The beautiful colours
You don’t need to be a landscape photographer to appreciate the breathtaking backdrop that comes alive in autumn. Brilliant hues of yellow, red, gold, and orange glisten against the bright blue skies to create a picture-perfect scenery. If you really want to immerse yourself in those wonderful colours, the Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago regions are the best places to visit – though anywhere in New Zealand will expose you to leafy wonders.
As the summer dwindles and the temperatures drop, you’ll get to embrace a crisp (but not too nippy) climate. In the earlier months (March to April) it will still be warm enough to take a dip in the ocean – even if you don’t have that much tolerance to the Pacific waters, a wetsuit will enable you to relish those temperate days. Explore the coastlines, get a bit of kayaking under your belt or simply chill out by the seaside before the winter looms in.
Autumn’s clear night skies make it the ideal time for stargazing. Head along to Lake Tekapo or Aoraki/Mount Cook to get a glimpse of the Southern Cross and the twinkling skylines. If you get lucky, you might even catch an Aurora Australis (a.k.a the Southern Lights) during your visit.
Autumn is orca and whale-watching season
Here’s one for travellers who are keen to check out Wellington and its environs. Autumn is when the whales and orcas visit New Zealand’s snazzy capital city. You can watch them from the city’s waterfront, or you can get a little closer to these awesome creatures by catching a ferry to Eastbourne or Picton. If you’re eager for a South Island expedition, Kaikoura is also highly renowned for its whale-watching tours.
It’s a great time to see the native bird life too
Yellow-eyed penguins in Canterbury and Otago. Curious kea along the Milford Track. Weka, tui and kokako across various North and South Island locations. Wherever you visit in autumn, you’ll get to see New Zealand’s awesome bird and wildlife from up close. Many of the local hikes will expose you to the country’s diverse ecosystem, or you can make your way onto a predator-free spot like Wellington’s Somes/Matiu Island or Mou Waho Island near Wanaka.
There are plenty of quirky events to keep you busy
New Zealand’s charm and character are enhanced by a handful of annual events during the temperate season. Arrowtown’s Autumn Festival celebrates the area’s remarkable foliage, while Balloons Over Waikato has been entertaining the crowds with its colourful displays for 18 years and counting. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival is always interesting – you’ll get to taste local staples like whitebait fritters as well as curious morsels like huhu grubs (which, in case you’re wondering, is a type of beetle).
It’s one of the best times of the year for hiking and cycling
Since it’s not too hot, not too cold, autumn is just right for trekking or hopping on a bike. Marlborough Sounds’ Queen Charlotte Track is quite popular in both cases – and, after getting your heart racing, you can reward yourself with a trip to the local vineyards. Cycle tracks and mountain biking trails are plentiful in all New Zealand cities. Keen hikers should definitely give one of the nine Great Walks a shot – alternatively, explore any of the hiking must-dos around the sites you want to visit.
Salt water fishing is also at its best in the early autumn months
March to May is the best time to dangle a line off New Zealand’s coasts. All you need to do is find a charter boat to explore your horizons. The catch of the day will depend on your location: Fiordland is where you’ll find different species of shark and tuna, Marlborough Sounds is a good spot for snagging some snapper and kingfish, the Bay of Islands is home to kingfish, marlin, and kahawhai, and most New Zealand coastlines are filled with terakihi.