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Best Time to Visit New Zealand – From a Local!

Best Time to Visit New Zealand – From a Local!

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Finally planning that bucket list trip to New Zealand but not sure when’s the best time to visit?

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, and honestly, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. But, having lived and traveled across New Zealand, we can safely say we’re well-versed in all of the seasons here, on both the North and South Islands.

We’ve traveled all around the country at different times of the year, from skiing holidays to epic road trips. And now, we’re going to share our experience with you so that you know when the ideal time for you to visit is. So grab your passport and let’s dive into the best times of year to visit New Zealand! 

When is the Best Time to Visit New Zealand?

Bailey-and-Daniel-pose-on-a-boat-cruise-of-the-Milford-Sound-New-Zealand through get your guide
Taking a nature cruise through stunning Milford Sound, New Zealand
Bailey-at-Mission-Estate-Winery-in-Napier-New-Zealand
Mission Estate Winery is incredible!

For us, the short answer is March! It’s the end of summer, so most of the tourists have gone home by this point, but the weather is still good. And for me, balmy days and quieter attractions are the perfect conditions for exploring New Zealand. It’s a true Goldilocks month. 

Overall, though, the summer is the best time to visit New Zealand. Here in the Southern Hemisphere, that’s between December and February. I love the weather at this time of year because it’s perfect for hiking, enjoying the beaches, and exploring the Great Outdoors – and if you ask me, that’s what a trip to New Zealand is all about! Summer is also ideal for road-tripping because you won’t need to worry about any snow on the mountain roads either, which can be a hazard during the colder months.

However, I will say that the summer can get very busy, especially during the school holidays. I would advise you to avoid coming between mid-December and the end of January if you can, because this is when schools in Australia and New Zealand are on holiday, which means tourist hotspots get super busy, and prices go up. However, early December and February are ideal. 

The Four Seasons in New Zealand and Best Time to Visit During Each One

Summer 

Bailey-hikes-up-to-the-Mueller-Hut-in-New-Zealand
Hiking to Mueller Hut
Bailey-walks-up-to-the-door-of-a-Hobbit-Hole-at-Hobbiton-in-New-Zealand
Hobbiton is a must visit!

Best month to visit – February

Pros 

  • All Great Walks are open in summer, as well as other hikes
  • Warmer weather and typically less rain
  • Safer road conditions 
  • Can pack lighter

Cons 

Summer runs from December to February, and it’s the driest time of year – hooray! Temperatures average between 20-25°C (68-77°F) during the day, and the nights are cool, but not cold. We love spending the summer in New Zealand because the climate is perfect for enjoying outdoor activities, but it’s not overwhelmingly hot, either. 

However, all of this good weather (and the school holidays) attracts tourists in droves. From mid-December to the end of January, New Zealand’s hotspots get super busy, since this is when schools are on their summer break. As a result, prices are higher and you’ll need to be organized and book tours in advance so you don’t miss out. 

If you can, I highly recommend visiting in February. This is still peak summer, so the weather is great but the kids are back at school, so it’s an ideal time to travel. Or if you really want to get away from the crowds, I also love the month of March, which is the beginning of autumn. Attractions are noticeably quieter during this time but the weather is usually still good, so it’s a win-win. 

Autumn 

A-road-during-autumn-new-zealand
Look at those colors
Bailey-in-the-road-near-Franz-Josef-Autumn-New-Zealand
Magical!

Best month to visit – March

Pros 

  • Less busy
  • Can still get warm, dry weather in March and early April
  • Beautiful autumn colors in April
  • Cheaper time to visit, and tours don’t book up that far in advance
  • May is the least busy month in New Zealand

Cons

  • Cools down dramatically in April and May
  • Will get some snow in the mountains, but not enough to ski
  • Most Great Walks close on April 30th, especially on the South Island
  • Campervan and motorhome high-season pricing is in effect until around the end of March
  • April school holidays – usually the second half of April, but you can check exact dates here

Autumn is from March to May, and this is when the weather begins to cool down. But cooler weather does mean fewer crowds, so I don’t think you should discount autumn altogether. 

In fact, my favorite month in New Zealand is March, because the weather’s so good that it’s practically still summer, but the crowds have departed. This means that attractions are quieter and I don’t find it necessary to book activities as far in advance, which allows for a little more spontaneity! 

Most of the Great Walks are still open for the start of autumn, and they are really beautiful in April when the leaves start to change. However, they tend to close around April 30. In fact, all of the alpine tracks on the South Island shut after this date, so May is not great for hiking! Meanwhile, the North Island Great Walks are also more dangerous at this time, so they’re generally only recommended for advanced hikers after the end of April.

Related Read: Planning a road trip or two? Our ultimate guide on renting a campervan in New Zealand has lots of helpful tips!

Winter 

Bailey-at-the-Remarkables-ski-area-on-a-mountain-with-a-beer-New-Zealand
Who doesn’t love a good beer while skiing?
Bailey stands on the edge of the Hooker Lake in Mount Cook National Park
The Hooker Valley Track is great during the winter

Best month to visit – July or August outside school holidays

Pros 

  • By mid-June, ski resorts are open (most years)
  • Cold winter weather for snow sports
  • Cheapest time to rent a motorhome (but you’ll want a heater)
  • Many activities outside ski towns are quiet, such as Milford Sound

Cons 

  • July school holidays
  • Most ski towns are full
  • Advanced bookings are required for hotels in ski locations
  • Roads can be closed or dangerous during snow storms

As much as we love the summer, we always look forward to skiing in New Zealand in the winter! I grew up in the Canadian Rockies so I’m no stranger to the slopes, and we always try to spend a bit of time in Queenstown to access some of the country’s most popular ski resorts, like Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. However, the North Island also has some choice picks (or should that be pistes?) with Whakapapa and Turoa on offer.

The thing is, skiing is probably the main thing that draws people to New Zealand in winter, so the ski towns are usually full. Whenever we’ve gone skiing outside of Queenstown, we’ve had to book hotel rooms way in advance. 

But what if you don’t want to ski? Well, the good news is that places like Milford Sound and Hobbiton are quiet during the winter, whereas they’re very busy in summer. Speaking from experience, getting to see these major attractions when they’re quiet is pretty special, and you don’t need to book your tours months in advance, either.

Spring

Bailey-with-lupins-at-Lake-Tekapo-New-Zealand
Lake Tekapo when the flowers are in bloom is amazing
Bailey-on-the-Routeburn-Track-in-Mt-Aspiring-National-Park-New-Zealand
Hiking Routeburn in November is perfect

Best Month to visit – November for hikes, September for skiing

Pros 

  • Spring skiing in September
  • September and early October is one of the country’s quietest periods
  • Temperatures start to warm up
  • Don’t have to book far in advance
  • Can get cheaper campervans and motorhomes (until October)
  • Roads are usually safer (from snow and ice)

Cons 

  • Can be wet in late spring
  • Not hot enough to swim but not cold enough to ski (most of the season)
  • Mid-season with fewer tours and activities running

I do love a bit of spring skiing, especially on the South Island, as it tends to be colder. This means you can still get some pretty great days on the slopes without the crowds, even as the weather starts to warm up a little. I also like that you don’t need to book as far in advance or worry about bad road conditions.

However, I should note that I find October especially to be a bit of a weird in-between month. There are fewer tours running, yet campervan and motorhome prices go up, so it’s not that cheap to take a road trip. It’s also too warm to ski on both islands by this point, but not yet hot enough to swim, particularly on the South Island. It’s a really quiet time of year, though, as the summer crowds are yet to descend, and we love feeling as though we have places to ourselves! 

Related Read: Now that you know when to visit, check out our list of all the unique things to do in New Zealand to add to your trip!

Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Bailey takes a selfie with a JUCY campervan
Ready to hit the road!
Bailey stands infront of a JUCY campervan in New Zealand
JUCY is another favorite!

The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)

You can search for rental cars online here in advance to compare car models and prices.

You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!

JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.

We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! What a good deal!

You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.

Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.

Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie while exploring Christchurch, New Zealand
Thanks for reading!

I’m so excited you’re coming to visit New Zealand! I truly love all the seasons in New Zealand, there’s a reason why this country stole our hearts and we’ve lived here and come back often. While March is our perfect month here, I think you can have a fantastic trip here any time of the year.

Now that you’ve hopefully decided when you’re going to New Zealand, it’s time to plan out exactly what you want to do when you arrive. Check out our other blogs on the South Island and North Island for ideas or here are a few related blogs you might like:

An Ideal Two-Week New Zealand South Island Itinerary (Our Road Trip Guide!)

15 BEST Beaches in New Zealand (on the North Island)

12 BEST New Zealand Honeymoon Destinations + Activities & Hotels