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Your Guide to the Best Time to Visit New Zealand

Sep 21, 2023
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I moved my family of 6 to New Zealand from the US in 2013 and love sharing my journey.  As a Wisconsinite (who does not miss the harsh winters), I have to say that there are NO bad times of the year to visit New Zealand.  There are BETTER times to visit New Zealand, but it is green all year round.  The best time to visit New Zealand, in my opinion, is February and March.  The weather is amazing in January and February, but New Zealand shuts down.  During January and February, everyone is on vacation and the 6-week school holidays, so you will see the highest prices and packed-out places during those months.  That is why I recommend February and March as the best time to visit.  

If you are interested in ski and snowboarding season, then you will love June-August (I know that sounds weird to our Northern Hemisphere readers).  The school holidays are generally in July so I would avoid those 2 weeks so that you can enjoy an empty chairlift, but the skiing is stunning and amazing in New Zealand.

I live in the Wellington region (Lower Hutt specifically), which is in the North Island, and I absolutely love it here in the peak season and the off-peak season!  

If you are considering a move to New Zealand - check out my FREE Masterclass!

The best time to visit New Zealand

So, let's dive in - we're about to uncover New Zealand's hidden seasons and figure out when its jaw-dropping landscapes shine brightest. We'll explore everything from the sun-soaked New Zealand summer to thrilling winter sports. And don't forget about shoulder seasons like autumn – perfect for some vineyard hopping.

My Family

Table Of Contents:

Understanding New Zealand's Seasons and Weather

Let's break it down by North and South Island!

Unpacking New Zealand's Climate and Blooms

Peak Tourist Season in New Zealand

A Month-by-Month Guide to Tourism Season

Shoulder Season: A Great Time to Visit New Zealand

Winter Sports and Ski Season in New Zealand

Outdoor Activities in New Zealand

Summer Adventures in New Zealand

Bluff Oyster and Food Festival

Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow

Exploring New Zealand's Natural Beauty

The Coromandel Peninsula: A Haven of Natural Beauty

Tara's Tip For Your Adventure:

FAQs in Relation to the Best Time to Visit New Zealand

What is the cheapest time to visit New Zealand?

What is the rainy season in New Zealand?

How long is best to visit New Zealand?

What is the best month to go to Australia and New Zealand?

Understanding New Zealand's Seasons and Weather

When planning a trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud, it's essential to understand how New Zealand's weather varies across seasons. This beautiful country in the southern hemisphere experiences its summer months when those in the northern hemisphere are wrapped up for winter.

The North Island boasts milder temperatures throughout the year compared to its southern counterpart. But don't be fooled by this; both islands can offer warm summer days with average daytime temperatures ranging from 53-77°F (12-25°C).

In contrast, their winter months provide an icy playground for snow enthusiasts. Particularly, July is noted as being New Zealand’s coldest month - ideal if you’re chasing mountainous areas blanketed in fresh powder. 

Tara's tip:  You can have AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL days in the winter as well, which makes winter seem easy to manage.  Honestly, you cannot beat Wellington on a nice day in summer or winter!

Let's break it down by North and South Island!

Island/Season Coastal Areas (Summer) Inland Areas (Summer) Coastal Areas (Winter) Inland Areas (Winter)
North Island 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F) Up to 30°C (86°F) 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F) 0°C to 8°C (32°F to 46°F)
South Island 16°C to 20°C (61°F to 68°F) 16°C to >30°C (61°F to 86°F+) 8°C to 12°C (46°F to 54°F) Below 0°C to 12°C (32°F to 54°F)


Unpacking New Zealand's Climate and Blooms

If we take a deeper look at what each season brings forth:

Summers typically have long hours of sunshine and warmer temperatures that bring out vibrant colours across landscapes – especially visible during spring bloom on both islands where flowers start bursting into life and trees begin changing colour.

Fall or autumn months paint landscapes with hues of orange and brown – giving them a mystical aura before they prepare for their hibernation period under winter’s cold embrace. Indeed, experiencing all four seasons could make your New Zealand experience more enriching.


North Island

South Island


Pohutukawa (Coastal Areas)

Lupins (Canterbury Plains)


Magnolias, Rhododendrons (Taranaki)

Wildflowers (Otago)



Rata Trees





Tara's Tips:  My favourite bloom in New Zealand is the Pohutukawa tree (Poh-hoo-too-kah-wah) as it signals that summer is on it's way.

Peak Tourist Season in New Zealand

New Zealand is a wonderland that draws in throngs of visitors each year, especially during its peak tourist season. So when exactly is this bustling time? Well, if you're seeking the high season vibe, look no further than January - it's considered the most crowded month on these picturesque islands.

This surge isn't without reason. During January, New Zealand basks under long hours of sunshine and warmer temperatures – just perfect for outdoor pursuits. As such, expect to find large crowds dotting every beach and hiking trail.

But why stop at natural beauty alone? The peak tourism season also coincides with exciting events like international film festivals and arts shows which light up various corners of the country.

The appeal extends beyond mere tourists too; locals often plan their holiday breaks around this time as well.

A Month-by-Month Guide to Tourism Season

In order to better navigate your journey through New Zealand's busy period, let’s break down what makes each month unique within this peak tourist season:


  • Peak of summer.
  • Warmest month; ideal for beach outings.
  • Numerous festivals and events.


  • Continuation of summer warmth.
  • Perfect for outdoor activities, such as hiking and water sports.
  • Wine festivals in regions like Marlborough and Hawke's Bay.


  • Transition from summer to autumn.
  • Harvest season for many vineyards.
  • Decrease in tourist numbers as local schools commence.


  • Autumn is in full swing.
  • Landscapes painted in hues of orange and russet.
  • ANZAC Day commemorations


  • Temperatures begin to drop.
  • The onset of the ski season in certain regions.
  • Decrease in crowds, offering a more serene exploration


  • Winter begins.
  • Ski resorts in areas like Queenstown have become bustling.
  • Shortest days of the year due to the winter solstice.


  • Mid-winter.
  • Snow activities at their peak in mountainous regions.
  • Various winter festivals, especially in the South Island.


  • Winter is transitioning to spring.
  • Snowfall continues in higher altitudes.
  • Early blossoms in some regions.


  • Spring's onset.
  • Wildflowers begin to bloom, especially in the South Island.
  • Days start to lengthen, and warmer temperatures return.


  • Spring is in full bloom.
  • Ideal for exploring gardens and parks.
  • Lambing season in pastoral areas.


  • Transition from spring to summer.
  • On warmer days, outdoor activities become popular again.
  • Green landscapes due to spring rainfall.


  • Start of summer.
  • Festive holiday celebrations.
  • Blossoming of the iconic Pohutukawa tree

Shoulder Season: A Great Time to Visit New Zealand

If you're in search of the ideal moment to explore New Zealand, contemplate arranging your getaway for the intermediate seasons of spring and fall. The weather is milder, with daytime temperatures pleasant enough for outdoor pursuits without being too hot.


The term 'shoulder season' may seem unusual, but think of it as standing on a mountaintop; peak tourist times are represented by the summit, while low periods form its base. Shoulder seasons sit right between these two extremes – they’re ideal times when tourism is not quite at its peak nor at its lowest point. Check out this detailed guide that we found helpful when planning our journey.

This period also happens to be one of the cheapest months for travel which means saving money. Plus who doesn't love avoiding crowds? So pack those bags because whether it's experiencing vibrant hues during New Zealand’s autumn or witnessing nature come alive in springtime bloom – shoulder seasons give you an authentic Kiwi experience minus any drawbacks.

In fact, according to statistics from Tourism New Zealand, May - a month in the fall season - is often considered as one of the least crowded months. This allows tourists like us more space and freedom to explore this stunning country's natural beauty at our own pace.

Tara's tips:  If you are from crowded parts of the world, you will not think New Zealand is crowded even during peak season.  There are only 5 million New Zealanders here so it is common to get the beach all to yourself even in peak season.

Winter Sports and Ski Season in New Zealand

For winter sports enthusiasts, New Zealand is an ideal destination during the colder months when parts of both South Island and North Island become prime locations for skiing. This is when parts of both South Island and North Island transform into perfect playgrounds for those with an affinity towards cold weather fun.

The ski season typically kicks off in June, turning Queenstown and other areas into popular destinations. Imagine swooshing down the mountainous slopes as you enjoy breathtakingbreathtaking views of crystal clear lakes below - that's what skiing or snowboarding here feels like.

Snowfall isn't limited to July either - which tends to be our coldest month; but can extend through September depending on where you are. It’s essential that before venturing onto snowy terrain, ensure your safety by checking local forecasts.

So if winter sports, pristine landscapes covered in white powder snow, along with a healthy dose of Kiwi hospitality sound appealing- pack up your gear (or rent some here) and come over next winter. 

Ski Field Island Lift Ticket Price (Starting at 2023) Rental Price (Starting at 2023)
Mt Ruapehu North NZD $90 NZD $40
Cardrona Alpine Resort South NZD $110 NZD $45
Coronet Peak South NZD $120 NZD $50
The Remarkables South NZD $120 NZD $50
Treble Cone South NZD $130 NZD $48
Mt Hutt South NZD $115 NZD $49




Outdoor Activities in New Zealand

New Zealand's unique climate offers various outdoor activities, each season painting a different landscape for adventure. The things to do are endless.

Summer Adventures in New Zealand

In the summer, long hours of daylight and warmer temperatures make it a perfect time for all outdoor pursuits. February is particularly ideal as Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch experience their driest conditions.

You could explore the breathtaking Coromandel Peninsula or immerse yourself in the natural beauty at Abel Tasman National Park. Don't forget Hawke's Bay - home to world-class vineyards where you can sip on exquisite wines under the sun.

If you're more inclined towards thrill-seeking adventures, bungee jumping off bridges and jet boating through river gorges should be right up your alley. You might also enjoy trekking along scenic trails with views that will leave you awe-struck.

The possibilities are truly limitless when it comes to embracing summer adventures amidst New Zealand's captivating landscapes.





Experience the thrill of free fall from thousands of feet above.

Queenstown, Taupo, Wanaka

Bungee Jumping

Dive off bridges or platforms with a cord attached to your feet.

Queenstown (Kawarau, Nevis)

White Water Rafting

Navigate rapids and experience adrenaline rushes on river descents.

Rotorua, Queenstown


Paddle through pristine waters, exploring marine reserves and coastline.

Abel Tasman, Milford Sound


Traverse New Zealand's scenic trails, ranging from easy walks to multi-day hikes.

Tongariro, Routeburn, Milford Tracks

Caving & Glowworm Tours

Explore underground caverns and witness the magical glowworm displays.

Waitomo, Te Anau

Mountain Biking

Ride through well-maintained tracks and experience New Zealand's diverse terrain.

Rotorua, Nelson, Queenstown

Paragliding & Hang Gliding

Soar gracefully over landscapes, enjoying panoramic views.

Queenstown, Wanaka, Christchurch

Whale & Dolphin Watching

Observe majestic marine creatures in their natural habitat.

Kaikoura, Bay of Islands


Glide through forests or over valleys on suspended cables.

Waiheke Island, Rotorua

Tara's Tips:  Hmm let's see, what do I love to do in the summer?  I love wineries, beaching. and hiking!  My kids have done the bungy jumping (against my better judgement).  If you love hiking or backpacking - I highly recommend doing one of the great walks.  Here is a list of them (but you will need to book in advance)

Great Walk



Distance (km)

Lake Waikaremoana


3-4 days


Tongariro Northern Circuit


3-4 days


Whanganui Journey


3-5 days

145 (river journey)


Abel Tasman Coast Track


3-5 days


Heaphy Track


4-6 days


Paparoa Track & Pike29 Memorial Track


2-3 days


Routeburn Track


2-4 days


Kepler Track


3-4 days


Milford Track


4 days


Rakiura Track

Stewart Island

3 days


Family backpacking

Festivals and Events in New Zealand

New Zealand is not just about breathtaking landscapes, but it's also a vibrant hub for cultural events. With festivals celebrating everything from wine to international film, there's an event for everyone.

The Marlborough Wine Festival, held every February, showcases the country's top wines while promoting sustainable viticulture practices. For those looking to discover world-class vineyards through their taste buds, the Marlborough Wine Festival in February is an absolute must.

If cinema stirs your soul more than Sauvignon Blancs do, then Auckland has got you covered. The International Film Festival held here each July presents some of the finest films from around the globe. A similar festival occurs simultaneously in Wellington too.

Bluff Oyster and Food Festival

No mention of Kiwi celebrations can be complete without acknowledging their love for seafood. Held annually in May down south at Bluff - known as 'the oyster capital' - this festivity celebrates one thing above all else: fresh Bluff Oysters. But don't worry if shellfish isn't quite up your alley; other delicacies are sure to tempt you too.

Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow

Moving away from foodie delights, let me take you soaring into New Zealand’s sky-high spectacles – airshows. Every other Easter weekend sees historic aircraft swooping over Lake Wanaka during the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow – a sight that would give any Top Gun enthusiast goosebumps.

Exploring New Zealand's Natural Beauty

New Zealand is a gem of natural beauty, with diverse landscapes ranging from national parks to glaciers. Each region offers unique experiences and sights that change dramatically with the seasons.

The national parks, for instance, are breathtaking year-round. The Abel Tasman National Park on the South Island boasts golden beaches and crystal-clear waters during summer months - perfect for kayaking or hiking along coastal tracks.

In contrast, if you're visiting in winter, don't miss the Franz Josef Glacier located about 100 miles north of Queenstown on the West Coast. It’s an awe-inspiring sight as it glistens under a clear winter sky.

The Coromandel Peninsula: A Haven of Natural Beauty

North Island also has its share of nature's wonders. Take a trip to the stunning Coromandel Peninsula. With long hours of sunshine in summer and mild winters due to its North island weather advantage, this peninsula is popular all year round.

Rainy weather:

If you plan your visit around July (Auckland), December (Queenstown), or March (central Otago) be prepared for rain showers, which could give way to some dramatic cloud formations across these areas – yet another element adding charm to New Zealand’s landscape.

Tara's Tip For Your Adventure:

  • No matter when you decide to explore New Zealand's incredible scenery, remember that each season brings its own magic touch, making every visit distinctively memorable.
  • Don't miss Milford or Doubtful Sound even if you only have time for a helicopter ride to see it
  • I love Able Tasman National park. Definitely backpack there! Do whatever it takes to Wharariki Beach...a famous screensaver picture. 


FAQs in Relation to the Best Time to Visit New Zealand


What is the cheapest time to visit New Zealand?

The cheapest time to hit up New Zealand tends to be during shoulder seasons - spring (September-November) and fall (March-May). Fewer crowds, mild weather, and lower prices are bonuses.

What is the rainy season in New Zealand?

New Zealand's rainiest months vary by region. For Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch it's July; for Queenstown it’s December, while Central Otago gets soaked in March.

How long is best to visit New Zealand?

To fully savour all that New Zealand offers, aim for a 2-4 week stay. This gives you enough wiggle room to explore both North and South Islands.  I know this is hard for Americans!

What is the best month to go to Australia and New Zealand?

The optimal month depends on what you're after, but generally speaking, February or March can be a good bet when balancing decent weather conditions in both countries.


To find out more about our Journey to New Zealand visit Kiwiamericans YouTube Channel or visit my website kiwiamericans.  Make sure to learn more about moving to New Zealand with my FREE Masterclass.



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