Some people think New Zealand is at its best in summer when you can relax on the beach and eat hokey pokey ice cream. Others reckon New Zealand comes alive in winter, when you can shred the slopes and everything seems a little wilder. Some prefer hiking in autumn when the leaves are golden, or look forward to spring, when our waterfalls are at their most impressive. But you know what? Nobody’s wrong! New Zealand’s weather is as ever-changing as its landscape and we love how each season gives the country a distinctive feel. We definitely can’t pick one season over another, so we’ve broken down New Zealand’s weather by month to help you figure out which time of year appeals the most for your bucket list trip to NZ.
Spring in New Zealand
It’s pretty neat being in New Zealand in Spring when lambs fill the farms, trees start blossoming and us Kiwis are in even more of a great mood because it’s such a positive, uplifting time of year. Our spring months of September, October and November have quite changeable weather patterns (even for New Zealand!) Some days it can rain one minute then the sun shines strong the next and vice versa, bringing rainbows and that clean air feeling.
Maximum temperatures vary from 19 degrees Celsius (66F) in the North Island to 16 degrees Celsius (60F) in the South. It gets warmer and sunnier in November so you’ll enjoy visiting us around this time if you prefer the warmth but want to escape the busier summer months.
Spring is waterfall season, so Milford Sound (and the Milford Road) is incredible to visit during this time of year. In November, the bright purples and blues of our alpine lupins to flower around Aoraki/Mount Cook – a really colourful sight when combined with the snowy mountain peaks and the bright blue of the nearby glacial lakes.
Summer in New Zealand
Kiwis wait all year round for New Zealand summer season – December, January and February. Most people of us get a break over Christmas; that’s right, on this side of the world Christmas is in the summer – which might seem a bit weird if you’re from the Northern Hemisphere! We often do BBQs on the beach for Christmas lunch and even have our very own ‘Christmas tree’ called the Pohutukawa, which has brilliant red flowers.
Our climate is pretty mild in New Zealand with summer highs ranging from 20 degrees Celsius (68F) in the deep south to 25-30 degrees Celsius (77-85F), so it’s nice and warm but not super muggy and uncomfortable. Summer days are long and there’s not heaps of rain so it’s the best time to dust off your jandals (kiwi-speak for flip flops or sandals) and flock to one of our epic golden sand beaches. Abel Tasman National Park or the Bay of Islands up in Northland rank pretty highly when it comes to our favourite memories of summer holidays from when we were kids! Make the most of the warmer ocean temps by swimming with dolphins or stretching your legs with a day walk somewhere close to the coast, cooling off with a dip in the sea. Just make sure you pack your sun block because the sun is pretty strong down here in New Zealand.
Autumn / Fall in New Zealand
As the leaves start to turn bright colours of yellow, orange and red, New Zealand undergoes a bit of a makeover. The second half of March marks the end of summer and the end of high season, but what’s awesome about autumn (fall for you North Americans!) is that it is definitely not the end of our long sunny days. Temperatures are still warm, with highs ranging from 17 degrees Celsius in the south (62F) to 21+ degrees Celsius (68F) in the north. It’s a really great time to enjoy New Zealand without battling the crowds or the heat.
We love getting outdoors in autumn, and we reckon you will too! Spending a morning on a boat cruise exploring one of the lakes in Rotorua or visiting the historical gold mining town of Arrowtown in the South Island are some of our favourite things to do and see during this time of year. Just remember to pack a jacket because towards the end of April and in May mornings and evenings can get a bit chilly, especially down in the South Island.
Winter in New Zealand
If you’re from countries like the United States or the UK, when you think winter, you probably think of hibernation time. But, generally, the winter season in New Zealand is a lot milder than those places, which is awesome because we still have first rate ski resorts but you can also walk on the beach in Nelson or go whitewater rafting in Rotorua.
Depending on where you are, maximum temperatures average between 10 degrees Celsius down South (50F) to 16+ degrees Celsius (61F) up north – that’s practically summer in some places around the world! Some of us crazy Kiwis even surf in wetsuits over winter. Low temperatures can drop to under freezing though, especially in the South Island, which is way cooler then the North Island, so if you are visiting New Zealand in winter make sure to bring warm clothing – we recommend layers, and merino thermals are always a winner. Auckland and Northland don’t experience snowfall, while inland places anywhere south of Tongariro (in the centre of the North Island) tend to enjoy their fair share from June to August.
It goes without saying that skiing and snowboarding are at their best in our winter months. If this sounds like a bit of you, Queenstown or Wanaka are the best places to base yourself from. Many towns in the South Island – especially those that are more inland – turn into a winter wonderland during this time of year, and the crisp, clear light when it’s cooler lends itself to beautiful photography. It’s always a good idea to check the weather report regularly if you’re visiting during winter.
We reckon there’s no bad time to travel around New Zealand and that each season adds something new and exciting to the mix. Our MoaTrek 23-day Kakapo tour takes you to our favourite corners of New Zealand – and, the best part is, you can go any time of year you want! We’ve got departures year-round. So whether you want to see the waterfalls of Milford Sound at their most powerful best, or swim with dolphins when the water is a bit warmer, the Kakapo tour will bring your ‘dream’ NZ experience to life. Just pick the season that appeals most, and we’ll give you a hand to enjoy it the best way we know how.