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Best time to visit New Zealand - hiking in Mount Cook

When is the best time to visit New Zealand? Our destinations experts share an overview.

There are two main things to consider before planning a trip to New Zealand: While the climate in the country is generally quite pleasant, it varies significantly depending on which region of the country you’re in. While the northern parts of the country experience subtropical climates, it gets colder the further south you go. The mountainous regions, particularly the inland areas, experience temperatures as low as 14°F.

Secondly, the seasons in New Zealand are the exact opposite of what they are in the northern hemisphere. For example, if you were to visit New Zealand in July hoping to enjoy the summer, you’ll actually be visiting in the middle of winter!

  Most Ideal Low Season

OVERVIEW

January is the warmest month of the year with average temperatures around 70°F – 75°F. It is also peak tourist season, for visitors and locals alike, and the country is alive with events and concerts. With 14-15 hrs of sunlight in a day, there is a lot you can do this time of the year.

we recommend

  • Hike the trails of Mount Cook National Park
  • Join in the excitement at the New Zealand Sevens rugby tournament
  • Spot dolphins off the coast of South Island

OVERVIEW

February is one of the best months to visit the country – the weather is warm and the crowds are thinner. With average temperatures around 77°F, it’s the perfect time to indulge in outdoor activities the country is known for.

WE RECOMMEND

  • Savor fine wine and food at the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival
  • Head to beaches of Mount Maunganui for some fun under the sun

OVERVIEW

With warm days, cool evenings and leaves starting to change color, March sets the stage for autumn. With the crowds gone, March is a great month to visit the country. While it is the wettest time of the year in the Queenstown region, temperatures further north in the Bay of Islands and Rotorua are pleasant at around 77°F.

WE RECOMMEND

  • Spot wildlife in beautiful Fjordland
  • Enjoy New Zealand’s stunning natural scenery on a Great Walk route – such as the Routeburn Track and the Abel Tasman Coast Track

OVERVIEW

Nights start to get chilly but there are still warm temperatures that can be enjoyed during the day. With bright, blue skies and day time temperatures in the mid 60s, it is still a good time to visit the country.

WE RECOMMEND

  • Surround yourself in the breathtaking fall foliage in Hawke’s Bay
  • Stargaze in Lake Tekapo
  • Cycle down the Queen Charlotte Track in Marlborough Sounds

OVERVIEW

Bring out those jackets as the weather starts to get cold in May. Temperatures drop down to the low 40s in South Island and hover around the high 40s in North Island. Considered an off-season month, it is a good time to visit the country if you are looking for hotel deals and fewer crowds.

WE RECOMMEND

  • Seafood lovers unite at the Bluff Oyster Festival
  • Hang out by the Wellington waterfront for some whale and orca watching

OVERVIEW

June marks the start of the winter season in New Zealand. Temperatures across the country are between 45°F – 55°F though below freezing temperatures are not uncommon in mountainous regions. Outdoor enthusiasts eagerly await the first snow of the season even as ski resorts prepare for the soon-to-arrive ski crowds.

WE RECOMMEND

  • Welcome winter at the Queenstown Winter Festival
  • Explore the breathtaking, snow-covered Franz Josef Glacier
  • Set off on a whale-watching cruise in Kaikoura

OVERVIEW

The skiing season is in full swing with the slopes covered in powdery snow. Auckland experiences rainy conditions while Wellington can get windy. The country takes on a whole new look with snow-covered mountains, ice caves and plenty of winter activities to participate in.

WE RECOMMEND

  • Celebrate Matariki, the Maori New Year, at the Te Papa Museum in Wellington
  • Soak in a hot spring in Rotorua
  • Hit the slopes at Mount Ruapehu in North Island

OVERVIEW

Winter continues its hold in August though the North Island experiences milder weather compared to South Island. The slopes are still covered in snow and it is a great time to try out a new winter activity like winter hiking, snowboarding or snowshoeing!

WE RECOMMEND

  • Take in the spectacular scenery at Milford Sound
  • Savor an explosion of flavors at Visa Wellington on a Plate
  • Winter hike across the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

OVERVIEW

Temperatures start to warm up but there is still time for one last ski trip. September is the windiest month of the year so don’t lose that jacket yet. Flower blooms start to appear towards the end of the month as average temperatures inch up towards the 60s.

WE RECOMMEND

  • Say hello to spring with Nelson’s Cherry Blossom Festival
  • Stroll through Christchurch, the Garden City of New Zealand

OVERVIEW

October is a low tourist season but pleasant temperatures and colorful festivals make the month a good time to visit New Zealand. Spring is well underway with the country bathed in hues of green and floral shades. Locals enjoy the return of warmer climes with hikes, treks and other outdoor activities.

WE RECOMMEND

  • Discover the harbor city of Wellington
  • Attend the Auckland Heritage Festival

OVERVIEW

Sunshine-filled days, cool breeze and bursts of color across the country make November an attractive month to visit New Zealand – right before the crowds descend for the holiday season. Average temperatures are in the high 60s and places like Christchurch, Nelson and Gisborne are warmer with temperatures in the mid 80s.

WE RECOMMEND

  • Visit Hobbiton, the site of The Lord of The Rings film
  • Walk through a tunnel to reach the spectacular Tunnel beach in Dunedin
  • Savor a traditional Maori Hāngī meal at the Bay of Plenty

OVERVIEW

December is the start of summer in the country and the beginning of peak tourist season. Enjoy long days (the sun sets only at 9 pm!) and holiday festivities across the country as the country gears up to welcome the New Year.

WE RECOMMEND

  • Ring in the New Year in Gisborne – the first city in the world to welcome the New Year
  • Enjoy the pristine beaches of New Zealand, along with generous servings of fish and chips
  • Sip on world class Pinot Noir at a winery in Central Otago
Excellent / 4.9 out of 5
Wanaka Lake in Autumn

Seasons in New Zealand

In New Zealand, summer runs from December to February and temperatures can vary from 57 – 82 °F. So, if you want to enjoy warm temperatures (which is advisable if you want to explore the country’s bountiful natural scenery), the best time to visit New Zealand is in these months. It is, therefore, no surprise that November – March is the peak tourist season in the country.

If you prefer things cooler, then fall/autumn runs from March to May, with temperatures between 50 – 75 °F. After this period, you’ll experience New Zealand’s winter, which runs from June to August and sees temperatures anywhere between 48 – 68 °F .

Spring arrives in September and continues through November with temperatures hovering around 53 – 71 °F. Because of this, you may find that spring is a comfortable alternative to summer.

New Zealand Travel Tips

Discover the best time to visit New Zealand’s specific regions:

  • Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, is best experienced during winter. Apart from it being less crowded, the decreased surface melt on the glacier will make it all the more striking to look at.  
  • Rotorua with its natural spas and Maori sites is well worth a visit and the best time to visit the region is between Jan – March when temperatures are around a pleasant 70 °F.
  • If you want to sail or swim in New Zealand’s beautiful Fjordland, you’re in luck. You’ll have an enjoyable experience all year round. However, if you want to enjoy the wildlife, then going during fall (March-May) is advisable.
Enchanting Travels New Zealand Tours Woman Traveler with Backpack hiking in Mountains.

What to Pack for New Zealand

So, you have decided on when to go. All you need to decide now is what to bring. New Zealand is a land of stunning landscapes and many outdoor adventures and the best way to explore the country is to go on hikes, treks, and sailing expeditions. So, no matter where you are headed to in New Zealand, a comfortable pair of hiking boots and a camera will go a long way in providing you with a true New Zealand experience. However, in many ways, choosing what to pack relates closely to when you want to visit New Zealand.

If you want to visit during the summer, you should consider bringing lighter clothes such as T-Shirts, shorts or light pants, and maybe a sweatshirt for cooler temperatures. Remember to pack sunscreen and sunglasses as well as a sun-hat, as the New Zealand sun can be quite intense.

The same applies for fall/ autumn, though we recommend you bring more cold weather gear and long sleeve shirts and t-shirts. New Zealand in spring can often be quite warm and you should consider layering up, as the changes in temperature can be significant depending on where you are.

Of course, if you choose to visit New Zealand during the winter, focus on bringing cold weather clothes, thick pants, sweatshirts, and fleeces, as well as gloves. Some of New Zealand’s most startling scenery, like the Fox Glacier, are in relatively cold locations.

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