Tourism NZ
Tourism NZ

When is the Best Time to Visit in New Zealand?

© Tourism NZ

When is a Good Time to Travel Around New Zealand?

With New Zealand transforming in many ways between seasons, planning when to travel to New Zealand is an important decision to make. What’s more, there’s no right or wrong answer to what is the best time to visit New Zealand. It’s a personal choice that is usually dependent on what weather you prefer, how spontaneous you want to be on your trip, how busy you prefer your surroundings, what events are going on, and whether you are looking for any seasonal bargains. We’ll talk about all of this further in this guide to the best time to visit New Zealand.

For more details on each month in New Zealand, take a look at the Month-By-Month Guide to the Best Places to Visit in New Zealand. Plus, wise up to the seasons and climate by reading The New Zealand Seasons and Climate.

The Off-Season and Shoulder Seasons in New Zealand

When planning when would be the best time to go travelling in New Zealand, the “off-season” and “shoulder seasons” are well worth considering. The off-season is during New Zealand’s winter season when the country tends to have fewer tourists (except in the places where there is a ski season). The shoulder seasons are during spring and autumn, between the off-season and “peak season” of summer. Finally, the peak season is summer when tourism in New Zealand is at its busiest.

  • Peak season: from December to February (going into March)
  • Shoulder seasons: from March to June and from September to November
  • Off-season: from June to August.

Find out more about the off and shoulder seasons in 11 Reasons to Travel in the Shoulder and Off-Season in New Zealand.

When is the Best Time to Go Backpacking in New Zealand?© Destination Queenstown

Summer: December to February

Months: December, January and February
Tourist Season: High Season

Weather in Summer

North Island Temperature: 20-24ºC (68-75ºF)
South Island Temperature: 19-23ºC (66-73ºF)
North Island Rainfall: 60-100mm (2.4-3.9″)
South Island Rainfall: 35-60mm (1.4-2.4″)

Find out about the weather for each month in the following guides:

About New Zealand Summer

Summer is by far the most popular time to visit New Zealand. The weather is generally the best it’s going to be for outdoor activities. However, this also makes New Zealand’s the most crowded time of the year to travel, where it’s essential for travellers to book accommodation and even some activities in advance to avoid disappointment. Not only is this a popular time for international travellers to visit New Zealand, but you’ll find that this is when many Kiwis travel the country too. Be aware of the school holidays, which you might want to avoid if you want less bustle, by checking out the New Zealand Ministry of Education website. Be also aware that summer is the most expensive time of year to visit New Zealand in terms of car rental, flight and hotel rates.

Best Places to Visit in Summer
  • Bay of Islands, North Island
  • New Plymouth, North Island
  • Gisborne, North Island
  • Mt Maunganui, North Island
  • Waiheke Island, North Island

Find out why in the 5 Places to Visit in Summer in New Zealand.

The Advantages of Visiting New Zealand in Summer

The most obvious one is the weather. If you want the most consistently warm and sunny weather while you are backpacking in New Zealand then between December and February is when you will usually get the “best” weather in New Zealand. Temperatures range between 12-25ºC (54-77ºF), with the sunniest regions being Auckland, Northland, Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough. Nevertheless, you can never really predict the weather in New Zealand, so pack some layers just in case.

During New Zealand’s summer, more activities and accommodation are available as some operators are only open for the busy summer season. However, you will only find this in more of the “off-the-beaten-track” locations, as most operators across the country are open year-round.

There are plenty of summer festivals going on, which you can find out more about in the 6 Summer Festivals in New Zealand. You may even be able to volunteer at a festival.

For those visiting New Zealand on a work visa, perhaps a working holiday visa, then summer is when you can find a wealth of seasonal jobs, particularly in the horticulture, tourism and hospitality industries. Find out more in 10 Working Holiday Visa Jobs in New Zealand.

The Disadvantages of Visiting New Zealand in Summer

Summer is New Zealand’s busy period. An influx of tourists mixed with the New Zealand school holidays means that accommodations and activities are usually fully booked. You will need to plan ahead and are more likely to have to stick to a set itinerary if you are travelling in the summer.

In relation to the above point, the main tourist centres of New Zealand feel crowded: the main cities, towns, hiking trails, etc. You can usually avoid the crowds by travelling to some of the 20 Places Off the Beaten Track in the North Island and the 20 Places Off the Beaten Track in the South Island.

Around Christmas time is when flights to New Zealand are the most expensive. Find out when is a good time to book a flight in How to Book a Cheap Flight to New Zealand.

When is the Best Time to Go Backpacking in New Zealand?© Unsplash

Autumn: March to May

Months: March, April and May
Tourist Season: High to Shoulder Season

Weather in Autumn

North Island Temperature: 17-22ºC (62-71ºF)
South Island Temperature: 13-19ºC (55-66ºF)
North Island Rainfall: 90-130mm (3.5-5.1″)
South Island Rainfall: 60-100mm (2.4-3.9″)

Find out about the weather for each month in the following guides:

About New Zealand Autumn

If you’re looking for a quieter time to travel to New Zealand, while still experiencing decent weather, then autumn is a good time to visit New Zealand. New Zealand still feels a little busy in March, but April and May quieten down along with the prices of car rental, flights and hotels. The days might be getting a little cooler, but it’s still comfortable enough ensuring you have plenty of layers for the ever-changing weather. Toward April and May, you may also get the chance to see the brown and orange autumn colours.

Best Places to Visit in Autumn
  • Wanaka, South Island
  • Hawke’s Bay, North Island
  • MacKenzie Region, South Island
  • Gisborne, North Island
  • Marlborough, South Island

Find out why in the 5 Places to Visit in Autumn in New Zealand.

The Advantages of Visiting New Zealand in Autumn

The weather still tends to be good during autumn in New Zealand, with temperatures being around 11-20ºC (52-68ºF) and still pretty consistent. That’s comfortable enough to get out and about on the hiking trails and doing many of the outdoor activities available in New Zealand.

The autumn colours make a lot of the country look vibrant. It adds to the scenery and makes your photos look awesome!

Summer crowds will have died down by autumn, giving you more space when visiting the main tourist centres and while on the hiking trails. Accommodation and activities are not likely to be fully booked giving you more room to be spontaneous while exploring New Zealand.

Between March and May is considered as one of the “shoulder seasons” in New Zealand, meaning that the price of vehicle rentals, some activities and accommodations will go down in price. Find out more about that in 11 Reasons to Travel in the Shoulder and Off-Season in New Zealand.

March especially is when events are booming in New Zealand! If experiencing the Kiwi culture through events and festivals interests you, then you might want to consider backpacking in New Zealand in autumn. Find out more in Top New Zealand Events in 2021.

The Disadvantages of Visiting New Zealand in Autumn

Days are getting shorter and, in comparison to summer, it’s a bit chillier.

The “peak season” in New Zealand is getting longer, therefore, you might find some areas of New Zealand particularly busy in March and April.

When is the Best Time to Go Backpacking in New Zealand?© Unsplash

Winter: June to August

Months: June, July and August
Tourist Season: Low Season

Weather in Winter

North Island Temperature: 11-15ºC (51-59ºF)
South Island Temperature: 7-12ºC (44-53ºF)
North Island Rainfall: 120-150mm (4.7-5.9″)
South Island Rainfall: 70-130mm (2.8-5.1″)

Find out about the weather for each month in the following guides:

About New Zealand Winter

Cool and crisp in New Zealand’s drier regions and wet and mild in the country’s more coastal areas: that just about sums up the weather in winter. The weather is also a little unpredictable in winter, so it’s not always ideal for the outdoor activities you’ve inevitably come to experience in New Zealand. Nevertheless, many don’t tend to mind, especially with the country being so uncrowded during this time. All you need to do is wrap up warm and have a good rain jacket! Winter is also one of the best seasons to see snow on the mountains and go skiing. Prices for car rentals, hotels and flights are also usually at their lowest.

Best Places to Visit in Winter
  • Queenstown, South Island
  • Rotorua, North Island
  • Ohakune, North Island
  • Arthur’s Pass, South Island
  • Hanmer Springs, South Island

Find out why in the 5 Places to Visit in Winter in New Zealand.

The Advantages of Visiting New Zealand in Winter

Snow! Snow transforms many of the mountainous regions in New Zealand, giving the scenery a different look for your eyes (and your photos).

Winter is when you can take advantage of the ski fields in New Zealand. Check out the Top 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand and our guide to the ski season in New Zealand to plan your ski vacation.

There are plenty of winter festivals to attend. Find out more in the 5 Winter Festivals in New Zealand.

Except in the ski field towns like Queenstown and Wanaka, winter is New Zealand’s off-season. Accommodation and activities are never usually fully booked, prices are at their lowest especially for vehicle rentals, and you often feel like you have the whole country to yourself. See more advantages of off-peak travel in 11 Reasons to Travel in the Shoulder and Off-Season in New Zealand.

There are many activities you can still do in winter, from white water rafting to hiking to hot pools and more. However, some activities may be cancelled in bad weather – see below.

The Disadvantages of Visiting New Zealand in Winter

The weather is usually unpredictable and inconsistent. This can usually throw plans off for activities that rely on the weather like sky diving, canyoning and sailing, for example. Temperatures are around 1-15ºC (34-59ºF) with the coldest areas being in the South Island. You’ll definitely experience a few rainy days so prepare with our Rainy Day articles.

Packing more winter clothes is usually bulkier and heavier to carry around New Zealand. See what to pack in New Zealand Packing List: What to Pack for New Zealand.

When is the Best Time to Go Backpacking in New Zealand?© Destination Queenstown

Spring: September to November

Months: September, October and November
Tourist Season: Low to Shoulder Season

Weather in Spring

North Island Temperature: 16-20ºC (60-68ºF)
South Island Temperature: 13-19ºC (55-66ºF)
North Island Rainfall: 90-120mm (3.5-4.7″)
South Island Rainfall: 60-100mm (2.4-3.9″)

Find out about the weather for each month in the following guides:

About New Zealand Spring

Spring is always a refreshing time in New Zealand when the clocks go forward, the sun starts to warm everything up again, and the days get longer. In early spring, you can make the most of the last of the winter sports and travel around New Zealand still seeing snow on the mountains. October is when spring really starts to get into full swing, with the chance to see lambs (although this means that some walking trails may be closed, so be sure to check before you set out). Things don’t feel busy until mid-November, so make the most of the uncrowded attractions and walking trails before then! Prices for hotels, car rentals and flights are also reasonable until mid-November.

Best Places to Visit in Spring
  • Lake Tekapo, South Island
  • Rotorua, North Island
  • Hamilton, North Island
  • Kaikoura, South Island
  • Canterbury, South Island

Find out why in the 5 Places to Visit in Spring in New Zealand.

The Advantages of Visiting New Zealand in Spring

This is usually the best time to hit the slopes of New Zealand’s ski fields when days are getting sunnier yet there is still plenty of snow around. (Usually until the end of September). Find out more in the guide to the ski season in New Zealand.

The weather is getting better, with temperatures being around 7-19ºC (45-66ºF). That’s a comfortable temperature for doing many outdoor activities in New Zealand.

As it’s the “shoulder season” in New Zealand, accommodation and activities tend to not be fully booked. Therefore, you can be as spontaneous as you like while travelling around New Zealand, while prices remain at their lowest up until it gets close to summer. Find more advantages of the shoulder season in 11 Reasons to Travel in the Shoulder and Off-Season in New Zealand.

See some parts of New Zealand where flowers bloom, giving the country a different look, while the snow remains on the mountains up until summer.

Spring is usually a better time to see more of an abundance of wildlife, as well as being a better time for white water rafting where the rivers are fuller from the snow-melt.

The Disadvantages of Visiting New Zealand in Spring

The weather may still be a little inconsistent giving you a few rainy days and crisp chilly days.

There are fewer events going on.

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