The top 5 South Island Winter Gems of NZ

written by:
Rachel Stewart


The top 5 South Island Winter Gems of NZ

Winter is upon us here in New Zealand. It’s that time of the year when the temperatures start to drop… there is snow starting to fall on the mountains, the ski fields are opening and its beginning to feel like a winter wonderland.

Although we are not yet in the true depths of the season, the lakes have started to freeze a little… ice sheets are beginning to appear and frozen puddles line the foreshore. White frosting lies dotted along mountain ridgelines, and photographers everywhere are getting excited for the transformation from colourful autumn landscapes, to blissfully white winter filled scenes.

If you are planning to visit New Zealand during winter, I have a few favourite spots to share that might help you in some of your planning. The Southern Alps is where you will find a lot of inspiration and sense of wonder only felt when surrounded by such incredible landscapes. The north island most certainly has gems like that too!

Come along with me as I relive some of my journey through the New Zealand winter!

The Road to Mt Cook and Lake Pukaki

All I can say is, if you are headed to the South Island and Mount Cook in particular, its pretty hard to miss this one. Here you will find THE most blue glacial feed lakes in New Zealand, and Lake Pukaki in particular is absolutely stunning. Then the road to Mount Cook follows the lake and takes you to one of the most magical places on earth, and I’m not lying when I say that.


Wanaka is one of those places that stole my heart as soon as I saw it with my own eyes.

A place that made me smile, that left me not wanting to leave,  left me in constant awe and wondering how I could get back here again to experience more.

I first visited here in the depths of winter, and it truly was an incredible sight. Mountains covered in snow, the incredible Lake Wanaka glistening the winter sun,  hiking Roy’s Peak to view one of the most spectacular sights in New Zealand .. Wanaka is an absolute must do.


It kind of goes without saying .. but Queenstown is the buzzing hub of winter in New Zealand. Tourists flock to Queenstown and it’s no surprise why. The town is full of life, fabulous restaurants and you can’t help but feel excited being amongst it all. But what I love the most, is the incredible landscapes that are found on the outskirts of town .. the quiet places where the beauty really unfolds. It is here that I fell in love with this place, amongst some of the most beautiful lakes and mountains I have ever seen.

Tasman Valley and Tasman Glacier Lake

This area is by far my favourite part of Mount Cook National Park. Take the side road down Tasman Valley and you wont regret it. With a short walk to Tasman Glacier Lake, its one of the easiest hikes you can do with some of the best rewards for scenery. In winter this place looks like something out of a fairytale. Snow capped mountains, ginormous icebergs and a pristine blue glacial feed lake. Photographer’s paradise.

It is however a stark reminder of global warming and the retreat of our glaciers. In the 1970’s the Tasman Lake didn’t exist. The glacier now recedes approximately 500 – 800 metres a year. It is predicted that the Tasman Glacier will disappear completely in 10-20 years time. Our planet is far more fragile than we humans are, I hope we can each find a way to help save it.

Lake Matheson and the West Coast

If you find yourself in the South Island and have time to travel the west coast, then Lake Matheson and Fox Glacier should be one place that you stop and spend a little time with.

The short walk around Lake Matheson provides you with some of the best views of New Zealand’s highest peaks, Mount Tasman and Mount Cook, and on a good day, the lake creates a magnificent reflection in the dark waters beneath. Absolutely worth the drive to one of the most stunning places on earth.

Rachel Stewart

Rachel Stewart is a self-taught landscape, travel and adventure photographer based in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand.

With a passion for nature, art, adventure and exploring, Rachel’s photography can be characterized by her desire to seek out and find the beauty created by the natural world.

Our Brands