Australian residents will be well aware that in certain parts of the country, winter isn’t really a thing. Tropical North Queensland sits close to 30°C year-round, even Darwin in the Northern Territory doesn't drop far below the 20°C mark in winter months - hardly the seasonal shift we see in other parts of the world. Sure, there are places where you’ll be rugging up at night, but plenty more where shorts and sandals are still appropriate wear for the weather.
Most Australians relish our warmer winter climate, while others envy international destinations who welcome exciting arrivals like snow during colder months. While there are a few places to find snow in Aus, if you’ve been craving an escape from the mainland for your next winter trip, why not cast your travel plans across the ditch? We’re bringing you all the insider information on our favourite New Zealand snow-cation destination - Queenstown!
Queenstown in a nutshell
Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and framed by the majestic Remarkables mountain range, New Zealand’s Queenstown has a reputation for two things; beauty and adventure. People flock to this stunning South Island city year-round but are especially partial to a trip here during the winter season. That’s because Queenstown, already packed to the brim with attractions to boast about, offers one of the longest and most favourable snow seasons in the Southern Hemisphere. With four ski fields within driving distance from the central city precinct, ski and snowboarding enthusiasts really do adore Queenstown.
How to get to Queenstown
Flights from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne will have you landing in Queenstown in around three hours - how good is that! The international airport is located in Frankton, 10-20 minutes from the centre of town, so you won’t have far to travel depending on where you are staying. You can jump on a shuttle bus from the airport or hire a car, a great option if you have time to spare in the city and want to get out and see more than the ski fields while you are visiting.
When does the snow season start?
New Zealand’s winter months are the same as ours, June, July and August. This is undoubtedly the peak season in Queenstown for those devoted to alpine activities like skiing and snowboarding. While snow can start to fall on the mountains as early as April and May, the official Queenstown snow season is from June to October. Stuck deciding when to visit Queenstown? Our tip is to wait out the peak winter months by a few weeks. In September, you’ll be in absolute holiday bliss, still enjoying the city at a time when snow is falling, but with fewer ques for chairlifts and cheaper options to rest your head.
The ski fields
For most Aussie’s living in a major national city, the idea of jumping in their car and being at a ski field within 20 minutes is a far fetched fantasy. Not the case for Queenstown residents, lucky enough to call that scenario a reality! The closest ski field to the central precinct is Coronet Peak, 280 hectares of skiable area only 20 minutes from the city. You can even take on the slopes under the cloak of darkness here, with night skiing available at Coronet during the peak season. Close by is sister mountain the Remarkables, offering the best base lodge in New Zealand. You’ll love the view on the journey up, and if you happen to be driving yourself, there are handy shuttles to take you from the car park to the base lodge. (Tip: buy a multi-day pass for access to Coronet and Remarkables if you plan to do both, best value for money!). First-timers and those still finding their feet on the snow might want to consider Cardrona as their top ski field choice. A world-class snow park, Cardrona offers a gondola chairlift, surface lifts, specialised beginner packages and heaps of open trails - perfect for novices and intermediates! It’s also still super close to Queenstown, only 45 minutes by car or mountain shuttle, so you can relax and enjoy the scenery on your way out to the slopes. The final of the four is Treble Cone, home to the longest vertical rise in the Southern Lakes. Treble Cone visitors will love the uncrowded slopes and magnificent views, promising the best of Queenstown’s renowned stunning scenery.
New to snowboarding and skiing? Don't stress!
You have nothing to worry about other than a few guaranteed funny falls. Each of the four ski fields caters to beginners (and yes, that includes absolute, never set foot on snow before beginners). Our pick of the bunch is Cardrona, which although caters for all levels, has a great selection of private or group ski/snowboard lessons to help you conquer the slopes in no time.
Most Australians won’t have the gear necessary for the ski fields hanging up in their wardrobes. The good news is, you can rent everything you need for the snow once you get to Queenstown. You can either do this in the city by pre-booking your rental equipment or at the ski fields themselves. Equipment and gear hire covers everything from top to toe, including ski sets, boards, jackets, pants, goggles, boots, helmets and gloves. The length of your stay in Queenstown should help you decide which items to invest in before you arrive and which items to leave unpacked and hire while you’re there.
Just like the arrival of summer on the east coast of Australia, winter in Queenstown is a huge mood, bringing bustle and buzz to the city you’ll want to get involved in. The Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival kicks off the season with four days of fun in town and on the mountain. Now in its 46th year, expect to see live DJs, sink into hot tub outdoor cinema sessions and crawl your way through pop up bars all around town. Not long after is the NZ Mountain Film Festival, a ten-day event showcasing international adventure films and celebrating adventurous sports and lifestyles. And what better location to enjoy that genre of cinema than Queenstown! From the end of August to early September is the wonderful Winter Pride, bringing colour to the city through live music, the annual Snow Ball, circus acts, cabaret and more.
Not that keen on the snow activities or considering travel to Queenstown at a different time of the year? Read what we recommend for year-round trips right here. Or better yet, speak to someone from our team. We’ve got package deals, hot tips and all the advice you need for a trip to Queenstown at our fingertips!