5 spots to visit in New Zealand this winter

Be amazed by your own backyard this winter

By Mae MacDonald
Go local and explore your own backyard this winter, New Zealand is a treasure trove of places to visit and experiences to have. From Waitomo to Rotorua to Queenstown, here are five key destinations to visit this winter for a whole lot of family fun.

1. Conquer Queenstown

When was the last time you explored this breathtaking winter wonderland? Jump on the Queenstown Gondola – the steepest in the Southern Hemisphere – and ride the cable car all the way to the top of Bob's Peak for exquisite views of Queenstown, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. If you're looking for an adrenaline fix, ride the gravity-fuelled luge to the bottom of the track, take the chair lift back to the top and do it all again! Or take the plunge and test your limits with the infamous AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge Bungy jump, before hopping onboard the Shotover Jet boat to experience the breathtaking canyons in the most memorable way. This multifaceted town accommodates both thrillseekers and tourists of leisure with experiences the whole family will enjoy!

2. Soak in the springs

Rejuvenate your mind and body in a luxurious hot pool. Visit Franz Josef Glacier before taking advantage of the privacy of the rainforest with the Waiho Hot Tubs, or travel to the Far North for the nutrient-rich hot waters of Ngawha Springs near Kaikohe. Nestled on the tranquil shores of Lake Rotorua, the Polynesian Spa is a popular choice for a mid-winter soak. If you're looking for something a little different in the geothermal destination, wander through native bush and clouds of steam to discover Hell's Gate Geothermal Reserve and Mud Spa. Located 20 minutes from the centre of Rotorua, it's the only geothermal mud bath experience in New Zealand, and the nutrient-rich mud and waters are valued for their nourishing and healing properties. For the young and young at heart, the naturally heated pools of Hanmer Springs feature hydro slides, play pools, a lazy river and private pools, and is located just 90 minutes out of Christchurch. While you're in the area, enjoy the picturesque village's wild beauty with mountain biking, horse trekking or a round of golf.

3. Take on the snow

If you're looking to hit the slopes this winter, ski fields are open until September or October – depending on the weather conditions. Rainbow Ski Area and Mt Hutt both have slopes catering to all ages and abilities. In the heart of the North Island, Mt Ruapehu's two thrilling ski areas – Whakapapa and Tūroa – are ready to explore. If snow sports aren't your thing, take the Sky Waka gondola 1.8km up the northern side of the mountain, head to the snow play area and biff a snowball while enjoying views across Tongariro National Park.

4. Waitomo's glowworms

Fun factThe name "glowworm" is actually a misnomer. These creatures aren't worms – they're larvae, and they glow because the chemicals and enzymes from their bodies react with oxygen in the air to create light.
Throw on a jacket and scarf, then admire the glistening larvae at this world-renowned natural tourist attraction. The easiest way to discover the North Island's Waitomo Glowworm Caves – complete with extensive underground cave systems and thousands of glowworms – is with a walking or boat tour. If you're feeling brave, take the plunge with a black-water rafting tour to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Similar sights can be found in the South Island's Te Anau Glowworm Caves, with its twisting network of limestone passages. A trip to the Te Anau Caves entails a return boat ride across the picture-perfect lake, a fun and easy way to fill a few hours with the kids.

5. Rediscover history

Spend the day exploring Auckland's War Memorial Museum to reconnect with your love of history. Perched on the remains of a dormant volcano, general admission is free to Auckland residents, or by donation for those from the rest of New Zealand. Gawk at the real Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons and honour your roots by remembering those who served in conflicts around the world. On until November 12, Egypt: In the Time of Pharaohs is also a must-visit new international exhibition, featuring the largest collection of Egyptian artefacts to ever come to Aotearoa. In the capital, Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum and art gallery, is open daily and entry is free, though some charges may apply to pop-up events and exhibitions. Located on Wellington's waterfront, it hosts a wide range of entertainment options and events such as dance performances, cultural activities and kids' days.

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