A girl standing in the middle of a field of pink and purple lupins. There is a turquoise river flowing behind her and mountains. New Zealand South Island in spring

The Best Time Of The Year To Visit New Zealand

If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand you might be wondering what’s the best time of year to visit. Well, look no further!

Having spent two years living in New Zealand, I’ve had the opportunity to experience all the seasons. The truth is, there isn’t a definitive “best” time to visit New Zealand as each season is very different, and it all boils down to personal preference.

If you’re a fan of skiing and snowy mountains, the winter months from May to July are going to be perfect for you. On the other hand, if you prefer warmer weather, the spring and summer months from October to February create the perfect backdrop for outdoor adventures.

In this guide, I’ll break down what you can expect from each season, on each island, to help you decide when you’ll get the most from your trip.

A white sandy beach with a hill in the background. The sun is setting just behind the cliff.
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When Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit New Zealand?

Actually, there really is no right or wrong answer to this question, and it will vary from person to person depending on what it is you want to see and do.

Personally, I love the warmer months and all the things they bring with them (more about that later in the post!) but when you visit will be down to your own personal preference.

You’ll need to ask yourself what it is you really want to see or do while you’re in New Zealand. If the answer is seeing the lupins, then you need to make sure you visit between November and January. If the answer is skiing down the slopes of The Remarkables, then the answer will be to visit between May and August.

Each season is very different from the next so you will need to time your trip perfectly.

Weather In New Zealand

To start, I think it’s worth mentioning that the weather in New Zealand can be summed up in one word…. unpredictable!

Seriously, you can experience all seasons in a day all year round! So even if you do visit in the summer, you’ll still need to pack some warmer items in your suitcase.

New Zealand is seasonal so it does have all four seasons over the year. But as it is in the Southern Hemisphere the seasons will be the opposite of what you experience if you are in the Northern Hemisphere. For example, December in the UK is cold, frosty and wet but December in New Zealand is sunny, dry(ish) and warm.

The weather across New Zealand’s North Island and South Island will also vary massively. While Northland, at the top of the North Island, has more subtropical weather, Wellington which is at the bottom of the North Island, is known as the windy city (believe me, it’s windy!).

Once you venture further down to the mountainous South Island, the weather will change even further and tends to be cooler.

Regardless of the weather, I really recommend wearing sunscreen. The sunburn you can get here is no joke! This is due to the ozone layer being thinner over New Zealand, so don’t let those cloudy, cooler days fool you!

A girl standing in a bunch of pink and purple lupins in front of a turquoise lake. There are snowy mountains behind her. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand in spring time

Related Post: New Zealand South Island Itinerary: The Best 7-Day Road Trip

Visiting New Zealand In Winter

If you’re a lover of winter sports then this will be the best time of the year for you to visit New Zealand!

As winter descends, with it comes thick blankets of snow that cover the mountains and tourists flock to the Southern Alps. Funnily enough though, winter is technically low season in New Zealand so you will be able to find some awesome deals if you want to rent a camper van and explore at this time of year.

Usually, very busy tourist spots will be much quieter and if you love scenery that looks like a winter wonderland, Queenstown and Wanaka will be your go-to! I lived in Queenstown for 4 months and let me tell you, it is stunning!

If doing a road trip is your cup of tea, you should be aware that some of the roads through the higher mountainous areas may have to close due to heavy snow, this is especially true for the South Island.

You might be thinking, well that’s fine we will find another route, but a lot of places on the South Island only have one road in and out!

This can mean there is a risk of you missing somewhere you want to see on your trip so keep this in mind when planning a trip in winter. If the roads are still open, some of them have a legal requirement that you carry snow chains in certain months (the road to Milford Sound for example).

The North Island rains a lot during the winter months, whereas this is the driest time of the year for the South Island where you can get some crystal clear days (even if they are still freezing!).

Winter Months In New Zealand

June, July & August

What To Pack For Winter

  • Hat to keep you warm
  • Thermals
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Gloves
  • Scarf
  • Coat/Jacket
  • Sturdy shoes (if you plan on doing any outdoor activities)
  • (Reef safe) Sunscreen, for your face!
  • Clothes for skiing (if skiing is your thing)
The snowy Remarkable mountains with a the large Lake Wakatipu in front of them. The sky is blue and peach from sunset. Queenstown in winter, New Zealand.The best time of the year to visit new zealand

Visiting New Zealand In Spring

Spring is a very diverse season in New Zealand, so depending on which month, and also which island you visit, will make a big difference in the experience you will have.

Winter lingers through September which will still be quite cold and some of the ski areas will still be open.

But by the time you reach October, the days start to get warmer, and even though snow still dusts the mountains, the lowlands begin to blossom. The North Island tends to shake off winter quicker than the South Island, and the beach towns will slowly begin to come to life.

If you’re into outdoor activities, some hiking trails will begin to open (always check advice before hiking) and the days start to become longer. The rivers tend to be fuller and faster due to the melting snow from the mountains, so some water activities are more extreme (great for adrenaline junkies!!).

By the time it reaches November, spring is in full swing! The North Island welcomes the warmth of the season, and tourism picks up pace as visitors flock to its inviting sandy beaches. If you’re planning a road trip around this time, be sure to book your camper well in advance!

Meanwhile, the South Island transforms into a tapestry of colour as lupin season begins around mid-November. Thick blankets of pink and purple lupins carpet the roadside, adding an explosion of vibrancy to the backdrop of snowy mountains.

The evenings can still get chilly in November, especially if you are on The South Island or the lower parts of The North Island.

Spring Months In New Zealand

September, October & November

What To Pack For Spring

  • (Reef safe) Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent (there are lots of sandflies this time of year!)
  • Hat to protect you from the sun and a warmer hat for the evenings
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Some warmer layers
  • Coat/jacket especially for September and October visits
  • Sturdy shoes (if you plan on doing any hikes)
A girl standing in the middle of a field of pink and purple lupins. There is a turquoise river flowing behind her and mountains. New Zealand South Island in spring

Related Post: 12 Best Places To Visit In New Zealand’s South Island

Visiting New Zealand In Summer

The summer months are peak season in New Zealand and it will certainly be busy, but you can still find ways to see all the attractions and beat the crowds.

Personally, I love the summer months and if I’m honest, the end of November and all of December are the best time of the year to visit New Zealand, in my opinion.

Lush greenery coats the islands, the days are longer and even though the weather can still be unpredictable, it’s sure to be warmer. You can still do lots of outdoor activities, although you do need to be more aware of the heat if you’re hiking.

December through to mid-January the lupins will still be in bloom lining the roads and lakes through the South Island.

You will need to book and plan your trip well in advance due to summer being the busiest months and campers, car rentals and accommodation will be more expensive due to high demand.

If you want to try and beat the crowds and have a location to yourself, try getting up for sunrise. We did this most days when visiting outdoor locations and most of the time it would be just us and a handful of other people (if any at all!).

Summer Months In New Zealand

December, January & February

What To Pack For Summer

  • (Reef safe) Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent (there are lots of sandflies this time of year!)
  • Hat to protect you from the sun
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Warmer jumper/jacket for the evening
  • Sturdy shoes (if you plan on doing any hikes)
A girl standing on a road, behind her is the tall Mount Cook covered in snow. New Zealand South Island in summer.

Visiting New Zealand In Autumn

Autumn, just like spring, is another season that varies a lot across its 3 months.

As March arrives, the days are still relatively warm as summer still lingers. You can probably still sneak in a few beach days, especially on the North Island.

It’s the best time to visit New Zealand if you want to enjoy better weather while avoiding the higher prices associated with peak season.

Autumn really starts to take hold in April and the scenery starts to transform into rich warmer tones. Those once lush green leaves will turn to hues of red and orange and the weather starts to cool down.

April is a great time for hiking if you prefer to do so in cooler temperatures and snow probably won’t have closed the higher trails yet, but you should always check advice before starting your hike.

May is when the temperature really begins to drop, the North Island certainly gets colder but the temperatures in the South Island will drop even more so. Some of the mountains may have had their first dusting of snow by this point and this is when your thermals will start to come in handy!

Although snow isn’t common till late May/early June, be aware of any road closures as it could interrupt your trip.

May is generally the cheapest time of year for travel and accommodation, so if you are looking to travel on a budget then May is the best time of year to visit New Zealand.

Autumn Months In New Zealand

March, April & May

What To Pack In Autumn

  • Hat to keep you warm
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Gloves
  • Scarf
  • Coat/Jacket
  • Sturdy shoes (if you plan on doing any hikes)
  • Insect repellent
  • (Reef safe) Sunscreen
A girl standing on a log in front of a waterfall with lots of lush greenery around it. Milford Sound. The best time of the year to visit new zealand

Where To Stay In New Zealand

Auckland

Imagine Beach Road is based in a central location which is great if you plan to explore the city by foot! There is not a restaurant or bar onsite, but there are plenty of places to choose from nearby.

Wellington

The Cobbler Hotel is located near shops and restaurants in the centre of Wellington and each room, or apartment, comes equipped with a kitchen.

Queenstown

The Dairy Private Hotel is built around the original Dairy (corner store) which dates back to the 1920’s. Just a few minutes walk from the centre of Queenstown, some of the hotel’s rooms have stunning views of The Remarkables.

Final Thoughts: The Best Time Of The Year To Visit New Zealand

Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast, a beach bum or a nature lover, I think it’s safe to say New Zealand is a great destination for everyone. I certainly think that New Zealand is beautiful all year round but if you only have a few weeks to visit, then you will need to time your trip well.

There certainly will be a season that is more appealing to you and what you think the best time of the year to visit New Zealand will be. I hope this guide has helped you decide when you’ll get the most out of your trip.

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