When is the best time to go to New Zealand?

New Zealand is a gorgeous country that can be visited any time throughout the year. Learn what to take into consideration when deciding on when is the best time to go to New Zealand.

If you’re looking to visit New Zealand but do not know when is the best time to go to New Zealand, here are some things you may want to consider when making that decision.

There are basically three things you could look at when deciding what is the best time to go to New Zealand:

1. The seasons
Certain activities you can only do in certain seasons, so if you’re coming to New Zealand to be able to do a particular activity, the season may affect the period of time you choose to visit New Zealand.

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2. Avoiding the crowds
If you’re someone who tries to avoid crowds, you may want to pay special attention to when New Zealanders are on holiday.

Campsites and areas on and around lakes and beaches tend to become very crowded when Kiwis are on holiday.

3. Price of accommodation
While New Zealand does not really have a low season – it is almost always high season, pretty much like Hawaii – there are times when hotels and motels are much cheaper.

I’ll go into each consideration in more detail…

New Zealand seasons and weather

The seasons in New Zealand are opposites of the seasons on the Northern Hemisphere.

For example, if you’re living in the U.S.A., Canada, or the U.K.:

In terms of months, this would translate to:

It’s not only the seasons that are opposites, though. Temperatures are too.

For example, on the Northern Hemisphere you’ll get cooler temperatures the more north you go, which is why Florida is warm and Alaska is cold.

In New Zealand, you’ll get cooler temperatures the more south you go, which is why Auckland tends to be warmer than Queenstown. But because New Zealand does not span many latitudes – New Zealand is a relatively small country – the temperatures don’t differ that much.

In addition, temperatures are also affected by the lay of the land. For example, Central Otago can get much warmer than Auckland or Northland in summer because of its location and its geography.

The warmest temperatures usually take place in January and February, but like anywhere else on Earth, the weather varies a lot and can become very unpredictable, especially on the boundaries of the seasons.

The general rule of thumb is that you can expect summer to be warmer than winter, but this rule does not always have to apply, especially not when polar air is blown toward New Zealand in summer and it gets a bit chilly.

One thing to remember is that New Zealand can get cold and that some parts of the country such as Central Otago do experience extreme temperatures during summer and winter. And don’t be surprised either if it rains day after day.

Consider the purpose of your visit to New Zealand

What are you coming to New Zealand to do? Ski, snowboard, visit wineries, go hiking, sightsee while self-driving?

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In spring, for example, you can visit cities where trees are blooming. Christchurch is one of those cities to visit during spring. Snow can still fall early in spring, so it’s still the perfect time to see snow on the mountains.

Summer can be seen as the peak tourist season. Most activity providers are open for business and it is the perfect time for adventure, day walks, scenic drives, visiting wineries, picking fruit, etc. etc.

If you want to go leaf peeping, autumn is a great time to do so. The best locations for fall foliage are the Mackenzie Country from Tekapo to Omarama, the Southern Lakes region (Wanaka, Queenstown, and Arrowtown), and parts of Central Otago. There can be early snow in autumn, but generally not enough for winter sports.

Winter can be harzardous where driving is concerned, especially in areas that are at a higher elevation such as mountain passes (for example, Lindis Pass) and Central North Island. The most spectacular scenery can be found on the South Island; the mountains are generally snow-capped and sometimes snow-covered.

Ski fields tend to open in June. A few might open earlier if snow conditions are really good, but that does not happen often. The popular locations for winter sports are Queenstown, Cardrona, and Mount Hutt on the South Island, and the Central Plateau on the North Island.

When is New Zealand the most crowded?

Parents generally take time off from work when their kids are at home. So if you want to avoid the crowds, avoid the periods of time when New Zealanders go on holiday, which are generally during the school holidays.

The New Zealand school holidays for 2019 – 2021 are:


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You can find these dates on the website of the New Zealand Ministry of Education.

You can also take New Zealand Public Holidays into account when planning a visit. For 2020 – 2021, these dates are:

And finally, people working in each New Zealand province also get a day off each year – these are called the Anniversary Day Holidays. You can also find these dates on the website mentioned above.

The main thing to note about holidays in New Zealand is that during the Christmas and New Year period, almost all businesses shut down for a couple of weeks, so you’ve got this massive amount of New Zealanders who are on holiday in December and January.

It can get very crowded then in some areas, especially where there’s water – beaches and lakes – because Kiwis enjoy water activities and being outside in the sun a lot.

And also be aware that along with those businesses, there aren’t many restaurants open on Christmas Day, so if you are planning to travel during the Christmas holidays, ensure that you arrive in New Zealand before Christmas Day to be able to buy your own food or enquire whether the hotel you are staying at has a restaurant that is open on Christmas.

What are the cheapest months for accommodation?

May and early June can be seen as low season in New Zealand. People don’t travel as much, so business slows down. You can find the best rates at hotels and motels during this time of the year.

Lake Wakatipu and Cecil Peak in Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand

Lake Wakatipu and Cecil Peak in Queenstown

The most expensive months are obviously summer during the peak tourist season. Booking way in advance is then highly recommended. This includes making car rental reservations.

In addition, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to pay part of your reservation in advance.

A lot of businesses here in New Zealand are small businesses that consist of one to ten people, so they can be hit hard by cancellations, which is why some request advance (partial) payment or have stringent cancellation policies in place.

Just remember to read the fine print before you make a reservation.

Another thing to note is that accommodation can be slightly more expensive on Public Holidays such as Christmas, Easter, etc.

When is the best time for solo travelers to visit New Zealand?

We live in a world of pairs. What I mean by this is that there aren’t many tour operators and tourist facilities that cater to the needs of solo travelers.

Therefore, if you often travel alone and stay, for example, in hotels, you generally have to pay the full price for rooms that would otherwise be shared by two people.

New Zealand is no exception to this rule. If you want to go on a scenic flight, you need a party of at least two. If you want to go on a kayaking trip, you need a party of at least two. If you want to on a guided hike, you need a party of at least two.

While some tour operators will sometimes bend the rules and give you a discount in the form of paying half the price or thereabouts for your missing second person, there aren’t many that do this.

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So if you are visiting New Zealand as a solo traveler, and you want to do activities that require at least two people, it is best to visit New Zealand when it is at its busiest so during the warmest months of the year.

Any time from November, which lies at the end of spring in New Zealand, until March, which marks the beginning of autumn in New Zealand, should guarantee having other tourists around who – like you – may be alone or who can serve as fillers for the quota a tour operator needs to reach before he sets out to show you the sights.

And don’t worry… you do not have to find the people to fill the seats; all you have to do is show up at a tour operator or at an office where you can book a tour or book a tour in advance, and the tour operator will take care of filling the seats if that’s possible.

Another positive thing about visiting New Zealand in summer is that because there are more people on the road during the summer months than there are during winter, you also have a better chance of asking someone for help if you happen to need it.

But then again, if you are 100% sure that you can take care of yourself on and off the road and are not visiting New Zealand to go on tours, you can visit New Zealand whenever you wish.

Final words on the best time to go to New Zealand

Personally, autumn and winter are my two favorite seasons to go on a holiday in New Zealand, mainly because of the colorful scenery in autumn and the snow on the mountains in winter.

[Photo: Snow on the South Island in winter (28 KB)]

I’ve also gone on vacation in spring and summer. Spring can still offer beautiful scenery with snow-capped mountains and spring blossoms. And in summer, the New Zealand Christmas tree – the pohutukawa – comes into bloom.

I don’t mind being on hiking trails with other people; in fact, it is good to have others walking on the same trails as you are, especially if you’re traveling alone in New Zealand.

And one thing to note is that there are currently almost 4.8 million people living in New Zealand compared to, for example, almost 17 million people in the Netherlands with New Zealand being approximately six times larger than the Netherlands.

So even if the entire country went on holiday, it would still not get super crowded, and you would still be able to find places where there isn’t a single soul around. The only issue would be finding accommodation in popular places like Queenstown.

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This article falls under Travel Guide.

Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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