Best places to visit during spring in New Zealand


By Kim Mackay-Wallace

7 minute read

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Best places to visit during spring in New Zealand

Spring in New Zealand is a quintessential time of year to experience the country’s flora and fauna. Frolicking lambs, fields of daffodils and wildflowers fill the countryside, and cherry blossom-lined streets and roadside stalls selling spring flowers in full bloom brighten the city streets. The days begin to get longer and warmer, allowing more time to get out and explore the outdoors. The bulk of the summer tourists have yet to arrive, leaving the trails and National Parks lovely and quiet for us to appreciate the beauty of nature awakening from its winter slumber. Whilst summer is the most popular season to travel through New Zealand, if you talk to the locals, you’ll likely find that springtime is one of our best-kept secrets!

There are endless incredible places to explore in New Zealand at any time of year, but these are some of our favourite spots that are at their best during the spring.

The Lupins at Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is a perfect holiday location to visit in any season, but there is something magical about this town in spring. As is the case for many wildflowers in New Zealand, the warmer temperatures and long daylight hours of spring are the cues for the picturesque Lupins to burst into life. Seemingly appearing in every colour of the rainbow, expansive waves of pink, purple, yellow and blue flowers begin to dot the countryside and none in higher density than the roadsides and lakefronts throughout the Mackenzie Country. Contrasted against the turquoise colour of the glacial lakes in the area, the Lupins provide a spectacular show and make for fantastic photo opportunities.

See the lilies at Aoraki Mount Cook

Mount Cook is a dreamy location to visit during any season but the alpine flora comes alive during spring. Enjoy the wildflowers in bloom and especially the iconic Mount Cook lilies. The name is a little misleading as they are in fact the world’s largest buttercup, not a lily at all! Growing over a metre tall with leaves the size of your hand, they are easy to spot beside the trail. Look for their beautiful white and yellow flowers, as well as numerous other alpine flowers along the many walks in Aoraki Mount Cook and around the village. Be sure to bring your camera!

Immerse yourself in the alpine scenery and get to know Mount Cook with us on one of our small group tours that take you to this iconic area.

Mount cook lily2

Lambs in Central Otago

If you need a reason to visit New Zealand during spring look no further. One of the many quirky things New Zealand is known for is having roughly 6 sheep for every person in the country. A trip to New Zealand is not complete without a few scenic snaps of sheep grazing in front of stunning mountain backdrops and there is no better time of year for this than the spring when gorgeous little lambs are frolicking in the fields. Although you will find them throughout the country, one of the best places to see these precious wee lambs is in the rolling hills of Central Otago.

A drive down almost any Central Otago road will greet you with lambs galore, but an even better way to get up close and personal with the little guys is by taking a local farm tour. Not only will you get to feed them, but it is a great chance to learn about sheep farming in New Zealand, and what makes our merino wool so world-renowned. 

Waterfalls in Arthur's Pass, Haast Pass & Milford Sound

Waterfall chasing is the name of the game in spring! Snow melting off the nearby mountains and glaciers pumps large volumes of water into the streams and rivers, enhancing the life of the waterfalls. What would usually be merely a trickle at other times of the year turn into magnificent falls in the springtime. Some of the best places to go and see them are in Arthurs Pass, Haast Pass and Milford Sound.

A drive into Fiordland during spring will greet you with towering falls in every direction. Approaching Milford Sound, the road emerges from the Homer Tunnel into the aptly named Valley of a Thousand Falls, and it’s not hard to imagine how it got its title! While most people hope for sunshine, we encourage you to do a rain dance before this leg of your journey as rainy days are actually the most impressive in Fiordland, sending cascades of water down the near-vertical granite cliff faces everywhere you look. A rainy spring day on the Milford road is a real sight to behold, and a memorable experience quite unique to Fiordland.

The most immense of our permanent Fiordland waterfalls are the Stirling and Bowen Falls in Milford Sound, and the Giant’s Gate Falls along the Milford Track. All of our South Island tours visit Milford Sound, but to get the full Milford experience, including the famous Milford Track, check out our New Zealand Great Walk Adventure.

Milford Sound isn’t the only place with impressive waterfalls. A drive over Haast Pass will take you past Thunder Creek and Fantail Falls, both just a short but very rewarding walk from the road. In Arthurs Pass, you might like to stop in and witness the famous Devils Punchbowl waterfall – one of New Zealand’s most stunning waterfalls at a whopping 131m tall.

Cathedral Cove

The coromandel is the perfect destination for a holiday, with a relaxed atmosphere, beautiful coastline and white sandy beaches. One of the “must-see” places to visit is Cathedral Cove. Famous for its naturally formed tunnel archway separating two secluded white sandy beaches, the photo opportunities and experiences here are like no other. Kayak on the clear turquoise water, take a boat cruise to spot seals and dolphins, or simply relax on the picturesque beach lined with pohutukawa trees.

Tongariro Crossing

New Zealand spring weather brings mild long sunny days. The temperatures are not too hot or too cold meaning it is perfect for accomplishing some big hikes! Spring is perfect for hiking in New Zealand to avoid the busiest time of year and enjoy walking in milder weather. The Tongariro Crossing is incredibly popular in summer with thousands of hikers visiting the trail daily. If you go in spring you get to avoid the crowds and it will make the experience amongst volcanic terrain, ancient lava flows and emerald-coloured lakes that much more remarkable.

Our Sweet North tour combines the best parts of the North Island into an action-packed 5-day adventure. Paddle the calm waters to Cathedral Cove and take a stroll down the beaches of the Coromandel before challenging yourself to a heart-pumping day on the Tongariro Crossing.

4 tongariro crossing landscape2

Hawkes Bay Vineyards

Spring is a beautiful time of year to visit vineyards. It’s a time of rebirth, where the vines are greening up, the buds are starting to grow and the birds are fluttering about in the fields. The grape flowers typically arrive in late spring and the weather is starting to warm up which makes for a perfect time to enjoy the wineries. The Hawkes Bay is home to over 200 vineyards with over 30 cellar doors meaning you will be spoilt for choice on where to go! Merlot, Cabernet blends, Syrah and Chardonnay are some of the specialties of the area. Boutique vineyards, historical estates and scenic spots with mountain backdrops await!

Bonus: Hawkes bay has a strong farming culture and you are likely to see lambs frolicking around in the fields in spring!

Penguins in Fiordland

Endemic to the rainforests of Fiordland, the world’s second rarest (and arguable the cutest) penguin is the Fiordland Crested Penguin. They come onshore on the mainland to nest in springtime, making spring the best time of year to catch a glimpse of them. They are most commonly spotted in South Western Fiordland on headlands and islets, and the most reliable way to see them is on the beach in the afternoon after they have finished a tough day’s work out fishing in the ocean. Standing at about 40cm tall, they are easily identifiable by their sulphur-yellow crests extending over their eyes and the back of their heads, like big bushy yellow eyebrows!

One of their favourite places to return to for breeding every year is Long Reef Point at Martin’s Bay in Fiordland. Accessible only by air or foot and home to our favourite luxury backcountry lodge in the country, this is one of the most special and unique places we visit on our World Heritage Walking Tour.

New Zealand Penguins Fiordland6

Christchurch Hagley Park

It’s called the garden city for a reason! Christchurch comes alive in spring with delicious floral aromas and vibrant colours filling the city’s 740 parks and gardens. One of many places worth a visit is Hagley Park. The famous cherry blossoms are in bloom on the rows of trees next to the walking path which makes a fairyland of fluffy pink flowers. The Christchurch Botanical Gardens right next to Hagley Park are worth a visit too – home to many rose gardens, daffodils and canopies of colourful flowers.


Is spring a good time to visit New Zealand?

Absolutely! Spring brings long mild days with plenty of options for outdoor activities, and of course, is a beautiful time for scenery. Waterfalls are in full force, it’s the season for new life and calves and lambs are covering the country fields. There are also many flowers in bloom and sweet aromas filling the air. For an idea of what to expect from Spring check out our blog on the best time to visit New Zealand

When is spring in New Zealand?

Spring kicks off in September and runs through until the end of November. But as Kiwis, we know December is still quite spring-like too, and summer often doesn’t truly come into force until late December or early January.

What is the weather like in spring in New Zealand?

Spring is relatively mild with cooler mornings and long sunny days. The temperatures tend to hover around the mid-teens (early-mid 60s Fahrenheit), the perfect temperatures for hiking. Daylight savings time starts at the end of September most years, meaning the nights start to get longer, allowing more time to explore the outdoors and enjoy a good Kiwi BBQ.

We’re sure you are going to love visiting New Zealand in the spring months. By now you should have a few highlights to add to your list!

We love showing you the best of what New Zealand has to offer in the spring and summer months. Most of our trips start in the spring month of October. So if mild temperatures and long sunny evenings appeal to you, join us for your trip down here next spring! Be sure to request a free copy of our latest brochure to see what we’re all about!


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