When is the best time to visit New Zealand? This is one of the most common questions we’re asked. It’s a tricky one as New Zealand’s dramatic scenery is gobsmackingly gorgeous any time of year, and each season has its highlights. To help you decide for yourself, we’ve done a brief overview by season below. For a useful, month-by-month breakdown, see our post New Zealand: A Year at a Glance.

 

Remember, here in the southern hemisphere, our seasons are ‘upside down’ to those in the north. We’re swimming in January and hitting the slopes in July. Temperatures are also typically warmer in the North Island than the South, with regional exceptions.

SPRING

 

September | October | November

 

We’re sure the word ‘spring’ originated in New Zealand to describe the ridiculously photogenic lambs bouncing around in spongy green fields this time of year. Yes, there’s more rain than in the summer months, but the countryside is lush and bursting with life. An eruption of waterfalls, newborn wildlife, and colourful blooms make this a special time to visit.

Rapeseed Field in Bloom, Canterbury, New Zealand © Black Sheep Touring Co.
DAYTIME TEMPERATURES

16° – 19° C  / 61° – 66° F

 

INTERESTS  

Wildlife, Gardens & Wildflowers, Photography, Fishing, Rafting

 

CROWDS  

Most tourists have yet to arrive. Roads are still relatively quiet and accommodation easier to secure compared to the summer peak season

 

PRICING  

Off-season rates typically apply through September for accommodation, and airline prices are comparatively low this time of year

 

RECOMMENDED SPRING TRIP

New Zealand Experience

SUMMER

 

December | January | February

These are New Zealand’s peak tourism months as travellers from the northern hemisphere escape winter to enjoy this outdoor paradise. New Zealand’s beaches are at their prime, wineries are favourite venues for long lunches, concerts and other events, and hiking and biking trails are busier. Though here, busy is very relative.

View from Abel Tasman Track, Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand © Black Sheep Touring Co.
DAYTIME TEMPERATURES 

21° – 25° C / 68° – 77° F

 

INTERESTS 

Water activities, Wineries, Farmers Markets, Hiking, Biking, Golf and other Outdoor Pursuits

 

CROWDS 

Roads are at their busiest with rental cars and campervans, so care and patience are required. Popular tracks like the Tongariro Crossing and the Abel Tasman track have significantly higher traffic. Planning is a must as hotels in popular locations like Queenstown fill up quickly. If you want to travel this time of year (and it is a great time to be here) a New Zealand tour can remove planning and travel stress. We strongly recommend you book one well in advance so you don’t miss out on precious space. January in particular is a time to plan well ahead or to book through a tour company as school is out and New Zealanders are also vying for accommodation.

 

PRICING 

Peak tourism season means both airline and accommodation rates are at their highest. Accommodations may charge a premium over the Christmas/New Year period.

 

RECOMMENDED SUMMER TRIP 

New Zealand Sampler

 AUTUMN

 

March | April | May

Autumn is a beautiful time to visit New Zealand and an especially great one for road tripping. Roads are quieter, mountain passes are easily navigable, and the autumn scenery on route is stunning. Many Kiwis would list this as their favourite season to travel the country.

Yealands Winery, Marlborough, New Zealand © Black Sheep Touring Co.
DAYTIME TEMPERATURES

17° – 21° C / 62° – 70° F

 

INTERESTS 

Hiking, Biking, Photography, Wineries, Golf, Fishing

 

CROWDS 

The country is definitely emptying of overseas visitors by mid March, though there are still summer-like days well into April (and beyond)

 

PRICING

Off-season rates typically kick in from late April / after Easter

 

RECOMMENDED AUTUMN TRIP 

Southern Scenic

WINTER

 

June | July | August

Travellers don’t realize that many of those postcard-perfect images you see of New Zealand are taken in winter, when the mountains are at their snowcapped best and the air is still and clear, perfect for mirror-like reflections. Mountain passes need to be watched carefully if taking a self-drive tour, but the reward is empty roads, and walking tracks and beaches all to yourself. A bespoke, private guided tour is a good solution if you’re unconfident in driving during winter. Unique wildlife like Fiordland crested penguins and migrating whale species are more prevalent in winter and spring. Come summer, they depart for cooler climes. If you are planning a visit this time of year, do note that the days are shorter, with darkness falling by 6 pm, so you will want to plan your travel time accordingly.

Reflective Lake, Lewis Pass, New Zealand © Black Sheep Touring Co.
DAYTIME TEMPERATURES 

12° – 16° C / 53° – 61° F

 

INTERESTS 

Skiing / Snowboarding, Photography, Wildlife, Rugby, Cultural Connection

 

CROWDS 

While ski resort towns like Queenstown and Wanaka are bustling in winter, you’ll feel you have the rest of the country to yourself. Remote parts of the country can have reduced tourist services or hours as operators take a well-earned, off-season break, but for the most part, the country is wide open and Kiwis are eager for a chat

 

PRICING 

Off-season accommodation rates apply outside of ski resort towns

 

RECOMMENDED WINTER TRIP 

New Zealand Discovery

Why didn’t we include rainfall? New Zealand is a land of microclimates, and no matter the season, weather is unpredictable, with alternating periods of hot sun and cool rain. Weather is westerly prevailing, so typically the west coast is wetter than the east as the clouds reach land and drop their load. The great news is, there are places in New Zealand that are even more spectacular in the rain. Really. And New Zealand just wouldn’t be New Zealand without it.

 



 

DON’T MISS: NEW ZEALAND: A YEAR AT A GLANCE

 



Korokoro Falls, Te Urewera National Park, New Zealand © Chris McLennan

Do you already have a departure date in mind and want to know more about what’s happening when you’re here? Feel free to Contact Us and one of our Travel Shepherds will be happy to answer your questions.