Best Time to Visit New Zealand? - NZ Holiday Planner


When is the best time to visit New Zealand? - This is a good Question. New Zealand’s location in the world and its unique geography will ensure you have a wonderful experience whenever you arrive.  In our experience, most locations can be visited in each season and the holiday will still be exceptional. We do have distinct seasons though, so it’s well worth taking the time to match your hopes and desires to the best season and location.  Our seasons are the opposite to the northern hemisphere, so it’s likely you can bask in our sunshine while, back home, your friends are complaining about the weather.  This guide will let you know what to expect and help you decide which time of year to book your holiday.


Graph of New Zealand Seasons

Summer: December, January, February

Summer is a reliable season to experience New Zealand’s outdoor activities.  We get long daylight hours in the summertime and, as it is light till 10 pm mid-season, you’ll be able to pack plenty in. There are lots of options for enjoying the sunshine in the fresh air by the water, whether you prefer to take it easy or be more energetic. 

Fresh food is plentiful. Watch out for signs saying ‘Pick-your-own”, or road side stalls for freshly picked fruit and vegetables. There is nothing nicer than freshly picked Otago stone or pip fruit if you are down that way. Unless you prefer seafood and fish, of course! Enjoy prawns or snapper in the North Island, or blue cod and oysters in the South Island.  

Summer time is high season in New Zealand. Christmas and New Year is a traditional holiday time in New Zealand. You’ll find Kiwis enjoying long days camping at lakes and rivers.  Workaday life returns in early January and kids go back to school early February, which is generally the most settled month weather-wise. If you fancy being amongst the first to see the New Year visit Gisborne. It is the first place on earth to see the new day.

The best advice for summertime travel is sunhat, sunglasses and don’t forget you swimming togs. Truth to tell, New Zealand had an erratic 2016/17 summer weather, so we anticipate great summers in the future.  Now is a great time to plan a summer holiday for 2018.

Summer average temperatures range from 50 - 77 ºF (10-25 ºC). The further north you go the hotter it gets. The most settled time in terms of weather is February.

Autumn (fall): March, April, May

Autumn is a great time to travel to New Zealand. It’s quieter on the roads and in towns, and the good weather usually stretches to late autumn. The days start to get a little shorter but they stay mild well into the evening. Auckland and further north stay balmy till May. It’s still warm, but not quite so hot, and the days are shorter. Down south, Central Otago, Queenstown, and Arrowtown are at their best during Autumn – the golden leaves are a highlight of any trip. Autumn is also the best time for marine wildlife. This is prime swimming with the dolphins and whale spotting season.

Marine environments are generally calmer in autumn than the other seasons, so an off-shore fishing charter, swimming with dolphins or whale spotting could be the perfect highlight, and the sea should still be warmish.

Inland, temperatures will still be warm enough for a lake or river swim. That is a lovely treat after a day hiking, biking or exploring. Take the opportunity to explore our national parks and cycle ways. All over the country, sunsets and autumn colours have to be seen to be believed. In particular, Central Otago in the South Island never fails to put on a spectacular show in mid-April.

In Autumn, you will still need your sunhat, sunglasses and swimming togs, but it pays to have an extra layer of clothing, just in case. Temperatures are still averaging a high of 68 ºF (20 ºC), making the great Kiwi outdoors still heaps of fun. 

Winter: June, July, August

Winter in New Zealand means crisp, clear light on the mountains, rugged and beautiful blue sky days, and stunning snow on our highest mountains.

The winter sun is low in the sky and the days are shorter. Mornings will probably be frosty the further south you get, but the days are sunny and the sky is blue as a result. We do get spells of bad weather but usually, they are not prolonged. Yes, it rains a bit more but we love a winter holiday in New Zealand and, there are definite compensations to winter travel. 

It is low season and you will be travelling without the crowds. The low country and coastal areas will be free from snow, so driving is easy enough.  Take care on inland country roads early in the morning and keep an ear to weather forecasts.

Every vista becomes even more panoramic and dramatic in winter.  The Southern Alps which run nearly the whole length of the South Island will be snow-covered at this time, so your photos will have that as their backdrop. Try the Tranz Alpine train to get amongst those mountains in comfort. It’s a sight-seeing day trip that runs across the South Island between Christchurch and Greymouth.  In the North Island, take the Northern Explorer which includes Raurimu Spiral and the volcanic expanse of Tongariro National Park.

Experiences get a little more unique in winter. There is something very special about soaking in a geothermal hot pool with snowflakes in your hair. Get rugged up for an evening in front of a huge fireplace, glass of something vintage in hand, with some winter fare and good company.  If you fancy exposure to the Kiwi sense of humour, seek out a warm pub or café.

If you like to ski or snowboard the majority of the ski resorts are generally open from around late June and into springtime. Most offer learners areas, and more challenging runs for intermediate and advanced skiers. Ski fields are readily accessible, but you could always try heli-skiing for something a little different.  Off the mountain, there is plenty of facilities for a little après ski. If you’re a skier or boarder, Queenstown and Wanaka boast some of the most impressive views in the world from their ski fields.

The best advice for winter travel is rug up well! Grab merino under-layers, and a waterproof coat, thick socks, and sturdy shoes just in case we get a bad spell.  Remember the further south you go, or higher in altitude, it will get colder.

Temperatures during winter range from 34-48ºF (1-16 ºC), but it does depend on where you are in the country. Up North and near the coastline it’s a lot warmer. 

Spring: September, October, November

Spring is rich in colour. The country comes alive with new growth. The landscape bursts with flowers and greenery and local produce spill into the markets.

It’s true that spring weather can be a little unsettled but it’s a lovely time to travel. The countryside is spectacular. Crisp mornings, clear skies, and bright sunny days are typical. Snow can linger on the mountain peaks so that keeps the temperatures down until it melts in late spring.

It’s the best season to get those iconic photos of colourful lupins in the Mackenzie Country. If you like to hunt trout and salmon, the freshwater fishing season opens in October in most areas.

Springtime is a choice time to visit Fiordland. The roads are generally open, but there is still plenty of rain to make the waterfalls really do their thing. If you like geology, there is no better opportunity to see active landscape making.

Spring is a good time to avoid the crowds and, if you want to get to know us kiwis, you will find us at A+P shows, flower shows, garden tours, school and church fairs, festivals and markets.  The countryside will be yours!

Temperatures are a bit cooler in the south and warmer in the North Island. You are likely to get a combination of weather on the same day, so our advice for travelling in springtime is to carry a merino top and waterproof top layer. Chances are, you won’t need it, but it’s best to be prepared.

Spring weather can be unpredictable. Temperatures can range between 67-41 ºF (5-19ºC). There can be crisp, clear days, or morning frost and showers.

More articles to help you plan your trip to New Zealand

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New Zealand Passport and Visa Requirements
Smooth as possible on arrival to New Zealand
Travel Insurance for New Zealand
Doubtful Sound or Milford Sound?
Which New Zealand Glacier to Visit?
Driving in New Zealand
Safety in New Zealand's Great Outdoors
What to Pack for a New Zealand Holiday
New Zealand Accommodation Guide
New Zealand's Need to Know Facts
What do things cost in New Zealand

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