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13 Reasons to Travel in the Shoulder and Off-Season in New Zealand

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Why the Shoulder Season is the Best Time to Travel New Zealand

What? The off-season? How ludicrous! Yes, that’s right. There are so many advantages to travelling New Zealand during the shoulder/off-season that you can’t afford to ignore it! Should it be for planning when to visit the country for a quick trip or planning how to split your time between working and travelling during your working holiday, you should definitely take the shoulder season and off-season in New Zealand into consideration. But before we dive into it, lets just quickly recap what are the off-season, shoulder season and high season so we are clear on what we are talking about:

Off-Season: This is the time of the year where the least amount of tourists are coming to New Zealand. This is the New Zealand winter (June-August).

Shoulder Seasons: Fall (March-May) and Spring (September-November) are considered shoulder seasons in New Zealand. This means that the crowds of tourists are getting smaller but are still higher than in winter.

High Season: New Zealand’s high season is Summer (December-February), this is the busiest time in the country with hordes of international tourists and local tourists alike trying to make the most of their holidays.

1. Everything is Much Cheaper

From car and campervan rental rates to bus passes to accommodation, prices plummet in the shoulder and off-season giving travellers a chance to make the most of their hard-earned money. Save yourself some precious gold and spend it on what matters: once in a lifetime adventures.

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2. New Zealand is Stunning in Spring and Fall

With the world-famous lupins (probably the most Instagrammed flower in the world) blossoming in November, hundreds of other flowers in full bloom throughout the season, lambs running all around the fields between July and October and birds singing their lungs out, spring is the perfect season for a picturesque trip in New Zealand.

In fall, New Zealand becomes all the more dramatic, the waterfalls are raging and the skies are braided with intricate cloud formations. The forests are more colourful than ever making you feel like you are truly stepping into Middle-earth turning every single hike into a real adventure.

Check out the best places to visit in spring and autumn in the 5 Places to Visit in Spring in New Zealand and the 5 Places to Visit in the Autumn in New Zealand.

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3. New Zealand is Epic in Winter

The winter season in the Southern Hemisphere is all about New Zealand. 20+ ski fields the country attracts all the white powder addicts looking for their fix in August. On top of world-class ski and snowboarding, New Zealand also offers some superb winter activities so you are sure to make the most of the impressive Southern Alps.

Check out The 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand and Ski Season in New Zealand.

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4. The Weather is Still Great

One of the main misconceptions is that when travelling in the shoulder and off-season in New Zealand you are sure to get bad weather. In fact, New Zealand’s weather and climate are unpredictable and you’ll be treated to torrential rainfall or clear sunny days in summer and winter alike. Even if you do get bad weather, New Zealand has heaps of awesome activities to do under the rain, such as the Top 8 Water Sports Activities to do in New Zealand.

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5. Avoid the Crowds

In the heat of summer, some places can get pretty crazy. We are thinking of the likes of Lake Tekapo, Milford Sound or Hot Water Beach to only name a few. New Zealand is a small country and can only comfortably accommodate a few. Treat yourself to a peaceful experience in the country and travel away from the crowds by travelling in the off and shoulder seasons. That feeling of serenity in front of an unreal landscape is like no other.

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6. Avoid the Long Summer School Holidays

In the same spirit than #5, you’ll get a much better experience travelling New Zealand if you are not surrounded by a bunch of kids playing on the beach or squabbling next door to your accommodation. New Zealand’s main school holiday, which lasts six weeks, and most public holidays fall during summer, i.e. the high season, so avoid it and travel in peace. However, there is a two-week school holiday at the end of April, July and October.

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7. Meet More Locals

In summer, locals tend to take holidays to neighbouring Pacific Islands or to summer hotspots in the country. You’ve got much more chance to meet, spend time, share a meal or a drink, and even stay with locals during the shoulder and off-season.

Find out how else you can meet locals in New Zealand in the 5 Ways to Stay with Locals in New Zealand.

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8. Meet More Wildlife

Admittedly, you can see wildlife all year round in New Zealand. Nevertheless, the shoulder seasons offer additional benefits for nature-lovers. For instance, while sperm whales can be seen year-round in Kaikoura, October to March is the best time for orcas and June to August is the best time to see humpback whales. In Dunedin, albatross at the Royal Albatross Centre come to shore to breed and build nests between September and November. The best season to see chicks, such as penguin chicks, starts in November.

Learn more about the amazing fauna found in New Zealand in 21 Animals and Birds Unique to New Zealand.

12 Reasons to Travel in the Shoulder and Off-Season in New Zealand©

8. Be More Impulsive and Follow Your Heart

Travelling in the shoulder and off-seasons means that you do not have to have everything booked in advance. There are still spaces available almost anywhere in the country. So if you just fell in love with a place or met awesome like-minded travellers, you can go with the flow and change your places. Shoulder and off seasons in New Zealand means that your plans are flexible!

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9. It is Much Cooler

So you are travelling with a bunch of friends, crammed into a car, campervan or bus? Well, trust us on this one, you’ll appreciate some cooler climates. For anyone that has camped in the sun in summer, or driven a few hours under the heat in a full car, we salute you. We choose the shoulder season.

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10. There are Heaps of Fun Events Going On

New Zealand celebrates its winter seasons with a bunch of pretty awesome festivals and there is a lot going on in spring and autumn as well. For instance, the Queenstown Winter Festival (June), WOMAD (July), Matariki (July) and the Russell Birdman (July) festivals are just some of the events you can enjoy in winter, i.e. the off-season. In the shoulder seasons, events include the Wildfoods Festival (March), Wellington on a Plate (October), Whitianga Scallops Festival (September) and the Victorian Fete (November).

So if the lack of major events was a bother to you, be reassured, you won’t get bored in the shoulder and off-season in New Zealand.

Don’t believe us? Then just take a look at the 5 Winter Festivals in New Zealand and the Top New Zealand Events in 2021.

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11. You’ll Get More Chance to Get a Job Fast

This is an essential tip for working holidaymakers: although it is true that there tend to be more jobs advertised in summer, there is also exponentially more applicants for each job, making harder to get a job in summer. In the ideal scenario, you’d get yourself a job in mid-spring, work through summer and travel in the shoulder and off-season to make the most of your time in New Zealand.

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12. You Can Get Back Home for Xmas

Travelling in the shoulder and off-season in New Zealand means that, if you time it right, you can spend Christmas at home with your family. We know that there is nothing more important to you than getting that hairy kiss from Nana when she gives you the ugliest sweater of the year for the third year in a row. Ah… a Christmas at home…

By the way, if you are looking to give it back to granny, here is our selection of fun gift to bring back home from New Zealand.

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More About Preparing Your Trip in New Zealand

That’s it for our list of reasons to travel in the shoulder and off-season in New Zealand. For more trip-planning tips, head to When is the Best Time to Visit New Zealand?


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before calling New Zealand home. He has now spent over a decade in the New Zealand tourism industry, clocking in more than 600 activities across the country. He is passionate about sharing those experiences and advice on NZ Pocket Guide and its YouTube channel. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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