Despite the perception of being a small land mass, a New Zealand summer can differ between not just islands, but even adjacent cities! From a humid heat in Auckland to a dry climate in Christchurch, New Zealanders relish the summer months with BBQs, road trips, and swims at the beach. Here’s a roundup of five of the best New Zealand summer destinations!
Gisborne (Māori name: Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa)
While Gisborne is famous for hosting one of New Zealand’s biggest New Year’s music festivals every year, its stellar summer weather, idyllic beaches, and variety of outdoor activities make for a fantastic summer destination. Located on the East Coast of NZ, Gizzy (as it’s fondly nicknamed) has many beaches that are perfect for swimming, boating, fishing, and surfing. With an average summer high of between 23 – 35°C, the days are long and sunny. With all this sunshine, you’d be silly not to get outside and enjoy it, with lots of hikes, cycleways, and even Eastwoodhill Arboretum – NZ’s national arboretum, home to the largest collection of trees from the Northern Hemisphere.
Great Barrier Island (Māori name: Aotea)
With a population of under 1,000 people, Great Barrier Island is NZ’s sixth-biggest island. With no electricity, supermarkets, or public transport, residents are proud to live ‘off-the-grid’ in relaxed NZ-style island life. Don’t let this put you off though – your stay on the island will be an incredible experience! Perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, the island is home to hot springs, lots of walking tracks, and a range of beaches (surf beaches on its East Coast, and sheltered harbors on its West Coast). And let’s not forget that it is the only island in the world to receive Dark Sky Sanctuary status!
Christchurch (Māori name: Ōtautahi)
Christchurch is the perfect spot if you’re looking for a city with a relaxed pace of life. Despite suffering a number of earthquakes in recent years, the city is undergoing a thorough rebuild with lots of innovative ways to showcase the ‘new’ Christchurch – picture a container mall strip, the Cardboard Cathedral, a riverside promenade, and much more! Christchurch also makes a good middle ground for day trips or longer into the beautiful Canterbury region and beyond: 90 minutes to the quaint harbor town of Akaroa; 2 hours to Arthur’s Pass National Park; or up to 4.5 hours to Blenheim or Dunedin.
Coromandel Peninsula (Māori name: Te Tara-o-te-Ika a Māui)
The problem with the Coromandel Peninsula is that it is so densely packed with beaches that it’s hard to pick just one to visit! From digging your own hot water pool at Hot Water Beach to the tiny township of Kuaotunu to the soft sands of Whangamata, you can’t go wrong with any that you pick. Beaches aside, you can also hike the mighty Pinnacles, and the sunsets are some of the very best from the East Coast beaches.
Nelson (Māori name: Whakatū)
Known as the hottest city during New Zealand’s summer, the South Island’s oldest city is a popular place for locals and tourists alike. January sees the annual Nelson Jazz & Blues Festival, while March is key for the Taste Nelson Festival. The nearby Marlborough area is famous for producing some of New Zealand’s finest sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs, with many people opting to hire bikes for a great circuit around the vineyards. Nelson is also close to Abel Tasman National Park where you can choose your length of trip (from one day-ers to multi-day) for completing some/all of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. The Park is also ideal for those who prefer to see it from the water, with a number of kayak hire companies offering guided tours across the pristine waters.