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The road to Mt Cook | © Esmée Winnubst/Flickr
The road to Mt Cook | © Esmée Winnubst/Flickr
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When's The Best Time of Year to Visit New Zealand?

Picture of Thalita Alves
Updated: 28 February 2018
New Zealand has something special to offer every month of the year. As such, when to visit will depend entirely on your personal interests: be it hiking, skiing, a healthy dose of sunshine or a glimmer of autumnal gold. Of course, we’ll help you make the right decision – here’s a month-by-month guide to exploring this incredibly scenic destination.

January

January is mid-summer in New Zealand. It is also right in the midst of the school holidays and peak tourist season. So, if you love the sun, but aren’t so keen on braving the crowds, maybe consider visiting in February instead. But if you’re willing to cherish the bustle, this is a great month to get into the wider community spirit. A number of summer festivals happen around this time, including the World Buskers’ Festival in Christchurch, Auckland’s Laneway Festival, and the New Zealand Sevens rugby tournament, the latter of which was traditionally held in Wellington, but is shifting to Hamilton in 2018.

Average temperature: 22°C

Average rainfall days: 7

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel, New Zealand
Cathedral Cove, Coromandel, New Zealand | © Anthony Sowerby/Flickr

February

February may be the last month of summer, but it is also typically when temperatures are at their warmest. In other words, this is the best time to head to the beach, go kayaking, try out some of the Great Walks, or just simply get active. For those wanting to get a better grip of local history and customs, Waitangi Day (which is New Zealand’s national day) falls on 6 February. Chinese New Year Lantern Festivals also light up many locations, most notably Auckland and Christchurch, the same month.

Average temperature: 25°C

Average rainfall days: 7

Sea Kayaking Around Abel Tasman National Park
Sea Kayaking Around Abel Tasman National Park | © Sandra Vallaure/Flickr

March

March is when the country begins easing its way into autumn. Days are still summery by nature, with temperatures gradually cooling while the foliage begins to change its hues. Some areas like the Bay of Islands and Rotorua will continue to see warm climes, sometimes going as high as 27°C. March is also when many vineyards see an abundance in lush grapes – if you find yourself in Queenstown/Central Otago wine region, though, keep in mind that this the region’s wettest month of the year. Other events to look out for include the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival, Christchurch’s Ellerslie Flower Show, and Hamilton’s Balloons Over Waikato.

Average temperature: 25°C

Average rainfall days: 11

Balloons Over Waikato
Balloons Over Waikato | © Siyamalan/Flickr

April

April is the time to relish some crisp, sunny days, bright blue skies, and chilly nights. This is the best time to visit places like the Hawke’s Bay, Central Otago (especially Arrowtown), Lake Tekapo and the wider Mackenzie Country area, which are some of the best places to catch sight of New Zealand’s breathtaking autumnal colours. April’s long, fine spells and general lack of wind also make it a popular month for hiking, especially around the South Island’s alpine ranges. Some of the must-see events this month include Wanaka’s Festival of Colour and the Auckland Royal Easter Show.

Average temperature: 18°C

Average rainfall days: 11

Shotover River, Otago, in Autumn
Shotover River, Otago, in Autumn | © Bernard Spragg/Flickr

May

This is the time to start putting on those cozy layers: temperatures in May can easily drop to 6°C in the South Island, and 9°C in the North. If you’re into adventure sports, bungy jumping in the brisk, fresh air will definitely keep you in high spirits. May is also a good time for mountain biking, game bird hunting and fishing. If you like your cultural events, May is New Zealand Music Month, a time to celebrate all the local artists hitting the airwaves. Other festivals to check out include the Auckland Writers’ Festival, the Documentary Edge Festival (in Wellington and Auckland), and the Great New Zealand Food Show in Hamilton.

Average temperature: 11°C

Average rainfall days: 11

Sky Tower, Auckland
Sky Tower, Auckland | © PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

June

Thus we reach the first month of winter. A popular time to hit the skis and bask at the powdery snow. Queenstown kicks things off with an annual winter festival in June/July, consisting of a jam-packed 10 days of music, snow sports, and entertainment. If you’re in the North Island, Ruapehu and Taranaki are your main ski areas; popular destinations in the South include Wanaka, Otago and Canterbury. Matariki (the Maori New Year) is celebrated country-wide in June, when the namesake constellation (the Pleiades in English) comes into full show. Other yearly fanfares to liven up this month include Lyttelton’s Festival of Lights, Oamaru’s Steampunk Festival, and the Dunedin Midwinter Carnival.

Average temperature: 13°C in the North Island, 7°C in the South Island

Average rainfall days: 13

New Zealand in Winter
New Zealand in Winter | © Joanna Pędzich-Opioła/Flickr

July

With winter well and truly settled, you’ll find a divergence in weather across the country. Queenstown is usually at its driest, while Auckland is at its wettest. Winter in the capital (Wellington) is not too extreme, though its southerly winds can definitely pierce right through you. Some of the great sights to visit this month include the Pancake Rocks on the South Island’s West Coast and the ever-popular Tongariro National Park in the North Island. July is also the time to check out Napier’s annual Art Deco Weekend, Dunedin’s Chocolate Carnival, and the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Average temperature: 13°C in the North Island, 7°C in the South Island

Average rainfall days: 13

Lower Tama Lake, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Lower Tama Lake, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand | © Ignas Kukenys/Flickr

August

August continues to carry out the wintry theme. There’s plenty of time to catch some snow, cherish the alpine backdrops, and just marvel at New Zealand’s all-round sublime landscapes. August is also when keen foodies get to sink their teeth into events like Auckland Restaurant Month and Visa Wellington on a Plate, and when New Zealand Fashion Week will keep all budding fashionistas on trend.

Average temperature: 7°C in the North Island, 6°C in the South Island

Average rainfall days: 13

The road to Mt Cook
The road to Mt Cook | © Esmée Winnubst/Flickr

September

Spring comes in full bloom in the month of September. This, however, does not mean you can let go of all those warm layers – the season is, in fact, New Zealand’s windiest! Wellington tends to bear the brunt of it too, with weather conditions becoming volatile and inconsistent. The World of Wearable Art is the most distinguished event of this month. If you want to get into the springtime spirit, there are plenty of celebrations that do it in style: including the Alexandra Blossom Festival, Nelson’s Cherry Blossom Festival, and the Palmerston North International Spring Festival. A trip to the Garden City (Christchurch) might also be worth your while, as is a visit to the stunning botanic gardens in places like Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton.

Average temperature: 17°C

Average rainfall days: 11

English Flower Garden, Hamilton Gardens
English Flower Garden, Hamilton Gardens | © russellstreet/Flickr

October

October is a month of mild temperatures and cultural highlights. Wellington’s weather tends to be at its best around this month, with plenty of clear days on show (you’ll still want to keep a windproof jacket on, as the capital’s strongest wind troughs have been recorded around this time of the year). Throughout New Zealand, you’ll find a number of events highlighting heritage and arts: including the Auckland Heritage Festival, the Akaroa French Festival, the Dunedin Heritage Festival and the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival. Diwali celebrations also garner plenty of attention in Auckland and Wellington this month, with an array of cultural performances and a vibrant fireworks display wowing all passing visitors.

Average temperature: 17°C

Average rainfall days: 11

Akaroa, New Zealand
Akaroa, New Zealand | © Paul Harrison/Flickr

November

Mid-spring brings plenty of pleasant days. Popular travel destinations like Auckland tend to get a little busier around this time – it definitely pays to plan out your accommodation and itinerary in advance if you’re wanting to come by for the spring-summer season. If you ever want to experience New Zealand country life, the Canterbury A&P Show is worth checking out: every November, this longstanding three-day tradition combines a number of live demonstrations (sheep shearing included), competitions, fairground rides, and even a petting zoo to bring the rural lifestyle into the city landscape.

Average temperature: 17°C

Average rainfall days: 11

Merino Sheep in the Canterbury Region
Merino Sheep in the Canterbury Region | © Bernard Spragg/Flickr

December

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, turn back now. December is the start of summer, meaning that the holiday season is celebrated in scorching colours: think barbecues, fish and chips by the beach, or a typical potluck dinner with Pavlova for dessert. Kiwis take the time to enjoy the elongated days, when the sun doesn’t set until 9pm, as much as they can. New Year’s Eve has its own traditions, including the Rhythm and Vines festival in Gisborne: the city that has the privilege of seeing the first sunrise of the year.

Average temperature: 22°C

Average rainfall days: 7

Sunrise in Gisborne
Sunrise in Gisborne | © Pluies/Flickr