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The South Island of New Zealand is one of the most scenic places on Earth. The best way to experience it is on a self-drive holiday, where you can stop and stay wherever you like, spending time in your favourite places. Winter is an ideal time for a road trip: there are fewer people on the roads, the landscapes are stunning in their wintery finery, and there is plenty of skiing, snowboarding and partying to be had along the way…
Where to Start?
Start your journey by flying into Christchurch International Airport. Hundreds of international and domestic flights arrive here every week. At Christchurch International Airport you can pick up your rental car or campervan, or catch a bus or shuttle to transport you to your first destination. Alternatively, spend a night in Christchurch, which is back up and running following the 2010/2011 earthquake events.
Day 1-2 Methven & Mt Hutt
Hit the road and head for Porters, the closest ski area to Christchurch. This is a family focused ski area with a complete range of ski and snowboard terrain to suit all abilities.
Or hit the road and head to Methven! Just a one hour drive from Christchurch on Inland Scenic Route 72, Methven is a small but vibrant town at the bottom of Mt Hutt ski area.
Mt Hutt’s trail network suits all snow lovers, from total beginners to top professionals. Ski and snowboard lessons offer an excellent introduction for those just starting out, and when you need a breather, the on-mountain café and restaurant are the perfect places to catch your breath and enjoy a meal and a drink in comfort.
You can even base yourself at Methven and ski your choice of Mt Hutt or Porterns.
Even if you’re not into skiing you’ll enjoy the atmosphere of Methven in winter. The surrounding farmland and alps offer fishing, hiking, 4WD tours, golf and jetboating, while the cosy village bars and restaurants often host great live music.
Day 3 - Methven to Lake Tekapo
Give your legs a rest today and enjoy the scenery as you travel south-east to the beautiful Mackenzie Country. This scenic inland route will take you past wide open paddocks and snowy alps so make sure your camera batteries are charged! The journey to Lake Tekapo will take approximately 3 hours including a few photo stops and a lunch stop in Geraldine.
On arrival in Lake Tekapo, warm up at the hot pools before you head out for a meal and a drink in the small lakeside village.
There are two small ski areas near Lake Tekapo to choose from. Roundhill is perfect for learners, with a huge, gentle beginners’ slope, but also offers more challenging routes for the more experienced. The recent development of the Heritage Express Rope Tow means Roundhill now has the largest vertical rise in New Zealand!
Mt Dobson is around a 40 minute drive from Lake Tekapo. Spend a morning on Mt Dobson’s sunny learner slope and then upgrade your beginners’ package to an all-inclusive ticket for the afternoon. The mountain’s new triple chairlift is a highlight for all skiers and boarders, allowing a relaxing ride back to the top of Dobson’s powdery slopes.
At the end of the day, return to Lake Tekapo to enjoy the hot pools and a relaxing massage or beauty treatment at Alpine Springs.
On your second day in Lake Tekapo, hit the slopes again or choose from a scenic flight, ice skating, hiking or a night time star-gazing tour to the local observatory.
Day 6 - Ohau via Mt Cook
Hit the road early this morning for a scenic morning drive to Aoraki Mt Cook - just over one hour’s drive from Lake Tekapo. Take a short stroll near the village and enjoy the views of New Zealand’s highest peak before heading back to the main highway and onwards to Ohau Snow Fields for an afternoon of skiing.
Ohau Snow Fields is known for its powder snow, sunshine, friendly people and uncrowded slopes. Be awed at the spectacular lake views as you cruise the groomed trails and ride the double chairlift.
At the base of the Snow Fields is Ohau Lodge - a cosy high country lodge nestled on the shores of Lake Ohau and offering great dinner, bed and breakfast packages. Choose from one of four styles of accommodation and enjoy the social nature of the lodge at dinner, and afterwards in the bar!
Day 7 - Ohau to Lake Wanaka
Today is another travel day, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the scenery as you make your way south, over the Lindis Pass and onwards to Lake Wanaka. The drive will take approximately 2.5 hours with photo stops and a break for lunch. On arrival in Lake Wanaka, take a stroll along the pretty lake front or, if you’re feeling adventurous, book in for a sky-dive! Lake Wanaka has an excellent nightlife, so head out for a meal and hit the bars for a good night out.
Day 8 - Skiing at Treble Cone or Cardrona
Lake Wanaka is located close to both Treble Cone and Cardrona ski areas. Both areas offer excellent snow conditions, full rental equipment, lessons and dining facilities.
Treble Cone is spread over two large basins and welcomes all snow lovers to enjoy its gullies, wide faces and undulating runs. With a few days’ experience now up your sleeve, you’ll no doubt enjoy the long, uncrowded slopes and maybe even the off-piste terrain on offer at Treble Cone.
Cardrona promises some of the most reliable snow conditions in the region. Having recently expanded its beginners’ slopes and added a new magic carpet, Cardrona is primed for learners, but also offers challenges for the experienced skier, with a choice of four different chairlift routes!
Day 9 - Lake Wanaka to Queenstown
After a sleep in, cruise the 60 minutes over to New Zealand’s adventure playground - Queenstown.
The afternoon can be spent jet boating, luging, bungy jumping or parasailing - or if you’re looking for something more sedate, take a winery tour or book into one of the local beauty spas for a massage.
Day 10 - Skiing at Coronet Peak or The Remarkables
For your last day of South Island skiing, choose from The Remarkables or Coronet Peak.
Coronet Peak has enjoyed a multi-million dollar makeover in recent years and now offers a high-speed quad chairlift and state of the art snowmaking facilities. On Friday and Saturday nights, Coronet Peak offers night skiing until 9pm!
The Remarkables offers versatile terrain, fantastic learning facilities and fun for all snow-lovers. Take a lesson, ride the smooth, north-facing slopes, or chill out on the sun deck with a meal or refreshment.
The last night of your trip has to be one to remember, so head out to experience Queenstown’s legendary nightlife! A meal, followed by some bar-hopping and live music is the perfect end to your South Island ski adventure.
Today you leave New Zealand… or do you? Ten days’ holiday is great - but longer is better! Staying longer lets you experience all of the South Island ski areas rather than choosing which ones to ski, and provides more chance of fine weather days so you can really experience a true NZ winter!
Written: 12 articles
Start planning your winter 2013 ski holiday to the South Island of New Zealand now. The first ski areas are planning to open in early June. Great skiing/riding on slope, with spectacular views plus great winter activities and holiday fun.
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