top of page
  • Writer's pictureKate

'Chill' out in Central Otago this Winter ❄️

Your inspirational (and punny) guide for visiting Central Otago between June and August! The last of the golden, red and orange leaves have fallen from the trees providing us with an ominous reminder of what's to come. However, don't let the cold temperatures in Central Otago scare you away this Winter! Even though we're just over an hour away from the ski resorts, Central Otago has so much more to offer than waiting in long lines for the ski lift juggling boards or skies. So grab a peppermint hot chocolate, snuggle up and read on for ideas, insight and inspiration to make your winter holiday here in Central a cool one. I need to preface this by stating the obvious: it is criiiiiiiiiisp, icy and cold. Be prepared for the mornings to be foggy, frosty and freezing - It is Winter after all! Usually by mid-morning, the fog will clear, the frost will melt and the brilliant blue skies of Central Otago will remind you why the region is known as "big sky country".

St Bathans Blue Lake reflecting the blue sky, with snow covered hills.
St Bathans Blue Lake

Curling: Easier Sled than Done!

two people using brooms to sweep the ice rink for curling

First up is perhaps the most obvious winter activity to do in Central Otago - Curling. Curling is a somewhat unique game that everyone can enjoy! It’s easy to learn yet can be challenging to play and is a fun sport for all ages and abilities!

Slide the stones across the ice to get as close to the target area as possible (called the house). Each player slides two stones each and points are given for the closest stone to the house. The opposition team is able to 'sweep' the ice with brooms which makes the ice slippery, and the stone travel further. Once you understand the rules, get somewhat coordinated on the ice, and suss out how much oomph to put behind the stones, you will be hooked on trying to nail the technique with every throw. Be prepared for a hilarious time - the first game I played with a group of friends had us all in giggles the whole time and we were absolutely buzzing afterwards!


'Freeze the Day' in Naseby:

See the diverse landscapes of Central Otago as you head 2000ft Above Worry Level to the Jewel of the Māniatoto, Naseby. Just like on every winter road trip, be sure to check the weather reports, and always drive to the conditions.

Quaint and tranquil, postcard-worthy Naseby is a popular holiday destination for the whole family! Walk and bike through the Naseby Forest all year around as it offers many tracks and trials through the exotic forest area, allowing many hours of exercise and exploration.

the ice luge covered in snow

If you're visiting Naseby in winter, going to the Ice Rink is an absolute must. There's a 360m natural ice luge track for everyone to slip, slide and safely speed down, and the coaches are there to ensure you have fun! There's also an outdoor ice rink to practice your skating and a snow park to do some tubing or have some epic snowball fights. After the snow activities, take a stroll through the gorgeous heritage precinct. Visit the Royal Hotel for a delicious hearty meal and some soul-warming mulled wine before marvelling at the historic downtown which looks like a movie set among the snow.

Heritage building in naseby with snow on the footpath

The dark velvety winter skies of the Māniatoto region make it a perfect location for navigating the night sky! As the sun sets earlier in the winter, you don't have to wait long to experience the dark skies! Naseby Night Sky Tours are hosted by an astrophysicist, and Paul provides all of the equipment you need to explore the universe and observe objects near and far. With customizable tours available, Naseby Night Sky Tours allows you to make the most of your Central Otago holiday, because why should the adventures stop at dusk?


Cycling: Even When It's Wheely Cold

All of the trails in Central Otago are open year around, however are much quieter in the colder months! The trails often freeze and thaw throughout the day, this can create icy or slushy sections of the trail so it's a must to watch where you're biking.

two cyclists biking over a bridge in the winter time

It is most important to ensure you are fully prepared when cycling in Winter. Clothing wise, be like Shrek. Onions have layers, ogres have layers, and YOU must also have layers. As it's the quiet period, ensure you have your own bike repair kit and know how to use it. It's common for bike operators to have winter hours, and might not be readily available to help with a puncture. It also wouldn't be a blog by me if I didn't highlight the importance of snacks. It is common for cafes along the trails to have shorter open hours or are closed more frequently than in the winter. Avoid disappointment by packing adequate snacks which will keep you fuelled in between cafes! The quieter months on the trail allows you to explore the Big Sky Country at your own pace with your own space. The distinct winter landscapes look completely different in the Winter time, so if you've done some of the trails in the summertime, pop down and experience the cool, calm and quiet of winter!


Shivers that's delicious: Winter Warmers!

Brrrrrrace the cold and head to one of our many incredible cafes, pubs or restaurants for a hearty, winter warmer. If I could put a Courthouse peppermint hot chocolate in an IV drip in my arm, I would.

a photo of the courthouse cafe with snow on the grounds, but its brightly lit indoors

They are the perfect winter treat, and it just so happens that they're right next door. Winter lunch specials include seafood chowder; chicken and vege soup and the most divine pork belly wontons . . . Absolutely divine. Their café buzzes with happy customers on the daily, but the heritage building gets cozy when the outside temperatures drop. It would be impossible to talk about hearty Winter meals without mentioning Waipiata Country Hotel. With weekly curry nights, mexi-specials and their famous pies, there are options for everyone so you will never leave Waipiata hungry - in fact, be prepared to be rolled home!

For over 150 years, the Danseys Pass Hotel has been warm and welcoming to the weary winter traveller or miner by providing a roaring fire to defrost in front of. Nowadays, that fire provides a cozy, romantic atmospheric ambience for you to enjoy a glass of pinot (or two!). The restaurant offers high quality meals filled with local produce, chef creativity and delectable flavours.


Dam it's Cold: Clyde Dam Tours!

While this is available all year around - it truly is a very cool way to experience something completely different in any season!

Clyde Dam Tours will take you on a

tour in and around Clyde Dam. It's New Zealand’s largest gravity-fed dam and right in our backyard! On the tour, you’ll visit the key areas of the dam, hear about the history of it’s construction, how it works, and marvel at it’s immense size and scale. Guided by locals and each with their own area of expertise.


For anyone visiting Central Otago in the winter, regardless of which activity you choose to do, you need to ensure you RUG UP PROPERLY and make sure the snuggle is real! I promise your experience will be ten thousand times more enjoyable when you're not frozen to the bone. If you're wanting for a winter getaway that provides après-ski vibes, without the queues and slush, then look no further than Central Otago. We have heaps of activities, attractions and adventures available so get in touch today and let me help you make your holiday is a very cool one!

Kate x


bottom of page