Brrrrr, Winter is coming. Although some will shy away from the prospect of minus temperatures, we welcome them. Packing up the van, throwing in an additional blanket, and stocking up the tea cupboard is an ideal situation for me. Hailing from the north of England, the cold doesn’t bother me. It makes me feel at home.
The Jayco JRV is an all-year-round campervan. Fitted with a diesel heater, window shades that keep in the heat, and a large comfy bed covered in blankets ensure we are cosy, warm, and ready for adventure at any time of the year.
Winter in New Zealand is magic. The snow falls, the vibes are high, and lucky for us, snowboarding and camping are two of our favourite activities, and during four months of the year, we have the chance to combine the two. Let me take you on a tiki tour around the South Island and show you some of my favourite winter escapes here in New Zealand.
Mount Cook National Park
After my Jayco JRV, Aoraki is my first love. The mountains, the scenery, and the atmosphere of this national park captivated me from the moment I stepped foot here and has me coming back for more and more… and more. The White Horse campground is a DOC campsite, and at just $15 per adult per night, it is an ABSOLUTE steal! Did you know that Aoraki Mount Cook is a dark sky reserve? This means zero light pollution and the chance to see millions of stars blanketing the sky. Popular day hikes include the Hooker Valley Track, and Sealy Tarns, and I highly recommend the lesser-known Red Tarns for panoramic views over the mountains.
Neighbouring Mount Cook National Park, nestled in the Mackenzie Country, is the sleepy lakeside town of Tekapo. The town is blanketed with snow in Winter, and the local ski club fields farewell from enthusiastic off-piste locals. Take short walks or hike up to the St John Observatory for an evening of stargazing and to top it off, soak your troubles away in the popular Tekapo Springs, hot pools with a view. Some use Tekapo as a pit stop, and some are wise enough to stick around for a few days and experience the delights on offer.
World-renowned for its Kai Moana (seafood) incredible scenery and diverse landscape, Kaikōura is the perfect winter escape. With fewer crowds, the town slows down but never stops. Explore the ocean on a kayak tour with Kaikōura Kayaks or jump on a whale-watching cruise searching for sperm and humpback whales. If you are a keen hiker, a mission up to the Mount Fyffe summit is perfect as a return day hike or a spend a wintery night in the Mount Fyffe hut.
Fiordland National Park / Lake Te Anau
Lake Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland National Park and if you have a few days, feel free to hang around and soak in the beauty of the place. The locals are friendly, the food is good, and the adventures are never-ending, even in Winter. Doubtful Sound to your left and Milford Sound to your right… the question is, which one? If you have the chance to do both, you should seize that opportunity, if not, Milford Sound is accessible by road, and if you are travelling in a campervan, then a night at the Milford Sound Lodge is an absolute must-do. The best way to see the Fiord, is by boat, so jump on a cruise from the terminal and explore the Tasman Sea.
Did you winter in New Zealand if you didn’t go to Queenstown? The home of adrenaline sports, four epic ski areas, and snow-capped mountains for as far as the eye can see. Take a hike up Queenstown Hill for 360-degree views of the lake and town below and if you are a keen ski bunny, book yourself in for a full day of mountain fun at The Remarkables. We love, love, love Queenstown in Winter and let me tell you something, you are never far from your next adventure.
Abel Tasman National Park
We get it. It’s cold, the temps are dropping, and you are searching for a little bit of sunshine on the south island. You can’t go wrong with a trip to the tropical paradise of the Abel Tasman national park. Nestled in the northwest corner of the South Island, Abel Tasman did an excellent job discovering (and naming) this haven after himself. Long white sandy beaches, glistening blue waters, and a plethora of activity on land and sea await. We love staying at The Barn at the national park border, an excellent base for kayaking and hiking.
Have you heard of Methven? Probably not. This town is again ski-related… are you noticing a theme here? West of Christchurch and on the inland route, you will find Methven. Home to the Mount Hutt ski area and a fair few pubs to help you sink the après vibes, Methven is a sweet little mountain escape. Pull up on the campground, jump on the shuttle bus, and relax in the peace of this town. Brand new Ōpuke Thermal Pools have just arrived, and they look like the dreamiest way to end your day on the hill.
Have we piqued your interest in a little winter escape? Where will you head first?