Gerrit van Rooyen
A Kiwi Summer Christmas
Summer is a fantastic time to visit New Zealand, especially if you are in the Northern Hemisphere. Leaving a miserable winter for a sunny yet mild summer? Sign me up!
However, if you are visiting in summer you may be here during the Christmas season. This is what I call that two week period that contains Christmas and New Years. It’s quite a unique time here as the majority of businesses close down and most kiwis are also on holidays. I thought it would be useful to talk about what to expect when visiting New Zealand at this time of year. Things work a bit differently around here so there are some things you might not expect.
Plan ahead... way ahead!
As I said, this time of summer isn’t only a good time for tourists to visit, but the locals are all off of work and want to travel locally as well. That makes getting accommodation a nightmare! I remember trying to book accommodation for New Years in Queenstown while it was June. I was lucky to find one room (I needed two!). So my folks got the room while we had to share a single bed in a backpacker room with about 20 people because that was all we could get. As you can imagine, unless you’re a teen or used to dorm life, it was pretty cramped, but fun meeting some new people. All of Summer is busy, especially hot spots like Queenstown, so the further ahead you can book the better off you’ll be. In our case during this season, a year ahead would have been ideal.
Other than accommodations make sure you book all those touristy activities as well. Want to visit the glow worm caves or the Milford Sound boat ride? Well, these popular activities will fill up fast this time of year. And of course, don’t forget to book your Wellington Golf Tour with Steve!
Christmas = Closed!
Don’t be silly on Christmas day and think you’ll be able to find somewhere open to get food. Get it beforehand because everywhere is closed. Yes, even McDonald’s. Yes, even the big grocery stores. Yes, even the local dairy (Some smaller supermarkets are open in the bigger cities, so just Google the business and it should say if it is open. Not all update their hours, so be sure to call just incase).
Hotel restaurants may be open, but I expect very busy. Look, it’s not convenient when you are travelling but how great is it that almost everyone gets to be with their families on Christmas? I think that’s worth the inconvenience. So if you aren’t staying in a place with a kitchen load up the chilly bin with sandwich makings the day before (and check the hours because stores aren’t open all day on Xmas eve either!).
If you are used to the winter wonderland type of Christmas you might not feel like it’s Christmas here. Some people do put up lights but most don’t bother as it doesn’t get dark until just about bedtime. You’ll see decorations about and Christmas music will be playing all through December, but it’s a different feeling in summer. A heavy turkey dinner with all the trimmings just doesn’t sit right when it’s too warm out, so you’ll probably opt for a BBQ instead. Steve can explain just how a classic Kiwi BBQ goes!
I’ve tried to recreate the feel of a traditional Christmas but you just have to change your expectations to avoid disappointment. Enjoy the change of pace and have a traditional Kiwi Christmas. On the beach, playing some backyard cricket with a chilly bin full of beers, grilling some chicken skewers and sausages, munching on crisps with onion dip, with pavlova for pudding, after a few rounds of golf?