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New Zealand: Joy for all Seasons

Ashley Greenwood 2018-04-10 17:27

Before we start, let’s remember that the seasons in New Zealand are all back-to-front, so as we swelter in the summer, they are in their winter. If you really hate winter here, you might want to consider your next holiday exploring New Zealand during its warmer months! 


Spring


Ah spring, when everything is lush and green and all the flowers are in bloom. And in New Zealand, a country famous for its sheep, it’s fun to catch sight the cute lambs bouncing around too. 


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The weather in spring, meaning September, October, and November, is changeable and unpredictable, but as it warms up it ushers in what the locals call their ‘waterfall season’, which makes spring the most impressive time of year to visit the amazing Milford Sound. 


Milford Sound, once described by Rudyard Kipling as the 8th wonder of the world, has been voted by some international travel surveys as the world’s favourite destination. Part of the Fiordland National Park and Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site, it is New Zealand’s most famous tourist spot. 


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This beautiful spring blossom makes it the ideal time to visit the fruit-growing areas of the South Island’s Central Otago where trees are covered in delicate flowers. Alexandra's annual Blossom Festival is held here each year when the town's cherry trees are in full bloom. 


The bluebells will also be flowering on Lord of the Ring’s Hobbiton film set, so if you’re a fan of these fantasy films you’ll definitely want to visit in spring to catch the Middle-Earth gardens at their best. 



Summer


With temperatures in the mid-20’s across most of the country, New Zealand’s summer is pleasantly warm and a great time to play in the seas and lakes. Scuba diving off Poor Knights Island, rated one of the top ten dive sites in the world by Jacques Cousteau, is an unforgettable experience. Surrounded by a marine reserve, the islands are home to a wealth of life with kelp forests, schools of fish, and if you’re lucky, even dolphins! 


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If you prefer to enjoy the sea without the breathing apparatus, head to Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island where you will find quiet beaches and beautiful crystal clear water. It’s a wonderful place to go kayaking and also a great spot for hiking. 


Another great place for hiking is around Lake Tekapo, especially if you’re a keen photographer. Not only does the lake have gorgeous blue water and majestic mountains in the background, but in the summer the Russell lupine is in bloom, filling the landscape with stunning pinky-purple blossom. 


During the summer you won’t be able to enjoy the snowy peaks of the mountains, but as they feed a number of rivers, you will be able to have a go at rafting. The rivers range from a tranquil grade 1 to an extreme grade 5, and you can also choose whether to take a trip that lasts just a few hours, to one that lasts a few days! You will surely be an expert after that. 


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For a more relaxed kind of boat trip, and definitely one unlike any other, visit the Waitomo Glowworm caves. As you float gently on a boat through the caves, these bioluminescent worms on the roof of the cave look like a constellation of stars. Although you can visit year round, it’s best to come here in summer because it can get quite cold inside the caves. 



Autumn


Hawke’s Bay is one of the best places to be in autumn. Not only is it one off the best places to enjoy the oranges, yellows, and reds of autumn foliage, it is also one of the best wine regions and autumn is harvest season. The Annual Grape Harvest from mid- March through to May sees 4700 hectares of vineyards in Hawke’s Bay harvesting approximately 45,000 tonnes of grapes. The wineries are full of excitement at this time making it ideal for those wanting to take a wine tour. Many of the tours also offer up some food (presumably to soak up some of the wine) from local artisan food producers too. 


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Also in Hawke’s Bay is the laid back city of Napier, well worth a visit not only for its top notch cafes and restaurants, but because it is perhaps one of the best places in the world to see art deco buildings. After an earthquake flattened much of the city centre in 1931 it was rebuilt in the style popular at the time. 


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Visit the vibrant and fashionable capital, Wellington, in the Autumn, when orca and dolphins visit the coast. You can watch them from the city’s waterfront, but even better is to catch a ferry to Eastbourne, a nearby seaside village with cafes and galleries and beautiful sea views to enjoy the spectacle. 


Throughout the autumn, when the weather is comfortable, you will find a number of local festivals celebrating all kinds of local culture, from music to food to art, or other specialties of the region. 



Winter


As the winter snow settles, there is one obvious thing to do – go skiing! New Zealand has a number of great resorts to choose from, and good terrains for beginners too. Mount Ruapehu is the place to go in the North Island – the largest commercial skiing area in the country, it is the highest peak and home to the only glaciers in the North island, and it is also an active volcano! However, most of the country’s commercial ski fields are found around the alpine tourist resort town of Queenstown, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. The facilities are world class, with great restaurants and lots of other things to do too – sky diving anyone? 


If you need something to warm you up during the colder months, then you’re certainly in luck! New Zealand has lots of geothermal springs for you to soak yourself in – the Hanmer Spring’s in the South Island are a bit more accessible if you’ve just been skiing in Queenstown, but the more famous ones are in Rotorua in the north. 


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You can find more springs in Taupo, Tongariro, and the Bay of Plenty’s White Island are also home to thermal delights, but if you want to enjoy the novelty of digging your own hot tub on the beach, head to the Coromandel Peninsula where Hot Water Beach does exactly what it’s name suggests! Dig a hole, and find the water below is toasty warm – but don’t expect to have the beach to yourself here. 


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Another reason to visit Rotorua, besides the spouting geyers, is to explore more of Maori culture. Although you will find villages dotted around, mostly in the North Island, Rotorua is the best place and many Maori legends mention the city. Come in winter during ‘Matariki’, the Maori New Year, and you can witness various community festivities, including dawn ceremonies, cultural performances, art exhibitions, and the sharing of local myths and legends. 


In the middle of winter head down to Kaikoura for a bit of whale watching when these majestic creatures are at the peak of their migration period and you will have a good chance of seeing several different species. 




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