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The forest, vibrant with green and gold, begins to stir under its frosty glaze. Stars fade as the sky shifts from black to blue. The moon sticks around a little longer just to be sure the sleepy sun makes an appearance. Rivers run low while the sea quietly tiptoes against the sandy shore. The crisp, cool air disperses a freshness on the unnoticeable breeze. Lakes full of tannins lay like glass, reflecting towering peaks donning their new coats of fresh snow.


There’s nothing quite like a West Coast Winter.

Lake Gault Fox Glacier

Aoraki \ Mt Cook and Mt Tasman reflected in the calm waters of Lake Gault. Photo Credit: Geoff Marks


By noon, the sun shines down, awakening and warming the land and waters below. Temperatures rise from freezing to midteens. The majestic forest glistens in the morning light while shedding its frosting for the moment. Local guides swap beanies for caps as they lead small groups on their daily adventures. Folk in sunnies replenish themselves on cafe and restaurant patios, while fresh air passes through open hotel windows.


Short but sweet


Then, as quickly as it rose, the sun begins its descent toward the salty horizon. The moon stretches up from behind the mountains, ready to clock in for another shift. The sky ablaze, stars eagerly await their moment, and once the sun has bid farewell for the evening, the coast is clear for them to return one by one to their darkening canvas above. A crackling symphony of fireplaces warm the towns and as temperatures drop, the forest quietly receives its fresh coating of frost. Another stunning Winter’s day in Glacier Country comes to an end.


Winter skies ablaze above Franz Alpine Retreat in Franz Josef.


This may seem like an idealised image of the Coast, but rest assured it is not. Unlike other parts of the country where solitary days of perfection scattered amongst those shrouded in the gloom of our coldest season is the norm, days like this are a majority during a West Coast Winter. Sheltered by the Southern Alps, Glacier Country enjoys its own microclimate, spoiling us with blissful days throughout most of the winter months. Storms do visit South Westland’s shores, of course, but with predictability. In fact, Winter is our most stable season, believe it or not. Mother Nature will bring her worst from time to time, but with fair warning and reliable duration. Almost to a tee, weather forecasts maintain impeccable accuracy, making forward planning a much easier feat. 

Okarito Lagoon, West Coast, NZ

Picturesque winter views at Okarito Lagoon.


This reliable Winter weather is precisely why Glacier Country is more than a Summer destination. Sure, locals do enjoy some downtime to recover from the busier months, but they still operate. Visitors at this time of year will not only be able to find a place to stay, they won’t have to book months in advance to do so. Dining out can be done  without reservations. When booking a tour, avoiding competition or crowds can be expected. Operating hours obviously adjust due to shorter days and less traffic through the region. Still, a Winter visit to this lovely part of New Zealand provides rewards of intimacy and tranquility. Not to mention the views! Our Winter truly is a season not to be missed.

So what are you waiting for? Winter in Glacier Country awaits. Come enjoy this spectacular time of year with us. We’d love to have you!


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Mike Bilodeau is a freelance writer focused on ecotourism and sustainable travel.