Waitaki Winter Wonderland – our Top 5 Highlights

Kiwi eyes know to look to the Waitaki during the summer, but we think people underestimate a sweet winter break in the Waitaki. Winter is a prime time here to beat the crowds, appreciate the stunning landscapes that have been remade in icier hues, and enjoy all the diverse activities on offer in the region.

With this in mind we’ve listed our Top 5 Winter Waitaki Highlights:

Ōhau provides stunning views of the mountains and lake water from your campervan in the summer, but the panoramas are even better from the lesser crowded slopes of Ōhau Snow Field. Every winter, from July to September, Ōhau Snow Field cracks into action with groomed or off-piste powder snow. The ski field caters for all abilities; anyone can enjoy an uncrowded skiing or snowboarding experience here.

Stay at the family friendly Ōhau Lodge with great food, a warm fire, and a hot spa waiting for you at the end of a long day.

Further along Lake Ohau are winter hiking and tramping options up in the Hopkins and Dobson Valleys.

Those aching for remote adventure can journey the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail during the winter. Yes, you’ll need additional preparations to ride during the colder months, but to see the Waitaki in all its wintry glory is worth it! Witness dramatic landscapes from Mt Cook down to the Pacific Ocean weaving your way through the Waitaki Whitestone Aspiring Geopark.

Have you ever witnessed rafts (groups of penguins) clambering and waddling ashore?  The best place for seeing the Little Blue Penguins (the world’s smallest) is at the Ōamaru Blue Penguin Colony.  Arriving back every evening at dusk having been at sea since dawn feeding on fish, the colony has become a safe and welcoming spot for the penguins.  The colony has a focus on scientific monitoring, and protection of the penguins in their natural and undisturbed environment, but one which also allows the public to view the penguins without harming them or their environment.

Stay inside (your car) and wind along the Pacific coast via State Highway 1. You’ll see unique wildlife, amazing geological sites, and stunning, isolated beaches—you’ll be compelled to stop and explore. And there are several towns along the way – Kakanui, Maheno, Herbert, Hampden, Moeraki, and Palmerston bursting at the seams with charm perfect for a stroll along the beach or coffee stopover. Other worthy scenic drive is head inland at Palmerston to explore the enchanting historic settlements of Dunback and Macraes.

Ōamaru looks beautiful at night when viewed from the town lookout, all the lights glittering below in the dark, but if you look up you can experience Waitaki’s amazingly clear skies to see the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon. The stuff stargazers dream of. If you’re going to be chilly you should be rewarded with something out of this world!

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