One of the questions I am often asked is “When is the best time to travel to New Zealand?” There is no one correct answer to this, as it depends on many factors. The answer may change depending on your interests, type of holiday and the times you may have available to travel.
Of all the questions I that are put to me, the most difficult question is When is the best time to go to New Zealand? Without knowing what your interests are, or what you want to do, it is very hard to answer. The question may be When is the best weather in New Zealand? However the answer may change depending on what your interests are. So perhaps you want to come and go hiking, fishing or skiing. Maybe you are interested in gardening, or just want to do a self drive holiday. All of these will give a different answer to the question What is the best time of year to visit New Zealand.
In order to find out what is the best time to travel to New Zealand, you should first decide the places you wish to visit; as well as the attractions, activities or tours that you would like to do. Once you know this, it is a lot easier decide when to visit New Zealand.
The climate in New Zealand is fairly mild, so it makes a great year round destination to visit. Each season in New Zealand has an appeal all of its own. Although the weather in New Zealand over summer (December to February) is of course warmer; travelling over this period is not necessarily the best choice, or due to other obligations is sometimes not possible.
New Zealand’s weather is very changeable, as a result this means that even over summer there are always quite a few cooler and wetter days. As far as rainfall goes, over winter (June to August) the North Island of New Zealand is a little wetter than the rest of the year; whilst the South Island is slightly drier. Though there is less sunshine, there are still many sunny days over winter. The highest rainfall falls generally in the Fiordland and West Coast regions of the South Island of New Zealand; whilst the areas with the greatest sunshine are Nelson and Marlborough in the South Island; as well as Hawkes Bay and the Bay of Plenty in the North Island.
Coming prepared
In all seasons you should come prepared for cooler and wetter weather. We suggest that at all times of the year you dress in layers. It is better to bring a number of warm thinner layers, rather than one thick pullover, as well as a good quality waterproof jacket. This allows you to quickly adjust to sudden changes in climate each day by adding or removing layers. Nevertheless all year round, you should also be ready for sunny days, so you should always bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen – you may need them!
Summer in New Zealand – December to February
Visiting New Zealand in summer allows you be there during New Zealand’s warmest and best weather. However if you are looking for a quiet summer holiday, then perhaps come some other time! Summer is the peak season for tourists in New Zealand, and as a result it gets very busy. New Zealand accommodation, transport and activities do require booking ahead; and prices tend to be substantially higher.
Autumn (Fall) in New Zealand – March to May
Travel to New Zealand in autumn brings with it the chance to see the magnificent kaleidoscope of colours, as the leaves on the trees and plants change to dramatic russet browns, reds and golden shades. To see these changes at its vibrant best, then visit Wanaka and the Otago region of New Zealand in the South Island; or Hawkes Bay in New Zealand’s North Island. If you are looking at a self drive holiday, then travel any time after Easter, and the roads and number of other tourists are always reduced; so autumn is always one of the best times to travel to New Zealand.
Winter in New Zealand – June to August
Winter in New Zealand is when the mountains get their annual coating of snow, and the skiers come out to play! There is a great choice of Ski Areas in New Zealand to choose from, for both advanced skiers and the first time novice. Turoa and Whakapapa Ski Areas in Tongariro National Park are extremely popular with skiers from Auckland in the North Island. Whereas in the South Island you can ski to your hearts content in Queenstown, Wanaka, Mt Hutt or one of the many small club ski areas. The ski season normally runs from June to early October, though Whakapapa’s season often goes for much longer.
Skiing is often combined with NZ Car Rental in a self-drive holiday. As there is very little traffic on the roads, and snow falls are generally in the mountains, driving is normally very easy. Snow in the valleys normally only occurs with the heaviest snow falls.
The North Island in winter is colder and a little wetter than the rest of the year. However the South Island is generally a little drier, with clear skies and crisp winter nights.
Spring in New Zealand – September to November
Spring is a great time of year to visit New Zealand. The mountains still have their covering of snow, with the ski season coming to a close in early October. The annual spring melt, makes it a popular time for adventure seekers to go white water rafting in the swollen rivers. Spring is also a popular time to visit New Zealand, with the new growth and buds bursting into flower. In the North Island gardeners flock to Taranaki for the annual Rhododendron and Garden Festival; or alternatively travel to the Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay to see the magnificent blossom in flower.
In the South Island you soon learn why Christchurch is called the Garden City, as the parks and gardens are alive with colour. A visit to Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens is a must. Further south Dunedin has many historic gardens including Larnach Castle, Olveston House and Glenfalloch Woodland Gardens. Nearby is Alexandra where you can see the blossom and the annual spring festival.
Best Time for New Zealand Self Drive Holidays
If you can avoid the annual summer rush to New Zealand, then you will always find your New Zealand self drive holiday to be much more relaxed, and save you money in the pocket! This particularly applies to NZ Motorhome Hire and Campervan Rental, where costs reduce dramatically the further you move your travel from the December to February high season. As well as substantially lower rates
, rental companies often encourage travel with extra specials over the low season between May and September.
Richard Wolskel is Managing Director of Go New Zealand , and has 20 years of experience in travel to New Zealand, specialising in self drive holidays, New Zealand accommodation , car or motorhome rental, tours and activities. Over that time he has been a frequent visitor to this beautiful country.