New Zealand’s Best Winter Activities, Bars & Restaurants

friends having a nice chat over a glass of wine on a porch with a fireplace

3.76min read

Published 17 February 2020

Flight Centre Author

Writer and content creator


Are you keen for some winter fun? Just across the ditch, New Zealand is the ultimate destination for snow sports, whether you’re a first-time-seeing-snow kind of person, or a seasoned snowboarder keen to hit the half pipe! With four resorts spread across the North and South Islands, some seriously good food, a host of activities off the slopes, and the friendly Kiwi hospitality we love, NZ is the winter holiday destination for everyone.  

Skiing can be exhausting, especially if you’re learning, and if the weather turns sour, not even the biggest pow fan wants to be on the mountain. What makes New Zealand ski resorts some of the best in the world is the huge number of other activities that can be enjoyed off the mountain, from wine tasting to cycling.

So the question remains, which New Zealand ski towns have the best apres-ski activities? Here’s a list all of the things to do off the slopes in each, so you can decide for yourself:


Canterbury/Christchurch (Mt Hutt), South Island

The drive from Christchurch to Methven, the town at the base of Mt Hutt, is just over an hour, and since you can't stay on the mountain, Methven is après-ski ground zero.

Top 3 Activities That Aren’t Skiing or Snowboarding:

1.Hot Air Ballooning

Hot Air Balloon flights with Adventure Balloons New Zealand take place on the Canterbury Plains, just an hour from Christchurch.

2.Backcountry Fly Fishing

Experiencing fishing in the crystal clear waterways of New Zealand, renown for sighted trout angling and known as the pinnacle of fly fishing excitement. With a mix of Rainbow and Brown trout throughout the thousands of rivers in the South Island, no two days will be the same.

3.Soaking In A Hot Tub

Soak in the highest altitude spa pool in the country. The six-seater Alpine Spas pool located at the top of Summit Six Chairlift on Mt Hutt is at 2086m above sea level. It’s so high you can see all the way along the Southern Alps and across the Canterbury Plains to the Pacific Ocean on a clear day. 


Top 3 Bars:

1.Corona Ice Bar - Located on the mountain about halfway down. 

2.The Blue Pub - One of the most popular bars & restaurants, located right in the middle of town.

3.Tinwald Tavern - Known throughout the district for live shows such as, blade shearing, speed shearing and cow milking. Something you don’t see everyday.


Top 3 Restaurants:

1.Aqua - Traditional Japanese ramen .

2. Dubliner - Irish bar and restaurant inside the town’s old post office.

3.Braided Rivers Restaurant and Bar - Upscale pub faire.


Queenstown (Coronet Peak & The Remarkables), South Island

New Zealand’s most famous ski town, Queenstown has so much to offer.

Top 3 Activities That Aren’t Skiing or Snowboarding:

1.A Food & Wine Tour

A visit to Queenstown isn’t complete without sampling a few of the award-winning wines in the area – and the best way to do this is on a tour. The region of Central Otago is also known for some of the best Pinot Noir in the world.


Queenstown is close to some of the Southern Hemisphere’s best multi-day walks, such as the Routeburn and Milford tracks. You can also try shorter hikes, such as to the summit of Ben Lomond which has a fantastic view of the town.

3.Skyline Queenstown Gondola

Taking a scenic ride on the iconic Queenstown Skyline Gondola is an absolute must not miss activity. You’ll be carried 450 metres above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to the top of Bob's Peak, to enjoy views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Walter and Cecil Peak and, naturally, Queenstown.


Top 3 restaurants:

1.Rātā - Fine dining with a menu that changes daily.

2.Botswana Butchery - Located in the historic Archer's Cottage with lake views and log fires.

3.Bespoke Kitchen - Trendy & healthy meals perfect for brunch.


Top 3 bars:

There are more than 50 bars in Queenstown alone, many feature rooftops looking over Lake Wakaitpu.

1.The Winery - Over 80 of New Zealand's best wines in one place right in the centre of town.

2.The Remarkables Ice Bar- A bar halfway up The Remarkables mountain.

3.Little Blackwood - Voted one of the best cocktail bars in Queenstown. 

RELATED: Why New Zealand Is The Ultimate Beginner Ski Holiday Spot

4. Wanaka (Cardrona & Treble Cone), South Island


a pack of wolf dogs pulling a sled through a snowy path
Image courtesy: Tourism New Zealand

Top 3 Activities That Aren’t Skiing or Snowboarding:

1.Skydive Wanaka 

Strap yourself to a stranger in the best place to skydive in NZ.

2.Jump OnA Boat 

A boat trip while in Wanaka is a must do! Whether out to Mou Waho Island on the lake or jet boating up a braided river.

3. Try Snowshoeing or dog 

If you’re not a keen skier or you want to do something different then have a go at snowshoeing and dog sledding where you can explore the high trails at Snow Farm. 


Top 3 Restaurants:

1.Burrito Craft - A Mexican food truck serving a mix of burritos and tacos

2.The Coffee Shack Wanaka - A pocket size espresso bar in a converted garage in Wanaka. 

3.Kika - A modern sharing restaurant and bar focused on quality, seasonal dishes made with produce from their own kitchen garden.


Top 3 Bars:

1.Woodys Sports Bar - A sports bar in the heart of town featuring pool tables, foozball & plenty of HD TVs.

2.Wanaka Beerworks - Brewing since 1998, this brewery runs daily tours and tastings in their tasting room.

3.Bar Number 8 - Sit on the balcony overlooking Lake Wanaka to sip artisan cocktails.


Ruapehu (Ruapehu Alpine Lifts), North Island


people skiing on a snowy mountain
Image courtesy: Tourism New Zealand.

Top 3 Activities That Aren’t Skiing or Snowboarding:

1. Jet Boating On The Whanganui River

A whole bunch of jet boating itineraries are available, ranging from half-hour trips to full-day and multi-day tours that include hiking.

2.Mountain Biking

Ruapehu is a hot spot for mountain biking as it's lucky enough to be home to two of the country’s 19 ‘Great Rides,’ as part of the Nga Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trail network. 

3.The Extreme Flying Fox At Mokai Gravity Canyon

Situated in the Taihape area around an hour and a half drive from Mt. Ruapehu, the Gravity Canyon, flying fox, bungee jumping and a giant swing overlooking the canyon below. There’s even a scenic hydro-lift for a more relaxed view of the Rangitikei River.


Top 3 Restaurants:

1.Powderkeg restaurant - A European chalet style pub.

2.Ruapehu Restaurant - Fine dining in the heart of Whakapapa.

3.The Blind Finch - Gourmet hamburgers.


Top 3 Bars:

1.Ohakune at the Turoa Resort - Perfect for night owls.

2.Spiral Restaurant & Bar - A chalet style pub.

3. Knowll Ridge T-bar at the Knoll Ridge Chalet - The highest bar in New Zealand.

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Flight Centre Author

Writer and content creator


Flight Centre

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