Landscapes and Nature Becomes More Spectacular
New Zealand loves to put on a perfect show in winter. The snow covers the mountains and the weather empowers the glaciers to look even prettier than they normally do.
Also, the lack of tourist definitely makes the landscapes more picturesque. Having recently returned from a trip to the South Island and one day drover to Mount Aspiring National Park. We found very few others along the way and was surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains, running rivers and plenty of sheep, stopping on multiple occasions to take in the barren yet beautiful scenery and it felt like a real escape to the middle of nowhere.
Hiking Trails are Quieter
New Zealand hosts some of the most beautiful walks in the world like the Milford track or Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Because New Zealand is home to many of these wonderful hikes, it can get very busy in summer.
Whilst these great walks really need to be done in season, from late October – May, unless you are an advanced hiker, there are lots of other fantastic day walks you can enjoy without the usual summer crowds: Cape Brett in the Bay of Islands, The Blue Springs near Putaruru, or Hooker Valley Hike near Mount Cook Aoraki.
Wildlife is Plentiful
New Zealand has incredible wildlife to experience all year round but in winter you are going to be far more amazed. You are more likely to see humpback whales in June and July and even more dolphins than usual. Also, in winter the royal albatross arrives on the Otago Peninsula, home to the only mainland breeding colony in the southern hemisphere. Along with this you will see yellow-eyed penguin chicks making their first ventures along the beach.
Availability can always be a deal breaker for many trips, and I am not just talking about hotel availability. There are also excursions, guides, hiking trails and even restaurant reservations and car hires tend to book up that you are left with over prices expensive options. In winter however you are more likely to find that your ideal dates will work, things will be less expensive than normal and amazing bucket list experiences like the Trans Alpine or the wildlife cruises in Kaikoura will be more likely to be available.
Winter is Magical
New Zealand in winter is absolutely magical, yes, the cold can be extreme, but the wild nature and snow-capped mountains come to life and make those landscapes more epic than usual. Summer tends to send the warmest weather and makes hiking much less enjoyable and on occasion more rain than we have seen in recent winters. I also think back to my recent trip to Queenstown, where we were drinking hot mulled wine by a fire with perfect views of the mountains and Lake Wakatipu. This was the perfect setting for a winter escape in New Zealand.