Christmas in New Zealand: 5 Seasonal Spots to Rent a Car
For those of us more used to shivering through the festive season, hiring a car in New Zealand at Christmas can come as something of a shock. A very pleasant shock. Think sitting-in-the-sun-with-a-cool-drink kind of shock. Whether you’re planning a trip to the North Island or the South Island, Christmas in New Zealand makes sense on so many levels. Here are top 5 spots:
Great food and wine are things we all associate with Christmas, so what better place to base the feast than Marlborough, home to some of New Zealand’s finest wineries and restaurants. Located at the tip of the South Island, the region is where some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc is produced. Hire a car in Blenheim and tour dozens of vineyards, including Brancott Estate, Oyster Bay, and Hunters Wines. Methode Traditionelle sparkling wines are also a specialty, especially close to Renwick.
Kaikoura Bay is less than a two-hour drive from Picton in a rental car, but it is a world away in terms of holiday perfection. Frequently described as one of the most naturally beautiful holiday destinations in the world, this pristine location makes an ideal refuge from the hustle and bustle of the festive season.
Few places in the world are as well developed for sperm whale watching and swimming with dolphins. To the east of the town, you will find a substantial colony of southern fur seals, which are particularly easy to observe at low tide, when the exposed rocks can be navigated on foot. You should also see open ocean seabirds including albatrosses and shearwaters. You could even take a dip on Christmas Day – without freezing.
Rent a car in Queenstown and drive less than an hour to the peaceful setting of Lake Wanaka. This is not your usual Christmas trip. Take a boat or a kayak out on the lake and marvel at the pristine water or try your luck at fishing. Go skydiving over lush valleys or canyoning in gushing rivers. The Wanaka region is dominated by the massive Mount Aspiring (3,035 metres), the tallest mountain in New Zealand outside the Mount Cook range. The Wanaka region is more laid back than Queenstown, and you can easily escape any tourists by heading into Mount Aspiring National Park.
Matamata probably won’t be high on your list of must-see places in New Zealand, but if you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, you’ll feel like all your Christmases came at once. After Peter Jackson’s epic film trilogy and the subsequent Hobbit were filmed here, this pleasant-but-unremarkable town got a Middle Earth makeover, complete with Gollum statue.
Located about 63km east of Hamilton and 50km west of Tauranga, Matamata is home to the Hobbiton movie set, which you can visit and take a guided tour of 44 hobbit holes. Even if hobbits leave you cold, you should see Wairere Falls, the North Island’s highest waterfall, which plunges a breathtaking 153 metres to its base. Take in the stunning views from the walking trail and lookout.
For all the delights of New Zealand in one place, you can’t go too far wrong with Auckland. Hire a car in Auckland and head out into the outdoors or a sunny Christmas, spent sailing, surfing, or swimming. With its twin harbours, Auckland is not short of marine attractions. Then there are the vineyards, the shopping, and the array of cultural attractions – including the fine Auckland Art Gallery and Auckland Museum.
You may not be dashing through the snow, but you’ll certainly enjoy a winter wonderland in New Zealand this Christmas.