New Zealand Weather: When Is the Best Time to Visit New Zealand?
New Zealand weather is a fickle beast. The whole “four seasons in one day” line gets trotted out a lot and it is accurate. I was inspired to write this post about when is the best time to visit New Zealand after the recent trip Prince Harry and Megan Markle made to these shores. It rained almost everywhere they went which can easily happen if you’re only visiting for a short time. So, when is the New Zealand weather at its best? That’s a tough question, so you’ll just have to keep reading!
Summer (December – February)
In terms of weather, summer is obviously the best time to visit New Zealand. The summers in New Zealand aren’t too scorching (although we do get some very hot days) and the days are nice and long (it doesn’t get dark until after 9 pm!). It can also rain a lot in summer, so you’re in no way guaranteed good weather. It’s also a far busier time to visit New Zealand, especially over the Christmas / New Year period where most locals hit the beaches and camping grounds. It’s obviously high season for foreign tourists as well, meaning everything is a little busier. You can always find a quiet spot though — you might just need to look a little harder.
Autumn (March – May)
The weather in New Zealand seems to be a little more settled in Autumn. It’s still warm enough and the colourful autumn leaves are out in force. It’s also a lot quieter in terms of other tourists, and you’ll pretty much only get the local hordes on long weekends and public holidays.
I’m a fan of New Zealand in autumn, especially in terms of coastal areas. If you’re planning on spending a lot of time in the mountains (especially true for the South Island) then be prepared for a lack of snow. These mountain areas look way better with some snow, so if you’re planning a hiking trip and want to see the Southern Alps at its best you’d be better off visiting in spring. The days also get shorter in Autumn, meaning you’ll have less time to do things.
Winter (June – August)
Winter in New Zealand (especially the South Island) can be a special time, but it does come with some potential difficulties. It gets cold (obviously) but depending on where you’re from it might not be too bad. You’ll often get frosty mornings and clear sunny days, but it can also rain for days and occasionally it snows. If you’re travelling mostly in the North Island / coastal regions of the South Island snow probably won’t be a huge issue (it can strike in coastal areas though and in the central North Island — even Wellington got snow a few years ago!).
Winter days in New Zealand are a lot shorter than summer, so if you only have a short time and want to cram heaps in it might not be the best time to travel. You can’t deny that mountain areas look best in winter (and spring) and there are heaps of ski fields if you’re into that kind of thing. Places like Queenstown and Wanaka are buzzing in winter (all year really) and if you want to watch an All Blacks test winter and early spring is your best bet. It is cold though! We’ve done quite a lot of short trips around the South Island in winter and those freezing early mornings can be pretty miserable. I guess it doesn’t help that the heater in our car doesn’t work anymore!
Spring (September – November)
Spring is, in my opinion, the best time to travel in New Zealand. The summer crowds haven’t arrived yet, there’s still plenty of snow on the hills and the temperatures aren’t bad. New Zealand weather in spring tends to be a bit more temperamental but apart from that it’s the perfect time to travel. Some hikes that require you to cross private land are closed for lambing during spring (mostly September / October). This includes Roys Peak (closed October 1 – November 10). If you have your heart set on a particular hike you should do some research. There are so many hikes in New Zealand though and if one is closed you can always just choose another. Spring is just before high season in New Zealand which means the crowds won’t be too extreme (if they ever are outside of a few popular places).
So, when is the best time to visit New Zealand?
It depends how long you’re going for. If you have a month I’d suggest going in early October. Head down to the South Island first (hopefully there will still be some snow around) and then head north from there. Having said that, any time of year is good and each season (and even each month) has its advantages and disadvantages. Whatever time of year you go expect some rain and cloudy skies — it’s pretty much unavoidable. It’s also important to remember that places look very different in rain or cloudy skies — don’t be too disappointed if that iconic beach or reflecting lake looks a little flat compared to the photos you’ve seen online!
New Zealand Weather
Metservice is the best website for checking the weather in New Zealand. It also gives you sunrise / sunset times and tide charts. The forecasts are generally on the mark and it’s a good idea to be flexible and plan things (as much as you can) around the weather.
Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Explore my South Island blog — you’ll find heaps of information about the South Island, including hikes, waterfalls, city guides and beaches.
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