Winter experiences in the North Island, New Zealand

From unrivalled ski slopes to thermal baths, giant light sculptures and magical winter festivals, New Zealand’s North Island is famous for its abundance of cool experiences. So turn your winter into a wonder-filled getaway this year, in one of the world’s most spectacular destinations, and get ready to embrace the best of the season.


Ski Season is fast approaching! Image from Camilla Rutherford.

Situated near New Zealand’s largest ski field, the lakefront town of Taupō is one of the North Island’s best winter destinations. Only an hour’s drive away from Taupō to Whakapapa, Whakapapa ski resort on Mount Ruapehu is New Zealand’s only volcanic ski slope, with over 65 trails for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. 

You’ll also love the pleasures winter brings at the Taupō Winter Festival, a popular celebration of arts, culture and family fun held over ten days in the July school holidays. This festival has become well known for its light projections, ice rink and slide, and live music and food trucks, and in 2023 there’s plenty on offer once again for the family to enjoy. 

Looking for a winter day trip with a difference? Try the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. This natural wonder is home to thousands of glowworms, and a tour of the caves will allow you to see these magical creatures up close. You can also take a boat ride through the glowworm grotto and learn about the 130 years of cultural and natural history

Where to stay

Find the perfect base for the winter activities and skiing that north island has to offer. Set among grapevines, with a historic church on the grounds, Quality Suites Huka Falls offers style and comfort. Quality Inn Acapulco is another great option, centrally located and close to restaurants and shops 


Auckland is great to see some whales. Image from Miles Holden.

Auckland comes to life with outdoor adventures during the cooler months. Don’t miss the majestic spectacle of humpback whales journeying on their calving migration in June and July. Get up close on a whale watching in Auckland tour, where you’ll also see frolicking dolphins and seals as you cruise the waters of Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. 

Steam the winter chills away at one of Auckland’s local hot springs. Not far from the city, Parakai Springs is home to private spas and an exclusive adults-only rock pool, as well as hydro slides all the family will love. Not far from here Palm Springs also offers semi-private rock pools kept at 38°C and surrounded by native ferns. 

Jump aboard the Waiheke Island ferry and top up on some winter fare at the weekly Waiheke Ostend Market, held every Saturday. Not only are these markets in a stunning location, but the stalls are filled with treats such as crepes, waffles and Hungarian fried bread. No trip to Auckland would be complete without visiting the amazing Auckland Museum. Find out what’s on and say hello to Peter and Barbara – two of the world’s rarest T-Rex skeletons.

Where to stay

Settle in close to downtown Auckland at Quality Hotel Lincoln Green, where you can enjoy lunch and dinner at the popular Good Home Gastro Pub. 


Hawke’s Bay. Image from Graeme Murray.

Winter is a great time to visit the heritage town of Napier, where the surrounding famous art deco architecture hosts the Winter Deco Weekend. Get ready for vintage cocktails, jazz performances and delicious seasonal dining experiences at some of Napier’s leading Art Deco restaurants. The festival also runs a program of classic films and vintage car displays.

Napier is also a great base to explore the diverse wineries in the surrounding Hawke’s Bay Wine Region. Famed for its full-bodied cabernet sauvignons and merlots, you’ll find plenty of cosy cellar doors to linger at in the low hills. Start by taking a sip at Te Mata Estate, one of the earliest wineries to be established when vines were planted in 1896.

For a magical winter’s experience visit Ātea a Rangi at sunrise. The views from the top of Te Mata Peak are spectacular, and you’ll see the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean. There are also plenty of walking tours to enjoy around beautiful Hawkes Bay, from the promenades that run past the iconic seafront pines to guided history walking tours

Where to stay

Situate yourself in the heart of New Zealand’s Art Deco capital and enjoy the fun things to do in Napier. The Quality Inn Napier is a short walk to the centre of town, and The Comfort Inn Westshore Beach is scenically located between the beach and lagoon. 

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