New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world and one of the most beautiful countries to visit for outdoor activities. With spectacular landscapes, snow-capped mountain peaks and exceptional lakes, glaciers and waterfalls, New Zealand is great for hiking and for winter sports.
But given the seasonality of many activities here, it’s important to pick the best time to visit New Zealand, depending on what you are looking to see or experience in the country.
Peak season is always the summer season because from December to February the weather is at its best. In the subtropical north, it’s time to hit the beaches while in the more temperature south, it’s the best time to visit New Zealand for hiking.
Winter is cold, but it presents great opportunities for skiing and snowboarding, while the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn bring more unpredictable weather but far fewer tourists.
To inspire your trip, here’s our guide to help you choose the best time to visit New Zealand.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet New Zealand (Travel Guide)
Best Time to Visit New Zealand: Month by Month Breakdown
Visiting New Zealand in January
January is peak season in New Zealand because this is the height of the country’s admittedly short, yet beautiful summer. Generally, January sees the highest temperatures, while there’s also the least chance of rain.
This is also when most schools have their summer holidays, and following on from Christmas and New Year, January is a busy time to be in New Zealand.
Head to the beaches around Auckland to experience the summer, as New Zealanders make the most of the weather to lounge on beaches, enjoy barbecues and to swim in the ocean.
Tackle hiking trails and go white water rafting, swimming in lakes or kayaking and canoeing, but always remember to book your accommodation and tours ahead of time in January.
Visiting New Zealand in February
February is the last month of summer, but already you’ll find that temperatures, and prices, are beginning to drop from their highs in January.
Things are still warm though, and some days you’ll enjoy incredibly sunny beach weather in February. This is still a busy time of year, as travelers make the most of the hot weather to visit adventure hot-spots such as Queenstown in the south or Lake Taupo.
It’s a great time to visit the far south, to cities such as Dunedin, which will soon be experiencing much rainier and colder weather.
Visiting New Zealand in March
If you’re looking to avoid the summer crowds but still catch the last of the summer weather, then March can be the best time to visit New Zealand.
In the north, you can enjoy higher temperatures than in the south, where the good conditions are deteriorating faster. Enjoy the beach for the last time, and make the most of Auckland’s outdoor, summer culture before it gets too cold.
This is a great time for hiking, as the cool temperatures make things perfect for long-distance walking. Take in popular trails such as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing or the multi-day Milford Track.
Visiting New Zealand in April
In April, the weather is very much in an autumnal mode now, and the scenery can look spectacular as it turns from green to vibrant shades of red, yellow and brown.
The weather is unpredictable though and you’ll want to make sure that you always carry a raincoat around with you. One day you can be enjoying highs in the twenties while the next day it’s freezing cold and the clouds are bursting above you.
You won’t want to be at the beach and you probably won’t want to be swimming in any lakes in April, but you will want to make use of the cool weather to go hiking.
Visiting New Zealand in May
May is not the most popular month to be in the country, but if you want to avoid the crowds, it can still be the best time to visit New Zealand.
It’s almost winter though, and May can be notoriously cold and rainy, a situation which is more pronounced the further south you travel.
Things are much cheaper in May and you can really enjoy a quieter side of the country than you can any other time of the year. If the weather is good then you can hit the hiking trails still, or if it’s really raining, then just enjoy the sights and attractions in big cities such as Auckland or Wellington.
Visiting New Zealand in June
In June, it’s the start of the winter season in New Zealand, and like May, this is very much the off-season. You can find great deals on flights and accommodation, but bring your raincoat and bring plenty of warm clothing, because it’s going to be cold.
The North Island and Auckland especially experience heavy rain, while in the south the mountains are starting to collect snowfall.
While many hiking trails will now be closed off, due to increasing snowfall and bad weather, if you’re into snow sports this is the first month when the ski slopes begin to open in the South Island.
Remember though that this is only the start of the ski season, and conditions can be unpredictable, so you might want to consider holding off a few weeks.
Visiting New Zealand in July
If you are looking to ski, then July can be the best time to visit New Zealand. This is when the snow sports season is in full swing, and you can enjoy great runs in both the north and the south of the country.
The ski resorts can be busy in July, and you can expect prices to go up while accommodation can get booked up too. The weather is cold, so bring plenty of warm clothing.
In the far north, there isn’t much snow and you need to prepare for a lot of rain to fall in Auckland and other destinations in the vicinity as the subtropical climate here is quite different to the more temperate areas of the country.
Visiting New Zealand in August
August is another popular month for skiing and snowboarding, and after snowfall through June and July on the alpine areas, then the runs are in perfect shape.
The resorts can be busy though because this is the most popular snow sports month and you’ll want to book in advance to be sure that you get accommodation in places like Queenstown.
Temperatures are low across the country, and like in July, you can expect lots of rain in the northern areas. The cold weather though, makes this a good time to enjoy New Zealand’s thermal hot springs and you can visit places like Rotorua or Taupo, where you can relax in thermal spas to warm up.
Visiting New Zealand in September
The weather starts to improve again in September, but always remember that this is New Zealand, and the weather is always unpredictable!
Prepare for a mixture of sunshine and rain, and be ready for the cold all the time. The ski season is officially over now, but that makes this a good time to visit if you want to see the country without many other tourists.
You’re limited on what you can do, but the cities can be great to visit, and you can even catch whales off the coast of the South Island if you travel to Kaikōura.
Visiting New Zealand in October
October is spring at its best in New Zealand, and it’s a beautiful time to be in the country. Everything is blooming and the countryside and the mountains are colorful as the snow melts and leaves behind those fantastic traces of spring.
You can start to hit the hiking trails again in October, and you can enjoy the fresh mountain air, with almost no rainfall and ever-rising temperatures.
This is a great time to enjoy a wide array of outdoor activities in fact, and you can not only go hiking but you can white water raft, kayak or mountain bike.
Visiting New Zealand in November
November is technically still spring but towards the end of the month, it starts to feel a lot like summer. This can easily be the best time to visit New Zealand because in November you can enjoy beautiful weather that’s perfect for experiencing the great outdoors.
Compared to the coming summer high season, November is much quieter, and costs are comparatively lower too. You can hike on trails that are still almost empty, and you can road trip around and have spectacular spots all to yourself.
Visiting New Zealand in December
December is one of the busiest times of the year in New Zealand, as this is the start of the high season. Given the combination of hot weather and the fact that these are the Christmas and New Year holidays, it’s no surprise that you’ll find New Zealand to be popular through December.
The weather is hot and New Zealanders start to head to the beaches, to enjoy the brief summer sunshine while it lasts. It’s a great time for hiking, although it can almost get too hot in the north. Be sure to cool off with a dip in the lakes or a trip to a waterfall.
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