The best time to visit New Zealand

Expedia asked us to share our New Zealand travel tips, the recommendations below are that of The Global Couple.


It’s the beginning of summer here in New Zealand, and the tourists are starting to flock in. Near our home in downtown Auckland, cruise ships roll in day after day and offload their loafer-and-lanyard-wearing cargo. Twenty-somethings with oversized backpacks are a common sight, often asking for directions to the bus station or the nearest hostel.

It’s all on.

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best time to visit new zealand

Sure, the weather is the warmest from December through to February, so if you’re after a beach holiday it’s definitely the best time to be here. But as it’s the high season, it’s also the busiest and most expensive time to visit. So how do you choose when to travel to New Zealand? There’s really no ‘best time’ to visit our country – it really depends on the kind of experience you’re looking for.

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So let’s consider each season with the good and not so good parts about visiting at these different times of year.

Summer

Sun. Warmth. That’s what most people want from a holiday, and if you come to New Zealand in summer you’ll get some of that. Some areas can reach sweltering temperatures above 30˚C (Central Otago, I’m looking at you) but many regions sit at a comfortable 22-25˚C during the summer months. There are plenty of outdoor and water-based activities that are best enjoyed in summer – think snorkeling, surfing, mountain biking and more.

Waewaetoria Island, Bay of Islands

But because it’s the high tourist season, and it’s also New Zealand’s holiday season (school’s out for part of December and all of January), it can be super busy in the tourist hot spots. It can be hard to find accommodation, and everyone raises prices to take advantage of the higher demand. If you’re looking to travel around New Zealand in summer and not book anything, you may want to think again.

Best things to do in summer

Beaches in Northland, camping in the South Island, SCUBA diving and surfing

Autumn

If I had to choose, I’d travel to New Zealand in autumn. The summer heat lingers well into March (sometimes April!) and autumn is generally a pretty dry season. Yes, it’s not as hot as summer so you might not want to swim every day, but it’s still warm enough that you can if the urge takes you. It’s the perfect season for hiking (not as hot as summer but no snow in the mountains until later in the season) and other outdoor activities.

mt tarawera

Autumn is a shoulder season, so it’s cheaper than summer and much less busy. It seems like once February is over most of the tourists pack up and go home. In the South Island the nights can get cold quite quickly and there may be the occasional snow event later in the season, so it pays to pack warm clothes!

Best things to do in autumn

Hiking, visiting places that are busy in summer like Abel Tasman National Park

Winter

Although winter might not seem like the ideal time to travel to New Zealand, it’s a great option if you don’t mind not getting a tan. There are ski resorts in both the North and South Islands (most in the South Island) so if you’re a snow bunny then winter is the best time to visit. There are minimal numbers of tourists around and accommodation is pretty cheap (outside of the ski towns).

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If you want to do a campervan road trip but can’t afford the steep summer rental prices, winter is an excellent, much cheaper, option – you’ll see beautiful snowy mountains in the South Island and quite often have major sights all to yourself. Obviously, the downsides are weather-related – in the South Island it can be really cold, and the North Island often receives a lot of rain.

Best things to do in winter

Skiing in Wanaka and Queenstown, cheap campervan road trip

Spring

Weather-wise, spring is such a moveable feast in New Zealand. It’s warm one day and freezing the next, and can be windy and wet everywhere. However, like winter, it’s a cheap time to travel in the country. So if you’re not bothered about having great weather, it’s a great time to visit.

Auckland city

You can catch the tail end of the ski season (most mountains are open to late September/early October) and the beginning of summer – it tends to get warm in mid-November. Just have a Plan B up your sleeve in case the weather doesn’t cooperate how you would like it to!

Best things to do in spring

Hiking in non-alpine regions, exploring cities

mercer bay

We hope this breakdown of travel to New Zealand by season helps with some decision-making! We know it’s hard to decide when to visit a place, and of course sometimes you have no choice about timing. But we’re sure that no matter when you choose to visit New Zealand, you won’t be disappointed.

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