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When you think of winter in New Zealand, what comes to mind? Do you imagine snowy mountains or taking a walk on a sunny beach? In New Zealand, winter can mean lots of different things, depending on your interests and the part of the country where you choose to study. We think New Zealand winters are pretty awesome. Here’s why:
New Zealand boasts a temperate climate year-round. It does get cooler during the winter, but not as cold as it gets in many parts of the world. In general, the coldest months occur between June and August, but in some parts of the country, the cooler weather might last a bit longer.
The coolest weather is found in the South Island, especially in more mountainous areas. If you’re studying in the South Island, you might experience snow, but the air is likely to remain crisp and dry. So, you can still hike through native bush or go on a long bike ride during the winter. If you’re into water activities you might need a thicker wetsuit, but don’t let that scare you away! Winter is one of the best times of the year to see our marine life as the water tends to be clearest during these months.
If you choose to study in the North Island, you’ll find warmer temperatures. In most areas, the climate remains mild and moist, especially in the central and coastal areas of the North Island where rainforests thrive. Snow is rare, except in the mountains.
The far northern regions of the North Island are often referred to as the “winterless north” because it maintains a higher than average temperature throughout the year, making it seem as though there is no winter at all!
In many other countries, lifestyles change drastically during the winter. Short days and cold, snowy weather keep people inside and prevent them from enjoying their favourite activities. Not so in New Zealand! We enjoy long sunshine hours throughout the year. Of course, the days are a little shorter in the winter, but you’ll still get about 9 hours of sunshine, even on the shortest days of the year.
Mild weather and plenty of daylight hours means you can enjoy some of your favourite activities year-round. There are many biking and walking tracks across both islands that continue to be used in the winter – some are even more popular in the winter, when a dusting of snow on the distant mountains accentuates the beauty of the path.
Do you like surfing or spending time at the beach? The New Zealand winter won’t stop you from enjoying some beach time. You won’t want to go for a swim without a wetsuit, but the quiet winter beaches are perfect for long walks. Winter tends to be the best time of year for surf in New Zealand, so surfers visiting at this time of year are in for a treat.
For those studying in the northern half of the North Island or in the north-west of the South Island, you’ll find a beautiful natural wonder – thermal areas created by underwater springs that have been heated by hot rocks or magma under the earth’s crust. These natural sources of hot water were originally used by early Maoris for medicinal purposes, bathing, washing clothing and to cook meals.
Hot Pools NZ lists all of New Zealand’s thermal hot pools and hot springs, you'll be sure to have one near your chosen school of study. Relaxing in a thermal hot spring is a typical Kiwi tourist activity, but it’s less popular in the summer when the weather is hot. There’s nothing quite like a hot thermal pool on a cold day.
Take care when visiting hot pools – in many non-commercial thermal areas, the water may be at boiling temperatures or above. It’s important to take note of the safety instructions and choose a well-established facility for your hot pools experience.
According to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, “Matariki is the Māori name for the star cluster known as the Pleiades. Traditionally for Māori when it appeared just before dawn in late May or early June, it signalled the start of the Māori New Year.”
Many Maori tribes and iwis around the county organise events and festivals to celebrate the appearance of Matariki. Anyone who is interested is welcome to join these events to celebrate the New Year and learn more about Maori culture.
If you're studying at the Wellington New Zealand Language Centre, you’ll easily be able to attend some of the events held at the famous Te Papa museum, which hosts a 25-day celebration that includes concerts, astronomy lessons and talks.
Rotorua has a proud Maori heritage and often has displays, feasts and celebrations at local Marae (meeting houses). The Novotel Hotel on Rotorua’s lakeside holds its own Matariki celebrations with a buffet, history presentations, a formal Maori pōwhiri (ceremony) and dance displays.
Your New Zealand Winter
We hope this article gives you an idea about what it would be like to study English in New Zealand during the winter months! We’d love to hear about your experience – we invite you to share them with us in the comments area below or on our Facebook page.
Panorama View of Happy Valley, Ruapehu, New Zealand by Khirol Amir, CC-BY-2.0
Biking Queenstown by Education NZ