With something special on offer every single month, New Zealand is a traveler’s dream come true all year long! Are you interested in winter sports, hiking, food tasting, soaking in the sunshine, or viewing the colors of fall? This seasonal guide and month-by-month breakdown will help you identify the best time to visit New Zealand, based on your personal preferences.
Summer: December to February
New Zealand’s summer brings the best overall weather of the year. This also means it is the busiest time of the year for the tourism industry. You will definitely find that prices are significantly higher compared to the rest of the year, and accommodations in certain areas can quickly become scarce.
December marks the start of the summer and is packed with barbecues and potlucks filled with fish and chips. Expect long days with the sun out until 9 p.m. Check out the city of Gisborne, which has the privilege every day of catching the first sunrise in the world.
January brings mid-summer vibes with the peak of the tourist season. If you’re willing to brave the crowds, there are many summer festivals that occur in January, such as the World Buskers’ Festival, Auckland’s Laneway Festival, and the New Zealand Sevens rugby tournament.
Rounding up the end of the summer, February brings the warmest temperatures and offers the perfect time to hit the beach, go kayaking, and just explore the outdoors. You can also celebrate New Zealand’s national day on February 6th. Also known as Waitangi Day, this is a great time to explore the local history and customs of New Zealand.
Fall: March to May
Fall offers beautiful changes of scenery colors filled with red, brown, and golden leaves. If you’re traveling through the South Island, Wanaka and Otago offer the best landscape views of this stunning season change. And if you’re traveling across the North Island, Hawkes Bay is a must-see during this time of the year. If you are renting a car and road-tripping during your time in New Zealand, hold off your visit until after Easter for open roads, as that is when many tourists clear out.
March marks the official start of New Zealand’s fall with gradually cooling temperatures pushing the leaves to change color. Head to the vineyards for an abundance of lush grapes in the Queenstown/Central Otago wine region.
Soak up the crisp air, blue skies, and sunny days with accompanied chilly nights all April long. The wind is at a minimum during this time of the year, creating perfect hiking conditions especially along the South Island’s alpine ranges.
Start getting really cozy in May with your additional layers, as temperatures can drop to 48 F on the North Island and 42 F on the South Island. Engage in adventure activities such as bungee jumping, mountain biking, and fishing before winter takes over the country. May is also New Zealand Music Month, so go support local artists at one of the many concerts.
While winter brings cold temperatures to the mountains, New Zealand has relatively short and mild winters away from the country’s peaks. Many winter days still bring crisp and clear skies. Since the snow mostly falls in the mountains and not the valleys, conditions are still adequate for your New Zealand road trip. There will be very little traffic on the road during this time of the year. For good skiing conditions, you can hit up the volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park in the North Island and Queenstown, or Wanaka and Mount Hutt in the South Island.
Once June hits, winter has officially made its way to New Zealand. Take advantage of all the powdery snow conditions on your ski trip. Take part of the annual winter festival in Queenstown featuring 10 days of snow sport, music, and entertainment for all.
Winter is in full force when July rolls around. Although cold, the weather is still quite diverse with Queenstown being at its driest and Auckland at its wettest. If you are into films, look into taking a visit to New Zealand’s International Film Festival that occurs annually in July.
You can still catch the wintry snow in August and marvel at the stunning alpine scenery. What’s more, Auckland’s Restaurant MONTH will keep your taste buds satisfied all month long.
Calling all adventure seekers! As ski season comes to an end and the mountain snows start melting, this is a great time to visit New Zealand for some exhilarating white-water rafting. If you are more into gardening than riding rushing river rapids, spring brings blossoms of new flowers and leaves. New Zealand has some amazing parks and gardens to visit at this time of the year, such as the Taranaki Garden Festival and Hawkes Bay on the North Island, and Christchurch (“the Garden City”), Otago, and Dunedin on the South Island.
Spring officially comes to bloom in the month of September. But you shouldn’t get rid of your extra layers too quickly, as this month is New Zealand’s windiest, especially in Wellington.
October brings mild temperatures and many cultural events. You can check out some highlights of local heritage at the Auckland Heritage Festival and the Dunedin Heritage Festival. Note that Wellington’s weather tends to be the best at this time of the year.
November brings pleasant days, as the tourism industry gears up for the busy summer ahead. Crowds will start appearing, especially in popular cities such as Auckland for another wonderful year in New Zealand as the season cycle restarts once again.
Take a close look as the seasons in New Zealand are the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere! However, you shouldn’t be surprised if you happen to experience all four seasons in one day. Luckily, as you can now tell, there’s no one best time to go to New Zealand, the vast beauty and varied landscapes make it one of the best destinations to visit at any time of year.
Post written by: Kirsten Cusack, @kirqsak