Travellers arrive in New Zealand all year round and it is always worth a visit. The two main factors influencing your decision will be the climate and the high season.
New Zealand‘s two islands are set in the middle of the South Pacific, which means we get a lot of changing weather. The same latitude produces deserts in other countries, while New Zealand is green all year round - summer doesn’t burn away the grass and winter doesn’t cause the leaves to fall. Temperatures are moderate with no real extremes and rainfall is high but so are sunshine hours. Bad weather rarely lasts longer than 2-3 days, and even in winter most mornings are greeted by beautiful sunshine and blue skies. Just prepare yourself for sudden changes in the weather, always keep your sunglasses and rainjacket ready. Ideally you simply ignore the rain like the locals and wear layers like an onion (in some windy places you won’t be able to hold on to an umbrella). The sun is so strong it will dry you off in no time.
- Anything from humid Polynesian warm fronts to antarctic gale winds
- Anything from subtropical beaches and rain forests to icy glaciers and windy plains
- Anything from diving and snorkelling to skiing and ice climbing
- Summer can bring rare tropical cyclones and several days of continuous rain
- Winter can bring gorgeous sunny days like in summer
- The further north the warmer it gets, in Northland even night temperatures are mild
As you can see most tourists arrive from December to February, but it’s only really crowded when the locals head into their summer holidays, which last from Christmas to the end of January. Between Christmas and New Year is definitely the worst time to look for accommodation and a quiet spot on the beach. But with New Zealand being so big and most people concentrated at the well known spots you can always find a gorgeous place in nature, almost all to yourself.
New Zealand international holiday arrivals 2007, monthly:
New Zealand international holiday arrivals 1998 - 2007:
(Source: New Zealand international visitor arrivals, Ministry of Tourism, New Zealand)
September - November: Spring
- Gardens are in full colour now and the NZ green is even greener than usual.
- Best time for white water rafting on high level rivers.
- The weather is not yet settled and anything is possible, from hot days to stormy rain.
- Daylight saving time starts the last Sunday in September, making your days longer.
December - February: Summer
- Always slip slop slap & wrap! Slip into a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat and wrap on a pair of sunglasses, the New Zealand sun is fierce and you can burn quickly!
- If you book ahead you can save your time for exploring, a lot of accommodation has high season prices or minimal stays. i-SITE visitor centres will help you for same-day accommodation, but some close at 5pm.
- The favourite New Zealand walks and National Parks will be filled with people.
- Biggest choice of available activities.
- Most sunshine hours and the least rainfall, but a small chance of tropical storms.
- December can often be wet, January to March has more stable weather.
March - May: Autumn
- Nights are cooler, with the first cold spells starting at the end of April, higher chance of rainfall.
- There are less travellers, good chances for accommodation and transport discounts.
- Fantastic autumn colours in the central south island and eastern north island.
- Daylight saving time stops the first Sunday of April, be prepared for shorter days.
June - August: Winter
- Some accommodation is closed and many activities are not available, others offer discounts.
- Choose better accommodation to avoid unheated rooms.
- Come skiing! Queenstown, Wanaka and Mt Ruapehu (ever skiied on a volcano?) are waiting for you.
- You can still enjoy adrenaline activities and culture, in the north there is superb visibility for diving, trout fishing is all year round, golf courts are open etc.
- A good time for day walks, the air is even fresher than usual, the sun is still strong when out and the first flowers are out in Northland gardens.
Look at our interesting temperature, sunshine and rainfall charts!