mount cook campground in winter

JUCY Blog

What's it like camping in New Zealand in winter? Our JUCY customer Justine shares her winter camping experience and advice.

 Winter camping: Expectation versus reality 

"You’ll freeze to death in a campervan down south in the winter," our mates told us, crushing our romantic notions about freewheeling around the South Island in late June-early July. Terrified at the prospect, we bought merino wool pyjamas, two new hot water bottles, and packed an extra down jacket each.

On our first night in near-blizzard conditions at Arthur’s Pass, we boiled the jug, filled the hotties, stuck the insulation covers on the windows, jumped into our woolly PJs and snuggled into bed with an extra winter-weight duvet on top of the existing one. Fearing hyperthermia would claim us in our sleep, we left the heating on low and wore beanies on our heads... Just in case.

Within two minutes, the heavy duvet was tossed aside, the hotties were biffed out, and the beanies were stuffed under the pillows... Just in case.

Within four minutes, we’d ripped off our winter PJs and rummaged around in the overhead cupboards for T-shirts and shorts instead.

Still steaming hot after six minutes, we killed the heating, opened a skylight and WhatsApp-ed some photos to our mates showing the snow falling outside and the temperature gauge reading 26 degrees inside. After 10 minutes, we had finally cooled down and were sleeping soundly as a full-on blizzard raged outside our cosy, sturdy JUCY campervan

Here's what we learned about going camping in New Zealand in winter: 

A self-contained camper makes camping in winter much more comfortable

With inches of snow outside, there is nothing more beautiful than a fully self-contained campervan. Even in the North Island (where you are less likely to experience a blizzard) being warm and dry inside a campervan makes camping in winter much more comfortable. 

  • Everything you need is in one place and easily accessible. No dashing to an icy-cold camping ground kitchen on dark winter evenings. 
  • Campervans are cosy and easy to heat. If you are plugged into mains power at a camping ground, the electric heater (which you can hire with your vehicle) warms the living-sleeping area in no time.
  • Campervans are much more waterproof than tents! 

couple camping in JUCY campervan in winter

Winter camping means fewer people on the roads and in the campgrounds

An awesome thing about mid-winter travel is the lack of traffic on the roads and fewer people at camping grounds and tourist attractions. No need to book and plan months in advance. You'll have New Zealand's wide-open landscapes to yourself. 

At more remote campgrounds, you might be the only camper(s). You'll love the tranquillity of having sunrises and sunsets all to yourself! 

Lower prices come with the lower temperatures

The cost of travel in New Zealand halves over winter. With the exception of ski hotspots, you’ll find that accommodation is much cheaper on the whole. There are also epic off-peak deals with JUCY vehicles during the winter months - you can travel for as much as 60% less than in summer. 

Even though Queenstown prices might remain high, skiers will love JUCY’s SKI4FREE deal which provides one free lift ticket at Treble Cone per day of rental!

person driving in the snow in the south island of new zealand

What's the weather like in New Zealand in winter? 

The average temperature in New Zealand during winter gets colder the further south you go. However, winter is the season of most rainfall in the north but least rainfall in the south! The weather in the South Island in winter is often more settled than summer, especially on the West Coast of the South Island and Central Otago. It’s ideal for hiking and biking - and skiing!

So, while the milder weather in the North Island might make it seem like the better place to go winter camping, you're more likely to end up damp and miserable!

So what’s the downside to travelling by campervan in the winter? Handing back the keys. 

Check out our awesome deals on campervans this winter!