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Summertime in New Zealand has a very distinct feeling. Often referred to as the ‘kiwi summer vibe’ it is usually the time directly after the Christmas rush when the weather begins to settle in to predictable blue-sky days and many New Zealanders take their summer holidays and travel away from home to stay as close to the water as they possibly can — be it a beach, lake or river.
If you are fortunate enough to experience a Kiwi Christmas — which marks the start of our summer holidays — it’s very likely to be different from anything you’ve experienced before. Even though traditions from the northern hemisphere still influence us (decorating the Christmas tree and opening presents left by Santa Claus on Christmas morning) it will feel a little like things have been flipped on their head. Instead of snow you’ll experience sun (hopefully!) and although plenty of people do still sit down to a formal Christmas dinner at midday, you’re might experience a more casual Kiwi ‘barbie’ (barbecue) and often in the outdoors either at home or at the beach.
The very first sign of summer in New Zealand is the blooming of the New Zealand Christmas Tree (the Pohutukawa) that lines many of the beaches around our country. The earlier in the season that the bright red flowers burst forth, the longer and hotter the summer generally is. So, now that summer has started let’s look at our top six destinations for holiday fun in the sun and water this year, starting at the top of the North and ending in the South.
The adventure capital of the North, Ahipara sits at the gateway to 90-Mile Beach and the mighty Cape Reinga in the Far North. Shipwreck Bay boasts one of New Zealand’s best left-hand surf breaks and along with fantastic beach and deep-sea fishing, guided coastal quad bike tours and more leisurely pursuits such as beach walking or golfing, Ahipara is a wonderful place to be over summer.
A 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland will see you land at Waiheke Island. Swim at one of the white sand beaches of Oneroa, Palm Beach or Onetangi and then kayak, or experience a local shore dive or snorkel in one of the many bays around the island. The walking trails on Waiheke open to extraordinary views of the Gulf Harbour and wine-tasting tours are a great way to experience any one of the over 20 vineyards on the island.
Image: Oneroa Waiheke Island
Visitors to New Plymouth are immediately spoilt with a choice of beautiful iron sand beaches just minutes from the city. Whether it’s the rugged Back Beach, the sedate Ngamotu Beach, or the lifeguard-patrolled surf beaches of East End and Fitzroy — you’ll find exactly what you need on a hot summer’s day. If you’re keen for some surfing, try the left-hand break at Belt Road or take Surf Highway 45 around the coast, beside majestic Mt Taranaki, to experience the myriad of surf spots dotting the coast from New Plymouth to Hawera.
Takaka & Golden Bay
If you’re brave enough to traverse the infamous Takaka Hill (the only road in and out) you will be greeted by one of the most beautiful places on earth — Golden Bay. As one of the favourite places to holiday for the locals of this region, it’s a great place to be over the summer. At the south-eastern end of the bay sits Takaka, a community of alternative lifestylers that cement the character of the town. Be sure to visit Te Waikoropupu Springs, (the largest freshwater springs in NZ) while you are here.
Abel Tasman National Park
Situated between Kaiteriteri and Takaka, The Abel Tasman National Park is one of the jewels in NZ’s crown. Swim at secluded golden sand beaches and kayak any one of the Park’s many bays or coves, then consider trekking the 51km Coast Track — one of New Zealand’s great walks — staying at huts and campsites along the way over the course of 3–5 days.
Image: Frenchman Bay - Abel Tasman National Park
Make the trip down south to Dunedin at the peak of summer and you’ll be rewarded with temperatures in the high 20s to low 30s (degrees Celsius), plus you’ll get to experience some of the most remote, beautiful and uncrowded beaches you’ll find anywhere in NZ. A vast array of outdoor activities, walking and biking tracks, tours, arts and culture is on offer and you can take a quick drive out to the Otago Peninsula to marvel at the Royal Albatross and Yellow-eyed penguin colonies.
Have fun and stay safe!
We hope you enjoy these summer spots as much as we do. Remember though that the summer sun in New Zealand can be fierce so do make sure that you slip, slap, slap and wrap. Also be sure to take care swimming in NZ waters and driving on NZ roads.