We did our big road trip from North to South island during winter in New Zealand. The whole month of August 2018, to be exact. Which is the last month of winter in New Zealand.
Here’s what we found during that trip:
10 Things nobody tells you about travelling in New Zealand during the winter
- There are still cherry blossoms and autumn colors. And not all the trees are completely bare. Some of the naked trees are even a shade of mauve or orange. There are many yellow flowers in huge quantities at times. (e.g. the drive from the Bay of Plenty to Wellington). This is New Zealand, it’s beautiful whatever the season.
- You seldom have to make early bookings for anything. Except for the ski towns like Queenstown and Wanaka. Especially if you don’t want to miss out on the affordable cozy AirBnBs out there!
- Still have to arrive early (before 4pm) to save a spot at popular free overnight carparks though.
- Plans can change because of gloomy weather. Be prepared to be flexible with your travel schedule. We weren’t able to sacrifice a few more days in the Franz Josef area and so missed out on seeing Lake Matheson on a clear day with little wind.
- Sunny, warm days are rare but they exist in between spells of rainy/cloudy days. Have a pair of sunglasses ready for long drives.
- There are a lot of rainy days in North Island which means mud. Some forest trails (e.g. like Te Mata Peak) can become mucky. Allow more time if you want to do some hiking, or tramping as they call it.
- If travelling for more than a week, it is cheaper to buy them than to hire snow chains when going through the alpine passes or up to ski resorts. If you rent a car, get snow chains from the same company.
- Sleeping in a car is cozier than it looks. A thick quilt, a fleece blanket and a hot water bottle might be all you need if you sleep in your thermals. Pull back the curtains on a clear night to have a great view of the milky way and loads of stars.
- Lookout for winter deals on bookme.nz or groupon.nz – e.g. Franz Josef heli hike, Kathmandu winter sales, hot spring pool entry fees, the hot water beach Top 10 holiday park, etc
- And best of all, LESS tourists. We hardly (almost never) have to queue for anything. There are still tourist buses in Milford Sound and Mt Cook area but those places are a must-see so it’s to be expected. There are other perks too. Our cruise boat to Milford Sound was only half full. We could change our cruise date easily on the day itself with no extra charge. And the lady who served us during our wine tasting in Napier could take her time to explain the differences between the wines and even offer us an extra two samples.
Although winter may not be the optimum time to see all the beauty New Zealand has to offer, there are less tourists. And that can be a game changer. There are winter discounts to take advantage of too. But it helps to stay in New Zealand for a longer period so you can wait out the worst that the weather can bring. Check out our guide on getting a working holiday visa or visitor visa for New Zealand.
Which season are you planning to explore New Zealand in? Leave a comment below.
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