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A big part of planning a hiking holiday is choosing the best month for your visit – after all, one of the main reasons you’re visiting is to explore New Zealand’s Great Outdoors, and the weather plays an important factor in this. Below, we’ll describe the features of each of New Zealand’s seasons and discuss how this relates to choosing the best month for your New Zealand hiking holiday.
My name is Andrew Wells and I’ve been working as a professional hiking guide in New Zealand since 1999. I’ve spent a lot of time hiking in all sorts of weather in all the calendar months of the year, showcasing New Zealand’s best walking tracks to visitors.
The best months for hiking in New Zealand
There’s no ‘bad’ time for hiking in New Zealand – it’s possible to enjoy our national parks and wilderness areas during all the months of the year. However, different months do create different experiences. Find out below which month suits you best.
The months of Spring ‘officially’ end in November, but Spring conditions can continue in certain places through to December. These months are characterised by flowers in bloom, longer days and warmer temperatures coming out of the winter months. Average high temperatures around Auckland sit around 18 C (64 F), while further south, Christchurch hovers around 17 C (63 F) and Queenstown 15 C (59 F). By choosing to visit in the months of spring, you’ll beat the high season rush of summer.
During September, daylight savings begins; meaning lots of daylight hours for hiking. Alpine flowers bloom around October and December; flowers like lupins decorating the landscape with splashes of purple, pink and blue. However, the months of spring can be unsettled and rain is not uncommon.
Kiwis look forward to the long periods of fine, dry weather that the summer months bring and a happy summer holiday vibe spreads across the whole country. Days are even longer during this time of year – in some places, it doesn’t get dark till 10pm. Temperatures warm up quite a bit, with the average summer high temperature in Auckland sitting around 23 C (73 F). Christchurch averages around 22 C (72 F), while Queenstown hovers at 20 C (68 F).
The summer months are your best chance of good hiking weather. It’s the warmest time of the year, but days are not usually oppressively hot, and beaches and lakes are a great temperature to swim in. However, it is New Zealand’s ‘high’ season; there are more people around but you won’t encounter the busyness of places like the European Alps in high season. It’s still possible to enjoy hiking during these months without the crowds, but it does pay to book ahead.
The months of Autumn are a favourite time to travel for many kiwis. Days are slightly cooler but still settled, and trees in southern areas like Christchurch, Arrowtown and Wanaka turn light up in hues of gold, orange and red. The average high during these months in Auckland is 20 C (68 F), while Christchurch sits around 17 C (63F) and Queenstown is a cooler 15 C (59 F).
If you choose to plan your hiking holiday during the months of Autumn, you’re likely to experience settled weather without the crowds. There are less people around, and the colours of Autumn are breath taking. However, for flower enthusiasts, there are fewer flowers in bloom than in other months.
A quieter time for hiking, the New Zealand outdoors during the winter months offer a distinctly different experience to any other time of the year. Many places are accessible all year round, and New Zealand’s native forests are evergreen so there’s still life surrounding the trails. The average winter high in Auckland is 15 C (59 F), but Christchurch hovers around a colder 12 C (54 F) and Queenstown 9 C (48 F).
The weather during New Zealand’s winter months may surprise you – there are many crisp, clear days full of brilliant sunshine during this time of year. Travelling in winter can also be cheaper; as long as you stay away from ski resorts, accommodation and tours often cost less during the ‘off’ season. You’ll also have many of the tracks and hikes to yourself. However, days are shorter and colder; it’s a good idea to plan in advance and be ready for this with the right gear. Make sure you’re going back to cosy, warm accommodation and a piping hot dinner at the end of the day.
I hope this summary of the weather during the different months of the year has been helpful. New Zealand’s weather doesn’t follow any hard and fast rules; but in all my years guiding, I’ve never had anyone say they didn’t enjoy a hike because of the weather.
New Zealand Trails
We operate small group guided tours through the Southwest New Zealand world heritage area, incorporating day hikes on famous trails like the Routeburn and Milford Tracks. We also include once-in-a-lifetime activities such as a helicopter flight, the TranzAlpine rail journey, glacier hiking and backcountry jet boating. After a day’s exploring, you can relax with all the comforts of home – four star acommodation, an overnight lodge stay plus the best local restaurants and cuisine.
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The World Heritage Walking Tour, perfect for your trip of a lifetime. The best walks in New Zealand, iconic outdoor activities, 4-star accommodation and delicious food and wine - in a friendly small group led by expert 'Kiwi' guides.