The Best time to visit the North Island
The North Island by season
As most of New Zealand’s North Island is near to the coast, this brings mild weather, contributing to cool winters and warm summers. In the far north of the island the height of summer is positively tropical, while winter snow is possible at the higher altitudes of the interior. To help you decide when to travel, we’ve split the year into its four seasons:
September – November
As winter becomes a distant memory, New Zealand’s North Island springs into life. The countryside becomes a riot of colour, lambs bound through the fields and the rivers rage wildly, creating excellent conditions for white water rafting. This is a lovely season to visit the far north of the island where the weather is warm and mild, perfect for hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing or kayaking Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.
Hatching kiwi birds: get yourself down to the Kiwi Encounter in Rainbow Springs, Rotorua, to see the annual egg hatching of New Zealand’s national bird.
Orcas: look out for the tell-tale black fin of the orca, often spotted off the shores of Wellington between March and November.
December – February
As temperatures hit the high twenties, long hours of sunshine make summer the ideal time to hit the beach. Popular places for swimming include the coastline around Hawke’s Bay and Coromandel, where sea conditions are gentle enough for snorkelling and paddle boarding. Rain is more likely in summer though, so come prepared for a shower or two.
Outdoor swimming: the North Island is covered in secluded waterholes perfect for cooling off in the summer heat. Try Rainbow Falls on the Kerikeri River.
Surfing Santas: for a Christmas with a difference, get down to the beaches of Coromandel where Santas in swimming trunks will serve you barbecued turkey with pavlova for pudding.
March – May
As the heat of summer begins to fade, things begin to quieten down across the North Island. Days are still bright and sunny though, making this a great time to explore the National Parks of Tongariro or Whanganui, where you’ll definitely need your camera for the gorgeous golds of autumn. Kayaking is another lovely way to take in the sights – try it in Auckland’s Waitawa Park.
Wairarapa Balloon Festival: in late February, look to the skies to see the colourful and bizarrely-shaped hot-air balloons float by as part of this five-day festival.
Auckland Arts Festival: held over 18 days in March, this is a celebration of diversity and culture through dance, theatre, music and artworks, and takes place citywide.
June – August
New Zealand’s winter brings snow across the country. Skiing isn’t just restricted to the South Island though, as you can ski the slopes around Lake Taupo between June and October. The snow adds a delightful fairy-tale feel to the landscape, and while you should be careful if hiking, it’s not impossible to tackle the frozen pathways of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing at this time of year. To escape the cold, head north to the Bay of Islands, where temperatures average 15°C even in the depths of winter.
Hot Pools: at this time of year, the cold air creates steam around Rotorua’s hot pools, making them a particularly inviting way to warm up in the chilly forests.
Matariki: when the star cluster Matariki appears in the sky (sometime in early June), it’s officially Maori New Year. Celebrate in style with countrywide events, including Auckland’s Haka competition.