Kia ora! Heading to the land of hobbits and rugby soon? With a range of diverse climates–from subtropical in the north to cooler alpine areas in the south–across two islands, there’s a lot to consider when planning a trip to New Zealand.
The varied landscape is one of the main draws for visitors, whether you want to surf, hike, or sample local wine, but it can also make scheduling a trip difficult.
Depending on what you want to do, the best time to visit New Zealand can vary a lot. Snow in the mountain may ruin a hiking trip, but make a skiing trip happen.
That’s why we’ve outlined the best, cheapest, least busy, and worst times to visit New Zealand. With the information below, you’ll be able to choose the perfect time to visit!
Why You Should Visit New Zealand
New Zealand is an incredible place to visit–it’s beautiful, friendly, easy to travel around, and you can find everything you’d want to do there.
For outdoor adventurers, you can choose between skiing in Wanaka, rafting down the Tongariro River, or hiking one of the famed Great Walks of New Zealand. Or better yet, all of the above!
For people looking for a more relaxed trip, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Marlborough aka New Zealand wine country!
Not only will you taste local vintages renowned around the world, but you also get sweeping views of the Marlborough Sounds, fresh seafood meals, and time spent in one of the sunniest spots in all of New Zealand.
Other fun Kiwi activities include:
- Middle Earth™ Activities where fans of the Lord of the Rings world can visit The Shire and Hobbit Holes™, taste a banquet meal at the Green Dragon Inn™, and sip on some Southfarthing™ beer!
- A day at the famous Ninety Mile Beach where you can enjoy the sunset and surf in peace.
- Visiting a local craft brewery to meet locals and try unique beers.
- A day spent urban exploring in cities like fast-paced Auckland, the capital city of Wellington, or lakeside Queenstown!
- Test your bravery at the Sky Tower in Auckland where you can dine at the rotating restaurant seated 620 feet from the city streets below. Daredevils can even jump off the sky-high tower at 50+ mph, held only by a wire!
- Keep your adrenaline pumping at one of their many extreme sports facilities. Bungy jumping, skydiving, and zip lining can be found throughout the country and will leave your heart pumping.
- Catch a game of the most popular sport in New Zealand: rugby. Whether it’s an All Blacks game, Super Rugby Pacific League match, or local Sunday night footy, you’ll love the high-energy atmosphere of Kiwi rugby!
- Pay respect to the traditional Maori people of Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand) by visiting the important Tane Mahuta tree with local Maori storytellers, learning about Polynesian explorer Kupe in the Hokianga region, or find unique art from Maori artists at the New Zealand Maori Art and Crafts Institute.
Now that you have an idea of all of the fun you can get into in New Zealand, read on to find out the best times to visit to make the most of your trip to this amazing country!
Overall Best Time to Visit New Zealand
December to March is the overall best time to visit New Zealand. It’s the Southern Hemisphere’s summer season, so you can expect longer days, warmer weather, and sunnier skies.
That’s why it’s especially the best time for visitors from the Northern Hemisphere–you can escape the cold, gloomy winter and enjoy New Zealand’s summer.
If you’re looking to make the most of New Zealand’s famed outdoors, December to March allows for the most variety in activities. Hiking and biking are enjoyable around the entire country.
Plus, the water temperatures in the rivers, lakes, and (most of the) ocean are all warm enough to swim.
The beaches on the northern tip of the North Island even rival the best tropical beaches! If you want to tour the wine country of New Zealand, March is the ideal month because it’s the start of the wine harvest.
You can witness the hard work it takes to make your favorite bottle of vino while taking in the beautiful views of the rolling vineyard hills. Some wineries even offer tours that will get you behind the scenes.
December to March is also the best time to meet locals as more are out and about picking up a pint at the local brewery or seeing their country’s sights for themselves.
Cheapest Time to Visit New Zealand
The cheapest time to visit New Zealand is during the winter season from June to August. You can save hundreds of dollars on flights and accommodation (in most places) by visiting during these months.
If you’re cold-weather adverse, you can enjoy your time in New Zealand during the winter months, particularly if you stay near the Auckland area. The coldest it gets is around 50˚F, so it won’t be freezing.
For most outdoor adventurers, this is not the best time to visit because not only do the colder temperatures make outdoor activities like rafting or swimming impossible, but it’s also one of the rainiest times of the year.
Hiking, biking, and scenic walks become muddy messes without the same views as during the summer. However, this is an ideal time to visit if you’re looking to ski because the colder temperatures mean perfect snow conditions on the ski mountains on the South Island.
However, because of that, you won’t get as good of a deal on accommodations near ski towns.
While you won’t be able to take part in every activity you would be able to in the summer months, it’s still a great time to visit if you love museums and urban exploring. The cheap flights and reasonable accommodation costs make it worth it.
Least Busy Time to Visit New Zealand
Visit New Zealand from September to November (spring) or March to April (fall) if you hate crowds. There’s also the added benefit of warmer temperatures and longer days during these times.
Plus, you can usually find deals on hotels in the shoulder seasons. If you’re planning on booking some popular activities like visits to Hobbiton, this is the ideal time to visit.
You’ll avoid the crowds that flock to beautiful New Zealand during the summer months, but you’ll still get to enjoy temperate weather and sunny skies.
This is also a great time to explore the natural beauty of the country. Because of the milder temperatures and longer days, hikes and other outdoor activities are even more enjoyable than during the hot months of summer.
Swimming is more limited than from December to March, but beaches along the North Island to the North of Auckland can still be enjoyed during these months.
For budget travelers not wanting to visit during winter, the spring and autumn seasons are a great choice because many accommodations offer deals outside of the peak tourism summer season. However, discounts are not going to be as tourist-friendly as during winter.
Worst Time to Visit New Zealand
The worst time to visit New Zealand for most travelers is in the winter season from June to August. The weather is colder and wetter than any other time of the year and some attractions (mostly outdoor ones) shut down during these months.
Depending on what you’re looking to do during your time in New Zealand, going between June and October can ruin your trip.
If you want to enjoy the beaches, hikes, and outdoor dining that the country is famous for, you really won’t be able to do so comfortably.
However, if you want to ski, snowboard, or do another winter sport, it’s a great time to visit because you can find cheap flights and amazing snow conditions. However, accommodations, food, and lift passes are all still at their peak prices during this time.
In truth, picking the best or worst time to visit the country is up to your budget and preferences. People visiting for the culture can still enjoy this time by visiting museums, art galleries, and local indoor hotspots for dinner and drinks.
You won’t be able to meet as many fellow travelers or locals, so be prepared for a less social visit than you could expect in the warmer months.
Things to Consider
Now that you know the best, cheapest, least busy, and worst time to visit New Zealand, here are some things to keep in mind during your upcoming trip:
- Kiwis drive on the left side of the road. Because the best way to see many different parts of New Zealand is by renting a car, make sure you’re aware of this at all times! Traffic circles are very common, so pay particular attention to how you enter them.
- Speaking of driving, roads in NZ are typically narrower, steeper, and more winding than you’re probably used to at home. While distances can seem short according to a map, they will take longer to drive than you’re expecting because of the road conditions. Plan accordingly!
- New Zealand has incredibly strict biosecurity measures in air and seaports! Because of the incredible natural diversity and delicate ecosystems across the country, they keep a careful watch on what visitors bring in and out of their borders. If you’re bringing outdoor gear, make sure it’s properly washed or they will not allow it in.
- Even though nearby Australia is known for its long list of deadly animals, New Zealand’s local flora and fauna are much less dangerous. The most frequent animal sighting will be one of the wooly Merino sheep that is vital to the New Zealand economy.
- Many shops and restaurants close earlier than you may be used to if you’re coming from the United States or Europe, especially during the winter months or in smaller towns. Most places will close by 7-8 pm.
- New Zealand is expensive! It’s 14% more expensive than the US, so be prepared to pay more for everyday items like your morning coffee, toiletries, or a meal out. If you’re wanting to save money, sticking to smaller towns, cooking your meals, and avoiding big attractions like Hobbiton or the Sky Tower in Auckland allows you to stick to a tighter budget.
- Bring sunscreen! Because of its proximity to the equator and low levels of air pollution, New Zealand has an incredibly high UV index, especially in the alpine areas.
This means there’s a higher chance of damage to your skin and eyes if unprotected. Reapplying sunscreen and wearing sunglasses will save you from the pain and health risks associated with high sun exposure like sunburn and skin cancer.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re planning your upcoming trip to New Zealand, you probably have a lot of questions about visiting. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about visiting New Zealand:
Do you need a visa for New Zealand?
Unless you’re an Australian or New Zealand citizen, you will need either a visa or New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTa) permit to enter New Zealand. Visa-free countries that only require the NZeTa include, but are not limited to, most European Union countries, the UK, and the United States. Check if your country is a visa waiver country here.
How many days do you need to see New Zealand?
Because New Zealand is the sixth-largest country in the world and has a wide variety of scenery and activities across its two main islands, you’ll need at least 14 days to see everything. However, if you’re looking to make a shorter trip, sticking to one region is a great way to experience New Zealand.
What language does New Zealand speak?
New Zealand has three official languages: English, Te Reo Maori, and New Zealand Sign Language. English is the most widely spoken, but there are also over 160 other languages spoken in New Zealand. All road signs will be in English and most will have Te Reo Maori on them as well.
What is New Zealand’s currency?
New Zealand uses the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). Most shops and restaurants will only accept NZD when using cash, but you can charge a card in international currency at some bigger establishments.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit New Zealand?
To make the most of your trip to New Zealand, the best time to visit is from December to March for warmer temperatures, longer days, and dryer conditions.
If you’re on a budget, visiting during the shoulder seasons from March-June or September-November means good weather and more options for accommodation. The worst time to visit New Zealand is June-August because it’s colder and wetter.
However, for winter sports enthusiasts, this can be a great time to visit because the snow conditions are at their best and you can find great deals on flights and most accommodations.