There really isn't a bad time to travel to New Zealand. But there are certainly different time to suit the vast range of sights and activities on offer.
There are basically 3 things you could look at when deciding what is the best time for you. Number one; the Seasons, which then effects the crowds, and cost of accommodation.
New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere; therefore, all seasons are the opposite of those in North America, Europe, and other Northern Hemisphere locations.
So, here’s the long answer…
1. The Seasons
As I said, there is no ‘bad’ time to visit New Zealand, but if you’re coming here for a particular activity like skiing, sightseeing, wine tours or sailing, then particular times of year and areas of New Zealand will appeal to you.
Summer - December to February
The Peak season - a popular time of year for getting outdoors and experiencing all the natural beauty New Zealand has to flaunt. December to February, bringing high temperatures and sunshine. Days are long and sunny, nights are mild. Summer is an excellent time for walking in the bush and a variety of other outdoor activities. New Zealand’s many gorgeous beaches are ideal for swimming, sunbathing, surfing, boating, and water sports.
Keep in mind, though, that most Kiwi families take their main annual holidays between mid-December and the end of January, which puts enormous pressure on accommodations in major summer beach destinations.
Autumn - March to May
Temperatures are a little cooler than summer, the weather can be excellent, and it is possible to swim in some places until April. Colourful changing leaves make autumn a scenic delight, especially in regions such as Central Otago and Hawke’s Bay, which are known for their autumn splendour, perfect for wine tours and hikers who want to escape the busiest seasons. The key is to dress in layers.
Locals also like to holiday during the Easter break which coincide with school holidays (April, June to July) so it pays to reserve well in advance.
Winter - June - August
June to August bring colder weather to much of the country, and more rain to most areas in the North Island. Mountain ranges in both islands become snow-covered, providing beautiful vistas and excellent skiing or sightseeing. While the South Island has cooler winter temperatures, some areas of the island experience little rainfall in winter, so this is an excellent time to visit glaciers, mountains, and other areas of scenic beauty.
Ski fields typically open in June, or even earlier if the snow conditions are really good. The top spots for winter sports are Queenstown, Cardrona, and Mount Hutt down South, and the Central Plateau in the North Island. Accommodations at ski destinations fill up quickly - so book early and be prepared to pay higher winter prices. But in most other areas that don't host winter sports, you'll be paying lower rates during these months.
Spring - September - November
Cue Daylight Savings! The clocks spring forward bringing the sun and longer days. New Zealand’s spring weather is going from cold and frosty to warm and hot. During spring flowers, blossoms and other new growth comes to life and new born lambs bounce around in the fields. While it tends to be fairly quiet on the tourist front, it's certainly not a bad time to be here.
If you’re into white water rafting, this is the time when melting spring snow makes river water levels excitingly high!
A local tip:
“Four Seasons in One Day” New Zealand does not have a large temperature range, lacking the extremes one finds in most continental climates. However, the weather can change unexpectedly - as cold fronts or tropical cyclones quickly blow in. Because of this, you should be prepared for sudden changes in weather and temperature if you’re going hiking or doing other outdoor activities. The best tip; dress in layers.
2. Averting the masses
If you’re not a fan of sharing your space, then you’ll need to plan ahead. Not only does New Zealand receive millions of foreign tourists each year, the locals like to move about too. Camp-sites and areas on and around lakes and beaches tend to become very crowded when Kiwis are on holiday.
New Zealand celebrates a number of National public holidays, regional holidays and school holidays. Kiwi families do much of their travelling during these periods, so book early. Check out peak season dates here
A local tip:
Ask local’s where they recommend you visit, after all they know the area best, they might just share some “hidden gems.”
Because of New Zealand’s diversity, there really isn't a ‘low’ season, it’s just about always busy, but there are times when accommodation is cheaper.
You can find the best rates at hotels and motels during May and early June, people don’t travel as much, so business slows down.
The most expensive months are obviously summer during the peak tourist season. Booking way in advance is recommended, you’ll most likely need to pay a deposit too. Also, accommodation can be slightly more expensive on Public Holidays, such as Christmas, Easter.
A local tip:
If you find yourself looking to travel in the busiest periods, and don’t mind the basics, check out local hostels. Many offer private rooms (and bathrooms) at unbeatable prices. After-all, you’re going to be spending most of your time exploring, not sitting in your hotel room, right?
So if you’re coming to New Zealand for a specific holiday, whether it be summer, or snow, be prepared to share & aim to book in advance. But if you’re not travelling for any reason in particular other than to bask in all of New Zealand’s glory, spring, or even autumn are a good bet.
Still need a little more information? Give us a call and we’ll let you know exactly when you should grace our shore & Discover New Zealand.
At Discover New Zealand, our tours offer an incredible opportunity to explore at your own pace. The New Zealand specialists, our self-drive and independent coach tours of the North and South Islands are the greatest way to see our beautiful country!