Secret’s out, the world’s best winter holiday is only a short flight away. Just over the Tasman, you’ll find fresh powder to shred, idyllic hot pools, gourmet eats and luxury retreats.
Together with 100% Pure New Zealand, we’ve curated the wanderluster’s guide to making the most of winter across some of our favourite snow-capped regions: Queenstown, Wanaka, Mount Hutt and Mount Ruapehu. So take your pick and pack your bags, it’s time to migrate to the Kiwi slopes.
Queenstown boasts a bustling ski-scene with world-class slopes, adrenaline pumping activities and an electric nightlife—here are our top picks from the adventure capital of the world.
Shred The Slopes
Queenstown has an abundance of powdery slopes to suit every ski level. Just 20 minutes from town you’ll find Coronet Peak, a snow-capped scene complete with breathtaking views and epic runs. It’s also open for night skiing, so you can meander down floodlit trails to the backdrop of killer sunsets and DJ sounds. Further out is The Remarkables, which offers up seven trails and three terrain parks, with an even split between beginner, intermediate and advanced courses. Both resorts are well-equipped with instructors, eateries and hire facilities, making your day up the mountain a breeze.
Adrenaline Junkies Must Explore By Helicopter
Scenery-seekers should not miss the once-in-a-lifetime chance to explore a glacier by helicopter. Taking off from Queenstown, Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters will fly you over Paradise Valley and into Mt Aspiring National Park before landing among the jaw-dropping sights of Forbes Mountains.
Unwind At These Famous Hot Pools
These ‘Gram-worthy hot pools are the best way to spend a rest and relaxation day in Queenstown. The dreamy private cedar-lined pools overlook the Shotover River and pure bliss of the alpine ranges. Upgrade your package to include local treats and bubbly, or add on a massage or facial to truly unwind. Make sure to book ahead because these fill up quickly.
Get To New Zealand’s Biggest Winter Party
The Real Journeys Winter Festival is hands down the must-attend party of the year. Think epic eats, beats, brews, dog derbies, street parties, stand-up comedy, fireworks—honestly, we could go on. The official 2019 program has just dropped and looks to be a four-day winter rave of epic proportions.
Devour These Mouth-Watering Eats
Queenstown is a foodie’s heaven. Devour New Zealand’s most famous patty and bun at Fergburger, or opt for a more luxurious dining moment at Rata, where you’ll enjoy local produce crafted by leading Kiwi chef, Josh Emmett. Sweet-tooths should not miss the freakshakes at Cookie Time Cookie Bar or decadent hot chocolate at Patagonia Chocolates.
A resort town in New Zealand’s South Island with a backdrop of its majestic namesake lake, Wanaka should be on every adventure-seekers hit list.
Ski Up A Storm
Wanaka is home to three of New Zealand's best skiing destinations—Cardrona Alpine Resort, Treble Cone and Snow Farm. Cardrona is a Kiwi favourite, offering runs for all levels and a beginners package for those starting out. Treble Cone, or TC as the locals call it, is the largest ski field in the South Island and is known for off-piste terrain and uncrowded runs. For cross-country skiing, hit up Snow Farm where you can head out to a backcountry hut and spend the night on the Pisa Range.
Sip Local Wine And Whisky
Wanaka’s lakefront food and drink scene boasts the best in local fare, from fresh regional produce to homemade gelato. But beyond the cafes, you should check out Rippon Vineyard, the region's oldest winery, and sample some legendary Central Otago pinot noir. If spirits are more your taste, take a tour of Cardrona Distillery—cue cocktails and learn the history of New Zealand’s only single-malt whisky.
Explore This UNESCO World Heritage National Park
Drive one hour from Wanaka and you’ll find endless things to do at Mount Aspiring National Park. It’s one of three world heritage sites in New Zealand and offers up lush native forest, waterfalls, winding rivers, glacier views and the picturesque Blue Pools. Take your pick from hiking, jet-boating or even a scenic glacier flight—there are dozens of ways to explore this striking natural wonder.
Capture That Wanaka Tree
Chances are you’ve seen the world famous #thatwanakatree grace your social feeds. This humble wonky willow is the most Insta-famous resident of Wanaka, with over 40 thousand posts to its name. Pop by for a sunset or sunrise photo of the tree, but be warned, climbing or damaging it in any way will be frowned upon by fellow wanderlusters—let’s look after New Zealand’s natural environment for fellow travellers.
An award-winning ski resort located just outside the small country town of Methven, Mount Hutt is your answer to a wintery escape filled with off-piste skiing and cosy nights by the fire with a tipple in hand.
Chase First Chair Freshies
One of the largest ski resorts in New Zealand, Mount Hutt boasts 365 hectares of skiable powder ideal for beginner and intermediate riders, and thanks to its treeless terrain, there’s a bevvy of off-piste lines for the more advanced. The mountain is fully decked out with rentals, a ski school, and eatery-slash-bar, plus a shuttle service between the resort and Methven making it a convenient choice for your next ski holiday.
Hike This Pocket Of Paradise
Sitting high on a mountain farm, Washpen Falls is a two-hour hike open year-round (except in extreme weather, of course) and the location was used as the stunning backdrop for blockbuster Z for Zachariah, starring A-List Aussie Margot Robbie. This must-do trail starts at the old Washpen Falls Woolshed and winds through a volcanic canyon reserve and underneath lush rainforest canopy. Along the way, you’ll be greeted by the majestic Washpen waterfall and lagoon, and sweeping views of the Canterbury Plains.
Sink A Tipple At The Blue Pub
Once you’ve shredded the slopes and the skis are put away for the day, it’s time to hit The Blue Pub for a tipple or two. The apres-ski scene in Methven is relaxed, and The Blue Pub’s live music and hearty pub grub make it the perfect spot to recap the day with mates and unwind by the fire with a drink in hand.
Hit The Highest Altitude Spa In New Zealand
Swap the thermals for your cossie and dip a toe in New Zealand’s highest altitude spa. Perched atop Mount Hutt and accessible via Summitt Six Chairlift, this is a truly unique experience you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Soak up panoramic views of the Southern Alps and across the Canterbury Plains to the Pacific Ocean.
Located in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island and Tongariro National Park, Mount Ruapehu is the largest active volcano in the country and boasts two ski resorts and stunning adventure-filled landscapes.
Ski Dramatic Volcanic Terrain
Mount Ruapehu is home to Whakapapa and Tūroa, two of New Zealand’s largest ski resorts found atop the country’s only skiable and active volcano. Tūroa is Mt Ruapehu’s south-west facing resort, best known for its long and wide trails, while Whakapapa ski area is renowned for its natural half-pipes and dramatic terrain formed by lava. Beginners will also feel comfortable on this side of the mountain on the learner slopes in Happy Valley.
Kick Back At These Top Apres-Ski Spots
For on-mountain eateries to hit once you’ve hung up your poles for the day, try Tūroa’s Snowflake Cafe for a famous gourmet Snowflake Burger (dubbed the best in the region) or Whakapapa’s Schuss Haus for a brew and breathtaking views of Mount Ngauruhoe. For off-mountain haunts, head to The Blind Finch or the quirky Schnapps Bar for all your apres-ski festivities. If a totally unique experience is what you seek, indulge in 1930’s opulence and High Tea at Chateau Tongariro, set to a picturesque mountain backdrop.
Freefall Over Waikato River
Thrillseekers, don’t miss your chance to freefall from New Zealand’s highest water touch bungy. Take a scenic one-hour drive from Mount Ruapehu to Waikato River and you’ll find Taupō Bungy and Extreme Swing. Looking cool, calm and collected atop the 47-metre cliff platform is no easy feat, but the visual reward of the surrounding rainforest and crystal clear waters below is totally worth it.
Visit The Stunning Huka Falls
Less than two hours from Mount Ruapehu are the iconic Huka Falls in Taupō; a natural marvel that is totally Instagram-worthy. Witness the roaring 220,000 litres of water squeeze through a narrow 100-metre ravine. A footbridge will get you as close as possible to the falls, or if you’re game, you can sign up for a jet boat ride and see the falls from below.
If you’re after the ultimate winter holiday, look no further than New Zealand. From abundant ski fields to decadent eats, consider your next chilly getaway sorted thanks to 100% Pure New Zealand.
Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by 100% Pure New Zealand and proudly endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.
Image credit: 100% Pure New Zealand, Will Patino, Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters, Julian Apse, Onsen Hot Pools.