Best Time of Year to Visit New Zealand
To make the most of New Zealand’s beautiful beaches, rugged outdoors and rainforest hiking trails, the best time of year to visit is during summer (December to February). For those who prefer winter activities, there is an option of ski fields, volcanic hot pools and stunning mountainous scenery to be enjoyed between June and August.
While maximum mid-winter temperatures in the cooler South Island sit at around 7°- 12°, this rises considerably across both islands in summer making December to February a pleasant time to be outdoors. Locals often take holidays in January so summer can be a busy time of year to visit, but New Zealand has plenty to offer all year round. Our guide explains what to expect, and when.
Cape Reinga / Ninety Mile Beach / Bay of Islands
The best time of year to take advantage of Northland’s breathtaking sub-tropical coastline, golden beaches and ancient Kauri forests is during the summer months. Boasting the country’s highest average annual temperature you can expect between 22° and 26° from December to February, dropping to a temperate average of 12° in winter months.
January is the driest month with 43.5mm of rain, rising sharply in June and July to a peak of 73.5mm then gradually decreasing throughout the remaining months of the year. If intending to have a beach holiday, bear in mind that ocean temperatures are also at their most pleasant during summer, between 18°- 19°, while during winter you can expect much colder.
December to February
Pleasant temperatures all year round but summer here is ideal for the beach.
Auckland and surrounds
Waiheke Island/ Coromandel Peninsula/ Whangamata
With similar average temperatures to Northland, coastal regions around Auckland are best enjoyed during the summer months. Humidity sits at 80% all year round so you can expect warm humid weather in summer, and fairly mild but damp winters across the whole North Island. A peak of 14 daylight hours during January means outdoor activities can be enjoyed well into the evening.
As a vibrant harbour city, Auckland itself has plenty of restaurants, art galleries, cafés and shopping hubs that can be enjoyed all year round, particularly during winter when you can expect rain an average of 19 days each month. This figure halves during January and February and rainfall is also much lighter.
December to February for summer holidays, year round for a city break.
Rotorua and surrounds
Lake Taupo / Tongariro National Park / Mt Ruapehu
A unique geothermal area and cultural destination, Rotorua draws large numbers of tourists. While daytime temperatures are a few degrees cooler than Auckland, they stay fairly consistent in the low 20s from November to March, making these spring and summer months the best time to visit if you intend to be outdoors.
In addition to summer hiking, mountain biking, boating and fishing, Mt Ruapehu has two ski fields- Whakapapa and Turoa - which are open between early July and mid October. During winter there is an annual snowfall of approximately 4 metres and temperatures are in the low single digits.
November to March, July to October
Consistently warm temperatures for sightseeing during summer and ski fields at Mt Ruapehu during winter.
Wellington and surrounds
Wairarapa region / Manawatu / Palmerston North
Wellington’s weather is slightly cooler again, with average summer temperatures sitting around 17°, dropping to 9° in winter months. Exposed at the tip of the North Island, Wellington is also notoriously windy, with Southerly blasts making air feel icy at times. As New Zealand’s cultural and arts hub, Wellington City has plenty to offer indoors should weather turn cold.
December to February for summer holidays, year round to explore New Zealand’s cultural and arts hub.
Nelson and surrounds
Able Tasman National Park / Golden Bay / Kaiteriteri
Surrounded by sheltering mountain ranges, Nelson has a Mediterranean style climate, with summer temperatures in the low to mid 20s and an average of 7 rain days a month, making December to March an ideal time for hiking and other outdoor activities.
This region is one of the sunniest areas in New Zealand, receiving an average of 2,472 sunshine hours annually across all seasons. While temperatures drop to 5°- 6° in mid-winter, sunny days with little wind and minimal chance of snow means Nelson can be pleasant all year round.
Sunny all year round with low rainfall, visit in summer if you prefer the heat, or winter for crisp cool weather.
Kahurangi National Park, Greymouth, Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
The West Coast of New Zealand has majestic scenery, sprawling coastlines, green forests and a wet oceanic climate. It is the wettest area of New Zealand, with an average of 2,849mm of rain a year and up to 17 rainy days a month in September and October – giving forests their rich green colour.
Months with the least rain and highest temperatures are January and February which have highs of around 16°, making these months the best time to visit for spectacular clear views. Occasional snow is to be expected in winter.
December to February
June through October can be very wet and cold, while January and February have the warmest temperatures.
Queenstown / Wanaka / Mt Aspiring National Park
Summer in Central Otago brings long, warm days with temperatures that can reach 30°. During winter, expect a crisp clear sky and temperatures around zero, with heavy snow falling across the region at times and beautiful mountainous scenery. If planning a driving holiday during winter, be aware that some roads close following heavy snowfalls.
A popular destination for winter sports, ski fields in the area are numerous, and the ski season runs from mid June to early October.
December to March, June to October
Hot days with clear skies during summer, then crisp cool days and the option of skiing during winter.
Milford Sound/ Doubtful Sound / Te Anau
A rugged and exposed region, Fiordland has unpredictable weather as westerly air steams can cause rain and snow to fall without warning.
Fiordland’s many famous hiking tracks are open between November and April, with January and February being the most pleasant months for exploring, due to an average daytime temperature of 15°.
Even during summer, temperatures drop to zero overnight and rain is to be expected 60% of the time so it’s important to be prepared with suitable clothing and equipment. Hiking around Fiorldland in winter is not recommended due to dangerous alpine conditions and avalanche risks.
November to April
Summer conditions are more pleasant for hiking and many tracks are closed from May to October due to dangerous conditions and erratic weather.
Catlins / Invercargill / Stewart Island
Further away from the equator, the Southland region is cooler and wetter than much of New Zealand. Regardless of the season, rain can be expected at least 15 days per month, with winter temperatures averaging 7°. Expect snow during winter away from coastal areas.
Summer is the best time to visit for long days, peaking at 16 daylight hours in December and dropping to just 8 in July. Both air and ocean temperatures average 12° in summer making it an ideal time for hiking and outdoor activities.
November to February
Summer boasts 16 hours of daylight and the warmest temperatures for exploring outdoors.