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New Zealand in December

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What is it Like to Travel New Zealand in December?

Want to experience Christmas and New Year’s Eve in summer? Then you’ve come to the right place! That’s right, December is the beginning of summer in New Zealand and one of the most popular times to travel in New Zealand thanks to the long holiday seasons. To travel during December in New Zealand, expect to pay a premium for this “premium” time of year.

In this quick and simple guide to New Zealand in December, we’ll go over the typical weather in December, December events, what activities are best done in December, and some typical prices. What’s more, we’ll give you some travel tips for December in New Zealand.

For more advice on when to travel in New Zealand, take a look at The Best Time to Visit New Zealand.

Travel Tips for New Zealand in December

When travelling in December, here are a few things you need to know…

  • Wear high factor sunscreen! The sun is pretty intense in New Zealand and just seven minutes of sun exposure can burn. Even on a cloudy day, slap on some sunscreen.
  • If travelling in the South Island, get yourself some insect repellent. Sandflies hang about near water sources and can leave an itchy bite.
  • Book accommodation, activities and transport in advance. December is a popular time of the month to travel for both international travellers and Kiwis. Make sure you book things in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • Even in the summer, weather can change a lot in New Zealand, so we recommend packing a rain jacket and even a couple of layers for those odd rainy or cooler days.

New Zealand in December© Graeme Murray - Tourism New Zealand

New Zealand Weather in December

Welcome to New Zealand summer with warm temperatures and long sunny days. That’s not without a few days of rain or the odd drop in temperature as to be expected in a country that has a reputation of experiencing “four seasons in a day”. While you will mostly need to pack light clothing, it’s a good idea to have a rain jacket and a couple of warmer layers just in case.

North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 23ºC (73ºF) or more, and lows of 12ºC (54ºF).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 23ºC (73ºF) and lows of 7ºC (45ºF).

For a packing list to match the weather in December, see Packing List for Summer in New Zealand.

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December Events in New Zealand

The obvious December event in New Zealand is Christmas. On the days leading up to Christmas are a few outdoor Christmas events and festivals, particularly in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch. For more Christmas inspiration, take a look at What to do for Christmas in New Zealand. New Zealand really gets into the festival fever, however, for New Year’s Eve. Here are the top NYE events to check out in New Zealand.

New Years Festivals in New Zealand

  • Rhythm & Vines, Gisborne
  • Rhythm & Alps, Cardrona Valley
  • New Years Eve Queenstown
  • AUM New Years Eve Festival
  • Wellington NYE Celebrations
  • Northern Bass, Kaiwaka
  • Highlife NYE, Matakana
  • New Years Eve Christchurch

Other Festivals in New Zealand

Because it is the beginning of summer, there are a lot of summer-long festivals to enjoy starting in December. Check out the Silo Cinema event happening in Auckland every weekend during summer with a huge free outdoor cinema. There is also the Festival of Lights in New Plymouth, Taranaki where the local park is lit up for this summer festival. Finally, check out the free gigs in the Botanical Garden as part of Wellington Summer City.

New Zealand in December© James Heremaia - Tourism NZ

Activities Best Done in December

With typically clear weather, you can do just about anything during December in New Zealand, with the exception of winter sports. Days on the beach, sailing, canyoning or any activity with the chance to cool down in the water are particularly popular in summer. Here are a few articles to give you inspiration!

Coastal areas, particularly in the North Island, are recommended to see the pohutukawa trees, otherwise known as the New Zealand Christmas trees, in full bloom with red flowers.

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Typical Prices in December

Let’s cut to the chase. December is not a cheap time to be travelling New Zealand. As the busy summer season, it’s one of the most expensive time to be travelling New Zealand with car rental prices going up and flight prices at their highest. Nevertheless, if booked enough in advance to get a spot, you may still find some good deals on accommodation. Budget for your trip using the prices mentioned in How Much Does it Cost to Travel New Zealand?

Flights in December

Pretty much everywhere in the world is more expensive to fly during December due to the holiday season. Same goes for New Zealand. Nevertheless, you can make a few savings through the method you use to book and how far in advance you book. Find out more in How to Book a Cheap Flight to New Zealand. Plus, wise up on the arrival process in our Airport Arrival Guide.

Vehicle rentals in December

With it being the popular season, there tends to be limited availability the closer you leave booking to your travel date so book your rental early. By booking enough in advance, car rentals start as low as NZ$30 per day for a budget car. For more ways to cut costs on your rental, check out the 20 Ways To Save Money on Car Rental in New Zealand.

Accommodation in December

There’s no way around it. In December, it’s highly likely that you will need to book accommodation in advance for most places in New Zealand to avoid disappointment. That being said, hostel accommodation still remains at a reasonable price of around NZ$25-35 per bed in a dorm. However, holiday parks up their prices during this time, costing about NZ$25-$50 per powered site for a campervan.

Activities in December

Activities during December will usually be at their normal retail price during December. Some activities you may have to book in advance for peace of mind or if you are on a tight schedule. Otherwise, there is still usually some room to be spontaneous with activities during December.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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