Often considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world, every year, thousands of tourists flock to New Zealand to take in the stunning views and partake in exhilarating activities on both the North Island and South Island. But when is the best time of year to visit New Zealand?
Here at Crown Currency Exchange, we’ve put together a complete guide on what you can find in New Zealand throughout the year, along with the expected weather by season, all with the goal of helping you decide the best time to visit this amazing country based on what you’d like to see and do.
What is the Best Time to Visit New Zealand for Weather?
New Zealand’s weather is generally good all year round, with most areas seeing over 2,000 hours of sunshine every year, and the weather is particularly good during the summer months. There isn’t a specific rainy season, as the amount of rainfall is spread pretty evenly across the year. However, rainfall is particularly high in the central and northern parts of the country.
September to November spring temperatures are pretty high in New Zealand, with the average daily temperature hitting 19ºC. The days aren’t quite as sunny as the summer months, but they are relatively clear, making it much easier to take on some extreme activities or go on a hike through the rolling landscape.
For those looking for warm weather, the best time to visit New Zealand would be between December and February. As the country is in the southern hemisphere, summer spans these months, and you’ll see temperatures rise to 25ºC with long, sunny days.
March sees autumn kick in, and this continues through to May. New Zealand’s climate doesn’t change too much at this time of year, and average daily temperatures stay around 18ºC. It can get a little cooler in New Zealand’s North Island, but not by very much.
Come June, New Zealand’s winter months roll around, and the average daytime temperature falls to 14ºC. However, this varies quite a bit depending on what part of New Zealand you’re visiting, with as much as an 8ºC difference between Auckland and Queenstown.
During New Zealand’s winter, you’re likely to see snowfall in the mountain regions of the North Island, as well as the Southern Alps. Central Otago also sees quite heavy winter snowfall, making it a great place to visit if you’re looking for a winter wonderland.
Visiting New Zealand in Spring (September to November)
During New Zealand’s spring months, you’ll see the landscape on both the North Island and South Island burst into life, with lush green foliage and native flora to discover. This is an excellent season to visit New Zealand if you want to go out walking as much as possible but want to avoid the higher summer temperatures.
Key Events in Spring
- World of Wearable Arts Show: Running for three weeks from mid-September, the World of Wearable Arts (WOW) Show comes to Wellington and showcases the amazing work of designers from all over the world along with incredible theatrical performances, dancing, aerial gymnastics, and more.
- Wanakafest: Held in the mountainous Southern Lakes, Wanakafest is one of New Zealand’s premier festivals. Running for five days, you’ll see live music from all over the world, fashion shows, and movie premieres, and enjoy some of the country’s best-loved food and drink.
- Wellington Sky Show: A huge fireworks display takes place on November 5th every year above Wellington’s harbour, along with a carnival at Waitangi Park. Thousands of people attend every year, adding to the atmosphere as the sky fills with fiery colours.
Visiting New Zealand in Summer (December to February)
Peak tourist season, summer in New Zealand is abuzz with celebration as this is the lead-up to the Christmas and New Year period. Temperatures on both islands rise to an average of 25ºC, and the days are long, sunny, and warm. As summer is the country’s high season, there’s plenty to see and do, with something to please all interests.
Key Events in Summer
- Festival of Lights: Considered as one of New Zealand’s unmissable events, the Festival of Lights takes place in New Plymouth and runs for five weeks, starting in December. Here, you’ll find artwork and light installations with no admission fee.
- World Buskers Festival: Held in Christchurch during January, the World Buskers Festival welcomes talented musicians from all over the globe and runs for two weeks. There are also other events to enjoy alongside the live music, including a silent disco and comedy shows.
- Kawhia Kai Festival: Perfect for those looking to learn more and immerse themselves in Maori culture, the Kawhia Kai Festival offers the chance to take part in cultural activities, watch amazing kapa-haka performances, and enjoy traditional Maori food.
Visiting New Zealand in Autumn (March to May)
Even though it is considered New Zealand’s shoulder season, autumn still sees warm temperatures and long, sunny days. In fact, the temperatures don’t tend to start dropping until the middle of April, and even then, they only fall to around 18ºC.
Much like spring, the slightly cooler weather mixed with clear days makes autumn a great month for hikers and campers to visit New Zealand. It’s often much quieter too, meaning there is a greater choice of accommodation and travel options for those working with a tight budget.
Key Events in Autumn
- Wildfoods Festival: Every second Saturday through March, Cass Square in Hokitika hosts the Wildfoods Festival, which celebrates the unique wild food found on New Zealand’s West Coast. Here, you’ll get the opportunity to try some exotic, strange, and unique delicacies while enjoying live music and cooking demonstrations.
- New Zealand International Comedy Festival: Held in Auckland and Wellington each year, the New Zealand International Comedy Festival showcases hilarious performances from the world’s best-loved comedians. It’s the perfect event for an autumn evening.
- Auckland Writers Festival: Another great event for creatives, the Auckland Writers Festival takes place each May and celebrates everything about books. Here, you’ll enjoy talks from local and international writers across multiple genres, workshops, and live readings.
Visiting New Zealand in Winter (June to August)
As New Zealand’s seasons are different from those in the Northern Hemisphere, June to August sees the winter months hit, and winter temperatures fall to an average of 14ºC. There’s still plenty to enjoy at this time of year in New Zealand, with some areas offering both the perfect winter scenery and the opportunity to enjoy winter sports.
Key Events in Winter
- New Zealand International Film Festival: Held across different parts of New Zealand through July and August, this festival showcases movies from all over the world. There are also panels and talks you can attend, making it the perfect festival for any film lovers.
- Wellington on a Plate: For two weeks in August, the Wellington on a Plate Festival offers a taste of New Zealand’s best food and drinks. You can visit the various food stalls and cocktail bars, and for the real foodies, you can book demonstrations and attend talks.
- The NZ Art Show: Art lovers from all over New Zealand flock to Wellington to see the exhibits at The NZ Art Show. All of the work displayed can be purchased too, and everything is priced under $5,000.
What is the Cheapest Month to Visit New Zealand?
The winter season of June to August is the cheapest time to visit New Zealand. There’s still plenty to do at this time of year, and it’s an especially good time to visit if you’re a Christmas lover or love colder, crisper weather. Both accommodation and flights are likely to be cheaper at this off season time of year too, which is ideal if you’re trying to save as much money as possible.
Top tip: You can save money by buying your NZD ahead of time with no fees.
What is the Best Time to Visit New Zealand for Events and Festivals?
New Zealand offers something for everyone to enjoy throughout the entire year. Below, you’ll find some key events and festivals for each month, along with some of our recommendations on what to do during your visit.
Key Events in January
1. ABS Classic
Considered New Zealand’s answer to Wimbledon, the ABS Classic runs for two weeks during January and welcomes some of the world’s most talented tennis players to the country, including Serena Williams, Denis Shapovalov, and Daniil Medvedev. There are also evening events, such as live music and entertainment, and loads of pop-up bars and restaurants to enjoy.
2. Soundsplash Festival
You’ll definitely want to head to Raglan’s Soundsplash Festival if music is your thing. Held over three days, you’ll enjoy music from all genres, with previous acts, including Peking Duk and Mitch James, having headlined the event. It’s also set just 500 metres from the beach, offering stunning views while you dance the day away.
3. Great Kiwi Beer Festival
With over 40 craft breweries and 35 street food vendors, the Great Kiwi Beer Festival is one of the best events for food lovers to attend. Across the entire festival, you’ll have a choice of over 300 beers to sample, which you can sip on as you enjoy the live music on the main stage.
Key Events in February
1. New Zealand Festival of the Arts
Each February, the New Zealand Festival of the Arts takes place in Wellington and sees over 100 events take place across a three-week run. There are talks, workshops, panels, performances, and loads of other creative events to enjoy.
2. Waitangi Day Festival
Commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Waitangi Day Festival takes place on February 6th each year and sees a day of festivities, live entertainment, market stalls, food stalls, and more. There is also a dawn service at Te Whare Runanga, which tourists are welcome to attend.
3. Auckland Lantern Festival
This 3-day event celebrates Chinese New Year in New Zealand and sees hundreds of beautiful handmade lanterns light up Auckland’s night sky. You’ll also find live entertainment, food stalls, and loads of Instagram-worthy sights.
Key Events in March
1. Wildfoods Festival
The perfect event for foodies, the Wildfood Festival offers the chance to sample some weird and unique delicacies from New Zealand. Dishes such as huhu grubs, colostrum shooters, and mountain oysters are all available for sampling, along with tamer dishes for the less adventurous eater.
2. Balloons Over Waikato
For four days in March, the skies over Waikato are filled with colour as hundreds of hot air balloons rise from the ground. This is truly a spectacular sight, and there are events taking place on the ground to enjoy as well, including live music and food demonstrations. The highlight of Balloons Over Waikato, however, takes place in the evening of the final day, as “Zuru Nightglow” sees a firework display and glowing balloons illuminate the sky.
3. Jim Bean Home Grown
Wellington hosts the Jim Bean Home Grown music festival each February, welcoming performances from artists including L.A.B, Stan Walker, and Teeks. A total of five stages offer something for all music tastes to enjoy, and food and drink stalls are located near each stage for ultimate convenience.
Key Events in April
1. XTERRA Rotorua Festival
Are you a fitness fanatic who enjoys pushing your physical limits? You need to attend New Zealand’s XTERRA Rotorua Festival. Here, you can take part in one of three courses, ranging from 5.6km to 26km, across walking, swimming, and mountain biking trails. You’ll also get to enjoy the scenery of Blue Lake and Whakarewarewa Forrest as you make your way through the course.
2. Royal Easter Show
The Royal Easter Show is another of New Zealand’s most famous events and is particularly popular with families. Here, you’ll enjoy a variety of live shows, exciting exhibits, and circus acts. There are also carnival rides, food stalls, and everything else you need for an epic family day out.
3. Anzac Day
April 25th is Anzac Day in New Zealand, which commemorates the lives of soldiers who have fought in conflicts abroad. On this poignant day, a dawn service is held outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which is attended by thousands each year.
Key Events in May
1. New Zealand International Comedy Festival
Running for three weeks in May, the New Zealand International Comedy Festival welcomes comedians from all over the world to Auckland and Wellington. As it runs for so long, there’s always the chance to see something, and there are over 120 shows with 750 performances to choose from.
2. Bay of Islands Country Rock Festival
Another festival for music lovers, the Bay of Islands Country Rock Festival runs for three days in May (and another three in October) and features performances from over 40 acts at various venues throughout the beautiful Bay of Islands. This is a great way of exploring the area too, with cafes and restaurants offering a place to rest and refuel while you enjoy the music.
3. Palmerston North Brew Day
New Zealand is well known for producing some of the world’s finest craft beer, and the Palmerston North Brew Day celebrates this. Perfect for any beer lover, here you’ll sample classic and new offerings from popular brands, including Garage Project, Parrot Dog, Sawmill, and more. It’s also undercover, so should the rain start falling, you won’t have to worry about getting wet (or your beer getting watered down!)
Key Events in June
1. The NZ Art Show
Displaying works of art from all over New Zealand, The NZ Art Show runs for four days in Wellington’s TSB Arena. This is a great event for any art enthusiast to attend, and you’re even able to pick up some of the art for a bargain price.
2. Ski Season
The first of New Zealand’s winter months, June kicks off the ski season, and there are multiple ski fields found across both the North Island and South Island. It’s not just skiing that you can enjoy here though, and many resorts have everything needed to enjoy other snow sports.
Key Events in July
1. New Zealand International Film Festival
Film fanatics flock to New Zealand in July for the International Film Festival. Here, you’ll get the chance to see new work by up-and-coming filmmakers from all over the world, attend talks and panels, and immerse yourself in everything “movie”.
2. Matariki Festivals
Throughout July, several Matariki Festivals take place to mark the start of the New Year for the Maori people. Community events, lectures, and presentations take place where you’re able to learn more about Matariki and Maori culture, and there are performances to enjoy as well.
Key Events in August
1. Wellington on a Plate
What else could be better to do in winter than head to a food festival and sample a plethora of delicious dishes? The Wellington on a Plate festival has something for everyone, and each year has a different theme to really push the culinary envelope. You can also join in with live demonstrations or, if you prefer, simply make your way through each of the stalls and sample everything on offer.
2. Make the Most of Ski Season
As winter starts drawing to a close, August is a great time of year to make the most of the ski season while it’s still in play. As this is the low season, you’ll find that most places aren’t too crowded either, so it’s ideal if you’d like as much of the slopes to yourself as possible.
Key Events in September
1. Martinborough Music Festival
Held in Martinborough Town Hall, this music festival welcomes classical music artists from all over New Zealand for three days of entertainment. Each year, the theme and logo change to keep things creative and interesting, and with the theme comes newly composed pieces being debuted at the festival. This really is a wonderful event for any lover of chamber music.
2. The Body Festival
Head to Christchurch in September, and you’ll have an amazing time surrounded by dancing and music at The Body Festival. There are workshops where you can learn how to dance yourself, too.
3. Hike National Parks
As New Zealand starts warming up, the National Parks come alive with beautiful flora, fauna, and wildlife. September is considered to be one of the best times of year to hike in New Zealand, as the temperatures are warm but not at summer highs yet, and Abel Tasman National Park is a real favourite in the hiking community.
Key Events in October
1. Auckland Heritage Festival
Every October, Auckland honours the heritage of Tamaki Makaurau with its heritage festival. Here, you can listen to talks on the history of Auckland, take guided historical tours, and enjoy a variety of traditional entertainment. There are also kid-friendly events for the whole family to enjoy.
2. First Light Wine and Food Festival
Winemakers and restaurants from all over New Zealand head to the First Light Wine and Food Festival each October to showcase their latest creations. You’ll also be able to tour vineyards here, and there is live music playing all afternoon.
3. World of Wearable Arts Show
A paradise for fashion lovers, the World of Wearable Arts Show heads to Wellington each October to showcase the latest, stunning creations across the world of high fashion, theatre, and more. There are also several performances that take place throughout the show, offering a glimpse of each design in motion and really highlighting the creativity that has gone into each.
Key Events in November
1. New Zealand Tattoo and Body Art Festival
This three-day event takes place each November in New Plymouth and showcases the very best tattoo talent from both New Zealand and around the world. There are also burlesque performances to enjoy, retail stands to peruse, and beautiful designs from over 250 tattoo artists to inspire you.
2. The Oamaru Victorian Fete
Held in the South Island, the Oamura Victorian Fete celebrates the town’s Victorian heritage and architecture. Running for three days, there is a parade, live entertainment, and a market selling traditional Victorian produce. Locals dress in Victorian clothing for the festival, and tourists are encouraged to do so as well.
3. Wellington Sky Show
To celebrate Guy Fawkes’ night, New Zealand’s capital holds a spectacular firework display over the harbour, along with live entertainment, carnival rides, and food stalls. This is a great family-friendly event, and better yet, it is totally free of charge to attend.
Key Events in December
1. Festival of Lights
As we hit New Zealand’s hottest month and the festive season begins, the celebrations kick off with the Festival of Lights. Running from mid December to February, the nights in New Plymouth are illuminated with beautiful light-up art installations.
2. Festival of Cycling
Another of New Zealand’s famous events for fitness fanatics, the Festival of Cycling takes you on an 80km summer holiday ride through Port Hills and Lyttelton Harbour. Don’t worry if you’re not quite up to the 80km route though, as there are shorter cycling trails to enjoy as well.
3. Christchurch Wine and Food Festival
This one-day festival welcomes food vendors and wine producers from all over New Zealand to Christchurch. Here, you’ll be able to sample delicious dishes and pick up some Christmas presents at the same time! There is also live music to enjoy throughout the day, adding to the festive party atmosphere.
How Many Days Do You Need to See New Zealand?
In order to see as much of the North Island and South Island as possible, we’d recommend spending at least two weeks in New Zealand. This will give you time to visit new places, hit top tourist destinations and key events, and still afford a couple of chilled-out days.
You can spend as little as seven days in New Zealand if you’re short on time, but you’ll be best to stay on just one of the islands, hitting a different destination for each day of your trip.
New Zealand remains one of the most popular destinations for holiday breaks and adventurers, and it’s easy to see why. With so much to see and do across both the North Island and South Island, you’re almost spoilt for choice. When it comes to the best time to visit New Zealand, we’d recommend going during the summer months when festivals and events are at their peak. Or, if you’re trying to stick to a lower budget, go in the winter when accommodation and travel will be cheaper.
Whenever you decide to go, make sure you get your travel money organised before you head off! Crown Currency Exchange has 60 locations in Australia where you can buy NZD at competitive rates with no fees.