Winter in New Zealand - A Guide for International Students

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Here’s an updated, 2019 version of our best winter activities and winter essentials blogs from last year. With the cold weather really starting to close in now, don’t spend all your winter in New Zealand hiding from the cold inside, you might just miss out on some of the delights that a Kiwi winter can provide outdoors. Read on to find out what we are talking about!


If you are from a place that’s too warm for snow you are in for a treat when you come to New Zealand! When the days get colder here the snowflakes fall and on big snow days the snow blankets the landscape and can even cover cars if it gets heavy. Aotearoa is a great place to discover the winter wonderland you’ve always wanted to explore. From the months of June to October in New Zealand, snow falls in the mountainous areas, although it can also snow in the cities if its cold down South. The places that you can be guaranteed will see snow include the Central Plateau in the North Island and the Southern Alps in the South Island. Inland places snow will fall include Canterbury and Otago. Know if there will be snow before you go and check the forecast to make sure conditions will be favourable. After all, you can’t participate in snow fights and build snowmen if there isn’t enough snow, or you can’t see two metres in front of you! If you are driving in snow or up an icy mountain road its also important you have a four wheel drive (4WD) or chains.

New Zealand’s breath-taking scenery can be so varied and dramatic in winter that you will never know what you are going to get. One view could be foggy, wind-swept, clear and rained-out all in a matter of hours. A frosty morning is a sight to behold in New Zealand, with beautiful green fields transformed into icy white landscapes. Mountain hikes can turn from relaxing walks into imposing, icy climbs. Enjoy yourself a classic Kiwi moment as you feel the satisfying ‘crunch’ of the frosty grass beneath your shoes as you walk to class in the morning, and the ‘baa’ of the sheep in the distance or barks of dogs and bird-call above. Finish your day by heading home the long way and marvelling at all the beauty of the country at twilight as the days finish earlier and the night creeps in around 5pm. You just can’t beat a clear winter’s night as the colours of the day fade into dark. For some examples of the views on offer you can check out our Instagram account here.

In the winter you can visit one of our mountains in the central North island or South Island and go snowboarding or skiing. Just make sure you avoid the school holiday months of late June and early July, because that’s when crowds are at their peak! If you are an expert on the slopes then there are big air competitions, slopestyle and speed skiing sessions to get involved in throughout the winter. However, if you prefer to spectate rather than participate then you can watch the best in the world compete at Cardrona and Treble Cone. Otherwise you can get a ticket to one of our showpiece rugby games (All Blacks, Super Rugby) or participate in grassroots sport yourselves by signing up to your local club. Our most popular winter sports include; football, netball, basketball, field hockey, golf, squash, rowing, cycling, surfing and, of course, rugby.

In the winter New Zealand has an abundance of fruit to keep illness at bay and vegetables to stock up on to keep everyone happy and healthy. Enjoy porridge, baked beans or scrambled eggs as you start your day, then move on to warm soups, hearty roasts and other warm foods for dinner. We have some of the best coffee and hot chocolate in the world and it always tastes better on a cool winter morning (and in the afternoon to get you through the day). Lettuce, cress, parsley or chickweed are all thriving and delicious to eat. Brassica’s (i.e. bok choy, gai lan and kale) are also great to eat. Potatoes and kumara are good all year round but are even more delicious in a soup along with pumpkin. August is a great month for the foodies as Auckland and Wellington both have food festivals this month (Auckland Restaurant Month and Wellington on a Plate respectively). New Zealand is also a great place to be if you like to eat meat, are vegan, or have any other food requirements because we have options for all types of food consumers all year round!

While the weather isn’t as extreme as some other places, we still recommend you layer up with wool garments, polypropylene undershirts and/or leggings, and down or insulated jackets. A wind-breaker and waterproof jacket, such as a snow jacket or puffer is useful to have as well. Lucky for you we have plenty of warm clothes suppliers here like Icebreaker (merino wool), Kathmandu (all weather gear for the outdoors), Macpac (camping gear) and Swanndri (classic Kiwi farming jackets). Woolly gloves and beanies are also a good thing to have, especially in the months of July and August. You are what you wear, so make sure what you are is warm and prepared, rather than cold and despaired.

Ever-changing, the most consistent thing about NZ winters is to expect something different from hour to hour! The higher you get into the mountains, the more likely it is that you will experience this phenomenon, with some days feeling like a cycle of all the seasons combined. Although New Zealand’s climate is relatively consistent in winter, with temperatures not dropping too far below zero, our wind chill, rain and cold nights still can be tough. This is due to most of NZ being close to the coast, which means our temperatures are mild and not extreme. To find out more about New Zealand’s climate, we recommended checking the NIWA website here.

In winter, farmers tend to their animals and ensure that they are equipped to survive the cold. Domestic pets spend more time inside by the fire and other animals (like horses, goats and birds) are kept in their warm enclosures. Livestock in NZ are required by codes of animal welfare to have access to areas free of surface water/mud and appropriate shelter from adverse weather. Meanwhile, its prime whale watching time as they are in the middle of their migration period, we recommend a trip down to Kaikoura to see them on board a Whale Watch boat! Other animals to see in winter include kereru, kea, yellow-eyed penguins and seals. If the weather and other people are proving hard to bear, sometimes the best way to ease the winter blues is with a bit of fuzz therapy.

Plants and Flowers
The vibrant and hardy flowers of New Zealand take on a whole new shade in winter when covered by snow or dripping in water. Their beauty is accentuated by frost and they glisten in the morning sunlight. Once the day starts to warm, the steam that rises and the melting snow/frost running off the leaves creates a magical scene. Though days may sometimes be dark and dreary, here is a list of flowers in bloom that you can look out for; camellias, polyanthus, violas, snap dragon and cornflowers (click here for full list and pictures of each flower).

Who are iStudent Complaints and what can we help you with?
iStudent Complaints is an independent dispute resolution scheme established by the New Zealand Government. Our objective is to encourage swift settlement of contractual and financial disputes between international students and their providers in New Zealand. As an independent and impartial service, we are not affiliated with any Education providers.

Why did we do this blog?
Even if we need to step in one day to help you resolve a dispute, we want you to enjoy studying and living in our amazing country as much as we do. To that end, we’ve created this content so that you may continue to explore and experience the best New Zealand can offer.