The Best Time to Visit New Zealand: When to Go & When to Avoid!

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Lake Tekapo Lupines, South Island

New Zealand has 4 distinct seasons, each with their own unique draw to visiting during that time. Youll see all kinds of blossoms in bloom in the spring, festivals, outdoor excursions, and adrenaline-pumping activities in the summer, vibrant foliage in autumn, and powdery snow for an epic ski season come wintertime.

Being in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are the mirror opposite of those in the north. That means while we are shoveling snow and putting up our Christmas trees in the US, New Zealanders are basking in the long days of sunshine, during the warmest months of the year.

While we are watching flowers bloom, New Zealanders are enjoying the changing of the leaves. The hottest months of the year in the northern hemisphere are the coldest in the south, and while we are raking leaves and preparing once again for winter, New Zealanders are celebrating spring in full bloom!

So this begs the question

What time of year is best to visit New Zealand?

In short, youll have the best chance of comfortable weather and fewer crowds in early spring (September - October) and in autumn (March - May). Our personal pick would be to visit New Zealand during November/December; but more on that later

Truthfully, as with all questions of this nature, there is no correct answer. Each season has its own unique draws (and drawbacks too).

But fear not

Were going to go over the pros and cons of visiting New Zealand during each season to help you decide which time of year is ideal for YOU.

Answer these questions to get started:

  • Do you mind cold weather?

  • Are you easily bothered by crowds?

  • Are you into winter sports like skiing and snowboarding?

  • Or do you prefer to spend your outdoor time hiking, kayaking, or cycling?

  • Are you into adrenaline sports such as whitewater rafting?

  • Which would you rather see: spring blossoms or colorful fall foliage?

Thinking about your answers to these questions is going to help you start to determine when to visit New Zealand.

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New Zealand Geography Overview

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Mount Cook South Island

The country of New Zealand is actually made up of an estimated 600 islands in the south-western Pacific Ocean. While not a large country exactly, New Zealand spreads about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the top of North Island to the bottom of South Island - the two main islands.

For the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on the North and South Islands as these are the largest and most visited islands in New Zealand.

The topography across the islands varies from sandy beaches, to mountain ranges, fjord-like sounds to rolling green hills, and glacial lakes to valleys filled with vineyards.

Weather in New Zealand

Best time to visit New Zealand | New Zealand Weather

Its important to keep in mind that with such variations in terrain, comes differing temperatures and weather patterns. The climate in New Zealand can be described as extremely variable and you can find pretty much everything from dry to subtropical, with the exception of true tropical climates. In just one day, you can experience all 4 seasons, so come prepared!

However unpredictable the climate in New Zealand may be, the weather is pretty mild and the difference in temperatures from winter to summer is usually only about 10C in any single region.

It rarely drops below freezing (32F / 0C) or gets above 86F / 30 C in any part of the country. This low temperature range, lacking in extremes, means New Zealand does not experience tropical storms often.

It does, however, experience A LOT of earthquakes being situated on two major tectonic plates.

Stats on New Zealand Weather & Seasons:

  • Warmest month(s) in New Zealand: January - February

  • Coldest month in New Zealand: July

  • Rainiest month(s) in New Zealand: July (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch); December (Queenstown); March (central Otago)

  • Driest month(s) in New Zealand: February (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch); February & July (Queenstown)

  • Most crowded month in New Zealand: January

  • Least crowded month in New Zealand: May

Summer in New Zealand

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Summer in New Zealand

Summer is the peak tourism season in New Zealand, with the warmest temperatures, and it is also the most crowded. While the schools are on holiday break, many New Zealanders take time off work and lots of businesses and restaurants can be closed for weeks on end.

Accommodation can also be hard to come by with so many locals on holiday, so its a good idea to book in advance if you plan to visit during New Zealand during this time of year.

Summer months at a glance:

December brings the start of summer, and of course holiday breaks. This month is the optimal time for penguin viewing in the south.

January is the month when most locals go on holiday and many restaurants and cafes will be closed. Accommodation will also be at its peak price wise.

February is the warmest month of year in New Zealand and the best time to head to the beach. Locals will have gone back to work by this time, so you wont run into as many business closures.

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Waiheke Island Bay

Best places to visit in the summer in New Zealand

  • Stewart Island - in December

  • Dunedin/Otago Peninsula - for penguin viewing

  • Coromandel Peninsula - for beaches

  • Abel Tasman National Park - for beaches & outdoor activities

  • Waitomo Glowworm Caves - Nov - April (the caves get too cold in the winter)

  • Waiheke Island - Feb/March is the best time

Best things to do in the summer in New Zealand

  • Head to the beach

  • Penguin viewing in the south

  • Hiking/kayaking/outdoor sports

  • Parihaka Peace Festival - January

  • World Buskers Festival in Christchurch (January)

  • Aucklands Laneway Festival (January)

  • Attend the New Zealand Sevens rugby tournament (January)

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Punakaiki Rocks Pancake Rocks

Summer is the best time to visit New Zealand if

  • you dont mind crowds too much.

  • you want plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures.

  • you want to hit up the beach.

  • you can make your bookings well in advance.

What to pack for New Zealand in the summertime:

  • bug repellant (solids are the way to go, because sandflies really suck)

  • activewear

  • a light jacket or fleece

  • rain jacket

  • good walking/hiking sandals (We prefer Chacos instead of hiking boots as they are less bulky and are good for walking through water)

  • reef safe sunscreen

  • swimwear

Autumn in New Zealand

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Hooker Valley Track

Autumn is the best time for hiking as the temperatures start to cool down just a bit, but the sun usually stays out for long crisp days.

Locals have gone back to work and the peak tourist season has died down so trails arent as crowded. New Zealand also experiences the seasonal changing of the leaves from green to bright orange, yellow and red hues, which can be a fantastic sight to behold.

Autumn months at a glance:

March brings with it the start of autumn, however, temperatures are usually still fairly warm and skies are sunny. This is a great shoulder season month to visit some of the big tourist destinations without all the crowds.

April in New Zealand is the prime month for viewing the changing of the leaves. Tourism also dies down significantly after the Easter holiday so accommodation may be easier to come by.

May is the month in which temperatures really start to drop in New Zealand and youll want to break out the thermals and start dressing in layers. May is also Music Month in New Zealand, a time to celebrate the local artists hitting the airwaves.

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Marlborough Vineyard Wine

Best places to visit during autumn in New Zealand

  • Marlborough wine region + Blenheim - in March

  • Central Otago wine region - vineyards are in full bloom in the fall, but its also the wettest season

  • Hawkes Bay - changing of the leaves in April

  • Lake Tekapo and the wider Mackenzie Country - changing of the leaves in April

  • Alpine region S. Island - for hiking in April

  • Auckland - fall/winter (to avoid the crowds of the spring/summer)

Best things to do during autumn in New Zealand

  • Visit some of New Zealands best wineries

  • Leaf peeping & photographing fall foliage

  • Hiking

  • Pasifika Cultural Festival in Auckland

  • Hamiltons Balloons Over Waikato Festival in March

  • Wanakas Festival of Color (April)

  • The Auckland Royal Easter Show (April)

  • Great New Zealand Food Show in Hamilton (May)

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Milford Sound

Autumn is the best time to visit New Zealand if

  • you are seeking comfortable temperatures for outdoor activities.

  • you would like to see (and photograph!) fall foliage.

  • you like to avoid crowds.

  • you enjoy cool and crisp air.

  • youre into wine tasting and plan to visit vineyards.

What to pack for New Zealand in autumn:

  • rain and windproof jacket

  • a scarf

  • thermal layers

  • warm socks

  • walking/hiking shoes

New Zealand Packing List | Two Wandering Soles

New Zealand Packing List

Packing for a trip to New Zealand is tough (the weather changes all the time!). But don't worry, we've got you covered with a super detailed packing list so you know exactly what to bring.

Plus, we're sharing tons of packing hacks and tips for traveling in New Zealand that you won't find anywhere else.

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Before you head off to you inbox, have you thought about how you're going to travel around New Zealand? We have a whole article on how to find the best campervan for you. Check it out here!

Winter in New Zealand

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Helicopter Ride on a Glacier

With the winter comes the snow. Ski season brings with it the snow birds from the Northern Hemisphere, looking for some off-season skiing.

During this time roads can be a bit hazardous, particularly in high country. However, the snow rarely makes its way down to the lowlands and the temperatures in the valleys are actually quite mild.

The North Island tends to see more rainfall during the winter months than the South Island. Winter is the wettest season in Auckland and the driest season in Queenstown.

Winter months at a glance:

June is the start of the ski season in New Zealand. As snow begins to fall in the mountains, ski areas open their doors for tourism. Matariki (the New Year of the indigenous Mori people) is also celebrated in June.

July and August usually receive the most snowfall and are the best months for skiing. Aside from ski resorts, this is typically off-season in New Zealand and youll find the best rates and most availability for travel during this time.

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Queenstown

Best places to visit during winter in New Zealand

  • Tongariro National Park - winter (best to be avoided during their busy season Nov - April)

  • Queenstown - while Queenstown is a great place to visit all year round, it is particularly fun in wintertime

  • Pancake rocks in the South Island

  • Glacier Country/Franz Josef Glacier - winter (to avoid peak season in the summer!)

  • Fiordland - winter brings clear/crisp days, but be warned, it will be cold!

Best things to do in the winter in New Zealand

  • Skiing/snowboarding

  • Queenstown annual winter festival (Jun/Jul) - music, snow sports and entertainment

  • Dunedin Midwinter Carnival (June)

  • Lytteltons Festival of Lights (June)

  • Dunedins Chocolate Carnival (July)

  • New Zealands International Film Festival (July)

  • Auckland restaurant month (August)

  • Visa Wellington on a Plate (August)

  • NZ Fashion Week (August)

Best places to go Skiing in New Zealand

Ski season typically runs from June - 1st week in October in New Zealand.

  • Ruapehu and Taranaki are the main ski areas on the North Island

  • Wanaka, Otago and Canterbury are the main ski areas on the South Island

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Two Wandering Soles

Winter is the best season to travel to New Zealand if

  • you dont mind colder temperatures

  • you want to ski or snowboard

  • you want to avoid the crowds

  • you want to save money and travel during off-peak season

What to pack for winter in New Zealand:

  • layers, including a versatile jacket, gloves and a hat

  • warm and comfortable shoes

  • wool socks

  • sunglasses (remember, the snow reflection can be harsh!)

  • a winter hat or beanie

  • ski gear (if needed)

Spring in New Zealand

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Two Wandering Soles

Spring in New Zealand is in full bloom, and hiking and outdoor adventures become popular once more. As temperatures begin to warm up, the greenery comes alive. Spring is also New Zealands windiest season, so be sure to pack your windbreaker!

With white peaks still visible on the mountain tops, the scenery is picture perfect. This is the best time for whitewater rafting as the snow is melting in the mountains and the rivers are high and strong.

Spring months at a glance:

Septembers weather can be a bit volatile and inconsistent. Most ski resorts are still open in September, but spring is coming into bloom in the lowlands.

October brings with it the close of the ski season. But fear not, because the spring weather is at its best during this month.

November is sometimes considered to be the start of summer in New Zealand. Temperatures are rising and tourism starts to pick up as well.

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Wellington Botanical Gardens

Best places to visit during spring in New Zealand

  • Wellington - October is typically the best weather here, but try to avoid September when Wellington sees their worst weather.

  • Hawkes Bay - trees in blossom

  • Christchurch - known as the garden city, spring is the best time to take in the gardens and parks while they are in full bloom.

  • Rotorua/ Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley

Best things to do in the spring in New Zealand

  • Taranaki Rhododendron and Garden Festival (North island)

  • Alexandra annual blossom festival (September)

  • Nelsons Cherry Blossom Festival (September)

  • Auckland Heritage Festival (October)

  • Hawkes Bay Arts Festival (October)

  • Diwali celebrations in Aukland & Wellington (October)

Best Time to Visit New Zealand | Auckland Albert Park

Spring is the best season to travel to New Zealand if

  • you want comfortable temperatures (not too cold or too hot)

  • you want to see flowers in bloom

  • you dont mind a bit of unpredictable weather

What to pack for spring in New Zealand:

  • comfortable walking shoes

  • rain gear

  • warm outter layers

  • a scarf

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We want to hear from you!

Have you ever been to New Zealand before? During what season did you visit and what was your experience like? Comment below and let us know!

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