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Aotearoa offers a very unique Christmas experience for those visiting our country. Way down in the South Pacific, New Zealand is in the middle of summer at Christmas time, so we flock to beaches, go swimming and get into outdoor dining and activities.
Let’s look at how you too can enjoy a hot Kiwi Christmas and summer in New Zealand.
Summertime in New Zealand is all about getting out in the great outdoors and making the most of the warm weather and excellent scenery.
The NZ summer runs from December to February and temperatures range from 20 degrees Celsius up to the mid-30s, depending on where you are in the country. We love spending time outdoors under the sun in summer, but you have to appreciate how harsh the sun can be and stay SunSmart. To avoid being subject to sunburn and the related health risks, follow the slip, slop, slap and wrap rule — slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen (minimum of SPF 30+), slap on a hat, and wrap on a pair of sunglasses.
Being an island country, NZ has no shortage of amazing beaches, lakes and rivers to help you cool off during the summer heat. Swimming and surfing are part and parcel of our summer experience and some of the beaches and swimming spots we have free access to are absolutely idyllic.
Grab your togs and take the plunge but remember to stay safe while you’re in the water.
NZ is long and slender, so exploring the country by road is the best option to get to the best summer spots. Taking a summer road trip to beaches, towns and attractions around the nation is almost a right of passage for visitors and locals alike.
Have a read of Our Top 6 New Zealand Summer Destinations to include in your road trip.
And learn about Driving Safely on New Zealand Roads.
Hiking is often called ‘tramping’ down under, and we have great trails stretching the length of the country. There are options for all levels of fitness and these walks can range in length from 20–30 minutes right up to multiday missions that involve staying overnight in huts along the way. Find your next hike, now but remember to prepare for all weather conditions and to tell someone where you are going, or better still — go with friends!
Cycling and mountain biking are fast becoming one of NZ’s most popular activities. You can buy or rent a bike and enjoy dedicated cycleways or take to our wonderful forests for some adrenal-pumping mountain bike trail action. Where will you ride?
You won’t find any white Christmases in Aotearoa… opposite to the northern hemisphere’s snowy winter Christmases, we (mostly) enjoy hot and sunny weather each year on 25 December. Here are a few traits that make a NZ Christmas special.
For the most part, those who celebrate Christmas in NZ do so with Christmas trees, presents, stockings and decorations. Out traditional ‘Christmas tree’ is the native pōhutakawa, which are commonly found in coastal areas. The red-needled, shade-offering trees are more of a spiritual Christmas tree for New Zealanders and aren’t actually harvested for indoor display due to their protected status. This honour is left to our plentiful supply of pine trees.
‘Christmas dinner’ (or sometimes lunch) varies from one family to the next but can often feature a roast ham/chicken/turkey with vegetables, kumara (like sweet potato), potatoes and gravy. Desserts can take on a British theme that sees ‘Christmas cake’ (fruit cake) served with steamed ‘Christmas pudding’ and mince pies. Oh, and don’t forget our signature dessert we call Pavlova — a large meringue coated in cream and topped with sliced fruits like Kiwi Fruit and strawberries (and don’t let any Australians tell you they invented it!).
The great Kiwi barbecue is king in summer, so it often gets cranked up on Christmas day. A picnic on the beach is another beautiful way to dine on the 25th.
If you’re especially fortunate you may be able to sample a traditional Māori Hāngi of meat and root vegetables cooked in the ground by hot rocks. See other Kiwi foods and drinks you could try at Christmas.
While you are enjoying your Christmas and holidays in New Zealand, please think about, and sign up for, the Tiaki Promise. This is a commitment to caring for our people and our country.
A dip in the water on Christmas day is a bit of a ritual in New Zealand, so get yourself along to your nearest beach or swimming hole for some fun. Christmas day sees our beaches full of people using the presents they received that morning, so grab a snorkel and flippers or a body board and join in!
January 1 and 2 are both public holidays in NZ, so New Year’s Eve parties really go off. Many people take leave from their work and have a summer holiday from Christmas Eve through to January 3 or longer.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about how people spend the festive season in New Zealand. Have fun getting into the above activities, have a very merry Christmas and a happy and safe new year!