In Aotearoa New Zealand, there are delights to discover all year round. Here’s how to make the most of your adventure, no matter the season.

In winter: Canterbury, South Island

Outdoor enthusiasts love this region on the east coast for its rolling plains, snow-dusted peaks and vibrant capital city, Christchurch (Ōtautahi). While serious skiers hightail it to Mount Hutt (Ōpuke), there’s plenty more to tackle in the area than just powder.

Winter is truffle season in the beautiful Waipara Gorge, only a hour’s drive north of Christchurch through farmland that thrives on limestone and alluvial soils. A private or group hunt with Kings Truffles and their labrador-pointer cross dogs will give you the best chance of harvesting this elusive ingredient for yourself. But if you want to skip straight to the treasure, book a chopper flight to the property with GCH Aviation, do some digging then fly your spoils to nearby Black Estate, where they’ll be served up for you at a table overlooking the mountains of the South Island’s Main Divide.

Ōpuke Thermal Pools, Methven

Peel Forest is an ancient, mossy wilderness just over 90 minutes’ drive south of Christchurch. Immerse yourself in the glowing green on a hike or enjoy the views from the water with a Hidden Valleys Rafting trip. Then, soothe tired muscles at Ōpuke Thermal Pools and Spa, an hour away in Methven (Piwakawaka), where you can soak in the glacial run-off of the Rangitata River while admiring its origins: the mighty Southern Alps (Kā Tiritiri-ote-Moana). Warmed by solar power, these pools are a local favourite.

Rest will come easily at the luxurious four-bedroom Homestead at Flockhill, a 14,500-hectare sheep station in Craigieburn Valley. There’s a personal chef on hand, along with a fireplace to snuggle up next to.

In spring: Northland, North Island

To explore unique communities, enjoy delicious food and dip your toes in the surf at near-deserted beaches, hire a car in Auckland (Tāmaki Makaurau) and head to Northland (Te Tai Tokerau), where grassroots New Zealand awaits.

Prepare to navigate some gravel roads on the way to Te Arai Links, just 90 minutes north of the city, where you’ll find two 18-hole links courses and the world’s biggest putting green. Stay onsite in a plush suite, ocean cottage or villa and secure an early tee off at the time of booking.

Surfers off the Northland coast

If waves are calling you, Te Ārai Beach Reserve has one of the most consistent surf breaks on the east coast. Don’t worry if you’re a beginner: Aotearoa Surf School offers everything from two-hour lessons to weekend wellness retreats, the latter exclusively for women.

Make tracks up the coast to The Potting Shed at Andersons Cove farm – a luxe cottage for two with a private stretch of sand near the pōhutukawa tree-lined Langs Beach. Time in the outdoor cedar hot tub, as you gaze out onto a meadow of wildflowers or up at the stars, is an unforgettable experience.

A two-bedroom Ocean Cottage at Te Arai Links

Head further north, travelling along the Tutukaka coastline with its beautiful beaches. Stop at the thriving Tutukaka Marina for a pizza at Marina Woodfired Dining. Or pop over the hill to the Matapouri Bay Store for seafood, burgers and generous double-scoop ice-creams.

In summer: Great Barrier Island, North Island

Waiheke Island near Auckland rightfully attracts crowds with its bucolic vineyards and scenic restaurants but Great Barrier Island (Aotea), a charming, off-grid atoll further out in the Hauraki Gulf, offers a more intrepid experience. Get there via a spectacular 30-minute flight from the city  or a 4.5-hour ferry ride, which may offer a chance to spot dolphins on the way.

Head to the Currach Irish Pub in Tryphena – 10 minutes by taxi from the ferry wharf – where you’ll find locals having a beer, engaging in quiz night or listening to live music. Behind the bar, Orla is the one to ask about car hire (her insider tips include taking a dip in the natural Kaitoke Hot Springs and walking the 15-minute trail, near the start of the Hirakimata/Mount Hobson track, to Windy Canyon lookout).

There’s always a line at Barrier Burga Shak (27 Hector Sanderson Road, Claris), a 15-minute drive north of Tryphena, especially in the early evening, with many opting for the greenlip mussel burger. Your restaurant table is the grass under the trees.

Medlands Beach, Great Barrier Island

Seventy per cent of this bush-covered island has Conservation Park status, resulting in intriguing critters (keep your eyes peeled for the extremely rare chevron skink) and night skies so clear, it’s been declared a Dark Sky Sanctuary.

Bring your binoculars to the one-bedroom bach (beach shack) belonging to Island Gin. The holiday home is perched on the edge of wetlands that run down to Medlands Beach, where stargazing groups regularly stop on their evening rounds (but you’ll have a front-row seat).

In autumn: Hawke's Bay, North Island

A one-hour flight from Wellington, Hawke’s Bay (Te Matau-a-Māui) is a culinary haven, with everything from year-round food markets to fine-dining restaurants.

For proximity to the region’s many vineyards, base yourself at Porters Boutique Hotel in Havelock North (Karanema), 30 minutes’ drive from Hawke’s Bay Airport. Its apartment has three double bedrooms, stunning views of Te Mata Peak and a 10-seater dining table where you can book (for an additional cost) head chef Bert van de Steeg from next door’s Malo restaurant to come over and cook his elegant yet rustic dishes.

Another excellent dining option is Cellar 495, about 10 minutes away in Hastings (Heretaunga). Try chef Carlita Campbell’s potato doughnuts with crème fraîche, chermoula and Ortiz anchovies or the organic beef tartare, made with meat raised locally and prepared at the butcher across the road.

Break up the indulgence by stopping into nearby Napier (Ahuriri) and its Spa_ce gallery that represents established and early-career artists from New Zealand and Australia.

Te Mata Peak

When you’re ready to stretch your legs, take the scenic drive 45 minutes north-west to Blowhard Bush, a reserve rich with Māori history, native birds and a forest of towering matai, beech and kanuka trees. Walks range from 30 minutes to several hours but the adventurous can choose an overnight tramp on the Te Puia Hut Track in the Kaweka Forest Park. It follows the glittering Mohaka River, with a chance to visit the bush-fringed Mangatainoka Hot Springs.

SEE ALSO: 30 of New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Hidden Gems

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Image credit: Miles Holden, Prudence Upton, Ricky Robinson, Jayne MacDonald

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