The harsh Southern hemisphere winter, the torrential rainfall, wet and windy weather…one has to be crazy to be travelling to New Zealand at any time other than their short-lived summer. Right? Well, at least that’s the popular perception – one that I believed in too until a conversation with a dear friend who now calls Auckland her home led me to start researching the logistics of a solo trip to the land of Kiwis.
The peak season, which is New Zealand’s summer from December to February, turned out to be too expensive on all fronts. The air ticket prices are through the roof during this brief window when people from all around the world trickle into this breathtakingly beautiful destination to make the most of their winter. The hotels are either booked months in advance or selling at a premium because this also happens to be the time when the natives head out to travel around their country, putting their holidays to good use. This also means a crazy amount of crowds to navigate during your New Zealand travel.
That had me looking at travel dates during the shoulder seasons of fall and spring, that is March to May and September to November as well as the off-season from June to August, when the New Zealand winter is at its peak. Here is why I recommend travelling to New Zealand during the off-peak season months as the absolutely smart thing to do:
Everything is Much Cheaper
Travel cost remains one of the biggest considerations for most people when planning a trip. More often than not, it is the difference between planning a trip and actually acting upon that plan. If you compare the peak season cost of travelling to New Zealand with off and shoulder season costs, you’d realise that everything is much cheaper during these months. From air tickets to accommodation, car rentals and taxis, prices for just about everything you need on a trip plummet during these seasons, giving you the perfect chance to get the maximum bang for your buck.
New Zealand is Stunning during These Seasons
If you discover how stunning and downright jaw-dropping beautiful the landscapes of New Zealand turn during spring and fall, the idea of a summer holiday will seem like an idiocy. Travelling to New Zealand during the spring, for instance, gives you the chance to behold the beauty of the famous Lupins in blossom – fields of pine-cone shaped flowers in assorted hues of lavender, pinks, yellow and faun make for a totally Instagram-worthy sight. Add to that birds chirping in the background and lambs running about the fields and you have the literal definition of picturesque laid out in front of you.
In fall, the landscapes here take on even more dramatic overtones, with intricate cloud formations and light play dotting the sky, cascading waterfalls all around and myriad hues spread through the forests – the idyllic setting for some off-roading adventures.
The winter, even though harsh, comes with its own charm too. More than 20 ski fields in the country draw tourists from across the world for a snowboarding and skiing experience when it is summer almost everywhere else. The Southern Alps also hide in their folds myriad other exciting winter activities for every kind of traveller.
Steer Clear of the Crowds
Come summer and things heat up on the tourist front with a frenzied influx of globetrotters. The popular destinations like Hot Water Beach, Milford Sound and Lake Tekapo are pretty much chock-a-block with people exploring this unique land of the Kiwis. A small country like New Zealand can accommodate only a limited number of people, so, needless to say, things can get pretty chaotic during the peak summer season. On the other hand, travelling to New Zealand during the off-peak season means you have the luxury to experience this place at your pace without your personal space being violated. There is no better way to take in the serenity of its unreal landscape.
What makes your experience all the more pleasant is the fact that the natives are in thick of their routines during this time, with kids at school and adults at their workplaces, so you don’t have to deal with kids playing or families out on a picnic on the beach.
Experience the Local Spirit
During the summer in New Zealand, the natives too are in a holiday spirit, darting off to summer hotspots within the country or the neighbouring Pacific Islands, which means you’ll miss the chance to get a look up close at the local culture and way of life. Travelling to New Zealand during the off and shoulder season, on the contrary, gives you a better chance to meet, interact and hang out with the natives over a meal or a drink. You can even stay with them at a homestay or BnB. If you really want to understand the Kiwi way of life, you may even try your luck at landing a temporary job at a supermarket or a coffee shop. This will not only help you earn some money on the side for your adventures but also give you the insiders’ vantage point to observes the cultural milieu of the place.
Follow Your Heart
Travelling to New Zealand in the off-peak season also gives you the freedom to explore the place at your own whims and fancies. If you want to explore a camping destination or hiking trail that you learn about during your trip, you can tweak your travel plans at the last minute without having to worry about everything being pre-booked and sold out. This is a luxury you cannot afford during peak season travel, as the huge tourist rush mandates that you plan your trip ahead of time down to the last detail and stick to that itinerary.
Besides, to keep the frosty winter from getting too gloomy, Kiwis celebrate the season with a lot of amazing festivals, which you can get in on if you are travelling to New Zealand during that time of the year. The spring and fall too have their share of festivals, cultural events and music festivals in different parts of the country, which are enough to make your New Zealand trip hot and happening.