Where to Visit in New Zealand and When
Let’s be honest, New Zealand can be enjoyed year-round. However, if we have to be picky, there are a few destinations that are just that little bit better during some months than others. So when you’re planning your New Zealand travel itinerary, keep these destinations in mind with our month-by-month guide to the best places to visit in New Zealand!
You’ll notice that New Zealand has different seasons to what you experience in the Northern Hemisphere. In New Zealand, the seasons are summer (December, January and February), autumn (March, April and May), winter (June, July and August) and spring (September, October and November). Find out more about The New Zealand Seasons and Climate.
New Zealand Month-by-Month
Click on the month you are coming to New Zealand to see what there is to do, what the weather is like, and what prices to expect.
January – Northland
Northland is famous for having the warmest weather in the whole of New Zealand so take full advantage of this in summer! Explore the amazing Bay of Islands, packed with water activities, visit the northernmost point of New Zealand at the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, and enjoy an awesome road trip along the coast.
5 Places You Can’t Miss in Northland
- Paihia for its wealth of water activities and boat trips in the Bay of Islands
- Cape Reinga Lighthouse with awesome views from the northernmost point of New Zealand
- Nighty Mile Beach to do sandboarding on the sand dunes
- Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri are among some of the most majestic waterfalls in the country
- Poor Knights Islands are a top diving location!
For more Northland inspiration, see Northland – Guide for Backpackers.
February – Hawke’s Bay
Summer is by far the best time to visit the Hawke’s Bay region of the North Island. Not only does the region’s main city, Napier, host the unmissable Art Deco Festival on the streets of it’s Art Deco style buildings, but the whole coastline is also lined with amazing beaches best experienced when it’s “beach weather”.
5 Places You Can’t Miss in Hawke’s Bay
- The Art Deco Festival in Napier (usually around mid-February)
- Cape Kidnappers to see amazing coastal landscape and the world’s largest mainland gannet colony
- Waimarama Beach (see more Hawke’s Bay beaches here)
- Lake Waikaremoana to do one of the New Zealand Great Walks
- Hawke’s Bay Wine Trail – visit all the wineries around Napier and Hastings
Find out more things to do in Hawke’s Bay in our 10 Hawke’s Bay Must-Dos.
March – Gisborne
As the days start to get a little cooler, a good place to still get some consistently good weather is in the Gisborne region of the North Island. It’s also the best time to see the Eastwoodhill Arboretum as the autumn colours start to emerge in the largest collection of Northern Hemisphere trees in the Southern Hemisphere! Gisborne is also a great New Zealand destination for road tripping by campervan!
5 Places You Can’t Miss in Gisborne
- Eastwoodhill Arboretum for their autumn colours!
- The Rere Rockslide and Rere Falls – slide down the world’s longest natural waterslide
- East Cape Lighthouse to watch the sunrise at the easternmost point of New Zealand
- Relax with a glass of wine at the Gisborne Wine Centre or one of the surrounding vineyards
- Walk the longest pier in New Zealand, Tolaga Bay Wharf
Find out more to do in Gisborne in our 10 Must-Dos In Gisborne
April – Milford Sound
April is considered the shoulder season in New Zealand meaning that you often feel like you have the whole country to yourself. Take advantage of this by visiting one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand during it’s quietest time. What’s more, the unpredictable weather means you could see Milford Sound in the sun or dramatic waterfalls under the rain. It’s win-win!
5 Places You Can’t Miss in Milford Sound
- Take a kayak tour or boat cruise in the majestic fiord of Milford Sound
- Take on one of the many walks in the wild Fiordland forest
- Go scuba diving to see black coral
- Walk to one of the many stunning Fiordland lakes like Lake Gunn or Lake Marion
- Enjoy an epic road trip down the Milford Road.
For more things to do in Milford Sound, see Guide to Milford Sound and the Milford Road.
May – Wellington
The weather might be starting to turn to sh*t, but New Zealand’s cultural and political capital is the best place to spend this time between autumn and winter. Packed with lots of indoor activities, Wellington has the Weta Workshop for movie buffs, the Te Papa Museum to learn more about New Zealand, and not to mention all the eateries and bars to enjoy the Kiwi city lifestyle.
5 Places You Can’t Miss in Wellington
- Te Papa Museum is the national museum of New Zealand free entry!
- Take a tour around the Weta Workshop to see how The Lord of the Rings and other movies were made
- Try the local cuisine by following our guide in Cheap Eats in Wellington
- On a good day, walk around the huge Wellington Botanic Garden
- Check out the Wellington nightlife.
For more Wellington inspiration, see 10 Wellington Must-Dos.
June – Rotorua
As New Zealand starts to plunge into winter, nowhere looks better than the steaming geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. All the steaming lakes, bubbling mud pools, geysers and vibrant formations are much more emphasised in cooler weather.
5 Places in Rotorua You Can’t Miss
- Any of the many geothermal parks to see the earth in action!
- One of the many captivating Maori cultural performances
- The Skyline Gondola for the seriously fun Luge rides!
- One of these 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua
- Walk or mountain bike through the Redwoods forest
There’s so much to do in Rotorua, just see 20 Awesome Places to Visit in Rotorua.
July – Queenstown
In the thick of winter, be sure to check out the adventure capital, Queenstown! There are four ski fields within an hour’s drive of the town. Plus, most of its adventure activities can be done even at this time of year. You’ll find that Queenstown is definitely the most lively New Zealand town in winter.
5 Places You Can’t Miss in Queenstown
- The Remarkables ski field is one of the closest ski fields to Queenstown with the best mountain views
- The Kawarau Bungy is the first commercial bungy jumping location in the world!
- Glenorchy for an awesome road trip with great mountain scenery
- Take on the terrifying Canyon Swing
- Keep warm in the Onsen Hot Pools
For more Queenstown inspiration, see 10 Queenstown Must-Dos.
August – Methven
For more winter sports fun, don’t miss Methven in the Canterbury region of the South Island. This small town comes alive in winter with the opening of the Mt Hutt Ski Field. Plus, with lots of walking trails, you’ll find plenty more things to do if you don’t want to strap on a pair of skis.
5 Places You Can’t Miss in Methven
- Ski at the Mt Hutt Ski Field
- The Rakaia Gorge for stunning walks and jet boat rides
- Washpen Falls for waterfalls, views and a lagoon with a rowing boat
- The Mt Hutt Forest for a sheltered walk at the base of Mt Hutt
- Paradiso Cinema to cosy up with a movie on a cold winter’s night.
Check out more things to do in 5 Methven Must-Dos.
September – Hamilton
Spring is here and a great time to visit the most famous gardens in New Zealand, the Hamilton Gardens! The Hamilton Gardens is free-entry and packed with stunning themed gardens that will come into bloom during September. Hamilton also makes a great base for exploring the wider Waikato region, such as the surf town of Raglan or even the glowworm caves of Waitomo!
5 Places You Can’t Miss in Hamilton
- The Hamilton Gardens for their amazing blooming spring flowers
- Waitomo caves to do caving and see glowworms
- Raglan to catch some waves before the busy summer season
- Zealong Tea Estate to taste tea in New Zealand’s only tea plantation
- Hobbiton to see how The Lord of Rings was made
For more things to do in Hamilton, check out Waikato – Guide for Backpackers.
October – Taupo & Tongariro
Just as the winter has passed and before the summer crowds make their way to New Zealand, Taupo and Tongariro are the best places to visit in October. Walk the most popular day hike in New Zealand, the Tongariro Crossing while there are still remains of snow on the volcano-tops among the volcanic vents and Emerald Lake. It’s also a great time to try out the adventure activities that Taupo has to offer.
5 Places You Can’t Miss in Taupo & Tongariro
- Hike the Tongariro Crossing for its amazing volcano views
- Kayak or take a boat trip to the Maori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo
- Skydive over New Zealand’s largest lake
- See the impressive Huka Falls
- Bathe in the natural hot spring at Spa Park
For more Taupo inspiration, see 10 Taupo Must-Dos.
November – Aoraki Mt Cook
Marvel in the majestic mountain landscape in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park in the South Island! During the last month of spring, the mountain village in the heart of Southern Alps comes alive again for sensation walks, glacier heli-hikes, scenic flights and so much more!
5 Places You Can’t Miss in Aoraki Mt Cook
- The Hooker Valley Walk or one of the other 5 Aoraki Mt Cook Must-Dos
- Take a scenic flight around New Zealand’s highest mountains and longest glaciers
- Do a glacier heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier
- Take a boat tour around the Tasman Glacier Lake among giant icebergs
- Stargaze in the middle of an International Dark Sky Reserve.
For more things to do in Mt Cook, see 5 Aoraki Mt Cook Must-Dos.
December – Bay of Plenty
While Christmastime means snow for much of the Northern Hemisphere, it means summer has just begun in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a great time to explore the coast of the Bay of Plenty region in the North Island, especially at the pohutukawa trees (the New Zealand Christmas tree) starts to blossom red flowers.
5 Places You Can’t Miss in the Bay of Plenty
- Kayak in Whakatane to the wildlife sanctuary of Whale Island or along the pohutukawa-lined coast of Ohope
- Walk on New Zealand’s only active marine volcano at White Island [Update: White Island tours have been suspended until further notice.]
- Bike the Motu Trails at Opotiki
- Climb The Mount at Mt Maunganui in Tauranga
- Go on a dolphin swimming tour from Tauranga
For more Bay of Plenty inspiration, see Bay of Plenty – Guide for Backpackers.