IN YOUR ELEMENT
Head to New Zealand during its colder months (May to September) to skip the crowds and peak prices, and experience undisturbed natural scener y and dynamic Maori¯ culture. Book your dream trip now – especially if you’re an All Blacks fan – and spend the next few months looking forward to snow y fiords, placid cities and peaceful landmarks, as well as a cornucopia of winter outdoor ac tivities across sky, land and water
New Zea land ’s Maori ¯ name is Aotearoa, which means ‘ land of the long white cloud ’ and is believed to reference the countr y’s abundant daylight. When the sun does go dow n, you’ l l find yourself under some of the clearest, darkest sk ies in the world, especia l ly in w inter. Go stargazing on the South Island and there’s a good chance you’ l l catch a glimpse of the Aurora Austra lis – the Northern Lights’ lesser-k now n but equa l ly enchanting southern cousin. T he Maori ¯ New Year is a lso obser ved around this time, hera lded by the r ise of Matar i k i (the Pleiades star cluster) in May, and June’s new moon. T he communit y comes together for three days of remembrance, music, tree planting and k ite fly ing. In recent years, Matar i k i light d isplays against cu ltura l bui ld ings have become trad ition, too.
Hir ing a camper van g ives you fu l l freedom to ex plore New Zealand ’s mammoth national parks and laid-back cities at your ow n pace. Plus, the wel l-maintained roads are often flanked by dramatic natura l landscapes, ma k ing for a scenic drive. Just make sure your motorhome is wel l insu lated, and keep a couple of hot-water bottles on hand. Getting around by bus or train is just as easy. You might want to catch an A l l Blacks game – the w inter months are your best bet for seeing the nationa l rugby team play on home turf – or, if v isiting in Aug ust, stop off at the Wel lington on a Plate food festiva l for some loca l delicacies. T he capita l ’s prominent craft beer scene is a lso worth check ing out, w ith plent y of homegrow n brews to sample.
T here’s no need to don head-to-toe neoprene to enjoy a rev ita lising sw im in w intr y New Zea land. When Rotoura’s hot spr ings aren’t teeming w ith tour ists, it’s even easier to see why the Maor ¯ i revere them so much. With those tempting thermal pools and a thriv ing Maori ¯ communit y, Rotoura is a hot spot for ex per iencing cu ltura l perfor mances, trad itiona l hang ¯ i (steam-cooked banquets) and a rela xing warm bath. Whale-watching is another New Zealand ha l lmark that’s best enjoyed in w inter. A lthough sperm wha les stick around the K ai koura coast a l l year round, other species such as the humpback , pi lot, blue and souther n r ight stop by the squid-r ich waters in the colder months. June to August is the best time to see them in action, w ith a backdrop of snow-covered mountains as an added bonus.
Main image: snowy Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. Inset, from left: stargazing at Lake Tekapo’s Church of the Good Shepherd; road to Aoraki with Mount Cook in the background; whale-watching on the Kaikoura coast 5P EJTDPWFS B CFU UFS XBZ UP áZ UP /FX ;FBMBOE WJTJU CFU UFS XBZ UPáZ DP VL