There is no “bad” time to visit New Zealand, and the best time to visit this diverse country is totally up to what you want to find.
Do you want the ski trip of a lifetime, or are you looking for a sunny retreat? New Zealand is way down south, so the seasons are opposite from North America’s, making the best time to visit New Zealand a different mindset.
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New Zealand: A small but exciting country
The scenery is packed into a country only 1,000 miles long and 280 miles across at its widest point. There are only five million people in New Zealand, and it is not a crowded country. While you are in New Zealand, learn about Maori culture, research British history, and drink some of the world’s finest wines. Hike through unpopulated wilderness or raft on one of the most exciting white riving rafting in the world.
New Zealand has two main islands, the North and South Islands. The South Island is larger, but most of New Zealand’s population lives on the North Island. Take time to visit both islands.
Months to Visit New Zealand
Travel guides say that January and February is the best time to visit New Zealand. January and February are right in the middle of summer when schools are on vacation, and tourists flock to New Zealand. If you like the hustle and bustle, January and February are great months to visit summer festivals, including Auckland’s Laneway Festival or the New Zealand Sevens rugby tournament in Hamilton.
Take a road trip from Auckland and find your way to geothermal wonders in Rotorua. In Rotorua, can also learn about Maori culture. Located on the North Island, don’t miss Hell’s Gate or Orakei Korako with its geysers, bubbling mud pools, and otherworldly rock formations. Eat with the Maoris at Mitai, Whakarewarewa, and Tamaki. They cook their food in deep pits. Once you travel through Rotorua, head to Taupo, and visit New Zealand’s largest lake and the breathtaking Huka Falls.
Temperatures in New Zealand’s summers
February is the last month of summer in New Zealand, and temperatures are high. Go kayaking, visit Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s national day, or tour Christchurch and Auckland to see lantern festivals. There are only a few days of rain, and temperatures can rise to 25C (77⁰F, which is perfect).
Bay of Island, Kaikoura and the Dark Sky Reserve
Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, including an indoor museum, the Treaty House, and a Maori meeting house or marae. Gaze up at the ceremonial waka (canoe) spread over the area and look out at the Bay of Island.
Take a trip to the eastern coast of South Island and visit Kaikoura to watch whales and dolphins careen through the ocean. Whale-watching cruises are open all year, and you might see a sperm whale.
Head to the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, which is one of the largest dark sky reserves in the world. It is in central South Island and far from major lights. The Reserve is completely free of light pollution, making Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve perfect for stargazing. Watch carefully, and you may see the Aurora Australis or the Southern Lights. Climb Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, while in this Reserve.
March and April are great times to visit New Zealand. The country is entering autumn, trees begin to lose their leaves, and many vineyards are ready for harvest. Look for Christchurch’s Ellerslie Flower Show and Hamilton’s Balloons over Waikato.
New Zealand’s forest
Take advantage of Hokianga Harbour, where you can go camping, go dune boarding, horseback riding, hiking, and dolphin watching. Stay at Omapere or Opononi and use these villages as a base to visit Waipoua Forest, home to some of the largest living native kauri trees.
Don’t neglect to visit North Island, Tongariro National park. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its natural and cultural importance. Here are three volcanic peaks, Mount Tongariro, Ruapehu, and Ngauruhoe. You can hike a moderate day at the Tongariro Alpine Crossing or ski at the Whakapapa ski resort.
April: The month for hiking lovers
The best time to visit New Zealand Hawke’s Bay, Lake Tekapo, and Mackenzie Country is in April when the colors are spectacular. Hiking in New Zealand in April is especially great in the alpine area of the South Island. See events in April, including Wanaka’s Festival of Colour and the Auckland Royal Easter Show.
May starts to get a little chilly, but if you like adventure, bungee jumping is highly popular in the fresh air. Mountain biking is enjoyable, and game-bird hunting and fishing are popular. May is Music Month and you can help celebrate local artists. Check out the Auckland Writers’ Festival and the Great New Zealand Food Show in Hamilton.
June: A good moment to ski
June is the first month of winter and a good time to hit the ski slopes. Queenstown has an annual winter festival that includes ten days of music, snow, and entertainment. Go to Ruapehu and Taranaki in the North Island for breathtaking ski areas. You can also visit Oamaru’s Steampunk Festival and the Dunedin Midwinter Carnival for a taste of New Zealand culture.
Most ski resorts are in the South Island, but there are four resorts in the North. Here you will find commercial resorts, smaller club ski fields that allow access to affordable skiing. There is also backcountry skiing in areas like Mount Potts and the Snowfields that feature heliskiing and snowcat skiing.
Visit Queenstown during July since it is driest during this month. Winter in Wellington, but do be aware of southerly winds that can be very cold. Sights to see in July include Pancake Rocks on the South Island and the Tongariro National Park. More festivals in July include Napier’s Art Deco Weekend and Dunedin’s Chocolate Carnival.
August is a great month to keep up your ski trips and also to start enjoying warmer days. You can visit Auckland’s Restaurant Month and watch the New Zealand Fashion Week in Wellington. So much to do, and so little time!
An unpredictable weather
September is a very windy month, but spring is also coming to the country. Wellington is a bit difficult with volatile and unpredictable weather conditions, so take a trip to the Garden City in Christchurch and visit the botanic gardens in Auckland, Wellington, or Hamilton.
October is mild, and there are plenty of cool, clear days in Wellington but be aware that the weather can change quickly. Also in Wellington in October are the many cultural performances and fireworks on display.
November is mid-spring in New Zealand and a perfect time to visit the country. Look into the Canterbury A&P show, a three-day festival that combines many live demonstrations of sheep shearing and cultural activities.
December in New Zealand is the start of summer, and the holiday season is not celebrated in fluffy white snow. Celebrate the holiday season by eating fish and chips at the beach or having a barbecue in the sand. The sun doesn’t set until after 9 pm, and New Year’s Eve is interesting with the Rhythm and Vines Festival in Gisborne – the city that sees the first sunrise of the year.
There is not a bad or better time to visit New Zealand. It is a coastal country, so the weather is generally mild. Many visitors love the Spring (September – November) or Fall (March-May) since the weather is comfortable, the flights are somewhat inexpensive, and there are fewer travelers in the country. Summer is a popular time to visit New Zealand. The weather is gorgeous, the beaches are open, and the sightseeing is spectacular.
If you are a skier, visit New Zealand is in the winter, but don’t neglect the other seasons.