New Zealand is the ultimate dream destination. Almost anything you could ever want to do, indoors or outdoors, can be found here. It’s a gastronomic paradise, a nature lover’s retreat, and a beach bum’s heaven. Their wines are world-renowned, and the views can’t be beaten. New Zealand is a long hike from most parts of the world, so it takes a little planning to get the most out of your trip. The best time to visit largely depends on what you want to do. Here is your guide to picking the perfect time to venture over to the land of the long white cloud.
A Look at New Zealand Month by Month
While many of us are experiencing the frigid dead of winter in January, New Zealand is in its mid-summer. School is out and the tourists are in. If you love sunshine and busy streets, January in New Zealand will be a bustling adventure. It makes for a lovely mid-winter break from the chilly weather. The average temperature is 72 degrees and you can attend several of the country’s yearly festivals.
Cathedral Cove in Coromandel makes the perfect backdrop for a Valentine’s Day date. February is New Zealand’s warmest month, the perfect time to visit the beaches. The country offers 14,000 miles of beautiful coastline, with plenty of unique shores to explore. Ninety Mile Beach and Gillespie’s Beach are also wonderful. February is full of festivities including Waitangi Day and Chinese New Year. With an average temperature of 77 degrees, February is the best month to experience New Zealand’s great outdoors.
As summer turns to fall, the foliage starts to embrace autumnal hues and the air begins to chill. Some parts of the country will cling to warmer temperatures for several more weeks. New Zealand’s renowned wine grapes abundantly fill the vineyards of the Otago wine region this month. While March is a beautiful time of year for the country, it can be rather rainy. Plan plenty of indoor activities if you choose to visit in March. Also, you don’t want to miss Hamilton’s Balloons Over Waikato.
By April, autumn is in full swing in New Zealand. The days are sunny, lighting up the orange and red hues of the trees. If you want to take in the stunning fall foliage, Mackenzie County and Hawke’s Bay won’t disappoint. If you go hiking in New Zealand, you will be met with windless days, perfect for climbing in the alpine mountains of South Island. Auckland’s Royal Easter Show and the Wanaka’s Festival of Colour are April’s biggest events.
Winter in New Zealand starts to set in at the beginning of May. Dropping temperatures call for cozy sweaters, hot beverages, and warm fires. However, the cold weather doesn’t mean the end to all outdoor adventures. Many people prefer to do extreme sports like bungy jumping in the frigid air for an exhilarating experience. Biking, hunting, and fishing are also popular during the month of May. May is the best month for artists, writers, and culinary masters to head to New Zealand. It’s New Zealand Music Month, and the time for the Auckland Writers’ Festival and the Great New Zealand Food Show. Although it is cold, May is one of the country’s busiest and most exciting months!
May brings cold weather, but winter in New Zealand doesn’t officially start until June. June in New Zealand is all about skiing on the powdery snow. Winter is so well-loved in the country that Queenstown has a winter festival each year. This ten-day festival centers around great music and snow sports. If you love to ski, both the North and South Islands offer great locations to navigate the slopes. Winter doesn’t stop New Zealand from having a great time. The Dunedin Midwinter Carnival and Oamaru’s Steampunk Festival both take place in this month.
By July, Old Man Winter has New Zealand fully in his grasp. The weather is different in all parts of the country, some very wet, some extremely dry, and others where the wind cuts like a knife. While outdoor adventures are nearly impossible in the month of July, you can still visit for the New Zealand International Film Festival and Dunedin’s Chocolate Carnival. If you are willing to brave the cold, South Island’s Pancake Rocks are a marvelous sight to behold.
Winter is still hanging around and snowfall is commonplace in this month. New Zealand’s beauty takes a new form as the alpines embrace the white snow covering. Your time is best spent enjoying the views and experiencing some quality cuisine during Auckland Restaurant Month. Fashion-lovers can’t stay away from the country during August, as it contains New Zealand Fashion Week. Temperatures are low and snow is everywhere. It’s the perfect month for restaurant hopping, visits to museums and galleries, and bundling up in the coziest and trendiest attire.
New Zealand welcomes spring back in September. The season change is a relief, but the winds are busier now than ever! Unpredictable weather and strong winds mean that outdoor fun is still a no-go. However, there is no shortage of things to do! The most popular event in September is The World of Wearable Art. Spring blossom festivals pop up around the country and the botanical gardens of Wellington are gorgeous. If you decide to visit New Zealand in September, be sure to bring clothes for all kinds of weather.
If you are visiting Wellington, the weather during October is an absolute delight. Wind is still whipping around, but the days are clear and mild. A windproof jacket will provide a nice barrier as you experience the many festivals that take place in October. Both Auckland and Dunedin hold their heritage festivals in October, and the Diwali celebrations feature cultural performances and plenty of fireworks. Artists will love the Hawke’s Bay Art Festival.
By November, it’s the middle of spring in New Zealand. The days are lovely, but tourist season starts to pick up and popular places can get a little crowded. If you plan to come to New Zealand in this season, be sure to book all your accommodations beforehand. Hotels book up quickly and events sell out just as fast. In November, you can get a taste of life in New Zealand’s countryside at the Canterbury A&P Show. It’s like a county fair right out of the movies.
There will be no white Christmas in New Zealand. Summer returns to the country in December, meaning Christmas is marked by the smell of sizzling barbecue rather than a roasted turkey. The days are long and made for enjoyment. While warm weather on Christmas may seem a bit weird, it’s a truly unique experience. New Year’s is rather unique as well. Gisborne celebrates the Rhythm and Vines festival as the first sunrise of the new year breaks over the city.
Things to Consider
Keep in mind that New Zealand’s weather is the opposite of the weather in the United Kingdom and United States. If you leave here from the warmth and sunshine, you can likely expect cold and rain upon arriving in New Zealand. Homes in New Zealand aren’t known for being well-insulated, so accommodations in the colder months can feel rather damp and drafty.
Visiting New Zealand in the first few weeks of January can pose a few issues. It’s the time when many New Zealand residents go on holiday and head for the shores, leaving cities partially deserted and offering very little in the way of places to eat and things to do. End of the year holidays means increased airfare rates, making February a better time to visit. The off-season offers cheaper hotel rates, also.
If you are traveling to New Zealand specifically to experience wine country, the north’s weather is suitable for most of the year. Otago is perfect in the summer months, but you will likely see wintry vineyards in the winter. You can always taste the wines at any time of the year, but it’s more enjoyable in the summer when you can hang out outside and sip glass after glass of the country’s finest production.
As previously mentioned, hiking season is in early autumn. If you plan to go hiking in New Zealand, be sure to book your campsite or hut well in advance. You can always brave the outdoors if you are an experienced camper but staying in a hut allows you to enjoy the New Zealand scenery without worrying about survival. Hikers should be well-equipped with boots and warm clothing. Keep in mind that bringing a lot of outdoor gear can cause issues with customs. They will likely have to inspect and clean your things before letting you in order to prevent any invasive seeds or bugs.
Most of the year is suitable for visiting New Zealand. The country is always vibrant with festivals and events, and it never gets as cold as some parts of the United States, even in the winter months. It offers something for everyone who ventures there all year round.