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The Best Time to Travel to New Zealand

The best time to travel to New Zealand depends on what you want from your holiday.

New Zealand enjoys a generally mild climate year-round. Without clear-cut rainy and dry seasons, the weather can be unpredictable no matter the month.

Here are the best times to visit New Zealand based on what matters most to you.

The Best Time to Travel to New Zealand…

If you want warm, sunny weather:

Moeraki Boulders New Zealand
A summer visit to the Moeraki Boulders

February is generally the hottest month throughout New Zealand. February is also one of New Zealand’s busiest times of year, so it might not be optimal if you want to avoid crowds.

January and March are also great months to visit if you want warm, sunny weather. March tends to be sunnier, though nights are getting cool by the end of the month.

If you want to avoid crowds:

cathedral cove best time to travel to New Zealand
Cathedral Cove with no tourists on the usually popular beach

If you want to avoid crowds, there are several quiet periods scattered throughout the year. These depend on your destination, because ski towns draw crowds even when the rest of the country has slowed down for winter.

These are a few quiet times you can target if you want to enjoy a slower pace of travel in New Zealand:

1. Early April through mid-June

All around New Zealand, crowds begin to thin in April. The ski season hasn’t ramped up yet, so even ski hotspots like Queenstown and Wanaka are still quiet.

Just keep an eye out for events like Warbirds Over Wanaka (Easter weekend every other year) that will fill a town unexpectedly.

2. Winter (May through September)

In non-ski destinations, the country quiets down over the winter months.

Certain places–such as the West Coast and beach towns on the North Island–feel almost empty in winter. These are great destinations to seek out if you want to get to know the locals, see the highlights without crowds, and take advantage of great accommodation deals.

3. Early December

For whatever reason, the crowds that pack tourist destinations in October and November slow down in early December.

If you visit before the 20th of the month, you might be lucky enough to find last-minute accommodation availability and avoid Christmas holiday crowds.

If you want to see the fall colours:

fall colors in Wanaka--the best time to travel to New Zealand for autumn scenery
Autumn colours in Wanaka

Mid-April is the best time to see fall leaves around New Zealand.

None of New Zealand’s native trees turn colours in fall, so head to the towns in Central Otago for a brilliant show.

Wanaka, Arrowtown, and Cromwell are all top destinations for enjoying the golden fall foliage in April.

If you want to see flowers:

Lupins at Mount Cook, Mackenzie Basin, New Zealand
Lupins near Aoraki/Mt Cook, in the Mackenzie Basin

While flowers are blooming in different parts of the contry from September through December, the iconic lupins in the Mackenzie Basin are most vibrant right around Christmas.

If you are already on the South Island for the December holidays, don’t miss a drive past Lake Tekapo to see the lupins in their full glory.

If you plan to ski:

The best time to travel to New Zealand for a ski holiday
Skiing near Queenstown

Snow can be patchy at the beginning of winter, so your best bet is to visit in early August for a ski holiday.

The school holiday crowds have mostly died out by this point, so you won’t be tripping over kids on every run.

(For a wide range of ski holiday packages and itineraries, check out our New Zealand Ski Packages brand.)

If you want steep discounts:

tss earnslaw
Snow dusted on the peaks behind the TSS Earnslaw

It’s a little-known secret that accommodation is discounted unbelievably low from the beginning of May through the middle of June.

Tourists are practically non-existent at this time of year, so operators do what they can to attract business.

If you want to save on your New Zealand tour–or if you’d like to treat yourself to a night at a luxury hotel without paying full price–May is the perfect time to visit.

And if you want the drama of snow on the mountains without the below-zero nighttime temperatures of midwinter, May is the best time to travel to New Zealand.

What if you have to visit during the December or July school holidays?

New Zealand is great to visit year-round, but traveling during the biggest school holidays requires extra planning.

First of all, book your holiday far in advance.

If you are traveling over Christmas or the New Year, book your tour before May. After that point, prices rise and you will need to change your itinerary based on availability.

If you plan to ski during the July school holidays, book your holiday before January.

And second, be aware of minimum night stay requirements and check-in/check-out restrictions when planning your stay in top destinations.

Your travel consultant will help plan an itinerary that works around both your wishes and seasonal restrictions. However, the earlier you book, the better.


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