In our recent competition, we asked for your best memories of winter mini-breaks in New Zealand. Here are some of our favourites ...
Queenstown with my children and it was snowing. Stayed at Millenium went on jet boat and Earnslaw.
The winter solstice is a very special time for us. On this date four years ago, my husband, John, underwent major surgery to save his life from aggressive cancer. Last year, to celebrate, I organised a mystery weekend. We drove to Te Aroha — a lovely little Waikato town at the foot of the Kaimai Ranges. Our accommodation was a tiny converted milking shed vat room, on a farm just out of town. We checked out the clever sculptures in the main street, visited the museum and information centre for trail maps, then went exploring — the Howarth Memorial Wetlands on the flat and the trails and old gold-mining and relics in the hills, followed by a welcome soak in the Te Aroha Mineral Spa, then dinner at a local restaurant. It was a wonderful winter mini-break to celebrate life and love. John's six-monthly checks are still clear, so we hope to be able to celebrate many more.
Annette Orchard (Annette was the winner of the $2200 prize pack, courtesy of Accorhotels.com)
Climbing the Franz Josef glacier experiencing NZ at its finest, seeing colours I have never seen in the natural world before. Overcoming a fear of climbing through the crevices because the natural wonder took over from all other emotions.
Trapped in the Queenstown camping ground in winter in a campervan with husband and two mini teens. All roads were closed with snow. It was the kids' first real experience of falling snow. It was everywhere. We had cold but happy family snow ball fights, snow on tongues, snowmen . . . camping in the middle of winter? What were we thinking. It was still the best bonding family holiday that kids always talk about.
A throwaway comment about needing a break lead to my partner and I dropping everything, jumping into the car, and driving down to Taupo on a whim. No bags, no plans, no destination — just the two of us, enjoying each other's company, with nothing to do except explore the country we both love. It was like being lovesick teenagers all over again — giggling, bad jokes, held hands, and those lingering gazes that are so cloyingly sweet when seen done by others but so intoxicating when engaged in yourself. We slept under the stars, saw the sights, and headed home the following afternoon. And never told anyone about it. A perfect shared secret for a perfect shared moment away.
Dunedin with our children and their partners, plus our four grandchildren to celebrate their Grandma's 100th birthday. We rented a house on top of the hill for the 10 of us. We felt literally on top of the world. But the highlight was getting together with our Dunedin whanau — all the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren gathered in one spot for the special day. The outing in a helicopter with Grandma and the stunning views over Dunedin and Larnach Castle are unique memories we will cherish forever.
The drive between Franz Josef and Queenstown is magnificent. All in a day you can see glaciers, glow worms, stop in Haast for whitebait fritters, see waterfalls, mountains and the bluest lakes before visiting the iconic Cardrona pub and heading over the Crowne Range into stunning Queenstown. Wow.
My favourite memory of a winter mini break was in Ohakune in 2017. A once-in-16-years storm hit and we were snowed in for three days and with no power for two of those days. The chalets we were staying in only had electricity and we were so cold. So we set out on foot — a family of eight trudging through the deep snow to find somebody with a fire. We found a restaurant in the township with a roaring fire and with our last dollars the kids shared a bowl of spaghetti and the adults a G&T. Lots of locals called in to share the fire and we had a great day playing board games and getting to know the locals and fellow tourists. The next day we had a snowman competition. Needless to say we never got up the mountain to ski and would only consider skiing in the South Island from now on.
My partner and I, along with my sister and brother-in-law, booked the Tranz Alpine and had a fabulous three-day mini break in Greymouth last winter. We visited the pancake rocks at Punakaiki, enjoyed a beer in front of the fire at the local alehouse, wandered around the local markets in Hokitika, got blown along pebble-littered beaches and relaxed in the hot pools at Franz Josef after a brisk walk to see the glacier. But my favourite part was the milky blue water and swing bridge we came across — an unexpected find, but it was beautiful.
Hammer Hot Springs and the trip to get there with my son. Why was it so special? He was seriously injured in a car accident, not expected to live but he survived. I refused to put him in care, choosing to bring my brain-injured son home and I rehabilitated him myself, a long, hard, heart-breaking experience. It was a sustained effort, which broke the bank, my heart, my soul and faith in systems that I had thought cared. We saw results, albeit slowly. Eighteen years later we enjoyed each other's company in Hanmer, lapping up the waters we love so well, enjoying the scenery walking the tracks, playing (cheating) crazy golf and indulging in some fabulous food. Also taking time to check out Kaikoura en route for we had not been there since the earthquake and amazed at the impressive work done on the roads and changes in sea. Never did I think this day would eventuate, enjoying each other's company as once used to do despite me never giving up HOPE (Helping Other Possibilities Emerge).
First time ever in the South Island with my husband for a week. It was 40th birthday present from my husband (and myself) a few years ago. We went to many places but one amazing memory was Milford Sound. Have never seen anything so beautiful and magical in my life and I have travelled a lot. I was half expecting dinosaurs to peek out of the Sound. The boat cruise was just wonderful and worth the super-early get-up time to drive from Te Anau. I will never forget that day and have told so many friends and family to add it to their bucket list and would just love to go back child-free again and explore more.
I proposed to my partner while we had a winter mini break in Greytown, Wairarapa. I had arranged with a local restaurant to have a delicious meal, giving me the opportunity to escape and get ready. We then went to a Christmas tree farm, where I had a natural aisle of Christmas trees decorated to achieve a wonderful effect. Each tree had pictures of us as a couple and our memories. It was wonderful to see everyone who helped us the next day, as well as getting to relax in the town.
Spoiling ourselves by staying at The Chateau and teaching the kids how to ski at Whakapapa Mt Ruapehu. Sitting by the roaring fire with a large wine after a long wonderful day. Bliss.
Tramping in Te Anau in June last year. Amazing views, and even better company. Hiked to the first hut on the Kepler, cooked steak and mushrooms and had a stunning view to ourselves. A week down south was a great escape.
Family escape to Tekapo with kids and grandad. Took a helicopter ride up to Tasman Glacier — a mind-blowing experience.