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When is the best time to visit New Zealand?

Guests often ask us, ‘What is the best time of the year to travel?’ When it comes to visiting Aotearoa New Zealand there’s no such thing as a bad time. Our climate can be summarised in one word: changeable.

‘Four Seasons in One Day’ is not only a classic kiwi pop-song, it’s a meteorological phenomenon we experience often. Having said that, depending on the kind of experience you’re looking for some seasons are generally better than others.

Summer (December - February)

Long summer days are ideal for enjoying the great outdoors: walking, boating, swimming, biking and sea-kayaking, and exploring NZ’s back-roads, beaches and National Parks. Schools close for a month or more and many families hit the road on their annual vacation. Some places can get crowded but with a little local knowledge you can easily escape the crowds.

Temperatures in most parts of the country sit around 22-25˚C (72-75˚F) although it’s not at all uncommon to experience 30˚C (86˚F) or more in places like Central Otago and the Far North. No worries though: you’ll never be far from a beach, river or lake in which to cool off.

As you travel around the country you’ll still see ‘honesty boxes’ on the side of the road alongside displays of fresh farm produce. There are no shopkeepers here; just pop your money in the box for whatever produce you pick up. Look out for two of our native trees – the pohutukawa in the north and the rata in the south. Both of them blossom with stunning crimson flowers in December, making them a much-loved sign of summer.

Best time to visit New Zealand summer

Autumn (March – May)

Autumn is a stunning time to travel around Aotearoa New Zealand. Summer’s warmth lingers on till April with temperatures averaging 20˚C (68˚F) in most parts of the country. Dry hills turn back to green and the leaves change colour on the vineyards and many of our trees. The sunsets take on a golden glow. The slightly cooler temperatures are perfect for active travel, for road-trips and for strolling through the parks and streets of New Zealand’s cities and towns. The culinary scene throughout the country is a little uneven but there are some excellent wineries and eateries to experience. Our local knowledge can lead you to the best.

Winter (June – August)

When that southerly wind blows it can get cold, that’s for sure. Temperatures can dip below 5˚C (41˚F) anywhere in the country and plenty of rain can fall. It’s beautiful – wrap up warm and get out there! The waterfalls come alive, the mountains are covered with snow, the crowds are gone and you’ll find wide open spaces to enjoy all to yourself. 

New Zealand has excellent ski-areas on both islands that provide access into New Zealand’s majestic mountains. The nearby ski-towns come alive in the winter evenings and are a great way to meet the locals and explore the bars and restaurants. Outside of these areas it’s tourism’s low-season so great deals can be found on accommodation and activities.

New Zealanders love their winter season team-sports, none more so than rugby. For an authentic cultural experience on any Saturday you can go along to a sports-ground and join the locals cheering on their boys and girls. Whether it’s two teams of school-kids playing each other or the mighty All Blacks up against our greatest foe Australia it will surely be an unforgettable spectacle. You might not understand the rules but you’ll recognise the passion and the pride.

Best time to visit New Zealand walk

Spring (September – November)

New Zealand’s spring officially begins in September although cold southerly storms can sweep through the country occasionally well into November. As the days get longer and warmer you’ll see signs of spring everywhere: urban workers enjoying their lunch-breaks in city parks, newly-born lambs skipping around farm-paddocks, daffodils popping out everywhere and magnolia trees blossoming.

In spring the weather can be even more changeable than normal, so keep a rain-jacket handy. This is a great time of year to travel in New Zealand – before the tourism high-season begins, and when the countryside seems fresh and full of new life. Hiking trails and bike-paths will be relatively empty of people, especially mid-week. Temperatures will most likely be in the 15-20˚C (59-68˚F) range – perfect for active travel.

For a tailor-made road-trip through Aotearoa New Zealand get in touch.

Tamarillo Active Travel: local guides, local knowledge.