Top 10 North Island winter experiences in New Zealand

Hit the road and make the most of winter with these top 10 things to do around the North Island.

1. Relax in natural hot pools

Soak your muscles in one of many hot pools found around New Zealand. Relax on the tranquil shores of Lake Rotorua at the Polynesian Spa(opens in new window) and lush spa therapy. Unwind at the unique thermal mineral Taupō DeBretts Spa Resort(opens in new window)Or if you're around the Coromandel, be sure to pay a visit to The Lost Spring(opens in new window) in Whitianga for a day of rest and relaxation.

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2. Fun in the snow

Winter is not just all about skiing and snowboarding! For those who'd like to still spend some time in the snow, there are plenty of other snow activities on offer. Go sledding at Whakapapa's Happy Valley Snow Park(opens in new window), try taking on snowshoeing at the Tukino Skifield(opens in new window), or take the chairlift up New Zealand’s largest volcano, Mount Ruapehu and enjoy coffee and fabulous wintry views.

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3. Visit New Zealand's highest dining experience at Knoll Ridge

Enjoy the winter scenery from above as you ride on Whakapapa's Sky Waka gondola up the slopes of Mt Ruapehu to New Zealand’s highest cafe, perched 2020 metres above sea level on Knoll Ridge Chalet(opens in new window). Marvel at the alpine views, watch the skiers and snowboarders do their thing and warm up to a coffee or hot chocolate in the architecturally award-winning building.

4. Get cosy in a chateau

Make the most of the winter season and stay in one of the chateaus in the North Island. Found right at the doorstep of Tongariro National Park is the cosy alpine lodge, Powderhorn Chateau(opens in new window). This boutique hotel offers a range of accommodation such as an apartment, suites and chalets suited for all types of visitors.

Step back into the timeless elegance of the 1930s with a stay at Chateau Tongariro Hotel(opens in new window). Admire the breathtaking views of the national park after a day out on the mountain and enjoy a warm drink around the crackling fire. Or you can pamper yourself and book in a high tea and enjoy petite cakes and savouries while sipping on bubbly and taking in the wintry surroundings.

5. Taste the seasonal delicacies of Hawke's Bay

During the cooler months, the Hawke's Bay region is the place to be as it's the time for delicious citrus fruits and hearty vegetables. Head to the Havelock North farmer’s market(opens in new window) to make the most of locally grown, fresh produce.

The winter months also call for the annual Food and Wine Classic event(opens in new window) (better known as F.A.W.C). Showcasing the very best of Hawke's Bay food and drink, locals come together to accommodate the masses. From restaurants, food trucks, breweries, cideries and wineries coming together, there's definitely something for everyone to enjoy.

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6. Explore the winterless North

Known for its mild climate, Northland is a subtropical wonderland of islands, marine life, kauri forests and Māori myths and legends. Experience the meeting of two mighty oceans- the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean at Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of New Zealand. Take a short ferry ride from Paihia to Russell, the country's first capital, and explore the charming seaside town steeped in early New Zealand history. Or come face to face with Tāne Mahuta – God of the Forest and New Zealand's largest kauri tree.

Discover Northland

7. Discover a subterranean wonderland

Beneath the rolling hills of Waitomo, around two hours from Auckland, lies a network of limestone caverns with stunning formations and glowworm-lit caves enjoyed on a guided boat tour(opens in new window). If you’re into adventure try the unique black water rafting experience on the underground rivers.

8. Get amongst the Wellington food and drink scene

Try out the local beers at Parrotdog(opens in new window) on one of their brewery tours and tastings. Visit the many unique bars such as one of Wellington's best-kept secret - Crumpet(opens in new window) or the aptly named lounge bar, The Library(opens in new window) - filled with books and craft cocktails. If you're after some local beer, check out Heyday(opens in new window) - where craft beer meets crafty design.

Popular events such as Beervana(opens in new window) and Wellington on a Plate(opens in new window) get the crowd going during August. Celebrate all things beer at Beervana, filled with interactive themed bars, good food and innovative collaborations. Revel in all things food at Wellington on a Plate, a culinary extravaganza that takes over the city, offering special menus and hundreds of pop-ups.

9. Discover the walking and hiking trails

Many popular hiking tracks in the North Island are ideal in winter. The majority of tracks are free from snow all year round, so you can still explore the great outdoors. In Auckland, temperatures are mild and sunny days are common. It’s the perfect time of year to hike up Rangitoto – chances are you’ll have the dormant volcano all to yourself!

Explore the Taranaki Falls loop track in the Ruapehu region. Start near the Whakapapa Information Centre and follow the crystal clear river to the impressive Taranaki Falls as you enjoy fabulous volcanic views along the way.

Note that the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is covered in snow during winter and is dangerous to attempt unless you are experienced and well-equipped. If you want to tackle this track in winter, the best option is to hire a mountaineering guide(opens in new window).

10. Experience Taupō in winter

Enjoy a relaxing cruise to the Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings or stroll on one of the many lakeside walks around Lake Taupō. Feel the thundering roar of 220,000 litres of water squeezing its way through a slim ravine at Huka Falls. Witness the falls from a vantage point on the footbridge or on a thrilling jet boat ride(opens in new window).

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