No snow? No problem. As long as it’s been an epic winter full of bluebird days and powder runs, that is. It’s not often that we winter sports fanatics can relate to what some call the “winter blues,” as we wait all year for the arrival of snowy peaks and powder days. But when the flowers buds make their first appearance and our friends start complaining about their hay fever, it’s easy for us to get a bad case of the “spring blues.”
That’s why living in the Southern Alps region is simply incredible. While the epic skiing and snowboarding draws in locals and winter chasers from around the globe, the Southern Lakes region offers a playground for every adventurer, regardless of season or weather. Check out some of these hotspots and take your mind off the fact that you’re not carving up the piste. Even for the most avid winter sportsperson, the area and activities around the Southern Lakes offer more than a consolation prize. And even more promising is the fact that you won’t spend the whole day driving to experience them.
As you journey towards the West Coast, you will find some of the most breathtaking views of both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. The temperate climate nearing the West Coast’s subtropic rainforest makes it an ideal winter destination, especially for those who love the outdoors. While the vantage points offered during this 45-minute drive from Wanaka are worth the trip alone, the destination is the icing on the cake.
For anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock these last few years, the Blue Pools in Makaroa have become a top destination for tourists. Thousands of visitors flock to the bridge overlooking the stunning gin clear water fed by rain and snowmelt. Just a thirty-minute hike past this hotspot, however, you’ll arrive at the Young Valley. Here you’ll be greeted by solitude as you enter the awe-inspiring valley and cross over one of the many charming “one person maximum occupancy” bridges. If you do end up craving some companionship, the rich and boisterous bird life will accompany your steps. Traversing through ancient beech forest, you’ll also experience uninterrupted views of the Southern Alps. You can hike this path for hours or days, eventually reaching a collection of DOC huts. What you won’t reach though is the crowds, as most visitors turn around at the Blue Pools bridge crossing.
If you can’t ski, why not drink? The Cellar Door Tasting Room at Rippon Winery offers one of the best vistas of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps within just a five-minute drive or 30-minute walk from Wanaka. Enjoy their delicious wines while surrounded by a panoramic view of the mountains and daydream about which heli-ski trip you’ll take next season. With between 5-7 wines available for tasting, individuals and groups are welcome to learn about how the light, air, water, and earth of Central Otago combine to create the unique wines of this region. Set on a family farm using biodynamic methods to produce world-class wines, the Cellar Door at Rippon Winery is an ideal visit for wine aficionados and novices alike.
Feeling some frustration over the fact that you’re not skiing? So are we. Good thing there’s a way to channel that anger in a fun and unconventional way – in a smash room! At SmashIt in Queenstown, you have the choice of two settings in which to carry out your destruction: a rough New York alley blaring heavy metal music or a rustic Otago wine cellar featuring classical music to grant you that “sophisticated” feeling while you smash your surroundings. Open 7 days a week until late, this is a must-visit for those rainy days. It’s also cheaper than a visit to the therapist.
Want an unconventional way to get some cardio while releasing your inner child? Visit Site Trampoline in Queenstown, which offers much more than your typical backyard trampoline experience. With seven Olympic quality trampolines, 30 interconnected trampolines, a skateboard ramp, and a parkour fitness course, this indoor wonderland provides the perfect rainy day escape. Site Trampoline also touts that “trampolining is a very effective tool to help you train your balance, air awareness, muscle memory and improve general overall conditioning, which helps you to see improvements in freestyle.” By knowing you’re technically “training” for the park, it almost seems like you didn’t miss a day on the mountain. And with an option for lessons, it also means the kids will be thoroughly occupied and entertained so you can bounce off the walls.
For the greatest snow sports enthusiasts amongst us, there is still hope of having some true winter fun in the ice and cold. Nestled within Queenstown’s picturesque gardens, the Ice Arena is just a five-minute walk from the town centre. While some may be satisfied with figure eights and pirouettes on the ice rink, the Arena also offers the opportunity for some friendly competition with hockey sticks and puck rentals.
Whether you’re speed skating, twirling, or scoring goals, you can enjoy a winter ambience underneath a ceiling illuminated by changing LED lights and end your evening with a hot chocolate by the fire.
If you want to give your body a rest and your mind a workout, visit the escape rooms at Escape Quest in Queenstown. Based on historical events and locations within the Southern Lakes region, you have the option of solving murders, finding treasure, or thwarting the efforts of bank robbers in the Gold Rush all whilst learning about local history. A perfect team activity, the excitement (and anxiety) is contagious as you put your thinking caps on to solve clues while the clock is ticking. Just make sure you’re not claustrophobic, as you are locked in a room and sometimes have to crawl into small places!
With enough options to please the most downtrodden of “spring blues” sufferers, there’s no need to fear the impending vernal equinox. Whether you want to drink the day away, escape into the peace and quiet of the valley, smash stuff, solve mysteries, put on a puffer jacket and skates, or bounce on a trampoline for hours, we have an antidote for those pesky spring blues. Enjoy! The day is yours for the making.