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Best Time to Visit New Zealand (When To Go + Festivals!)

Backpacking around New Zealand is something that I believe everyone should do during their lifetime, but what is the best time to visit New Zealand?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but there can be an ideal time to visit for certain people.

For example, if you want to visit New Zealand while it’s hot then you want to go in the summer.

If you have your heart set on watching the All Blacks while you’re here, then you’ll want to come sometime between February and August when it’s rugby season.

What you do while you’re here and the places you want to visit will determine the best time to travel to New Zealand.

It does depend on the individual, but knowing the details about the weather and things to do in New Zealand can help you.

What is The Best Time to Visit New Zealand?


There isn’t a definitive answer to this question, primarily because, what is the best time of the year to visit New Zealand for one person, is not true for another. It depends on what you want to do while you are travelling in New Zealand.

With that said, there are some times of the year that are preferable to visit than others. Most people would like to visit during the summer, for the obvious reason that there will be better weather.

On the other hand, if you want to do winter sports while you’re in New Zealand, then the winter months are the better option.

There are also some places where the time of the year you visit doesn’t make much difference. The West Coast of the South Island is a prime example of this. As one o the wettest places in the world, no matter what time of the year you visit, it’s more than likely it will rain!

Another factor is the length of your trip. If you are travelling on a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa, then you will have a year or two to see what you want. Whereas, if you are solely backpacking in New Zealand for a few months, then you will have to compromise more.

The weather is certainly a factor in deciding what is the best time to go to New Zealand. The most important thing to note is that as New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are different.

When it’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s winter in New Zealand, and summer in New Zealand is during the Northern Hemisphere winter.

The summer months in New Zealand are from October to February and winter is from May to September.

Best Time to Visit The North Island

View of lake rotorua

The North Island is the smaller of the two main islands in the North Islands. However, the climate does vary depending on the places in New Zealand’s North Island.

The weather in Wellington and Auckland is often completely different for example. Wellington is known as the windy city, while Auckland has a more subtropical climate.

Northland at the very top of the island is subtropical with some amazing beaches. The areas around Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula have a similar climate.

The best time to go to these areas is definitely in the summer so you can experience the amazing scenery in great weather.

As you venture further south the climate becomes more temperate. Tongariro and Mt Egmont get cold during the winter. This allows you to do winter sports in these areas.

Though if you want to do the famous Tongariro crossing, it may be best to do it in summer when the weather is better. Towards Wellington, the weather gets more temperate and similar to the South Island.

Best Time to Visit The South Island

Sumner, Christchurch

As the bigger of the two main islands, there is some variation on when it’s best to visit the South Island. Travelling the South Island is a must if you want to see some of the best places to visit in New Zealand.

However, there are some seasonal variations to keep in mind. Ski season is during the winter, while hostel prices will be more expensive during the summer months than in winter.

Places on the South Island, and in particular the East and West Coast, have very different climates, due to the Southern Alps in the middle of the island. As a general rule, the West is wetter, while the East is drier.

The best months to visit New Zealand can depend on the weather, and the South Island is no different. Winter is good for skiing and mountaineering, while summer is better for beaches and hiking.

East Coast

The East Coast of the South Island is the drier part of the island. However, that doesn’t mean it’s sunny all the time, it rains quite a bit too. However, when compared to the West Coast, it’s a lot drier!

If you visit during the summer you’re going to get better weather than you would during the winter. Temperatures reach 0 degrees during winter and sometimes lower, although it can fluctuate.

One day it was cold, the next it was 20+ degrees in Christchurch during winter, so the climate isn’t set in stone!

However, the summer months are probably the best time of the year to visit the East Coast of the South Island. It’s a lot warmer, with temperatures regularly in the high 20’s and there’s less chance of rain.

This gives you a better chance to make the most of the amazing scenery on the East Coast!

West Coast

No matter what time of the year you visit the West Coast, you’re almost certainly guaranteed to encounter rain. It’s one of the wettest places on the Earth, with an average rainfall of 2,000-3,000 mm a year!

It’s better further north in Nelson and Golden Bay, but as you head South towards Greymouth and Westport, and down to glacier country, it gradually gets wetter.

The reason for the high rainfall is the warm northwesterly wind and the location of the Southern Alps. Once the warm air hits the Alps, it rises. This causes it to get colder, which results in the moisture in the air creating raindrops.

It’s an unfortunate circumstance of geography that leads the West Coast of New Zealand to have such high rainfall!

It will be warmer during the summer months, but it’s still likely to rain. As a result, I’m not convinced there’s a best time of the year to visit the West Coast of New Zealand. You’re going to experience rainfall during summer or winter.

As the West Coast is sparsely populated, you’re unlikely to miss out on any festivals. So, just go to the West Coast when you can. You’re going to get wet regardless!

Best time to visit Stewart Island

You may not be aware, but there’s a third island in New Zealand. Stewart Island is a 674sq mi island off the southern tip of the South Island.

As you would expect with the island at latitude 47 degrees south, the weather is unpredictable. However, the weather is temperate and it regularly reaches into the 20s during the summer months.

Stewart Island is one of the best places to see the aurora australis. This phenomenon is similar to the more well-known aurora borealis, and the further south you are the better your odds of seeing it.

Stewart Island is ideal, as there’s little light pollution and it’s as far south as you can get in New Zealand! Your best chance of seeing it is from March to September during winter.

However, the aurora is unpredictable, so it’s best to check the forecast if you have your heart set on seeing it!

If you’re not bothered about seeing the aurora australis, summer might be the best time to visit Stewart Island. The weather will be warmer and you’ll be able to do more outdoor activities without the threat of rain!


The weather in New Zealand can play a key role in the best time to travel to New Zealand. Depending on what city you are in, winter and summer can be markedly different.

This leads to the phrase four seasons in one day being used throughout the country! You could travel from place to place during the day and experience completely different weather!

This ever-changing climate has its benefits, though, as it leads to the diverse scenery in the country!

It’s important to note that New Zealand has one of the highest UV ratings in the world. The O-Zone layer is thin and in some places, non-existent in New Zealand. This means that even on a cloudy day you can get sunburnt. Always wear sun protection outside to protect yourself from the sun!

Below is a table detailing the averages for temperatures in various cities in New Zealand. The average high is the first figure, while the average low is underneath in brackets.

Festivals and Sporting Events in New Zealand

There are many festivals and sporting events held throughout the year in New Zealand. If there are some that you want to see, then it is worth planning your trip around them so you don’t miss out!

The best time of the year to visit New Zealand can coincide with events and festivals that you’d like to see!

Rugby is the national sport, and if you’re a huge Rugby fan then there’s a certain time to visit New Zealand.

This would be from February to October when it’s rugby season. If you just want to see the All Blacks, then it would be best to visit from July onwards. This is when the All Blacks start their international season, the period before that is the Super Rugby tournament!

All Blacks

The All Blacks are famous as the world’s best rugby team. Not bad for a nation of 4 million people. If you want to see them in action, then you need to be in New Zealand from July to October.

This is when they have matches at home. Buy tickets early, as they’re popular, to avoid missing out!

Christchurch Arts Festival

The Christchurch Arts Festival is a biennial event that showcases some of the best international and New Zealand performers. It’s similar in scope to the Edinburgh Festival, but just not as big. If you’re a massive art fan, this is for you. However, remember it’s only held every two years from late August to September.

New Zealand Fashion Week

New Zealand Fashion Week is one of the primary events in the New Zealand fashion calendar.

If this is your thing, the best time to go to New Zealand is towards the end of August when the event is held.

New Zealand International Film Festival

This takes places in various cities around the country, moving from one city to the next. It normally starts in July, continuing until August!

If you like films, then I suggest being in one of the big cities when the New Zealand International Film Festival rolls into town!

NRL Auckland Nines

The Auckland Nines is a rugby league competition held during the summer. If you’re a sports fan, this could be one of the best times to go to New Zealand, as it’s a real party!

It’s held in early February, so be sure to book your tickets early to ensure you don’t miss out!

Queenstown Winter Festival

Held towards the end of June, the Queenstown Winter Festival is a celebration of all things winter in New Zealand!

Any time you visit Queenstown it’s lively, but it gets turned up a notch when the Festival hits! This is a great time to visit, but book your beds in advance, as hostels sell out quickly!

Super Rugby season

Super Rugby is the domestic rugby competition in New Zealand. It encompasses team from Argentina, Australia, Japan and South Africa in an 18 team competition.

It runs from February to August and with five New Zealand teams, there’s plenty of opportunities to see matches.

Tickets can be bought for as low as $10, which is great value, considering the calibre of players on show!

Waitangi Day

Backpacking in the South Island

Waitangi Day is a national holiday to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840. The treaty was a founding document of New Zealand which made the country part of the British Empire.

It also gave Maoris the same rights as British citizens. Expect to see a lot of traditional Maori culture exhibited on this day!


View of Lyttleton Bay

The best time to visit New Zealand can come down to flights for most people. As New Zealand is a long way from virtually everywhere else in the world, flights can be expensive. It makes sense to look at a certain time of the year to fly to New Zealand if you want to save money!

Peak season is from December to February, which is summer in New Zealand. In general, you’ll pay more flights during these months. While offseason is from May to October, so flights should be cheaper during these months.

Well, when I went to Skyscanner to search for flights to New Zealand I was pleasantly surprised. Searching for cheapest flights per month there was no huge difference between the months. The cheapest flight was £467 in May, while the most expensive came to £481 for July. This reveals a few things:

If you book your flights in advance you can get some great deals! These flights were one way from London to Auckland, so you might pay a bit more if you were flying to Christchurch for example.

My advice would be to book your flights as far in advance as possible. When I flew to New Zealand it cost me £700+, and I booked the flights three weeks before I left.

The best time to go to New Zealand may not apply to flights, but if you want to get these cheap prices, book well in advance!

Is There a Best Time to Visit New Zealand?

The best time to travel to New Zealand is hard to pinpoint because of the different islands. The North is warmer than the South, so winters are not as cold.

While there isn’t too much difference between the temperature in the North and South Islands.

When it comes to flights, the best time to go to New Zealand isn’t too important. If you book in advance, the prices are more or less the same throughout the year.

Perhaps the best time of the year to visit New Zealand is whenever is best for you!

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Best time to visit New Zealand

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Sara Broers

Sunday 4th of September 2016

I have never been to New Zealand. I appreciate all of your seasonal travel tips. I'd have to say that it appears there is not a bad time to visit New Zealand, anytime of year looks good to me!


Sunday 4th of September 2016

That's true unless you want to do winter sports, then you'll definitely want to go in winter. However, I agree almost anytime of the year is good to visit New Zealand!


Tuesday 23rd of August 2016

For me, every season is the best time to visit New Zealand. The country is so beautiful. However, your post is quite informative and helpful with all the tips.


Tuesday 23rd of August 2016

Cheers Tamshuk! True, there isn't a bad time to visit New Zealand that's for sure!

Tarah Vongbouthdy

Tuesday 23rd of August 2016

New Zealand looks so beautiful! I feel like there is no bad time to go, but it definitely depends on what you are looking to do! Hopefully we can visit soon. Nice pictures!


Tuesday 23rd of August 2016

Cheers Tarah! There isn't a bad time to go, it just depends on what you want to do! If you really skiing then you'll miss out if you go during the summer for instance!


Monday 22nd of August 2016

New Zealand looks so beautiful. I'd love to visit during their summer is my winter and that would be kind of fun.


Tuesday 23rd of August 2016

Ye that's a good idea Amanda!


Monday 22nd of August 2016

I went to New Zealand in October and for me that was absolutely perfect. The weather was nice enough to go hiking and do the Tongariro Crossing, but not too hot. But as you mentioned, the climate depends so much on where you are. I was walking around in shorts and t-shirt in Abel Tasman and just a couple of days later, we had snow in Queenstown! Anyways, New Zealand is gorgeous all year round :-)


Monday 22nd of August 2016

Yes the same happened to me in Abel Tasman and then jacket a few days later because it was chucking it down in Franz Josef haha! It does depend on where you are definitely! Such a changeable climate!

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