Hot is Cold, Cold is Hot, A Guide to New Zealand Seasons

January 9

New Zealand is known for its diversity. Crazy ass prehistoric birdlife, native rainforest of every shade of green, and ever-changing landscapes – one minute you’re deep in the mountain ranges, next on a cliff above the ocean. What Aotearoa is probably less famous for, however, is its weather. The New Zealand climate is as varied as it gets, from sub-tropical in the north to alpine in the south.

And, ask any Kiwi (especially one from Wellington) and they’ll tell you about our four seasons in one day. While you often do have to pack your raincoat, sweater and hat for any given day in New Zealand, there are legitimately four pronounced seasons throughout the year, too. If you’re looking for the best time to visit New Zealand, knowing your way around the seasons is a good idea.

Does New Zealand have 4 seasons?

Indeed it does. Being nearly 3,000 miles from the equator in the southern hemisphere, those seasons mean sunny Christmases, too. Summer is December through to February, autumn is March through May, winter is June to August and spring, September to November.

The New Zealand seasons are pretty distinct, but with the lay of the (is)land being long and skinny, they’re felt very differently from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. If you’re planning to travel to New Zealand, there’s a bit of magic at every time of year, but it’s worth checking out what the seasons bring so you can make the most of your trip.

Without further ado, we thought we’d give you a rundown of the best travel tips with winter, spring, summer and autumn in mind.

When is peak season in New Zealand?

The peak season for visitors to New Zealand is summer (December, January, February). Of course, they all go to the beaches – the cities tend to empty out over this time, particular in the first half of January. It’s a brilliant time to visit; the days are long, the water is warm, the outdoor activities are in full swing and everyone slows down a gear.

What are the best months to visit New Zealand?

That all depends what you’re after – remember that diversity? If it’s sunny days and beach time, then the summer months are the way to go. If it’s powder snow and mulled wine, get here in the winter months. For mild temperatures and fewer crowds, spring and autumn are brilliant. In spring (September to be exact) the Alexandra Blossom Festival is one to aim for – it’s New Zealand’s longest running festival, held for 17 days.

For a feast for the eyes, fall – or autumn (March, April and May) in Central Otago is absolutely spectacular. Arrowtown, particularly, with its poplar lined river and hillside, will stop you in your tracks through the months of March, April, May.

For hiking, both autumn and spring (September, October, November) are wonderful. While you may get a little more rainfall, temperatures are milder and you won’t have to share the hiking trails.

If you’re on a culinary tour, come anytime. The food’s always great.

New Zealand seasons may be distinct, but it doesn’t mean they follow the rules – it’s not unheard of to get snow in December in the South Island, or a scorching day in the middle of winter.

What is the hottest month in New Zealand?

The hottest month is generally February, with temperatures averaging mid to low 20’s across the country. That’s an average though – it can get up into the 30s on the regular, and the hottest day in New Zealand history was a scorching 42.4 °C. It was in 1973,  in Rangiora, Canterbury.

What is the best time to visit Auckland?

The City of Sails (Auckland) is at its best from November through to March, when the weather is warmer and people are out and about. In the middle of summer (December and January), Aucklanders tend to flock to the beaches, so if you’re looking to explore Auckland with a bit more peace and quiet, that’s the time. To feel the buzz of the city, though, come and get amongst in November or February, then make like a JAFA and spend January by the beach. JAFA, by the way, means Just Another Friendly Aucklander. Honest.

Auckland is great, but if you’re looking to travel to a New Zealand city that packs in the soul, windy Wellington is your place. Welly is best visited in the autumn months of March, April or May, when the weather is (reasonably) warm and the city isn’t too busy. Skate, stroll or cycle along Oriental Bay, sample the finest coffee in the country, and walk out a little more hipster than you came in. The climate leaves room for improvement, but you can’t beat Wellington on a good day.

What makes NZ summer so great?

New Zealand summer is like one rolling festival. New Zealanders tend to hit the bach (house by the beach), where there’s often live music, long sunny days recovering at the beach and even longer games of cricket. Everyone’s got their barbie fired up and their togs and jandals on – if you’re lost, bring a pocket translator. Kiwi summer is overflowing with slang.

How hot is New Zealand in January?

As a general average, expect mid 20’s, but be ready for spikes well into the 30’s. Down south, where winter can freeze your knickers off, these high summer temperatures can actually can actually be even more extreme.

What clothes should I take to New Zealand in January?

Let’s revisit that slang. You’ll want your jandals (which are thongs or flip-flops), togs (bathing suit) and, obviously, shorts, singlets and plenty of sunblock. However, this is New Zealand, and the seasons don’t always take note of your plans. Always bring some warm gear and a raincoat.

Which part of New Zealand is the warmest?

The warmest city on average is Hastings, in the Hawkes Bay, with 25.5 °C. It’s closely followed by Gisborne, and then Napier (also of the beautiful Hawkes Bay). Semi-tropical Northland has a pretty consistent temperature, too, and boasts unexplored beaches to get lost in for weeks.

Where is the sunniest place in NZ?

Bragging rights for this have been fought over for years, but the official title goes to Richmond, just outside of Nelson. In 2019, it got more than 3000 hours of sunlight – that’s more than Fiji. Helluva climate.

How warm is the ocean in New Zealand?

Like the weather, the ocean temperature varies across New Zealand, getting warmer the further north you go. In summer, the water temperature in the North Island hovers around 20-22°C, while in the South Island, that average is between 14-18°C.

In winter, you’re looking at around 15°C in the north, and as low as 8°C down south.

Is it warm enough to swim in New Zealand?

Sure – all the way down to Bluff, if you’re keen, though you might need a wettie. And a hood, and booties….and gloves. You’ll find the best swimming in the North Island, at the height of summer. The weather is fine and there are endless beaches, coves and islands to explore, from the Bay of Islands to the Coromandel.

What’s it like in winter in New Zealand?

While many spots throughout the country just see mildly cold, miserable weather with plenty of rainfall in the winter, the mountains are a different story. In fact, winter is the best time of year in this part of the country, and should be top of your travel list. While New Zealand’s position straddling two tectonic plates is precarious, it’s also given rise to the Southern Alps, the South Island’s stretch of spectacular mountain range.

Thus we have tectonic plates to thank for how awesome winter (June, July and August) is in New Zealand. The ski season actually stretches through spring until October in most places, with epic ski fields in Queenstown, Wanaka and Canterbury in the South Island, and Ruapehu in the north. When the snow arrives, the outdoor activities begin, with every flavour of skiing and snowboarding on offer.

How long is winter in New Zealand?

Official Winter – June, July and August- is three months like anywhere else, but when it comes to skiing, we drag it out as long as we can. The snow can stick around through spring until October, when many of the ski fields close. The warmer temperatures make for fun spring skiing days, and there are often less crowds.

What is the coldest month in New Zealand?

July. Bring your woolies. And your umbrella.

Is there a rainy season in New Zealand?

No, but there is generally more rainfall in the winter season than any other time of year. The wettest inhabited place award goes to Milford Sound, which gets a whopping 6,813mm of annual rain, raining on average 182 days a year. That’s almost three times the rainfall of the Amazon rainforest. Spring and summer here are relative terms – there are warmer temperatures, but it still rains. A lot.

What month rains the most?

Across the country, the rainiest time is generally during the winter season, from May to August.

Planning to travel to New Zealand? Come on down, the weather’s just fine!

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