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.

milford-49

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).

skitrip15-10-3

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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29 comments

  1. We did love Autumn weather best so far (haven’t experienced summer here yet) and surprisingly enjoyed it in spring as well as we had most places to ourselves, our own personal beach, lake, capsite, spa, what have you! The weather was very erratic as you mention, but the low season does have it’s advantages! We are going on our third campervan trip around south island 2 weeks of dec/jan. Dreading the peak season, but looking forward to more water based activities. There really is something to do in all seasons here 🙂

    • Petra
      Author

      It’s great you’re here to experience all seasons! Of course that is the best way to do it – you see the best of everything. Enjoy your campervan trip 🙂

  2. Well done working with Expedia. What a great accomplishment as travel bloggers!!

    Loved this article. We had the best time at the beginning of Spring when we visited N.Z. this year. We had only really felt cold when we explored the glaciers. Otherwise, the weather was perfect. On the one day (out of 10) that it rained, we used it as a down day to catch up on washing, writing etc. And believe me, by then, we needed a down day! Can’t wait to go back, so maybe we’ll try another season to compare it to. But it won’t be summer! We avoid high season as much as possible. LOL.

  3. I’d probably concur and say the tail end of spring (closer to summer) or early autumn is a solid choice! Heck, some of our top attractions (fiords, glaciers) are touch and go for weather even in the summer.

    • Petra
      Author

      Haha, totally agree! You really could visit those places at any time – we had the most amazing day at Milford Sound in August, who would’ve thought!

  4. I’m a fan of spring – the tourism sector are geared up for the summer season so tour guides and instructors have the most energy and enthusiasm – as opposed to autumn when they may be looking to wind down

  5. Great post guys! Love New Zealand. What was great about it was if you wanted to be a beach bum you could then in the afternoon go snowboarding . So much to do and see just around every turn!

  6. My least favourite season is winter. Aside from skiing, it can be quite wet and not the best for getting out to explore. Generally I love the summer (childhood memories) and early Autumn going into Easter.
    Claire xx

  7. Just dropping by from Expedia chat! Summer is always great in NZ, so much to do when the weather is beautiful! Autumn is also great for road trips and we love winter especially around Queenstown when Winter Fest is on. Nice blog you have with some great travel tips, keep it up 🙂

  8. Spring is awesome in NZ! As a Qlder spending most of the year in sub-tropical humidity, escaping to NZ at the end of September into early October extends winter for us that little bit longer. Also, driving around and spotting all the blossoms in full-bloom is sensational! I would go again just to see the pink and white flowers everywhere!

    • Petra
      Author

      One of the things we have always wanted to do is see the lupins in the South Island in spring! It looks beautiful in photos and I bet even better in real life. A good reason to visit in spring for sure! Thanks Sarah 🙂

  9. Sheryl

    I love March and April – as you said it’s still warm, not a lot of rain and you can still swim if the urge takes you but the beaches aren’t crowded and there’s no big cues for attractions.

  10. My daughter and I are traveling mainly to the North Island due to time constraints in Late Aug and Early Sept. she is us to the cold me not so much. On the Norh island is thre still warm enough weather to take a trip to the beach?

    • Petra
      Author

      Hi, you probably won’t be wanting to swim but you can definitely go walking on the beach. Temperatures in the upper north island will probably be around 16C during the day then. Have a good trip!

  11. Jeffry Deniz

    I’m from Goa planing to come there in begining of November. These days m reading that the temperatures are still 9 to 15 degrees Celsius. For a tropical man accustomed to 28 degrees (considered normal) m wondering what the chilly experience would be like.

  12. Hello Petra, we will be in New Zealand from the 30th of March to the 9th of April. Super excited as the photos of New Zealand look awesome.
    Can you please let me know if this is a good time? Weatherwise and budgetwise?
    Any suggestions for a family of 3. We have a 7 year old. We will be flying into Wellington airport and have 8 days in total to explore.

  13. Totally agree, I usually advise people to come in autumn or very late summer! NZ is so busy right now, January is hell for everyone ^^ And in march the weather is still pretty good, so beaches are still a thing 🙂
    And you do want to come when Kiwis kids are back to school lol 😀

    Would love you to check my new blog : https://www.littlefrogblogger.com

    PS : i think I recognized Mercer Bay on some of your pics there, isn’t it? Best coastline in West Auckland!

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