South Island: 8 places you must visit this winter

Aug. 12, 2016

The winter and snow have finally arrived and everyone seems to spend their weekend in the ski fields. But not only the ski fields look great in the snow!

Winter is the perfect opportunity for you to rediscover some of the best spots in the South Island, without the usual crowds and with a lovely winter coat on. So where should you spend your next weekend?

Hooker Lake

I have witnessed multiple sunrises and sunsets at Hooker Lake, but to me, nothing beats the view of mighty Mt Cook covered in snow from top to bottom. The lake is only an hour and a half walk from the White Horse car park, which makes it the perfect location for a winter stroll, even with snow.

Don't forget your head torch if you are planning to stay for sunset at the lake. The walk back can be tricky in the dark.


Lake Alexandrina

A stone's throw away from the famous Lake Tekapo, the underrated Lake Alexandrina is the quintessential Kiwi bach location. I love the laid back vibe and it just feels like a real Kiwi holiday destination. On top of that, the views are amazing!

Sunset at Lake Alexandrina

Sunset at Lake Alexandrina.

Take some warm clothes and star gaze in the dark sky reserve. The Perseid meteor shower will last until the end of August and is very active this year.

Nugget Point

Nugget Point is probably not the obvious location when you think of a winter destination. But it is only in winter that you are able to see the core of the Milky Way rise behind the lighthouse. Picture perfect!

Winter is also the best period to spot the Aurora Australis and this location has open views towards the south were the Aurora is visible.

core of the milky way rising behind the Nugget Point Lighthouse.jpg

Core of the Milky way rising behind the Nugget Point Lighthouse.

Spend a weekend in the Catlins while you're there. With waterfalls and a rough coast, this area has plenty to offer.

Roys Peak 

Probably one of the most scenic day walks you can do in the South Island. The 3-4 hours uphill can be challenging with some snow but the views over the Matukituki Valley, Tititea and Wanaka are unbeatable.

​​​ Picture perfect view for sunset from Roys Peak

Picture perfect view for sunset from Roys Peak.

Take a head torch and stay there to enjoy the sunset from the top. The warm light hitting the range in the evening is gorgeous.

Mueller Hut

This alpine hut is located in the Mt Cook NP and offers amazing views on Mt Cook, Mueller Glacier and Mt Sefton. If you make the journey to this hut, plan to spend the night there as sunset and sunrise at that altitude are an unforgettable experience.

Wake up early in the morning and climb Mount Ollivier at dawn for a sunrise from the top.

Heaphy Track

There is for me a satisfying feeling to start from one side of a mountain range and finish on the other side. In winter, this Great Walk is opened to mountain bikers, allowing you to make the most of the shorter days. If you have already walked the track, this is a great option to explore this amazing part of the South Island in a different way.

mountain biker fighting the morning frost on the heaphy track.jpg

Mountain biker fighting the morning frost on the Heaphy track.

Mornings can get quite frosty, so don't forget your gloves… and a puncture kit for your bike!

Avalanche Peak

This easy to access peak in summer makes for a very interesting day walk in winter. The views to Mt Rolleston and the Crow Valley are some of my favourite ones in Arthur's Pass.

​​​​last climb before the summit.jpg

Last climb before the summit.

If you want to make the experience even more interesting you can start the day by climbing Mt Bealey and join Avalanche Peak via Lyell peak (just make sure you start early enough).

Lake Matheson

This lake is world famous for its reflections. On a quiet day you can see Mt Cook and Mt Tasman reflecting in the lake. If you go there in winter, you will likely have the place to yourself, which would be nearly impossible in summer.

Go there for sunrise to maximise your chances of getting still water and be alone.

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