With Singapore experiencing one of its most intense heatwaves of late, it’s hard not to dream of escaping to cooler climes. New Zealand is a prime pick for cooler weather all year round, given its mean annual temperature of 10°C in the south and 16°C in the north. But the upcoming winter season is all the more enticing, as snow begins to drift upon mountain peaks. Whether you’re an outdoorsy type or a laid-back explorer who prefers to admire the view from luxurious confines, here’s how to make the best of your trip.
For rugged adventurers: glacier hiking and stargazing
Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo
New Zealand’s alpine landscapes transform into jaw-dropping snow-covered vistas between June and October. Though better known for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, New Zealand’s South Island also offers opportunities for other outdoor activities like glacier hiking and stargazing.
Haupapa, or Tasman, is the largest glacier in New Zealand, covering 101 square kilometres and set against the spectacular backdrop of Mount Cook. To explore it, book a guided tour from experienced operators like Mt. Cook Glacier Guiding who can lead you safely across the icy terrain.
New Zealand is also home to four Dark Sky Reserves and Sanctuaries. These remote special regions are protected from light pollution, allowing stargazers unparalleled views of the heavens. The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, located a short drive from the Haupapa / Tasman glacier, is an excellent spot to observe the cosmos. Join stargazing tours by Big Sky Stargazing, Dark Sky Project and Tekapo Star Gazing and you’ll be taken to the best viewing spots in the area.
How to get there: Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo are approximately a three-hour drive from Christchurch International Airport.
Note: Glacier hiking should only be undertaken with a qualified guide, proper equipment, and with health and safety procedures in place.
For laid-back nature lovers: scenic views by rail and wildlife spotting
Kaikōura, Christchurch and Greymouth
To experience nature in a more relaxed and luxurious setting, take a scenic rail tour of the country’s lakes, rivers and snowcapped mountains. The TranzAlpine goes coast-to-coast from Christchurch to Greymouth, cutting through the gorgeous Arthur’s pass which offers especially stunning views during winter.
If it’s wildlife that fascinates you, Kaikōura on New Zealand’s South Island is one of the best places to spot humpback whales, especially in winter. The most common way to whale-watch is by boat, but for the best views, opt for an aerial safari that can be booked through operators like South Pacific Helicopters, Kaikoura Helicopters or Wings Over Whales.
For wellness enthusiasts: soak in hot pools at sunrise
Christchurch and Rotorua
Those seeking a truly indulgent spa and wellness experience should take a trip to the hot pools of He Puna Taimoana. Just a 15-minute drive away from Christchurch, the spa offers two-metre-deep plunge pools that sit at 8-10°C, while its hot pools range between 26 and 39°C – a perfect soak for a cool winter’s day. Visit during winter or spring and join the Sunrise Soak session, which allows you to unwind at the beachside hot pools as you greet the morning sun.
Staying on the North Island? Head to Hell’s Gate Geothermal Reserve and Mud Spa. It’s best known for its restorative geothermal mud and sulphur pools, where the nutrient-rich waters promise to invigorate both mind and body. The spa is also home to the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere.
How to get there: Puna Taimoana is a 30-minute drive from Christchurch International Airport. Hell’s Gate Geothermal Reserve and Mud Spa is a three-hour drive from Auckland International Airport.
Singapore Airlines flies to Auckland and Christchurch. For more information on flights to New Zealand, click here.