It's no secret us Kiwis love a good hot summer. The kind full of barbecue dinners, lazy beach days and wandering around in nothing but togs and jandals. So, when the temperature plummets and the rain settles in, we pack our bags and head to warmer climates. But if family, budget or work means an overseas holiday is off the cards, here are some wintery stay-cations that make the most out of our own backyard.
St Bathans, Central Otago
Once a bustling mining settlement nestled at the foot of the Dunstan Mountains, the Central Otago town of St Bathans boasts a population of almost 10 residents, a few hotel-haunting ghosts and travellers looking to get well and truly off the grid. A 25km detour from the Otago Rail Trail and not much else, the town's historic Vulcan Hotel is the perfect spot to enjoy a quiet weekend of red wine and good books. And for those fancying a little activity between the slow mornings and cosy dinners, you can take in stunning views of the Blue Lakes on a short and sweet 2km walking trail.
Karikari Peninsula, Northland
For those who want to staycation in style then head north and just keep driving till you hit Karikari Peninsula, home of the luxurious Carrington Estate. Whether your ideal holiday involves white-tablecloth restaurants, tasting the country's best wines, playing on a championship 18-hole golf course or chilling in a hot-tub, the palatial estate has you covered. Want to stay closer to nature? Then take in sweeping ocean views from Whatuwhiwhi Holiday Park's cabins before heading down to Karikari beach for an icy cold dip or one of those classic winter walks along the white sandy coast. And when the best fish and chips in NZ is just a quick drive away in Mangonui, you'd be rude not to stop by.
The TranzAlpine, South Island
If you didn't know, New Zealand is home to one of the world's most scenic railway journeys, you're not alone. Yet the TranzAlpine Railway, which takes passengers on a one of a kind journey from Christchurch to Greymouth boasts some of the best views the South Island has to offer. Starting in New Zealand's oldest city, you'll be whisked past the vast farmland of the Canterbury Plains and around the winding Waimakariri River before chugging through the snow-dusted Southern Alps to the wild West Coast. Just over 223 kilometres long, the trip comes with audio commentary and open-air viewing carriages so you don't miss a breath-taking (or Instagram-worthy) moment. Want to make the most of the trip? Leave a few days either side to explore the vibrant city of Christchurch and continue up the rugged West Coast from Greymouth.
Matakana, North Auckland
With infamous farmers markets, alfresco restaurants and top-notch cafes, summer days at Matakana are arguably Auckland's worst kept secret. But you can bet in winter this township shakes some of its crowds without losing any of its charms. Just 50 minutes from the city, Matakana is the ideal spot to escape to with friends and live out your provincial French fantasy complete with quaint cottages, artisan markets and rolling country hills. Eat and drink your way around the region's local wineries, fill your lungs with brisk ocean air walking along Tawharanui beach, check out the aforementioned farmers market before returning to a boutique accommodation armed with Earl Grey tea and a well-intentioned stack of books you'll never end up reading. Idyllic.
Port Waikato, Waikato
Port Waikato, or 'The Port' as locals call it, might be an hour's drive from Auckland but feels worlds away from the big city rush. Close enough to warrant a weekend trip but far enough to evade the international tourists, you're guaranteed to share this quintessential coastal town with only a handful of residents and surfers who come for the best break in the north. Take your pick from all-inclusive B&Bs, rented baches, surf lodges or, if you're feeling adventurous, the Port Waikato camping grounds. If the ideal get-away involves reading, eating and taking the odd break to walk Sunset Beach or around Vivian Falls, then Port Waikato is your port of call.
Wanaka, Central Otago
When it comes to winter, no one does it quite like Wanaka. Sleepier than glitzy Queenstown but more happening than the tiny towns of Central Otago, Wanaka has a little bit of everything for everyone. With jet boating, and scenic flights for the thrill-seekers, award-winning vineyards and restaurants for the foodies and golden, rugged horizons that beg to be driven through, this South Island gem certainly doesn't disappoint no matter what you're in the mood for. Rent a caravan and set up camp at the Albert Town Campground or invest in a cosy lakeside apartment with sweeping views of Wakatipu.