New Zealand Winter Travel

The complete guide to New Zealand winter travel, Jun to Sep, weather and things to see and do.

Why Visit New Zealand in Winter Time?

When you think of New Zealand, you might imagine pristine South Pacific beaches, hikers on trails that look like the Swiss Alps, or mountain bikers crossing tracks in a forest. It's often viewed as a summer destination. Although New Zealand doesn’t quite have the hot weather of our Australian neighbours, summers in our islands can be glorious and it's when we see most of our international visitors. But what about winter? And when is the New Zealand winter? Our Australian cousins know that New Zealand is a great destination for skiing. Winter sees heaps of our Aussie mates hit the best slopes in the southern hemisphere. Outside of ski towns like Queenstown and Wanaka the rest of the country is a bit quieter which means it's a great reason to visit. Lower prices, fewer crowds, and awesome cold weather attractions make winter a great time to travel down under. It can also be a convenient time for visitors from the northern hemisphere. Summer in Europe and the US is when workers traditionally take their longest holidays or vacation time. Why not use a couple of weeks of your summer holidays to travel to the other side of the world where you can experience New Zealand in a totally different light. The beaches are still there but so are things you can only discover when the weather gets colder.


When is winter in New Zealand?

The winter months in New Zealand are roughly June to September, just as the Northern Hemisphere is heating up.


What is the weather like in winter in New Zealand?

The weather in July (the coldest month) in New Zealand will vary depending on the latitude. It also varies thanks to the topography of the location. The far north of the country has a subtropical climate (we call it the winterless north!) while the rest of the country has a temperate climate. Many of the towns on the South Island that lie in alpine areas can experience very cold temperatures in winter but coastal areas will be more temperate. The average maximum and minimum temperatures for July in Auckland range from 7 and 15 degrees Celsius (44 and 59 F). In Christchurch, in the same month, the range is 2 to 11 degrees Celsius (36 to 52 F). Queenstown, which experiences quite variance in temperatures sees average max and min temperatures of 0 to 8 degrees Celsius (32 to 46 F). 


How much does it snow in New Zealand?

The average annual snowfall in New Zealand depends on the location. Coasts receive less snow so if you’re sticking to these areas you might not see any white stuff on the ground all winter. Inland areas and places at higher altitudes, especially on the South Island, will usually see some snow during the months of June, July, and August. On the North Island, it’s highly unusual to see any snow in cities or coastal areas.


The Top 8 Reasons to visit New Zealand in winter

1. Lower prices and bargains available on accommodation, travel and events.

2. Scenery that is arguably more beautiful in winter

3. The southern hemisphere’s best skiing

4. You’ll have the place to yourself. Well, you, 4.5 million New Zealanders, and a few other travellers.

5. Baby Seals

6. Hot Springs – Much better in winter

7. The Southern Lights are a winter phenomenon.

8. Whale watching - July is the best season to see these giants of the sea.


Driving in New Zealand in winter

New Zealand is a great country for driving thanks to the open roads, amazing scenery, and good driving standards. Check out our driving in New Zealand for tourists article for detailed information.


Campervan Travel in Winter

While it’s entirely possible, using a camper van as transport and accommodation in winter in New Zealand will be tough, unless you’re fine with sleeping in cold conditions. If you do decide on camping, make sure your camper van has heating and try to camp at designated camper van sites that supply power.


Taking a tour in winter

Travel habits are changing and more and more non ski travellers are choosing wintertime to visit and see the best of the country. It's definitely a way to see the country in a different light, and something here at MoaTrek we've noticed increasing in popularity over the last few years, which is why we've now launched our Cosy Kiwi Winter Tour from June to September. A much loved 14 day itinerary hitting all the spots you've heard of, Rotorua, Tongariro National Park, Abel Tasman, Mt Cook and Queenstown, plus a few little tweaks to add to the winter wonderland fun, like an overnight stay in the thermal resort of Hanmer Springs, two nights in Wellington to discover the craft beers and food scene and the chance for some skiing in Queenstown to top it all off.


Things to do in winter in New Zealand

1. Ski Mt Ruapehu, Whakapapa and Turoa make up New Zealand's largest ski area

2. Kaikoura is renowned for its whale watching all year round

3. Premier ski & après ski destination of Queenstown

4. Thermal Hot Pools in Hanmer Springs and Onsen Hot Pools

5. Southern lights show 6. Glacier hiking at Franz Josef and Fox Glacier

7. Star Gazing at the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve


Hiking in New Zealand in Winter

New Zealand’s Great Walks are a series of multi-day hikes with varying levels of difficulty. Of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks, five are located on the South Island (the other four are on the North Island and Steward Island). The Milford Track is possibly the most famous of all the great walks and it’s easy to see why. Walking the track in Milford feels like you’ve entered a new world. Some of the great walks include Tongariro Day Walks, Abel Tasman National Park, Mount Cook National Park and the beautiful Queenstown winter walks.


Accommodation in Winter

Most of New Zealand's overseas visitors arrive in the summer months (roughly November to March). Fewer people arrive in the winter months of June, July and August. Outside of the ski towns that means lower prices for accommodation and a great opportunity to check for deals on activities and tours.


What to pack for winter travel to New Zealand

Visitors from the UK, Western Europe or the Pacific Northwest can expect similar winter conditions in New Zealand. Bring the same jackets, hats, gloves, and warm clothing that you would use for travel in the UK, Europe or North East of the USA from December to March. If you plan on hiking in winter, you’ll need sturdy waterproof boots and some extra layers of clothing. 

Packing List for Winter Travel in NZ

•    Warm jacket or fleece

•    Waterproof and windproof jacket

•    Gloves

•    Beanie or warm hat (For all you Canadians out there, this is your Tuke!)

•    Waterproof boots/shoes for hiking/wet weather

•    Lightweight, breathable long-sleeved shirts and pullovers - Merino wool is ideal

•    Hiking pants with shorts zip-offs - It can get hot in winter too

•    Swim trunks / Bathing costume – You don’t want to miss out on the hot pools.

•    Sunglasses – The New Zealand sun shines bright in winter

•    Wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap

•    Thermals – For hiking, camping, and skiing


Visit New Zealand in Winter

It might be a cliché that Kiwis are friendly. But come in winter and you’ll feel even more welcome. With fewer tourists around the locals have more time to chat and you’ll find yourself making friends in every town. If you've been to New Zealand before we'd recommend experiencing the country in winter when, despite the beaches being less inviting, there are plenty of other amazing things to see and do. So if you'd like to find out more about what winter travel in New Zealand is like, get in touch now, we'd love to chat!

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