Best time to travel to New Zealand?

When daydreaming about your Kiwi ‘Trip of a Lifetime’, you might be wondering when the best time is to visit New Zealand. We reckon there’s no bad time to vacation here – we love our kiwi holidays year-round – but each season definitely offers a different flavor in terms of travel. Have a think about whether you’re after the seafood, sunshine and ‘Kiwi summer vibes’ of high season, or would prefer to soak up the colourful new-season growth, impressive waterfalls and fresh produce of spring. If you’re coming from the Northern Hemisphere, don’t forget that things are a bit topsy-turvy in NZ because our seasons are the opposite of the USA, UK and Europe. It’s a pretty good feeling to be enjoying a balmy December day in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands while your mates back home have to put up with the cold! 

Spring – September, October, November

Ah, Spring. This is the time when the whole country seems to break out in a big grin and see things with new eyes as our kiwi landscapes remove their winter coat. A rich shade of green settles over the country, and farmers start to harvest their crops. Spring is the best season to visit the local Farmer’s Market as the stalls are always bursting with avocadoes, cherries and mandarins. Sure, rainfall can be a little unpredictable and the temperatures can be temperamental, but you’ll love our waterfalls at this time of year – snow melts up high, meaning awesome water flows in places like Milford Sound – and seeing the new lambs and baby wekas larking about will make you laugh.

Expect temperatures between 67-41 ºF (5-19ºC), so keep that in mind when you’re packing. You’ll probably get a mixture of crisp, clear sun-filled days as well as spots of morning frost and the odd shower. Yep, the weather’s changeable during this time of year, but if you’re keen to avoid summer crowds, and want to experience top-notch New Zealand wine and produce, visiting us in Spring may suit you to a tee. Flower lovers will love spring too, the best season to get those amazing shots of Mt Cook Lillies in full bloom with the mountain in the background!

Read more about travelling to New Zealand in the months of September, October, November & December in our Spring Travel Guide to New Zealand blogpost here.

Native alpine lily and Mt Cook, springtime - Best time to visit New Zealand

Summer – December, January, February

Many of our most stand-out kiwi holiday memories all took place during summer. This is a time when days are filled with strolls on the beach, hokey-pokey ice creams, swimming in lakes and getting together with our mates for BBQ’s and picnics. It’s the best time of the year to fill your plate with fresh seafood and fish – there’s nothing better than prawns on the barbie or grilled, fresh snapper (our favourite white-fleshed eating fish). And, thanks to daylight savings, the days don’t get dark till 9 or 10pm some nights. It might be a bit hard to get your head around if you’ve only ever experienced a white christmas, but christmas day in New Zealand is often bathed in sunshine with plenty of swimming and beach cricket to go with the turkey. Our native pohutukawa tree is known as the national ‘christmas’ tree because its crimson flowers only bloom in December and January. And summer is when one of our favourite public holidays – Waitangi Day, the 6th of February – takes place. It celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document, so it’s a pretty special day for Kiwis both young and old. 

The summer months do mean high season in New Zealand, so you might see some other people around if you visit during this time of year. The average temperature ranges from 50 – 77 ºF (10-25 ºC), and February can be the most settled month in terms of weather. We reckon it’s the best time to experience our awesome National Parks and beaches. Make sure you don’t forget your swimming togs! A dip at the beach or at a lake is the best way to cool off.

Summer evening on the deck in the Hokianga sun - Best time to travel to NZ

Autumn (fall) – March, April, May

Autumn is a bit like an ‘extended summer’ in New Zealand. We love lunchtime beach swims from our Auckland HQ all the way into late April because of how well the ocean holds its warmth. Autumn means back to work for kiwis all over the country, so it’s definitely a bit quieter out on the road than in high season, but the weather is really settled and rainfall is low. If you love the golds, oranges and reds of trees dropping their leaves, this is a great time to visit – make sure you don’t miss Central Otago and Arrowtown, near Queenstown, for the best show in the country. Daylight still hangs around for a long time in the autumn months, but you might like to have something on hand for your shoulders in the evenings. There are still plenty of nights where you’ll be happy sitting outside and watching the sunset while sipping on a glass or two of Kiwi vino!

Our local marine life comes out to play in autumn. If swimming with dolphins or spotting whales in the wild is on your bucket list, then visiting during these months gives you the best odds for natural encounters. With temperatures sitting at an average high of 68 ºF (20 ºC), day walks, swimming and boat cruises are all still all heaps of fun.

Autumn colours for MoaTrek group photo

Winter – June, July, August

Yep, it’s a bit chillier than the rest of the year, but winter in New Zealand brings with it plenty of perks. The mountains which form the backbone of the country turn into a winter wonderland, and the crisp, clear light of a winter’s day weaves magic for amateur photographers. During winter, we’re always keen to spend evenings rugged up warm in front of a huge fireplace, glass of pinot in hand (one of our favourite places to do this is at the Chateau Tongariro on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu –bliss!) New Zealand also has some pretty unique places to soak in a hot tub. Queenstown’s Onsen Hot Pools, where you relax in your own private tub perched high above the Shotover River, is a standout.

If you love skiing, spend a day or two on the slopes around Queenstown and Wanaka. They’re some of the most impressive in the world. Temperatures during winter range from 34-48ºF (1-16 ºC), but it does depend where you are in the country – near the coastline, it’s a lot warmer while the higher you climb altitude-wise, the more you’ll need to rug up warm.

Travelling in winter is a bit different that the rest of the year, here’s a handy guide to New Zealand winter travel and you’ll love our 9 Day Southern Beauty Tour, with a few extra special bits to make the most of the winter wonderland.

Hiker enjoying snowy views in Mt Cook in winter

Like we said, New Zealand is pretty awesome no matter the season, and that’s why we run our small group tours year-round. There’s no need to add the pressure of driving to your NZ vacation – with us, you’ll travel in a small group of likeminded people to many of our favourite kiwi holiday spots. Get in touch for a chat – we’ll help you to decide what the best time is to travel to New Zealand.

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Kakapo 21 Day Tour

The ultimate New Zealand small group itinerary, this is the very best of our country. Milford Sound, Queenstown, Mt Cook, Abel Tasman, Tongariro, Rotorua, the Bay of Islands and a few more surprises. Small friendly groups led by our expert Kiwi Guides.
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