Winter - the Perfect Time for a Summer Holiday

Soak in a hot tub during winter

New Zealand: The Perfect Winter Wonderland For Your Summer Holiday


While the Northern Hemisphere enjoys the summer sunshine between June and September, here in New Zealand our seasons work the other way around - it's the middle of winter.

We know that for many of you, the Northern Hemisphere summer is the perfect time for your annual getaway: the school year has finished, and many businesses are quieter. Luckily, it's also the perfect time for a magical winter wonderland tour of New Zealand!

What can you expect if you visit us in the colder months?


At first it might seem strange to take your annual summer holiday in the winter, but there are massive advantages to come and visit us at this time of the year:

  • Snow-capped mountains and world-class ski fields beloved by skiers, boarders and young snowman-builders alike.
  • Fewer tourists travelling during winter means you'll enjoy less traffic, less crowded attractions and less queuing.
  • Cheaper Accommodation during our winter months, so you can really make the most of your budget.
  • The Southern Lights - Our dark winter skies offer the best chance to glimpse the incredible and elusive Aurora Australis lighting up the night.
  • Mild winters in the North Island - Did you know we even have a subtropical region, nicknamed the Winterless North?

Common Questions


Let's get down to business and answer some of the most common questions about winter vacations in New Zealand:

When is winter in New Zealand?

Officially winter begins in late June and ends in late September. Of course the weather gods don't do things by precise dates, so we can get early snow in April and warm sunny days in September. In fact throughout the winter, we often experience clear, sunny "bluebird" days that make you happy to be alive. It's not like Northern Europe, where it gets dark mid-afternoon.

How cold will it be?

This depends on where you live and what feels cold to you. If you live in Alaska, much of New Zealand will feel positively balmy, while if you're from Las Vegas it'll be noticeably cooler than you're used to! Since we're located in the Southern Hemisphere, the the temperature tends to drop as you travel from north to south.

Average winter high temperatures in the northernmost parts of the country are around 15 degrees Celsius (59 Fahrenheit). In the southernmost regions, the average high is around 8 degrees Celsius (46 Fahrenheit).

Won't it rain a lot?

In general New Zealand does get quite a lot of rain - this is why we have such stunning greenery, so we’re actually pretty happy about it! As a general rule, the North Island is warmer and wetter, while the South Island is cooler and dryer. In the North Island, Auckland averages 13 rainy days per month in winter, while Queenstown in the South averages only 8.

Will I see snow?

If you travel close to any of our mountain regions, you will be treated to views of dazzling snow-topped peaks wherever you look. Outside of the mountainous areas, it does snow occasionally (this is less likely the further north you travel) but it rarely sticks. So if winter sports or snowman-building are on your to-do list, make our mountains a priority. Taupo, Christchurch and Queenstown all have world-class ski fields within easy reach.

Can I do all the same activities that I can in summer?


Most activities are open all year round - you can even brave the ocean to go swimming with the dolphins in midwinter (ultra-thick wetsuits are provided to keep you cosy).

There are a few notable exceptions:


In the South Island, The Milford Track, along with the Kepler and Routeburn Tracks, have greatly reduced facilities in winter, and are not recommended unless you are highly experienced in alpine hiking and very well equipped. If you'd like to tackle one of New Zealand's multi-day Great Walks, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a wonderful winter option.

For a snowy mountain hike, head to the North Island for another New Zealand's Great Walk - the Tongariro Crossing. It's a challenging day walk, but with an ice axe, crampons and a knowledgeable local guide, you'll be telling your friends about it for years to come.

Mountain Biking:

Many of the South Island's mountain bike trails close during the winter due to the weather conditions. Head to the North Island's mountain bike meccas of Rotorua and Taupo instead. The warmer climate means the trails will be open.

White Water Rafting:

Many white water rafting companies in the South Island shut down for winter due to the cold water temperatures. Rotorua and Taupo are your best locations for conquering those rapids.

Is it harder to get around?


With care, preparation, and attention to your speed, you can enjoy a winter self-drive holiday with minimal risk. If you can, avoid driving in the early morning, and in areas that are very hidden from the sun - these areas can be slippery. Snow chains are a must in the South Island in winter - these can be rented along with your car, and rental companies will show you how to fit them.

Of course if you're on one of First Light Travel's self-drive holidays, you'll have local backup available 24 hours per day so just give us a call if you have any weather-related issues while you're on the road.

Domestic flights or trains such as the TranzAlpine may occasionally be delayed or cancelled due to wintery weather, so it's best to check the weather forecast before you set off.

For a truly hassle-free New Zealand vacation, let someone else worry about transport for you. A guided group tour is a fantastic option, and First Light Travel can even arrange a Privately Guided Tour for your family group, with everything tailored exactly as you desire.

When's the best time to come for skiing and snowboarding?

The slopes are quietest early in the season (June) and towards the end of winter (September), meaning less time in the queue and more time on the slopes. New Zealand schools are on holiday in July, so it tends to be busier and accommodation can be pricier in hubs such as Queenstown and Tekapo.

North Island - Top Picks/h3>


Situated by the shores of New Zealand's largest lake, Taupo is a great all-round winter holiday destination. This picturesque small town is a convenient base for the North Island's ski fields (Whakapapa, Turoa and Tukino). With kilometres of mountain bike trails, a Jack Niklaus-designed golf course, natural hot pools and the world-famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing day hike, it's the perfect place for adventure and scenery lovers.



It's well worth lingering for a few days in New Zealand's capital city. Charming Wellington is fun for all the family in all weathers. Take in Te Papa, New Zealand's unmissable national museum; explore Weta Cave where the special effects of Lord of the Rings were created; meander through chic boutiques, and fill your belly at Wellington's cosy winter food festivals and night markets.


Bay of Islands - The Winterless North

For the mildest climate, head north of Auckland to the beautiful Bay of Islands. The subtropical climate here feels more like late spring than winter. If you enjoy peaceful ocean walks and towering ancient rainforests, you'll love exploring our Northlands. The Bay of Islands is also home to New Zealand's most historic site, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This award-winning attraction brings Maori culture and history to life before your very eyes.

South Island - Top Picks


Winter in Queenstown is breathtaking. There is no beating the snow-covered mountain views, and no shortage of cosy lakeside cafes and restaurants to enjoy them from. With four major ski fields within around an hour's drive, snow-lovers flock here from all over the world for good reason.

The Winter Festival in late June is a huge drawcard with music, cultural events, comedy and snow sports galore. Queenstown is a fantastic base for excursions to iconic Milford Sound, peaceful lake Wanaka, old-world Arrowtown, and every outdoor adventure activity you can possibly imagine.

Lake Tekapo

If you're travelling from Christchurch to Queenstown, break your journey with a stay at one of the Mackenzie Region's most beloved destinations: Lake Tekapo. The tiny Church of the Good Shepherd at the shore of the Lake Tekapo looks beautiful bathed in the winter sun, flanked by snowy mountains as far as the eye can see. Stay overnight and treat yourself to an evening soak at Tekapo Hot Springs - simmering away in an outdoor hot pool in the middle of winter is wonderfully satisfying.

Tekapo is a Dark Sky Reserve with minimal light pollution, so its star-studded skies offer visitors a spellbinding show all year round, with evening observatory tours available for budding astronomers. On a clear, moon-free midwinter night, if you are very lucky, you may get to witness one of the greatest light displays on earth: the Southern Lights

Aoraki/Mount Cook

Around an hour away from Tekapo lies New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki (Mount Cook). It's a paradise for walkers: from Mount Cook Village there are dozens of scenic walks for all ages and abilities. The 4 hour Hooker Valley Track is the best known and best loved, leading you to the Hooker Glacier. Or you can even take a heli hike to walk on the neighbouring Tasman Glacier - the longest in New Zealand - or enjoy the views by kayak on a glacial lake.


It doesn't get any better than a crisp winter day in Kaikoura, on the East Coast of the South Island. With ocean views in front of you and snowy mountains behind, you can't beat the sunrise and sunset here. Kaikoura in winter is ideal for wildlife lovers: you can swim with dolphins, watch for whales, and spot huge seals warming themselves in the winter sun. Look out for baby seals too - it's the perfect time of year to see them.

Get In Touch

Have we convinced you to try a New Zealand winter escape for your summer vacation? To explore your options further, our Free Planning Service is here to help. Our Locally-Based Travel Specialists will work closely with you to create a trip tailor-made to your exact specifications. We love New Zealand with a passion and can't wait for you to get in touch.

Brent Narbey
Brent Narbey
: 12 Apr 2018 (Last updated: 12 May 2021)

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