The last few weeks have left us all scratching our heads, wondering – will winter ever arrive? Well, it’s certainly chilled down over the last few days with snow, rain and frost all over the country.
So now that the chilly season is finally here, you can start to tick some items off your winter bucket list. Even if all you can think of is snuggling up on the couch in front of a roaring fire, these winter adventures and activities are sure to get you outdoors to enjoy the very best of New Zealand.
This week we’ve teamed up with two of our Kiwi ambassadors who are forever in search of the next best winter adventure with a distinctly New Zealand feel – Kyle Mulinder, and Robert Bruce.
Robert Bruce is a keen outdoorsman, entrepreneur, and the face between well-known outdoors group Got To Get Out. Prior to founding the group last year, Robert underwent a huge life transformation, leaving the marketing company he founded ten years earlier, completely changing his lifestyle to include a lot more time outside. Starting with small hikes and active adventures, Robert dropped 30kg, and found that he felt better than ever before. Got To Get Out was born when Robert embarked on a 15 day trek to Everest Base Camp. The Facebook-based group became a popular outlet for Robert to share his inspirational adventures. Upon returning to NZ, Robert decided to use his experience to reach others, sharing his love of the outdoors with as many people as possible through regular group hikes.
He’s seen a lot of the North Island now with Got To Get Out, and we asked him what his favourite northern adventures are over the winter months:
The Got To Get Out crew or I have been to all of these places I am listing below, so I can vouch for them being fantastic weekend winter adventures that pretty much the whole family (at least with a basic level of fitness, and the right gear for the season – available from Macpac) can do. Some are old favourites that you will expect, but others you may not have heard of.
1. Tongariro Crossing
You can’t really go past this old favourite! The Got To Get Out crew have done this trek several times now both in winter and summer. If you are new to NZ, or just never gotten out and done this awesome Great Walk, it is well worth the effort. Expect approximately a 6-7 hour trek with some steep bits, but the tracks are very well marked and pretty safe. Note that in winter you should consider going with a guiding company, as below freezing temperatures and icy tracks can be dangerous. Gaiters, good boots, several quality layers, gloves, and sufficient food and water for the whole day are needed. Sunscreen, hat and glasses are essential for summer.
A popular side-walk is going up ‘Mt Doom’ but note this is dangerous due to falling rocks from above. Stay in National Park for close proximity to the start of the trek. Check out Got To Get Out’s Tongariro Crossing photos and videos.
2. Mt Taranaki
I did this climb earlier in the year just before winter, and it was fantastic. The views were phenomenal. Note that it took me around 10 hours and is a grueling ‘there and back’ climb. Gaiters are strongly recommended as much of the trek is gravel and it is most uncomfortable in your boots. Take several layers as you heat up on the ascent, then it can be very cold on top. Lots of water needed as none available on the mountain. We stayed at The Guest House on the mountain itself and started around 7am. Check out doc.govt.nz for more information on the Mt. Taranaki Summit track.
3. Mt Pirongia
A group of Got To Get Out’ers summited Mt Pirongia last year and loved it. The hike, about 2 hours south of Auckland by car en-route to National Park, is not a trek that is really popular (such as Tongariro Crossing) so was a pleasant surprise. The DOC Pahautea Hut was well equipped and after a hard day trekking to the summit, we all enjoyed a meal (byo cookers) and chat by candle light. Check out doc.govt.nz for more information on the Mt. Pirongia Forest Park tracks.
Mt. Pirongia has fantastic views out towards Mt. Taranaki and has fun features like chains to help you climb steep sections and some great trigs to discover. Well worth a weekend away, or just a day hike for those on a mission!
Approximately 2 hours from Auckland, adventurers can get to the Coromandel and trek in to the Waitawheta Hut in the Kaimai Mamuku Forest Park. The overnight hike takes you through the old Kauri logging route and includes some river crossings, beautiful kauri trees, old forestry equipment, and relatively easy trekking. The hut is really comfortable with two rooms and a great fire, with ample running water and good toilets. Take in a pack of cards and settle in for a fun evening in the hut, or in your tent under the stars. In this case I preferred to sleep in my Minaret alpine tent, and let the hikers chat long into the night. Check out Got To Get Out’s Waitawheta photos.
5. Rangitoto Island, Auckland
Right on Auckland’s doorstep is the volcano Rangitoto Island, said to be the youngest volcano in New Zealand. There are several ways to get to the island, by boat or kayak (or helicopter for the rich and famous!) and once you are there it is an enjoyable trek to the summit. At the summit (259 meters above sea level) you enjoy beautiful 360 views of Auckland and beyond, and you can enjoy your lunch in the sun. Got To Get Out opted to summit Rangitoto and then kayak to Motuihe Island where we set up camp and explored at night for Tuatara. There are no rodents on either island thanks to the amazing rest eradication efforts of DOC. This means native wildlife has flourished and it is a wonderful experience to see birds of all sorts in their natural habitat.
Kyle ‘te Kiwi’ Mulinder – or Bare Kiwi, as he’s known in the social world, has a firm belief that there is no place in the world quite like New Zealand. He spends all four seasons exploring far and wide – from the deep south, to the top of the North Island, amassing a huge following as he documents his adventures on his popular Facebook and Instagram pages.
So, who better to put together our South Island winter bucket list?
1. MacKenzie Basin and surrounds
Easily one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand – especially in winter. This area is filled with so many amazing day hikes, and one of my favourites is the Hooker Valley Track. The views of the glacier lake are just magical. Another track in the area is the hike from Mount Cook Village up to Sealy Tarns, it takes around two hours, and the views are just something else!
Always check for weather warnings around the Mackenzie Basin, and for more information, check out doc.govt.nz for more information on Aoraki/Mount Cook village walking tracks.
There’s no place quite like Queenstown – anywhere in the world. Its mountainous surrounds just epitomize winter wonderland, it looks so dramatic, just like a North American movie… this time of year is just so perfect. There are a lot of great walks around the area, but what you really need to do to make the most of this time of year is hit the slopes. Go skiing or snowboarding up the Remarkables, or Coronet Peak to experience some truly spectacular views. Finish the day off in the Queenstown village with some mulled wine.
3. Dunedin Coastline
The thing about Dunedin at this time of year, is it’s brutally cold. But the whole coastline is just incredible, with penguins and seals coming into the area, and if you get a clear night, and you’re staunch enough to hold on for the dark – you might just see the Southern Lights.
4. Abel Tasman
Ahh… the winterless Abel Tasman. Mirror calm, high sunshine hours, and the perfect, quiet atmosphere in winter. This area is jam-packed with tourists in the Summer months, but in winter, there’s a good chance you’ll have just about the whole park to yourself. It’s fresh in the evenings, but during the day, you’ll easily get down to shorts and a T-Shirt. In Summer, you have warm sea breezes, and it can get quite windy on the water, so if you’re into sea kayaking, winter really is the time to get into it. Baby seals are also out at this time, and they’re so playful and will just climb onto your kayak.
The Garden City really knows how to do winter. The Port Hills are just waiting to be explored – whether by foot, or by bike. The beaches are unreal, and if you’re into surfing, make sure you head out to Sumner or New Brighton – it’s much quieter in winter, so it’s a great time to learn. I love just heading down there on a clear afternoon – you just about have the whole beach to yourself.