What is the weather like in the South Island in March?


March can be a very pleasant time of the year to enjoy the South Island, with temperatures still relatively mild following the end of peak summer in February, it’s a great time for an active holiday and outdoor activities.

Beautiful Te Anau lakefront

March can be a very pleasant time of the year to enjoy some South Island activities or a South Island road trip. With temperatures still relatively mild following the end of peak summer in February, it’s a great time for an active holiday and outdoor activities. A bit of rain breathes life back into some parched areas, the summer crowds have receded, and there’s still plenty of daylight and sunlight hours to enjoy, too! 

Average Temperatures in the South Island in March

Wherever you plan to go on your South Island itinerary during March, you can expect relatively mild days and crisp nights, with highs averaging 20°C (68°F) and average low temperatures of 9°C (48°F) across the whole South Island for March. 

However, this varies greatly depending on where exactly you want to go.


Queenstown still regularly hits 20°C during March, with average daily highs of 18.8°C (66°F) for the month. However, the nights do start to feel a bit cooler in March, with average lows of 7.2°C, giving an average temperature of 13°C for Queenstown in March.


Christchurch enjoys balmy late-summer temperatures above 20°C (68°F) in March, without the occasional searing heat that can arrive in February. The average temperature for Christchurch in March is 15.5°C, with pleasant daytime highs averaging 20.5°C and dropping to 10.4°C at night. 


March is still a relatively warm time of the year in Nelson, with average monthly temperatures of 16.1°C, reaching average daily highs of 21°C and very mild lows of 16.1°C.


Dunedin has comfortable temperatures throughout March, averaging 13.7°C. Daytime temperatures still hover around 20°C regularly (with an average high of 17.3°C), while nights aren’t too chilly yet, with an average low temperature of 10.2°C for Dunedin in March.

Average Sunshine Hours Per day in the South Island in March

March still sees plenty of sunshine across the South Island. With daylight hours still relatively long, too, it is a great time of year to visit. However, it does vary depending on where you plan to go: 


The Nelson-Marlborough region is still by far the sunniest place in both the South Island and New Zealand during March. Nelson sees a whopping 230.4 sunshine hours in March, an average of 7.43 hours of sunshine per day, while its Marlborough neighbour Blenheim gets 230.8 average sunshine hours in March. Gorgeous.




March days in Christchurch are often clear, with less rainfall than later months. Christchurch gets 191.2 sunshine hours in March, an average of 6.17 sunshine hours per day.


Despite its alpine location meaning nightly temperatures start to drop, Queenstown still sees plenty of sunny days in March, with low rainfall and an average of 6 sunshine hours per day, or 187.7 total for the month.


Dunedin’s deep south location means it starts getting shorter days than its northern neighbours at this time of year. Still, you can expect about 4.7 hours of sunshine per day in Dunedin across March, totalling 146.1 sunshine hours for the month.

Average rainfall in the South Island in March

As an intermediary between summer and autumn, March sees all sorts of changes in rainfall patterns across the South Island – some areas start getting some rain to cool off the summer heat, while March in other areas brings the start of a generally dry period.

A little bit more rain arrives in Christchurch in March and the Canterbury Plains, meaning it’s not as dry as earlier in summer (only 44.8 mm mean monthly rainfall in Christchurch), although March is still typically a dry time of year in Christchurch, as it is in Blenheim/Marlborough (46.5 mm). Both Dunedin (64 mm) and Queenstown (53.4 mm) see less rainfall in March than they do earlier in the summer, making it a great time to try some hikes or wildlife expeditions in the region. As the rainiest place in New Zealand and one of the wettest places on Earth, the West Coast of the South Island is usually always wet – however, March is a relatively dry period in Milford Sound (595 mm), Westport (158.9 mm) and Hokitika (215.8 mm) compared with other months of the year. 

Best Things to do in the South Island in March 

Wine Tasting

Whether looking for a world-famous Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or a hearty Central Otago Pinot Noir, March is the start of harvest season in many South Island wineries. Combined with the typically mild weather and little rain, this makes March a prime time for winery visits, vineyard tours, and travelling the regional wine trails.

Amusing Penguins on a South Coast Road Trip 

The stunning coastlines and scenery of the Catlins region (just south of Dunedin) is spectacular any time of year. However, with the added bonus of being able to spot adorable little blue penguins (who have to put on extra weight at this time of year as they start to moult, and therefore can struggle and stumble at times) makes March a good time to do so.

Make Your South Island Trip Happen

Planning a trip to the South Island in March? Find everything you need to help bring it all together on First Light Travel. They have a number of fabulous South Island self-drive itineraries to choose from. You can also contact their South Island travel experts directly, who can help you plan a personalised South Island road trip, customised to your needs and budget. They even have a New Zealand travel blog full of posts covering all sorts of topics you might want to know about before you go.

David Mckenzie
David Mckenzie
: 12 Dec 2022 (Last updated: 13 Dec 2022)

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