best time to visit new zealand

Best Time to Visit New Zealand

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By Claire Todd

11 minute read

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Much has been said and written about the best time to visit New Zealand and you might hear differing opinions on the matter. Fortunately for those struggling to decide, New Zealand is blessed with mild weather, stable seasons and plenty of sunshine, so no matter when you plan your trip, you’re bound to have an incredible time.

New Zealand’s unique climate

As an island nation with a temperate maritime climate, we’re rarely impacted by extreme weather conditions. However, if you’re a hiker or enjoy getting out into nature’s playground, then you’ll find certain times of year are more favourable for outdoor pursuits.

As we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, our seasons are the opposite way around from the Northern Hemisphere, so summer is December through February and winter is June through August. While winter is comparatively mild compared to other places in the world, mountain snowfall and icy conditions (especially on the South Island) can mean certain walks and hikes are off-limit over the winter months. Most visitors and hikers choose to travel during the summer months which are long, light and bathed in glorious sunshine!

Anytime is the best time to visit New Zealand

It's a tough job picking the best time to visit New Zealand; every season has significant advantages, so pick one that suits you best!

New Zealand Trails hiking season – the best time to visit New Zealand

We want our guests to enjoy all that New Zealand’s beautiful landscape has to offer, so we run our trips between October and April, avoiding the cooler months and more challenging weather conditions of winter. Travelling during these months allows our guests to explore a wide range of walks, hikes and experiences, as well as the best weather in New Zealand.

Here’s a handy overview of the best months to visit New Zealand!

New Zealand weather in October

October, Spring in New Zealand

October in New Zealand is mid-Spring, and as you can imagine, is full of gorgeous colour!

If you’re visiting New Zealand in October, then you’re in for a nice warm welcome. The New Zealand weather in October is mild, with average temperatures sitting comfortably between 57 and 64  ͦF. October is mid-spring for us, so there might be a few cooler mornings if you’re on the South Island, but typically the day warms up as it progresses. You’ll get the odd rain shower but that’s the case year-round in New Zealand and part of the reason why our countryside is so green and lush! You’ll also enjoy plenty of sunshine hours, perfect for exploring and experiencing the great outdoors.

North Island average temperatures: 15-18  ͦC (59 – 64  ͦF)
South Island average temperatures:
14-17  ͦC (57 – 63  ͦF)

Auckland average rainfall: 100mm (3.9in)
Auckland average sunshine hrs per month:
178

Christchurch average rainfall: 53mm (2.1in)
Christchurch average sunshine hrs per month:
204

Hiking weather in New Zealand in October

October marks the start of our hiking season and it’s a fantastic time of year to be out and about on the trails. With mild temperatures and the warm sun on your back, it’s very comfortable hiking weather. Spring is a fabulous time for hikers! With many summer visitors yet to arrive, it’s a peaceful time to be out hiking and often you’ll get those pristine views all to yourself. There’s usually still a bit of snow on the mountaintops and the spring flowers are blooming, making for a very pleasant backdrop to your walk.

The lambs are frolicking in the fields and the native birds warbling in the treetops, so while the trails might be quiet, our charming wildlife will keep you very well entertained on your travels during October!

One thing to pack for New Zealand weather in October: A good quality rain jacket in case of the odd spring shower.

New Zealand Trails travel tip for October: Our clocks ‘spring-forward’ at the very end of September, so if you travel during October, you’ll enjoy longer days and lighter evenings, ideal for those lengthier day hikes, as well as pre-dinner drinks on the deck as the sun goes down.

New Zealand weather in November

New Zealand weather in November

The locals enjoying the New Zealand weather in November - it's new life as far as the eye can see!

November is arguably the best month to visit New Zealand with warm, dry conditions. Kiwis see November as the start of the warmer months and with winter now a distant memory, summer feels like it’s just around the corner. Most days will see the thermostat hitting at least 68  ͦF, often higher. The spring months can be a little breezy in exposed parts of the country, but we rarely experience extremes so it’s a great time of year to be exploring New Zealand.

North Island average temperatures: 17-21  ͦC (63 – 70  ͦF)
South Island average temperatures: 16-21  ͦC (61 – 70  ͦF)

Auckland average rainfall: 86mm (3.4in)
Auckland average sunshine hrs per month:
188

Christchurch average rainfall: 46mm (1.8in)
Christchurch average sunshine hrs per month:
224

Hiking weather in New Zealand in November

Summer’s precursor, November is one of our favourite times of year for hiking. Despite the fantastic weather, it’s still a relatively quiet time of year out on the trails, so you’ll experience the best of both worlds as far as weather and visitor numbers go. There might be the occasional cool snap, but you’ll find that temperatures rapidly warm up and you’ll be shedding layers before you know it.

The New Zealand landscape is at its greenest and most vibrant during the spring months, so it’s a beautiful time of year to be hiking. Mount Cook lilies are flowering in alpine areas, while vast seas of purple and pink lupins are blanketing the valley floors. New Zealand fur seals are pupping and while it’s best to keep your distance, it’s a lovely sight to watch their playful antics from afar!

One thing to pack for New Zealand weather in November: A mid-layer merino jersey that you can take on and off as the temperature changes.

New Zealand Trails travel tip for November: November is peak season for lupins and the Mackenzie Country on the South Island is one of the best places to visit if you’re hoping to see them in full bloom. It’s also an International Dark Sky Reserve, meaning the night sky here is particularly impressive.

New Zealand weather in December

New Zealand weather in December

The weather in New Zealand in December takes a turn for warmer and longer evenings - the start of Summer!

December marks the start of summer, as well as the holiday season for most Kiwis. The weather in New Zealand in December is great - temperatures are warm, skies are blue and as the nation gears up for the Christmas celebrations, there’s a feeling of festivity in the air. The longest day of the year falls in December and with the sun not setting until 10pm in parts of the country, you’ve got plenty of daylight hours to explore.

On your travels in December, you’ll likely see the pohutukawa tree, also known as the “New Zealand Christmas Tree”. Commonly found in coastal regions on the North Island, its large crimson flower blooms in December. Along with beach BBQs and backyard cricket, the pohutukawa is a Kiwi Christmas tradition!

North Island average temperatures: 19-23  ͦC (66 – 73  ͦF)
South Island average temperatures: 18-22  ͦC (64 – 72  ͦF)

Auckland average rainfall: 93mm (3.7in)
Auckland average sunshine hrs per month:
197

Christchurch average rainfall: 50mm (1.9in)
Christchurch average sunshine hrs per month:
220

Hiking weather in New Zealand in December

December is early summer, so temperatures are not quite at their highest, but you’ll often get days where the thermostat sits at or above 80  ͦF. New Zealand isn’t that humid, so despite the warmer weather, conditions are still very comfortable for hiking, especially if you’re by the sea (which much of New Zealand is!).

Lots of Kiwis take a break over the summer holiday period and use their time off to get out exploring their own backyard on overnight and day hikes. We’re a friendly bunch and chances are when you meet us out on the trails, we’ll be happy to have a chat and share some local hiking knowledge.

One thing to pack for New Zealand weather in December: Sunscreen. The New Zealand sun is surprisingly fierce, with burn time as little as ten minutes. Keep covered up if you can and apply and reapply a high factor sunscreen, especially if you’re sweating while hiking.

New Zealand Trails travel tip for December: If you’re a wildlife lover, December is a wonderful time of year to visit. Look out for groups of Little Blue penguins, as well as one of the world’s rarest, the Fiordland Crested penguin. Occasionally during the warmer months, you might also spot orca cruising through the bays enjoying their summer vacations too!

New Zealand weather in January

New Zealand weather in January

The weather in New Zealand in January can simply be described as 'our favourite time of the year'.

January is the height of summer and considered by many as the best month to visit New Zealand. It’s the warmest, driest month of the year and with the best weather in New Zealand, January is a popular time with visitors. Luckily there are still plenty of wide-open spaces and opportunities to get off the beaten track, so it never really feels too crowded.

North Island average temperatures: 21-25  ͦC (70 – 77  ͦF)
South Island average temperatures: 20-24  ͦC (68 – 75  ͦF)

Auckland average rainfall: 73mm (2.9in)
Auckland average sunshine hrs per month: 229

Christchurch average rainfall: 38mm (1.5in)
Christchurch average sunshine hrs per month:
238

Hiking weather in New Zealand in January

The New Zealand weather in January is excellent and it’s a fantastic month for hiking! It’s mid-summer and temperatures can climb above the mid-80s, so it pays to pace yourself and drink plenty of water while you’re hiking. There’s usually an obliging stream or lake if you fancy a quick dip to cool off as well. Rainfall is at its lowest, but as always in New Zealand, you can anticipate at least one or two rainy days during your January trip.

Nights are typically warm, so you’ll want to choose a light sleeping bag if you’re staying in a DOC (Department of Conservation) hut overnight. Do bring extra layers in case of inclement conditions of course.

One thing to pack for New Zealand weather in January: Your togs! ‘Togs’ is Kiwi slang for swimwear, which you’ll want to keep handy for ocean swims, river dips and lake splashes when the mercury starts to rise.

New Zealand Trails travel tip for January: With predictable long, sunny spells, it’s a popular time for visitors and locals alike to be out on the trails, so be sure to book your accommodation, transport and hikes (especially the Great Walks) well in advance.

New Zealand weather in February

New Zealand weather in February

Whew! New Zealand weather in February can get pretty warm. It's wise to appropriately layer, get some good sunscreen, and wear a sensible hat.

The weather in New Zealand in February is excellent, temperatures are warm, and conditions are typically settled with long, sunny periods, ideal for getting out exploring on foot, two wheels or with a paddle in hand. February is probably the most reliable month of the year weather-wise and you can look forward to fine days, little wind and low rainfall for the most part.

North Island average temperatures: 21-24  ͦC (70 – 75  ͦF)
South Island average temperatures: 19-23  ͦC (66 – 73  ͦF)

Auckland average rainfall: 66mm (2.6in)
Auckland average sunshine hrs per month:
195

Christchurch average rainfall: 42mm (1.7in)
Christchurch average sunshine hrs per month:
195

Hiking weather in New Zealand in February

February marks the end of the holidays in New Zealand, so the tracks and trails will be a little quieter once the kids have gone back to school. It’s still a popular time with visitors and local hikers due to the stable weather and warm conditions.

February is definitely a great time to hike in New Zealand, but there are also lots of other events and activities happening  - outdoor festivals, concerts, sports events and races. Whether you’re taking part or just observing, it’s a fun time to visit and soak up the relaxed summer vibes.

One thing to pack for New Zealand weather in February: A wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun at bay. Even better if it’s a quick-dry fabric - you can soak it in a stream and enjoy the cool breeze against your forehead as you walk!

New Zealand Trails travel tip for February: Of all the summer months, February offers the most affordability as far as flights go. Whilst it’s still summer and prices are higher than the rest of the year, you’ll find air fares are slightly lower in February than December or January.  

New Zealand weather in March

New Zealand weather in March

It's still warm weather in New Zealand in March, but the sun gradually dips lower and lower in the midday sky - especially down South.

March is officially the start of autumn in New Zealand; however, it often feels more like an extension of summer with long, hot days and plenty of sunshine. The weather in New Zealand in March is usually mild and settled with a freshness in the air. The leaves are starting to change colour which makes for a very beautiful scene, especially in places like Arrowtown on the South Island, known for its spectacular autumn colours.

North Island average temperatures: 19-23  ͦC (66 – 73  ͦF)
South Island average temperatures: 18-22  ͦC (64 – 72  ͦF)

Auckland average rainfall: 87mm (3.4in)
Auckland average sunshine hrs per month:
189

Christchurch average rainfall: 45mm (1.8in)
Christchurch average sunshine hrs per month:
191

Hiking weather in New Zealand in March

The New Zealand weather in March lends itself perfectly to hiking and walking. The air isn’t quite as warm as summer, and that freshness is very pleasant when you’re out and about on the trails. Over the autumn months the New Zealand sky seems to turn impossibly blue and you’ll enjoy the stunning backdrop it provides to our scenery. March weather strikes the ideal balance between mild temperatures and settled conditions; what more could a hiker ask for?

One thing to pack for New Zealand weather in March: Your camera and spare batteries. New Zealand is stunning year-round, but the autumn colours are truly breath-taking.

New Zealand Trails Travel tip for March: With the grapes hanging ripe on the vines, March is a great time of year to visit some of our world-renowned wineries and sample the wines in a sunlit vineyard. March is also a bumper time of year for fresh local produce and seasonal delights – our farmers markets are overflowing with tasty morsels to tempt your taste buds.

New Zealand weather in April

New Zealand weather in April

A bit of gear will have you fully prepared for the weather in April in New Zealand - the secret is in the layers.

April is a beautiful time of year to visit New Zealand. The weather in New Zealand in April is known for its crisp, sunny days, clear skies and cooler nights. Down on the South Island, you’ll definitely start to feel a nip in the air, especially in the mornings and evenings, but it’s nothing that a coffee in hand and an extra layer can’t handle. 

You’ll notice that while the days are still mild, the nights can get quite cold, so you’ll want to bring a warm pair of pyjamas, especially if you’re planning on camping out or staying in a DOC hut during your travels.

North Island average temperatures: 17-20  ͦC (63 – 68  ͦF)
South Island average temperatures: 15-18  ͦC (59 – 64  ͦF)

Auckland average rainfall: 99mm (3.9in)
Auckland average sunshine hrs per month:
157

Christchurch average rainfall: 46mm (1.8in)
Christchurch average sunshine hrs per month:
163

Hiking weather in New Zealand in April

April is a brilliant time for hiking. The walking tracks are quiet, and the views are crystal-clear. With autumn colours in full force and little wind and rain, it’s the perfect time to stretch your legs on any one of our outstanding hiking trails. April enjoys long, fine spells making it the ideal time for overnight hikes in New Zealand’s glorious backcountry.

April marks the end of the Great Walks season for several of New Zealand’s famous tracks, including the Milford Track, so it’s a good time to experience the hikes before winter sets in and they’re off limits.

One thing to pack for New Zealand weather in April: A warm outer layer for those fresh morning starts and a reusable coffee cup for your flat white to go!

New Zealand Trails travel tip for April: April is the end of our hiking season at New Zealand Trails, so be sure to get your trip booked in before then. Air fares are often lower during the month of April and we can help you find flights and a good deal to fit in with your New Zealand Trails trip.

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