I enjoy spending winter days inside a bush hut. While the cold wind blows outside and the rain pelts down on the tin roof, I’m happy curled up in front of the fire with a good book and hot cup of tea. Sadly this doesn’t happen often these days. Instead, I usually get dragged outside by my five-year-old who has the attention span of a goldfish and is susceptible to cabin fever. But I still enjoy it.

I forget how much fun it can be exploring the bush in the rain like we did as kids. Raindrops glisten on shiny bright green leaves. Birds come out to sing. Boots squelch underfoot as you jump from puddle to puddle. It feels fresh and invigorating.

And there are good reasons to venture outside in winter – we can get SAD otherwise. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to seasonal changes. It tends to rear its head in winter making us feel moody and lack energy. Scientists think the drop in sunlight hours affects our body clock which brings on SAD. Unlike some parts of the world, New Zealand has pretty good sunlight hours in winter so make sure you venture outside when the sun is out.

Sunshine also allows our bodies to produce vitamin D – an essential vitamin for bone development and building up our immune systems. Good immunity is key to staying healthy over winter and getting outside is a great way to decrease the chance of catching germs from stuffy classrooms and offices!

The good news is you don’t have to venture far to get your winter nature fix. Our friends in the Manawatu at Palmy Dirty Thirty (a parent- led initiative encouraging children to spend more time outdoors) have a great list of ideas for kids to do in the backyard or your local park. Of course, top of the list is a Peppa Pig favourite – puddle jumping! Other ideas include flying a kite, toasting marshmallows on a fire and bug hunting.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, Mount Holdsworth, Kiriwhakapapa, Carter Scenic Reserve and Fensham Reserve are great spots for short family walks.

Wherever you choose to go, make sure you are prepared. New Zealand’s weather is always changeable so check the forecast. MetService has one specifically for the Tararua Forest Park. Warm clothing and a decent raincoat are a must too. If you are heading out for a bush walk, the Mountain Safety Council has a fantastic guide for planning your trip.

And the best thing about getting your winter nature fix? Arriving home to the warm fire and a hot cup of tea!

Story and photography by Rebecca Jamieson.