New Zealand is a beautiful country to visit in every season. As a rough guide, summer runs from December through to February, autumn is from March to May, winter is from June to August and spring is from September to November. Maximum daily temperatures in the summer can range from 15 to 30+ degrees Celsius. In winter, temperatures can range from around freezing to 18 degrees. Different parts of the country have very different climates. The north of the North Island is sub-tropical during the summer and the climate becomes more temperate as you travel south.
The busiest season for tourism in New Zealand is Christmas through to the end of February, when school holidays coincide with the best weather. New Zealanders desert the cities in droves and head for the beaches and mountains. This is also the peak season for international tourism as well. Popular tourist towns such as Queenstown, Rotorua, Taupo and beach resorts will be very busy at this time, and rightly so. Accommodation and activities should be booked well in advance during this period to avoid disappointment.
March through to May is one of the nicest times to travel in New Zealand as summer often lingers far longer than expected and the crowds have departed. Night temperatures are likely to be chilly but daytime temperatures usually remain high and the seas are still lovely for swimming. Some areas of the country, such as Central Otago and Hawkes Bay, are particularly scenic as autumn approaches and the leaves start to change.
Winter brings colder weather to whole country and more rain to the North Island. The mountains of both islands become snow-covered providing beautiful vistas and excellent skiing. While the South Island may be cold, some areas experience little rain and sunny days during this period so it can be an excellent time to experience the scenic beauty of the country. Mountain passes are sometimes closed by snowfall and back-country walking and cycling trails are likely to be off-limits.
Spring is another great time to travel if you are looking to avoid the busy period. Blossom is abundant, new-born lambs frolic in the fields and new life is everywhere. This is a particularly fun time for white water rafting and experiencing the waterfalls at Milford Sound as the snow melt swells the rivers and streams to their highest levels.
The weather can be extremely changeable and unpredictable with the potential for experiencing four seasons in one day. We always recommend that people prepare for every eventuality – it is always wise to pack layered clothing, a warm jacket and waterproofs.