7 Mistakes You’re Probably Making During a Winter Trip to New Zealand

new zealand travel tips

New Zealand has long been a favourite destination for Aussies during winter, for good reason. The country is just a three-hour flight from many cities in Aus. It offers relatively affordable skiing and snowboarding. And it has some of the world’s most untouched natural landscapes.

Still, despite New Zealand’s popularity as a winter holiday spot, many of us make mistakes when we book and visit. We’re unaware of the sheer number of things you can do and see there, and the best ways to do them, and so we’re missing out.

I’m here to help. As someone who’s been to New Zealand four times in winter so far (three times on press trips and once for a personal holiday), ahead, I’m sharing all the mistakes I made in New Zealand and what I wish I’d done instead.

Thinking It Might Be Too Cold to Spend Time Outdoors

I’ve never skied or snowboarded in New Zealand, though I’ve had countless friends who have and loved it. What I didn’t know about New Zealand, though, is that there’s plenty else to do outdoors in winter instead.

I’ve donned a wetsuit complete with gloves, a head mask and sock feet to swim with wild dolphins in Kaikōura. I’ve biked along a section of the Otago Central Rail Trail. And soaked in the smelly, but soul-soothing Wai Ariki Hot Pools in Rotorua.

Image: Getty Images

You can also hike at Tasman Glacier in Aoraki or Fox Glacier or Franz-Josef Glacier on the West Coast. Tasman’s Great Taste Trail and Lake Dunstan Trail are other cycle trails to consider.

Only Considering Day Activities

I never considered New Zealand’s night-time activities — only thinking about what I’d do during the day. But the country offers some of the world’s best stargazing. There are just 17 Dark Sky Reserves in the world and New Zealand is home to five.

You can also book night skiing or snowboarding at many slopes, which will see you zipping down floodlit, crowd-free trails, capping off your night with a DJ set and drinks around a fire.

New Zealand is also home to more than a handful of fine dining restaurants you can visit, including The Lindis Black Diamond Experience in Canterbury, Ayrburn in Queenstown and Mapu Kitchen in Christchurch.

Not Planning Your Trip Fully in Advance  

Sure, it’s great when travelling to spend your days wandering. And while you can do that in New Zealand, seeing what you stumble on, to best experience it — particularly if it’s your first time there — plan ahead.

Research and map out the places you want to visit and book the experiences you want to do. It takes about 30 hours to drive from the top of New Zealand to the bottom, which includes the car ferry you’d need to take between Wellington and Picton, which lasts four hours.

All this is to say the country is vast and if you want to get a good feel for it, it’s best you plan and book ahead.

Not Visiting Multiple Cities or Towns

This brings me to my next NZ winter travel mistake: not visiting multiple cities and towns. The biggest cities in the country, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton and Tauranga, are all worth a visit, as are its smaller cities Napier, Dunedin and Whangārei.

The easiest way to maximise your time in New Zealand is to rent a car or book a group tour. And, if you’re planning to move between North Island and South Island and want to save time, consider booking a flight.

Only Considering Hiring a Campervan or Car

Finally, when I used to think of exploring New Zealand, I immediately thought of a campervan. And while seeing the country by campervan or car is a great option (I’ve done it by car), you should consider other transport options.

Coastal Pacific Train Great Journeys
Image: Getty Images

You might want to take a train, like the TranzAlpine, which connects Christchurch to Greymouth, or the Northern Explorer, which connects Auckland to Wellington. We wrote all about New Zealand train travel here.

Or you could book one of the many ferries that connect the North Island to South Island across the Cook Strait. Two popular options are Bluebridge and Interislander. Auckland also has a few ferry options, which will take you to its islands, including winery-laden Waiheke.

Related: Bring Your Camera for These 10 Most Scenic Spots in New Zealand

Related: 7 National Parks in New Zealand That Will Leave You Speechless

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