The Weather, Climate and Month-by-Month Guide to the Weather in New Zealand
Trying to decide when would be the best time to travel to New Zealand? For some, the weather is a game-changer. What’s more, things can get a little confusing when you throw in the seasons of the Southern Hemisphere. To clear the confusion, here’s our month-by-month guide to what is the weather like in New Zealand.
New Zealand’s climate is determined by three main things: the ocean, mountains and its prevailing winds. This guide will not only teach you about the New Zealand climate but give you a quick idea of what the weather is like in New Zealand month-by-month. However, New Zealand is notorious for having “four seasons in a day” meaning that weather can change throughout the day. When packing for New Zealand, prepare for all weather scenarios. You’ll get a good idea of what to pack in our New Zealand Packing List: What to Pack for New Zealand.
Another quick power tip to mention about the weather in New Zealand is: wear at least SPF 30 sunscreen. Just seven minutes of sun exposure can burn due to the hole in the Ozone layer between New Zealand and Australia.
The New Zealand Seasons
New Zealand has four distinct seasons: summer, autumn, winter and spring. However, these seasons are experienced in different months to what is experienced in the Northern Hemisphere. Seasons officially start on the first day of the season’s month and end on the final day of the season’s month. For example, summer begins on December 1 and ends on February 28/29.
- Summer – December, January and February
- Autumn – March, April and May
- Winter – June, July and August
- Spring – September, October and November
For a more in-depth look at the seasons in New Zealand, check out The New Zealand Seasons and Climate.
The Temperature in New Zealand
Because New Zealand lies south of the Equator, the temperature increases the further north you go and decreases the further south you go. You can feel a real difference in temperature between the North Island and South Island, with the mean annual temperature in the North Island being 16°C / 61°F and the South Island being 10°C / 50°F.
The warmest months are December, January and February. The highest temperatures experienced are between 20-30°C / 68-86°F. The coldest months are June, July and August with the highest temperatures being 10-15°C / 50-59°F.
Location plays a huge factor in the temperature in New Zealand. For instance, the Far North of the North Island has a subtropical climate with the highest temperatures in the country. Inland in the South Island, the alpine landscape means there’s snow on many mountaintops year-round and temperatures as low as -10°C / -50°F in winter.
When planning your trip to New Zealand, take into consideration the month and the locations you will be visiting to get a better representation of what temperatures you will experience. Scroll down to see what the weather is like in New Zealand month by month.
The Rain in New Zealand
Rainfall can be in the forecast all year round in New Zealand due to its maritime climate. Most areas of New Zealand receive between 600 and 1600mm (1,970 and 5,250″) of rainfall throughout the year. However, some areas of New Zealand are much wetter than others.
On the North Island, more rainfall is experienced through winter than in summer. In the South Island, there’s more rainfall in summer than in winter. The South Island experiences a great divide in rainfall weather patterns due to the Southern Alps, situated running down the middle of the island, acting as a barrier for the westerly prevailing winds. For this reason, the West Coast receives considerably more rain compared to the east coast of the South Island.
While rainfall is frequent in New Zealand, usually they are only short showers due to the coastal winds moving weather on quickly. New Zealander’s often describe New Zealand as having “four seasons in a day” because of this.
The Snow in New Zealand
Snow falls mainly in the high altitudes of mountainous areas of New Zealand, such as the Southern Alps and the mountains of the Fiordland National Park in the South Island. Or on the North Island, snow mainly falls on the Central North Island volcanoes and Mt Taranaki. Because the rest of the country is coastal, it’s uncommon to experience snow elsewhere. However, the east side of the country is more likely to experience snow than the west in extreme conditions (which is rare).
Frosts can occur anywhere in New Zealand throughout winter. Usually, this is due to cold nights with clear skies and no wind.
Sunshine Hours in New Zealand
Just as frequently as having rain, New Zealand can just as frequently experience clear weather and sunshine. The majority of New Zealand has a high number of sunshine hours. Areas that are sheltered by the prevailing westerly winds receive annual sunshine hours of more than 2,250, such as Northland, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Nelson, Tasman, and Malborough.
New Zealand’s three largest cities, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch also receive high sunshine hours of around 2,000 to 2,250 hours. The least amount of sunshine is experienced in the Southland region and the Southern Alps with annual sunshine hours fewer than 1,500.
It’s important to note the high UV radiation levels in New Zealand during the “daylight savings” months (September – April). New Zealand receives 40% higher UV radiation than countries at similar latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. Wearing high factor sunscreen is a must to protect the skin from sunburn, especially between 10am and 4pm during the daylight savings months, and in high altitudes and in snow during winter.
Severe Weather Events
New Zealand is a country that’s relatively safe from extreme weather scenarios. Once or twice a year, storms may pass through the country bringing more rain, wind or snow with it. The main extreme weather that could affect New Zealand is cyclones.
Cyclones that make a large impact on the country happen infrequently, as the New Zealand MetService puts it: “On average, about 10 tropical cyclones form in the South Pacific tropics between November and April each year, and about one of those will affect New Zealand as an ex-tropical cyclone (most commonly in February or March).”
The Weather by Region
As mentioned, New Zealand’s weather differs quite significantly between the regions. Just as an example, the top of the North Island is considered to have a subtropical climate, while Stewart Island at the southern depths of the South Island is technically classed as a subantarctic island…
When planning your trip, look at the weather for the region’s you are visiting for a more accurate representation. Check out our regional weather guides, such as:
The Weather in January
January is in the middle of summer in New Zealand and an extremely popular time to travel New Zealand. The weather is usually warm with long days during January.
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 25ºC (77ºF) and lows of 12ºC (54ºF).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 22ºC (72ºF) and lows of 10ºC (50ºF).
The Weather in February
The last month of summer in New Zealand is February and when the country often receives its highest temperatures.
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 25°C (77°F) or more, and lows of 10°C (50°F).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 22°C (72°F) and lows of 10°C (50°F).
Check out more in-depth information in our February weather article. February is a great time to do water activities, such as canyoning, white water rafting, sailing and more. Browse the water activities available in New Zealand in our Water Activities section.
The Weather in March
March is the start of autumn in New Zealand but still experiences summer-like weather.
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 23°C (73°F) or more, and lows of 10°C (50°F).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 22°C (72°F) and lows of 8°C (76°F).
Check out more in-depth information in our March weather article. March is usually a good time to take on some of New Zealand’s multi-day hikes when the tracks are less crowded but the weather is still mild. Why not try one of the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand?
The Weather in April
In the midst of autumn, the temperatures start to cool in April in New Zealand. The weather also tends to be more changeable in April where it can be raining one minute and clear skies the next, so be prepared.
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 20°C (68°F) or more, and lows of 9°C (48°F).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 18°C (64°F) and lows of 6°C (43°F).
The Weather in May
Temperatures start to cool as New Zealand comes to the end of autumn. Jackets are a must!
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 18°C (64°F) or more, and lows of 6°C (43°F).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 16°C (61°F) and lows of 2°C (36°F).
Check out more in-depth information in our May weather article. Outdoors activities still have great appeal in May (as long as you wrap up warm), such as hunting, fishing, bungy jumping, mountain biking and more! Get inspired in our Outdoors Activities section!
The Weather in June
It’s the start of winter in New Zealand! Needless to say, you will need to wrap up warm and be prepared for rain or snow in the more mountainous regions.
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 15°C (59°F) or more, and lows of 3°C (36°F).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 13°C (55°F) and lows of -2°C (28°F).
The Weather in July
In the middle of winter, New Zealand’s weather is very changeable. Expect a lot of rainfall in Auckland, a lot of wind in Wellington, cold temperatures in Taupo, colder temperatures in the South Island yet fairly dry in the central South Island.
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 14°C (57°F) or more, and lows of 2°C (36°F).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 13°C (55°F) and lows of -3°C (27°F).
The Weather in August
The weather remains cold throughout most of New Zealand during August, with the exception of the northern North Island where temperatures are milder.
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 15°C (59°F) or more, and lows of 5°C (41°F).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 13°C (55°F) and lows of -1°C (30°F).
Check out more in-depth information in our August weather article. With most of the snowfall out of the way, August is generally the best month for winter sports in New Zealand. Find out more about the Ski Season in New Zealand.
The Weather in September
September is the beginning of spring where the days start to get longer with the sun having a bit more heat. There’s still a fair amount of water, whether it’s snowmelt or rainfall, so be prepared with a rain jacket.
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 17°C (63°F) or more, and lows of 7°C (45°F).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 16°C (61°F) and lows of 2°C (36°F).
Check out more in-depth information in our September weather article. With the snowmelt, September is a great time to go white water rafting. Check out these 7 Places to go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.
The Weather in October
Milder days, more consistent and reliable weather: you’re onto a good thing travelling New Zealand in October.
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 19°C (66°F) or more, and lows of 8°C (46°F).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 19°C (66°F) and lows of 4°C (39°F).
Check out more in-depth information in our October weather article. The middle of spring is a good time to spot some extremely active wildlife. Learn more in 20 Animals and Birds Unique to New Zealand.
The Weather in November
Is it spring or summer? By November it’s hard to tell the difference with the weather generally being milder and clearer. It’s a good idea to have an extra layer with you for those odd chilly moments.
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 21°C (70°F) or more, and lows of 8°C (46°F).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 20°C (68°F) and lows of 5°C (41°F).
Check out more in-depth information in our November weather article. If you are looking for the perfect “shoulder season” month to travel New Zealand before the influx of tourists arrives, then November is a top contender. Find out why in 11 Reasons to Travel in the Shoulder and Off-Season in New Zealand.
The Weather in December
Summer is here! December is a booming season in New Zealand with generally warm and clear weather and the holiday season.
North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 23°C (73°F) or more, and lows of 12°C (54°F).
South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 23°C (73°F) and lows of 7°C (45°F).
Check out more in-depth information in our December weather article. Celebrate the holiday season in New Zealand by following our What to do for Christmas in New Zealand and Where to Spend New Year’s Eve in New Zealand.