New Zealand’s Seasons, Weather & Climate
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you might be surprised to learn that in New Zealand you can...
- Ski from June to September
- Celebrate Christmas in the summer sunshine
- Eat your Easter eggs in Autumn
- Watch Spring lambs frolicking in October
Sounds confusing? Let us explain.
New Zealand Seasons
New Zealand has four distinct seasons.
- Spring: September, October and November
- Summer: December, January and February
- Autumn / Fall: March, April and May
- Winter: June, July and August
Think of them as the exact opposite to the Northern Hemisphere seasons. When it’s summer in Paris, it’s winter in Auckland. Autumn in New York is at the same time as spring in Wellington. And so on
New Zealand’s Weather & Climate
What is the weather like in New Zealand?
New Zealand’s temperatures are mild (even in winter), and while we do have moderately high rainfall, there is lots of warm sunshine too. The sunniest places in New Zealand receive around 2500 hours of sunshine per year: that’s around 1000 more than London!
New Zealand has two main islands: the North Island and the South Island. Generally speaking, the further south you travel, the cooler the temperature will be.
A “spine” of mountains runs down the centre of New Zealand, which further affects the temperature. The closer you are to the mountains, the cooler the temperature will be.
Even within each island, there can be huge variations in weather conditions. Here’s a breakdown:
North Island Climate
The North Island is known for being the warmer and wetter island. The Far North of New Zealand is known as the “Winterless North” because of its sub-tropical climate. You can enjoy pleasant temperatures in winter (around 16 degrees), as long as you’re prepared for the possibility of rainy days here and there.
At the same time, a winter holiday in Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island, would be noticeably chilly! (Luckily, many cities have wonderful winter festivals to tempt you even when it’s cold).
South Island Climate
The South Island is generally cooler and drier than the North… but it’s an island of extremes. It contains both the wettest parts of New Zealand (the West Coast region) and the driest (Central Otago). This is thanks to the Southern Alps mountain ranges - they act like a barrier, protecting the eastern side of the South Island from the more rainy weather of the west.
Where are the sunniest places in New Zealand?
In the North Island, sun-seekers should visit Hawkes Bay and the Bay of Plenty, areas which average around 2,200 sunshine hours per year. The top of the South Island regularly heads the list of the sunniest places in New Zealand. The Nelson and Marlborough regions will keep your vitamin D levels topped up nicely, with around 2500 hours of sunshine per year.
Which places have the least sunshine? Towns at the bottom of the South island receive around 1600 hours per year. Which is still 100 more sunshine hours than London!
Do I need to wear sunscreen in New Zealand?
Yes, you will need sunscreen here. New Zealand’s temperatures don’t seem high compared to many countries, but the sun here is much harsher. Our low levels of air pollution mean that UV rays are stronger and you will burn more quickly.
Slap on some sunscreen, wear a hat and don’t forget your sunglasses - especially during the hottest part of the day (around 11 am-4 pm).
Where are the wettest and driest places in New Zealand?
Milford Sound is New Zealand’s wettest place, with a mean annual rainfall of 6,412 mm (252 in) each year. It’s on the southwest coast of the South Island. The rainforested West Coast region of the South Island (which includes Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers) is New Zealand’s wettest region.
Milford Sound’s waterfalls are breathtaking when it rains, so we heartily recommend visiting even on a wet day!
Alexandra, in the Central Otago region of the eastern South Island, is generally the driest place in New Zealand. Annual rainfall is low on the East Coast of the South Island, and long dry summers are common.
A final word about weather…
New Zealand’s weather can be unpredictable at any time of year. The weather and temperature can change pretty fast… and then change back again a few hours later!
When booking a vacation in advance, you can’t predict exactly what kind of weather you’re going to get. But if your suitcase contains a raincoat, sensible shoes and a sweater (and cosy thermals in winter), you will be comfortable whatever the weather decides to do.