The Best Time to Go to New Zealand

Lake Wanaka in New Zealand
Lake Wanaka

New Zealand by Seasons

New Zealand’s seasons are the opposite of those in the UK, making it a tempting choice for escaping the cold British winter and finding the summer sun. The best time to visit depends on your interests and itinerary – in just one month you can experience anything from sizzling hot sun to ice and snow. So, to help you plan, here’s our guide to the seasons.

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Spring sheep in New Zealand
Spring

September – November

Spring is a pleasant time to visit New Zealand: temperatures are rising after the winter chill, flowers bloom and new-born lambs play in the fields. As the South Island’s winter snows melt, the waterfalls come to life and the rivers fill, making it an excellent time to try white water rafting, while the North Island stays dry and mild. In Wellington, look out for orcas passing by the coastline.

Go for:

Flowers: head to Christchurch’s Botanic Gardens to see the trees bloom with pink blossoms.

Nelson Arts Festival: for two weeks in mid-October, Nelson is filled with artists, theatre productions, concerts and street dance.

Hawke’s Bay Spring Racing Carnival: throughout September, get dressed up and watch the horseraces at this prestigious event.

Lupins in front of Lake Tekapo
Summer

December – February

Long sunny days make summer the perfect time for beach lazing or heading outdoors and hiking the tramping trails. Particularly sunny spots include the North Island’s Hawke’s Bay and Nelson, which receives over 2,350 hours of sunshine per year. Although there is a higher chance of rain in summer, laktemperatures can reach up to 30°C in the North Island, and the gentle sea conditions make this a good time to try diving or snorkelling.  In the South Island, it’s a great time to see dolphins in Kaikoura.

Go for:

Christmas: spend Christmas in the sunshine or on the beach, with festive events held all over the country.

Marlborough Food and Wine Festival: come in February to sample the very best of the region’s wines.

Lupins: from mid-November to December, admire the carpet of purple flowers at Lake Tekapo.

Autumn leaves by the River Avon in Christchurch
Autumn

March – May

As the summer temperatures start to cool, pleasant, mild and sunny days make autumn a great time to try hiking, cycling or kayaking. The roads are quieter than in the height of summer and best of all, the warm golds and reds of autumn appear on the trees, making for some lovely photographs, especially in the South Island’s mountains.

Go for:

Anzac Day: on 25th April, commemorate the lives of New Zealanders lost in war with various parades and ceremonies, held all over the country.

Bluff Oyster Festival: in late May, come to Bluff, the southernmost point of the South Island, and taste the fresh and juicy oysters.

Ski slopes in Queenstown
Winter

June – August

Winter sees snow come to much of the South Island’s higher elevations, and surprisingly to some of the North Island’s mountains too. The South Island ski resorts open, and the landscapes look exceptionally pretty in the snow. Winter is the most variable time to visit, and with the weather likely to change unexpectedly, it’s a good idea to be prepared for any eventuality, especially if you’re spending the day outdoors. Coastal areas remain mild though, and rain is common in the North Island. For warmer climes head for Rotorua and the Bay of Islands.

Go for:

Humpback whales: in June and July, look out for migrating humpbacks off the coast of Kaikoura.

Skiing: from June to October make the most of the snow at the South Island’s many ski resorts.

Top New Zealand Journeys

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Round the World Expert Kaye Waapu

Try to allow as much time as you can to visit New Zealand. It's not a country that you want to rush. Instead, hire a campervan and explore at your own pace and you'll fall in love with it.

- Kaye Waapu, Expert
Sunset over Martinborough in New Zealand
Meanwhile in New Zealand, our Expert @stepheagell is enjoying sunset from the Haithornthwaite Winery in Martinborough #expertfinds #haythornthwaite #martinborough #nzmustdo #newzealand