Best Time to Visit New ZealandBy Sandra King; Updated August 11, 2017
Get in the zone for a New Zealand adventure
New Zealand makes it easy for you to choose which time is the best time to visit: Any time you want to go is the best time. When you’re thinking about New Zealand as your next bucket-list adventure, think first about what you’d most like to do and plan from there. The country is in the Southern Hemisphere, so the seasons might seem topsy-turvy, and some months are more crowded than others. But New Zealand offers its visitors the chance to see an unspoiled environment that includes everything from glaciers to rainforests. Make your plans today!
Seasons in the Southern Hemisphere
Summer. December, January and February top the list as peak tourist months in New Zealand. These months are summertime in this island nation – the North Island and the South Island – but temperatures remain doable for most outdoor enthusiasts, generally between 70 and 90 degrees F. Summer highs periodically nudge up over 100 F in the wine country of Central Otago.
Autumn. The fall months of March through May bring gentler temperatures to New Zealand, averaging 45 to 70 F. You’ll still need a summer wardrobe for visiting the North Island regions in March and maybe just a sweater if you’re trekking the trails and taking in the abundant fall colors in April.
Winter. June, July and August mean winter and ski season in some of the higher elevations. With temperatures ranging between 35 and 60 F throughout most of New Zealand, you’ll still find plenty to do if skiing is not your thing. Winter festivals abound, and wineries are open for tasting tours.
Spring. The spring season arrives in September and warms things up a bit, with average temperatures climbing from 40 to 65 F. You might see an early snowfall on the South Island, but New Zealand is appealingly alive with bright green grasses, colorful wildflowers, flowering trees and energetic baby animals during the spring season.
New Zealand climate
The northern region of North Island is a subtropical paradise, and that means heavy rains but mellow temperatures during spring and winter, with light showers expected almost daily during the other seasons. The upside of the abundant rainfall and relatively mild temperatures is a wide variety of lush fauna to view and native forests to explore.
Central New Zealand also experiences more rain in the winter than the summer, but the rest of the country spreads its rainfall out fairly evenly. There’s plenty of moisture to keep things green but no real “rainy season” identified. The South Island does offer distinct seasons and more extreme temps, but it’s still nothing compared to what you’d experience in regions of North America, such as the Midwest in the U.S.
Beating the crowds
Most visitors travel to New Zealand from December to February. There’s always room for more tourists, but expect heavier crowds, and be sure to book lodging six months in advance. Native New Zealanders also travel most frequently over national and school holidays, including Christmas and several weeks during their summer season. Ski buffs should also plan to book in advance as well, since the lodges fill quickly. Spring and autumn are generally a quieter yet lovely time of year to visit.
Hiking for all fitness levels
New Zealand treasures its hikers and offers a wide variety of walking adventures that are graded from easiest (to include any and all ages and fitness levels) to expert trails designed for experienced hikers desiring a challenge. The best time to schedule a walking tour of New Zealand is from late October through the end of April. Before you schedule your trek, gather information on the nine nationally endorsed Great Walks, which are lined with campsites and huts for overnight stays. Just be sure you reserve your space in advance.