathansnz.co.nz; www.maniototo.co.nz/stbathans
2. Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel, Waikato

Country hotels don't come better built for winter than Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel, a picturesque 1.5 hours' drive south of Auckland. Built in the 1880s, this is the perfect way to celebrate cold weather — think open fires, lounges, piano and books.

It's all set in hectares of parkland with a pretty little golf course and tennis courts for the energetic, a lively bar and terrace for afternoon drinks and a formal dining room for dinner and the cooked breakfasts that are included in the room rate.

But the real star here is one of the prettiest natural hot spring pools you're likely to encounter. Behind tin sheds but open to the sky and surrounding bush, the largest of Okoroire's three hot pools can easily fit 30 friends. The roar of the river beside the springs provides the ambient music and on a quiet night, your $5 entry fee seems to last for hours.


Splendidly located 40 minutes south of Hamilton, Okoroire has been a winter getaway favourite for 120 years and it's proud of its Kiwiana atmosphere.

Need to know more? www.okohotel.co.nz
3. Carrington Resort, Northland

This is one for those who really need some luxury — and possibly golf balls — in their winter escape. Carrington has villa and lodge accommodation available on a sprawling 1200ha of Karikari Peninsula, as well as a championship 18-hole golf course, skeet-shooting range, fine dining, a vineyard and winery and the all-important hot-tub. What's not to like? But wait, there's more.

The resort also sits near the whites sands of Karikari beach, and while winter may not be the time for a swim, it's a beautiful spot to walk on a balmy Northland day. If you're in hibernation mode though, there's a library, billiards room and lounges indoors.

And to keep your feet on the ground, it's just a short drive (or boat trip) down the coast to Mangonui and New Zealand's best fish and chips.

Need to know more? www.carrington.co.nz
4. The TranzAlpine, South Island


This spectacular rail journey from coast to coast — Christchurch to Greymouth — in the South Island is rated one of the world's most scenic rail journeys. And, winding as it does through the Southern Alps, this 4-hour rail trip is at its most spectacular during winter.

First the train takes you past fields of Canterbury Plains farmland, followed closely by the waterways and gorges of Waimakariri River before climbing into the snow-capped alps. After that it's all downhill through beech rainforest to Greymouth.

The train also has an open-air viewing carriage allowing passengers to photograph the impressive scenery.

If you're looking for gorgeous, stylish accommodation at either end try the George Hotel in Christchurch, or the Ashley in Greymouth.

Need to know more? www.tranzscenic.co.nz/services/tranzalpine; www.thegeorge.com; www.hotelashley.co.nz
5. The Bayview Chateau Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu

The grand old lady of New Zealand luxury hotels, the Chateau sits nestled at the foot of Mt Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park. The neo-Georgian building has more than 100 hotel rooms — and there are now separate motel units sitting on the site.


But let's talk a little more about that location.

With Whakapapa skifield just a short drive up the mountain behind you, the Chateau's blazing fires and glittering chandeliers provide the perfect backdrop for a little apres-ski relaxation and warming up. Of course, the park offers plenty for walkers, climbers and fisherman as well.

If indoors is more your pace there's a sauna and hot plunge pool as well as a cinema. Sorted.

Need to know more? www.chateau.co.nz
6. Matakana, north of Auckland

Aucklanders flock to the delights of Matakana in summer, drawn by the nearby beaches, and alfresco dining. But this picturesque settlement, 50 minutes out of the city, also makes a perfect winter escape.

There's a vast array of boutique accommodation options in and around the region; the farmers market held every Saturday is a mecca for lovers of fresh and artisan produce; the kids can still blow off steam along the beach and uncover the wildlife found in and around rockpools; and food in those cafes tastes as good eaten indoors as out.


You can make the rounds of local wineries, which include Ascension, Hyperion and Brick Bay among many others, or walk the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail, a 2km ever-changing trail of art works by emerging and established New Zealand artists. A great way to spend a wintry afternoon, followed, of course by a glass of something nice at the adjoining vineyard.

Need to know more? www.matakanacoast.com
7. Rotorua, Bay of Plenty

When it comes to warming up it's hard to go past Rotorua's iconic Polynesian Pools. The complex in the heart of Rotorua is made up of 26 different mineral pools, ranging from the deluxe spa option overlooking Lake Rotorua to adult pools, kids' pools and private pools.

There's also a gorgeous spa facility which offers a luxurious range of treatments making the most of Rotorua's mineral-packed mud and other local ingredients such as manuka honey.

Of course, you could also keep warm in Rotorua with a little adrenalin-pumping bungy, a luge ride or the Schweeb pedal-powered monorail. Madness.

The city has a vast array of accommodation options, from the luxury of The Lodge on the shores of Lake Tarawera, or Peppers on the Point, to the more mid-range hotels such as Rydges Rotorua. There are also plenty of backpackers hostels and B&Bs.


Need to know more? www.rotoruanz.co.nz
8. Port Waikato, Waikato

Wrapping up warmly and tramping the sand dunes of Port Waikato is a mighty good way to clear the head in mid-winter. The Port, as locals call it, is a mere hour's drive south of Auckland, and is another small, unspoilt location that embraces its Kiwiana.

The town, situated where the Waikato River hits the Tasman Sea, is a popular spot for surfers year round, but if you've left your winter wetsuit behind, this is a gorgeous place to simply while away a couple of days doing very little.

There are a couple of B&Bs, a surf lodge and a camping ground here but for more options your best bet is to try online for a bach to rent for a few days.

Need to know more? www.portwaikato.com; www.holidayhouses.co.nz
9. Hawke's Bay, North Island

It was a toss-up here in a bid to keep the foodies and wine-lovers happy — Hawke's Bay or Martinborough. The Bay just because it's possibly a smidgen warmer in mid-winter, although a rush of complaints from Martinborough fans is expected at any moment. The solution could well be to do both, as they're a mere 2 1/2-hour drive apart. In the meantime let's stick to the Bay with its combination of gorgeous art deco Napier, pretty Hastings, and even prettier Havelock North.


The region is home to one of the country's biggest farmers' markets and, of course, some of its best-known, most successful wine producers. There is a huge number of operators offering winery tours but wine maps are available everywhere - find some poor teetotaller to be your driver and wander around them at your own pace. In the food stakes be sure to visit Telegraph Hill Olivery, Te Mata Cheese Company, St Andrews Limes and Rush Munro's Ice Cream Garden.

If you head to Napier in July, you'll find it in full swing hosting the Deco Decanted Festival. The festival, the second and smaller of the city's art deco events, includes parades, tours, concerts and dinners all celebrating the city's architecture.

Need to know more? www.hawkesbaynz.co.nz; www.artdeconapier.com/decanted
10. Wanaka, Central Otago

Let's finish where we started — Central Otago, the region that does a New Zealand winter better than anywhere.

Yes it can be eye-wateringly cold, but Wanaka, like much of Central, specialises in those still, clear, frosty days that are the best thing about the season.

With four ski and snowboard resorts — Treble Cone, Cardrona, Snow Farm and Snow Park — and Mt Aspiring National Park within easy distance, Wanaka is a playground for the adventurous. Yet it retains some of the small-town charm that is harder to find in its flashier neighbour, Queenstown.


The scenery is breathtaking, and even if snow sports aren't your thing, there's plenty to do — take the kids to the surprisingly fun Puzzling World or the Treble Cone Basecamp mountain adventure centre; try jet-boating or trout-fishing; take a scenic flight or a horse trek. The options are endless.

Need to know more? www.lakewanaka.co.nz or www.wanaka.com

- Detours, HoS