The beautiful country New Zealand is famous for its beaches with staggering beauty, its mountains covered with snow, its ancient glaciers, and its indigenous Maori culture. And if you are planning a tour to visit this small island nation, the first thing you need to know is what time is best to visit New Zealand. Well, maybe you are thinking why? Let me tell you the reason.
Arrowtown, New Zealand
New Zealand’s climate varies wildly and the weather here is hard to predict. It’s because New Zealand is long and narrow, it is made up of two main islands and some smaller islands. The two main islands: the North Island and the South Island are separated by Cook Strait, 22 kilometers wide at its narrowest point. Conditions vary sharply across regions from subtropical in Northland to too cold in alpine areas of the South Island.
That’s why you need to figure out a suitable time to visit your destination in New Zealand before planning a trip. So let's see when the best time for your trip is.
What is the best time to visit New Zealand?
Summertime: December – February
New Zealand’s summer season runs from December to February. With average high temperatures ranging from 20-24oC (68-75oF) in North Island and from 19-23oC (66-73oF) in South Island, summer in here is hot but still pleasant. Sunshine hours are long, can last up until 9.30 pm, and rain is not too common in most places.
This is the most popular time to visit New Zealand because many beaches and lakes are at their perfect time to cool off. People all over the world flock here to enjoy its great beaches with outdoor activities like swimming, beach picnics, kayaking, snorkeling, sailing… in sunlight.
Sunset on New Zealand's West Coast
Some ideal destinations for your summer vacation in New Zealand: Kaiteriteri Beach with golden sand and stunning scenery; Mt Maunganui with surf, beachside cafes and gorgeous white sand; Cathedral Cove with its unique rock arch, Piha Beach with its dramatic land and seascapes…
Tips for travelers: In peak season, please get the booking in advance for accommodation, tours, and transport. And don’t forget your sunscreen with a high SPF.
Autumn: March - May
From March to May, the weather is still warm a little bit –,, particularly in the north. Temperatures range from 17 - 22oC (62 - 71oF) in North and 13 - 19oC (55 - 66oF) in South. Long, sunny days tend to linger until March and nights begin to get cooler around mid-April. Leaves on the trees start to change their colors and the sky looks so deep blue that you feel so romantic and uplifting and start to think about hiking or cycling along the trails.
Autumn is the perfect time of year to hike, cycle, or go fishing in the cool breeze. And it’s still hot enough to swim in most places without having busy crowds as in summer.
For hiking, you can try the ten Great Walks with combinations of cultural significance and scenery or Mou Waho Island for its stunning views of colorful Arethusa Pool.
Wellington, New Zealand
Or you can choose to visit Wellington to try mountain biking and sea-water kayaking, as well as beautiful walks around the harbor and surrounding hills.
Tips for travelers: As autumn is also the shoulder season, you can have lots of accommodation choices with vacancies at better rates compared to summer. So my advice here is to let travel to New Zealand in autumn to enjoy fewer crowds and save a lot of money, especially on flights and accommodation.
Winter: June - August
In winter months, temperatures are much milder in New Zealand compared to other areas of similar latitude. Maxima is generally 11 - 15 °C (51 - 59 °F) in the North Island while the South Island is a bit cooler, with maximum temperatures around 7 - 12 °C (45 - 54 °F), though sometimes lower. Winter brings snow to the alpine region around the country and clear, mild not too cold days in lower regions. Now it’s time for ski and snow sports in the mountainous areas, like the Central Plateau, Southern Alps, Canterbury, or Central Otago.
There are some regions that are popular with tourists in winter: Mount Ruapehu, Mount Hutt near Christchurch, and ski fields in the Queenstown and Wanaka.
Winter in Otago, New Zealand
And winter is not only for skiers, but you can also try other things here like: checking in the winter festival in Oamaru; skydiving in Queenstown, hot springs at Hanmer Springs…
Tips for travelers: The temperature difference is quite large between the top and the foot of the mountain. Snow generally falls at higher elevations and only occasionally does it reach the ground during winter. So try to wear clothes in layers because that is the best way to deal with the fluctuations in temperature and the weather, especially when you move to mountainous regions. And check the weather forecast before going to your intended destinations.
Spring: September – November
Spring is the season for all things to proliferate, and spring in New Zealand is no exception. Colorful flowers bloom, waterfalls wake up from freeze, lambs bounce around green fields. The fresh, happy atmosphere everywhere makes this also an appropriate time of year to visit New Zealand. Average daytime temperatures during spring range between 19°C (66°F) in the north to 16°C (60°F) in the south.
The weather starts to warm up, but there is still a chance of a cold snap and snow even in November. So you can expect a mixture of weather: cool nights and warm days. And it makes your travel more pleasant with outdoor activities like hiking, cycling or even skiing.
The Shire, Hobbiton
Tips for travelers: Although spring is not a peak season in New Zealand, there are school holidays that fall in spring. So if you do not like crowds, you may need to check to avoid those dates. And the weather is very variable and unpredictable during spring in New Zealand so be mentally prepared to deal with this erratic weather.
Now maybe you have your own answer to the question of what time of year is best to visit New Zealand. I personally like to go there in autumn as I mentioned above. Anyway, each time has both advantages and disadvantages. How about your opinion? Share your own experience with the comments below. See you!