Ahead of the summer crowds, New Zealand’s springtime months set a unique tone for enticing outdoor experiences. Spring in New Zealand is a lively season inspired with colour, flavoured with early produce and new wine releases, and populated by new life and creative festivals celebrating everything from seafood to arts and culture. Days are getting longer and this is a season of many faces – from trim city gardens and farmers’ markets heaving with fresh produce to green pastures filled with lambs and the fresh powder snows of the late ski season.
Travel north to south and you will see the season as it unfolds. Renowned for its spectacular scenery and diverse landscapes, a New Zealand spring awakens the country region by region over several weeks as the warmer temperatures spread southwards across 1600 km (900 miles) and from 34 to 47 degrees latitude south.
Spring is definitely the season to admire the beauty of New Zealand’s flora and forests, wild and landscaped, at their very best. From the yellow swathe of kowhai trees with their nectar-heavy flowers that are a magnet for native songbirds, and the surreal green of unfurling fern fronds to massed spring bulbs, wild lupins and brilliant rhododendrons, new life pops up everywhere to be celebrated in a series of garden festivals throughout October and November.
Hobbiton – New Zealand’s most famous garden – is never more glorious than when the pretty as a picture hobbit gardens blossom while, from north to south right across the country, many gardens of international and national significance open their gates to the public. In the North Island, the Taranaki Garden Spectacular (28 October – 6 November, 2016) is a major festival with 50 gardens on show, but en route don’t miss Hamilton Gardens internationally-acclaimed themed gardens or Rotorua’s lovely thermal park. In the South Island, the massed daffodils of Hagley Park and Otahuna Lodge in Christchurch offer a truly spectacular moment in springtime.
Put a spring in your step
Spring provides plenty of clear, settled days for exploring the great outdoors. Mild spring days and a lack of crowds mean this is a good time to discover some of New Zealand’s multitude of walking or cycling tracks. Hire a bike and cycle the spectacular Karangahake Gorge gold miners’ trail in the Coromandel, the thermal trails around Rotorua or through the southern vineyards of Queenstown’s Gibbston Valley.
Take a walk on the wild side with Foris Eco tours on one of New Zealand’s best day hikes through Whirinaki’s ‘dinosaur forest’ to meet the locals in their natural habitat; or dig your heels in the sand on the rugged southern coast of Westland where World Heritage protected temperate rainforests meet the ocean and local wildlife – penguins, New Zealand fur seals or elephant seals – can be found enjoying balmy spring days with their latest offspring.
Or visit Rainbow Springs’ Kiwi Encounter, in Rotorua, to meet the cute new kiwi chicks as they hatch out of their impossibly (for the mother) large eggs. The first of the new season’s little kiwi will hatch in September and there are likely to be another 100 eggs come into the hatchery over the next few months. Claire Travers – Kiwi Encounter husbandry manager is expecting the 2016-17 season to be another bumper season.