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The Top 10 Things to Do in New Zealand in Winter

New Zealand is a great winter destination. While the mountains are spectacular beneath a coat of snow, the roads are usually clear.

On a small group tour, you’ll visit places you never dreamed of, often some of which are not available when travelling alone or in a larger group.

From embracing the snow to staying cozy inside when the weather turns stormy, here are the best things to do in New Zealand in winter:

  • Experience the snow
  • Soak in a hot pool
  • Take in the dramatic scenery
  • Visit a museum
  • Bundle up and enjoy outdoor activities
  • Indulge in a meal to remember
  • Stargaze
  • Get into the “holiday” spirit with Winterfest
  • Find even more ice with a glacier helicopter flight
  • Try the top indoor activities in New Zealand

Read on to learn more about these top things to do in New Zealand in winter.

The Top 10 Things to Do in New Zealand in Winter

1. Experience the snow

snow play, one of the best things to do in New Zealand in winter

Experiencing the snow is one of the best things to do in New Zealand in winter.

Snow rarely falls in towns, so you’ll need to visit a ski field to discover New Zealand’s snowy wonderland.

Skiers will be spoiled for choice with four ski fields to choose between in the Wanaka/Queenstown area, while non-skiers can try tobogganing, snowshoeing, or simply building snowmen at one of the ski resorts’ designated snow play areas.

2. Soak in a hot pool

onsen queenstown
The Onsen Hot Pools in Queenstown

Winter is the time to take advantage of New Zealand’s location on the Ring of Fire.

Geothermal reserves crisscross the country, so you can soak in hot springs everywhere from Rotorua to Hanmer Springs, Hot Water Beach to Lake Tekapo.

Visitors to Queenstown should check out the Onsen Hot Pools, spectacularly perched overlooking the Shotover River. At night, these hot pools are lit with enchanting lanterns.

3. Take time to appreciate the majesty of snow-covered peaks

things to do in mount cook
A winter helicopter flight near Mt Cook

The Southern Alps are never more spectacular than in winter, when their tops are dusted with snow.

Winter is the perfect time to schedule a road trip around the South Island.

Some of the most scenic drives include the Mackenzie Basin from Christchurch to Queenstown (with a side trip to Mt Cook Village), the Arthur’s Pass highway, the Milford Road from Te Anau to Milford Sound, and the lakeside road from Queenstown to Glenorchy.

4. Escape the cold with a museum visit

Cold, rainy days in winter are the perfect excuse to visit New Zealand’s excellent museums.

Don’t miss Te Papa in Wellington, Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

5. Enjoy most outdoor activities–just with more layers

Dart River wilderness jet safari, Queenstown, New Zealand
Riding the Dart River Wilderness Jet in winter

Only a few activities close for winter, so you can still enjoy a huge range of outdoor sports and adrenaline adventures–just be sure to layer up!

A few of the activities still available in winter include jet-boating, rafting, skydiving, bungy jumping, hiking (on select trails), kayaking, whale watching, and ziplining.

Many activity operators provide extra layers to keep you comfortable in icy temperatures, though you will want to come prepared.

6. Indulge in a meal to remember

things to do in queenstown
Enjoying a winter meal at Walter Peak High Country Farm

Winter is the perfect time for a leisurely meal in an unforgettable location.

Dine at the top of the Skyline Gondola, indulge in a gourmet BBQ dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm, or feast like a hobbit on the Hobbiton Movie Set’s Evening Banquet Tour.

7. Stargaze

lake tekapo stargazing
Lake Tekapo Stargazing

With long nights and clear skies, winter is the perfect time for stargazing.

New Zealand boasts some of the world’s clearest skies. The Mackenzie Basin, a designated Dark Sky Reserve, is the country’s most famous stargazing location; however, you can also admire the night sky through telescopes from the top of Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola and from Cardrona Alpine Resort.

8. Get into the “holiday” spirit with Winterfest

winterfest in Queenstown
Winterfest celebrations in Queenstown

Winterfest, a celebration held in Queenstown each June, has a distinctly Christmas-like vibe.

Enjoy the live music, the holiday lights, and the events at this enchanting festival.

9. Experience even more ice

fox glacier heli hike
Fox Glacier Heli Hike

Ramp up your winter experience with an ice-filled excursion.

Check out the ice bars in Queenstown, experience the extreme conditions of the South Pole at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, or book a helicopter trip with a glacier landing to see New Zealand’s most incredible ice up close.

10. Tick off the top indoor activities in New Zealand

Though the country is most famous for its outdoor sites, New Zealand has plenty of indoor activities to keep you entertained when the weather turns foul in winter.

Top indoor activities include Puzzling World (Wanaka), Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium (Auckland), the International Antarctic Centre (Christchurch), and a long list of options in Queenstown that range from indoor skydiving to an indoor mini golf course.

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