Whether you’re planning a quick two-week New Zealand road trip adventure or want to spend a month or two roaming about, knowing exactly when to go to New Zealand is a must!
New Zealand is a year-round destination with four distinct seasons: summer, autumn, winter, spring. With its South Pacific southern hemisphere location, the seasons in New Zealand are opposite from the northern hemisphere. It’s the perfect place to escape the cool winters of North America and Europe—or escape the summer heat on a ski vacation!
For most travellers, the best time to visit New Zealand is in the summer months between December and February and in the shoulder seasons of late spring and early autumn. Summer in New Zealand brings with it plenty of sunny skies and warm temperatures. During these months and in the shoulder seasons, you’ll be able to enjoy all the outdoor activities New Zealand is famous for like hiking, mountain biking, and hanging out on its pristine beaches.
Of course, the real answer for when to go to New Zealand is more complex. Let’s dig deeper with this complete New Zealand weather guide including a season-by-season and month-by-month breakdown…
Seasons in New Zealand
New Zealand is a true four-season travel destination. And no matter when you decide to visit New Zealand, you’ll find plenty of exciting activities and interesting destinations to pique your travel interests.
As half of the world bundles up to resist the cold, the end of the year marks the beginning of New Zealand’s summer season. Summer in New Zealand starts in December and carries on until the end of February.
During the summer, temperatures in New Zealand rise and sunny skies prevail. Spending time outdoors at this time of year is an absolute blessing for visitors!
Summer is the prime season for hiking, walking, biking, and watersports like kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming. You’ll also discover fresh fruit harvests throughout the country including cherries and apricots in Central Otago and apples around Hawke’s Bay.
The only drawback to visiting New Zealand in summer is the crowds. December to February is peak tourist season in New Zealand. If you’re planning to travel to New Zealand at this time, be sure to book your flights, tours, and accommodations up to 6 months in advance, especially for super popular destinations like Milford Sound and Queenstown.
To escape the crowds of peak season, the best time to go to New Zealand is in autumn. Autumn in New Zealand falls between March and May. Although the temperatures are cooling down from summer highs, they’re still quite pleasant throughout most of the country.
The autumn months are a great time for sightseeing throughout New Zealand. The hiking trails are less crowded and the fall colours are out in full force by mid-season. For the loveliest autumn colours in New Zealand, head to Central Otago, Queenstown, and Christchurch on South Island.
If you’re planning to visit New Zealand in fall, be sure to plan ahead during the Easter holidays and April school holidays as it’s a busy time of year around the country. You’ll also want to add some warmer clothing and base layers to your New Zealand packing list as it gets chillier into mid- to late fall.
If you don’t mind the colder and wetter weather, winter is not a bad time of year to visit New Zealand. Winter in New Zealand lasts between June and August, and although you’ll encounter cooler temperatures and less blissful weather, intrepid travellers shouldn’t write it off yet.
For skiers, winter’s a great time to go to New Zealand. The ski season generally runs between June and early October. The majority of the top ski resorts in New Zealand are located on South Island, particularly around Queenstown, Wanaka, Mount Hutt, and Canterbury. On North Island, the best ski fields for a ski holiday are Whakapapa and Turoa in Tongariro National Park.
Throughout the winter months, it’s relatively quiet around New Zealand. If you’re planning a self-drive holiday in New Zealand, you’ll have many of the roads mostly to yourself. Other than in the mountain passes of South Island, winter driving conditions are relatively care-free.
Accommodation prices also tend to be slightly lower in winter with better availability. The only exception is during the July school holidays when families hit the road. Be sure to book ahead to avoid disappointment.
With its longer days and warmer temperatures, spring is another fantastic time to travel to New Zealand. Spring in New Zealand falls between September and November. It’s a great time to visit, not just for warmer weather, but to avoid the crowds of the forthcoming high tourist season.
As you travel throughout New Zealand in spring, you’ll experience its cities, towns, and countryside at their most colourful.
On South Island, the snow-capped Southern Alps draw an impressive backdrop to a magnificent spring bloom. Check out the parks & gardens of Christchurch and Dunedin to see it in its full effect. On North Island, the spring blossoms at Hawke’s Bay and around Taupo and Tongariro National Park are worth a gander.
New Zealand weather month-by-month
January is one of the warmest months of the year in New Zealand and sits at the peak the tourist high season. School’s out for summer and families are keen to pack up and hit the open road. January is not a great month to travel if you don’t like crowds!
January in New Zealand also brings a barrage of wonderful festivals. A few you might want to check out include the Laneway Festival in Auckland, the World Buskers’ Festival in Christchurch, and the New Zealand Rugby Sevens tournament in Hamilton.
Needless to say, you’ll want to book your activities and your hotels ahead of time.
February is the hottest month of the year in New Zealand on average and one of the most popular for travellers. Many of the most popular travel destinations including Auckland, Queenstown, Wellington, and Christchurch are at their driest in February. Get out and enjoy the sunny blue skies!
With the hot weather and sunny days, spending time on the beach is a must. Even if your itinerary sticks to the big city, there’s a ton of great beaches near Auckland, including Piha Beach and Bethells Beach on the west coast and Oneroa Beach and Onetangi Beach on beautiful Waiheke Island.
February’s an excellent month for water sports like kayaking, surfing, and boating as well as hitting the hiking trails for some great walks.
February in New Zealand is also a festive time of year. New Zealand’s national day, Waitangi Day, falls on February 6th. Wine lovers will love The Marlbourgh Food and Wine Festival, New Zealand’s oldest wine festival. The fun & invigorating Wellington Fringe Festival often falls towards the end of the month.
March is the first official month of autumn in New Zealand. Average daytime temperatures throughout the country, however, are still quite pleasant. There’s still plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in March in New Zealand.
To bask in the last vestiges of the warm weather, head to the far north of North Island to the Bay of Islands or to inland destinations like Rotorua. Otherwise, much of the country is open for business in this shoulder season month.
Wine lovers should drop down to South Island, particularly Central Otago, Queenstown, Wanaka or North Canterbury. Although it’s the rainiest month of the year in the region, it’s the perfect time to experience wine festivals like the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival and North Canterbury Wine & Food Festival.
The full transition to autumn begins in New Zealand in April. Near the beginning of the month, the autumn leaves start to change colours, erupting into stunning bright reds, oranges, and yellows. The fall colours hit their peak in mid-April.
To see the autumn colours at their best in April, throw Arrowtown, Queenstown, or Lake Tekapo in Mackenzie Country into your New Zealand holiday plans. The Southern Lakes Festival of Colour, a popular performing arts festival in Wanaka, is an excellent addition as well.
Outside of the buzzing Easter holiday, April offers a quieter New Zealand travel experience and cheaper accommodation prices than you’ll find at other times during the year.
Any remaining heat is out the window as we move into May. Average temperatures throughout New Zealand, even on the warmer North Island, start to drop into the single digits and low-teens.
If you bundle up in layers though, May in New Zealand is, nonetheless, a good month to travel. With the cooler conditions, active pursuits like mountain biking and hiking are popular.
For culture lovers, May offers plenty. It’s officially New Zealand Music Month with the country’s most popular and up-and-coming artists hitting the stage, radio, and TV. In Auckland, written word is celebrated at the Auckland Writers’ Festival while film takes centre stage at the Documentary Edge Festival in New Zealand’s movie capital of Wellington.
Foodies will also be spoiled for choice on their holiday with the Bluff Oyster & Food Festival in Southland and the Great New Zealand Food Show in Hamilton.
June is the official start of winter in New Zealand. The ski season in New Zealand ramps up rather quickly. Many of the best ski areas in New Zealand start opening up as soon as the snow begins falling in the alpine areas.
To kick it all off, Queenstown heads up New Zealand’s winter months with the Queenstown Winter Festival. Held over 10 days in June and July, this popular annual festival fuses music, winter sports. and family-friendly activities for a load of holiday fun.
June in New Zealand also sees Matariki (Maori New Year) celebrated throughout both main islands.
By July, the ski season in New Zealand is in full swing with all of the most popular ski fields opened up. Snowfall is at its peak in July, and, with it, skiing conditions are also at their best.
Besides skiing holidays, July in New Zealand is a surprisingly good time to take to the trails. You’ll need to bundle up with warm clothing, but you’ll encounter little resistance; many of New Zealand’s best walking tracks will be at their quietest. With its milder temperatures, North Island is a good place to set your sights upon.
Other than the top skiing destinations, prices in New Zealand tend to be near their lowest and hotel availability at its highest in July.
The last official month of winter, August in New Zealand sees ski season still truckin’ on. If the cold weather is proving tiring, destinations on North Island such as the Bay of Islands and Rotorua start to see respite and returns to milder conditions in August.
If you’ve planned a New Zealand South Island itinerary though, it doesn’t need be just a skiing holiday. Add Kaikoura on the east coast of South Island for a whale-watching adventure or the small resort town of Hanmer Hot Springs for a relaxing late-winter getaway.
Aside from May, August is one of the best months to visit New Zealand for foodies. There’s a handful of awesome festivals & events to tickle the palate including Visa Wellington on a Plate and Auckland Restaurant Month.
While most of September still falls into winter, by the end of the month spring in New Zealand is springing into gear. As the flowers start to bloom, you’ll be met with colourful scenes and delicate fresh scents as you travel around New Zealand.
September in New Zealand sees an explosion of festivals to mark the seasonal change. Check out the Cherry Blossom Festival in Nelson, the Palmerston North International Spring Festival, or the Alexandra Blossom Festival to see the blossoms at their finest.
The botanical gardens in New Zealand’s three largest cities—Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington—are also spectacular in September.
Keep in mind that the weather conditions in September are chaotic. Although milder, September is the windiest month in New Zealand and rain and snow are never out of the question.
With winter officially in the rearview mirror, October brings with it New Zealand’s best springtime weather. Temperatures in New Zealand in October are mild and conditions relatively dry as days grow longer.
While the winds are still strong, it’s a fun time to travel around New Zealand for cultural events. Spice up your adventure with the Auckland Heritage Festival, Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival or the Akaroa French Festival.
Although still officially spring, November sees a shift towards summery conditions. The scenes remain quintessentially spring, however, with lush rolling pastures and bright blooms taking centre stage.
Crowds pick up throughout November in New Zealand but remain relatively small compared to the peak tourist season. If you’re planning to visit popular travel destinations like Auckland, Wellington or Queenstown, you’ll want to start booking your flights, accommodations and tickets in advance.
Summer is officially here as we move into December in New Zealand. Of course, the bright sunny skies and lovely weather also invite larger tourist crowds to the two main islands.
Into December, the days grow longer with the sun setting as late as 9pm. In fact, December might be the best time to enjoy the outdoors in New Zealand. Be sure to take full advantage on your visit by hitting up walking tracks in places like Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound before the peak crowds descend.
Even through it lacks the white Christmas Northern Hemisphere dwellers are used to, the holidays are a festive time in New Zealand. Stick around for New Year’s Eve and join in the NYE celebrations in Wellington, the world’s first capital to usher in the coming new year!