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Winter in New Zealand (Is it the Best time to Visit?)

Winter in New Zealand

Winter in New Zealand is truly a magical season! The crisp, cool air provides the perfect backdrop for all sorts of outdoor activities. Whether you’re a fan of skiing and snowboarding or just taking in the stunning scenery, there’s something for everyone.

One of the best things about winter in New Zealand is the incredible winter sports. If you like skiing, from the majestic Southern Alps to the rolling hills of the North Island, you’ll find world-class ski slopes that offer breathtaking views and plenty of powdery snow. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, there’s a ski resort that’s perfect for you.

You can also try snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or ice-skating. Or you can take hikes along snowy trails or leisurely stroll through the countryside.

And when the day is done, there’s nothing like settling down in a cozy cabin or cottage, sipping on a warm cup of cocoa, and watching the stars twinkle in the night sky.

And don’t worry–if cold outdoor adventures aren’t for you, there’s plenty of museum going, wine tasting, and cultural experiences to explore!

Winter in New Zealand is a truly unforgettable experience no matter where you go.



When is winter in New Zealand?

Winter in New Zealand begins on the June solstice and ends on the September equinox. Usually these dates are June 21 or 22 to September 22 or 23.

New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, so winter there is opposite to winter in the Northern Hemisphere (Europe and North America).

Usually, the coldest winter month in New Zealand is July. August is also quite cold.

Remarkables ski resort near Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island

What’s the winter weather in New Zealand?

The winter experience on the North Island of New Zealand and the South Island of New Zealand can be quite different, because the two islands have different climates and landscapes.

In New Zealand, winter weather conditions vary depending on the region and location, but generally, the weather is milder on the North Island and colder on the South Island.

On the North Island in the winter, average daytime temperatures range from around 9° Celsius to 16° Celsius (48°F to 61°F).

In contrast, temperatures on the South Island can be much colder, usually 4°C to 11°C (39°F to 52°F), especially in the higher altitude regions. In some of the ski resorts, temperatures can drop below freezing, and snow and frost are common.

Temperatures can vary greatly even within regions and locations. For example, coastal areas tend to be milder than inland areas, and valleys can be warmer than mountain tops.

At any time of year, the weather in New Zealand can change quickly. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for a range of temperatures and weather conditions, no matter where you are.

Travel tips for a New Zealand Winter

Here are some travel tips for going to New Zealand in the winter:

Pack warm clothes

New Zealand can get quite cold in the winter, especially in the mountainous areas, so make sure to pack warm clothes, such as a heavy coat, gloves, hat, and thermal underwear.

Prepare for rain

Winter in New Zealand can also be quite wet, so make sure to pack a raincoat or umbrella.

Check road conditions

If you plan to drive in New Zealand during the winter, make sure to check the road conditions ahead of time, as snow and ice can make some roads difficult to drive on.

Book accommodations in advance

Winter is a popular time for skiing and snowboarding in New Zealand, so make sure to reserve your accommodations in advance to avoid having to overpay or, worse, not being able to find a place to stay.

Plan for indoor activities

While outdoor activities like skiing and snowboarding are popular in New Zealand during the winter, it’s a good idea to plan for indoor activities as well, such as visiting museums and art galleries. Some days, you might need a break from the ski fields!

Check the weather forecast

Make sure to check the weather forecast for your destination and plan accordingly. The weather can change quickly in New Zealand and affect your travel plans. If you face unexpected high rainfall, you’ll want to have the right weather gear with you.

Respect the natural environment

New Zealand is home to many unique and fragile ecosystems in the native forest and marine environments. Make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles and respect the natural environment while you’re there.

Winter on the North Island

On the North Island, with its subtropical climate, the winter weather is typically mild with average temperatures ranging from 9°C to 16°C (48°F to 61°F).

Precipitation levels vary, but the western parts of the North Island tend to be wetter, with higher rainfall, while the eastern regions are drier.

Snowfall is rare on the North Island, but can occur in the higher elevations and mountain regions. It’s best to be prepared for some wet weather during the winter months.

On the North Island, the winter days are relatively short with around 8 to 9 hours of daylight. In the southern parts of the North Island, such as Wellington, the days are even shorter with around 7 to 8 hours of daylight.

On the North Island, some of the best places to go in winter include:

  • Taupo: This scenic town is located on the shores of Lake Taupo and offers plenty of outdoor activities, such as skiing and snowboarding at the nearby ski resorts, hot springs, and scenic walks.
  • Rotorua: Known for its geothermal activity, Rotorua is a must-visit destination during the winter months. You can explore the hot springs and geysers, go skiing or snowboarding at one of the nearby ski resorts, or take in the stunning scenery on a scenic helicopter tour.
  • Auckland: New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland boasts galleries and museums that put on winter exhibitions, as well as botanic gardens and winter markets, where visitors can enjoy the benefits of subtropical weather in the winter.
At hot springs in Rotorua, NZ

Winter on the South Island

On the South Island, the winter weather is colder and wetter than on the North Island, with average temperatures ranging from 4°C to 11°C (39°F to 52°F).

The Southern Alps region receives the most snow and has the best skiing conditions. In the lower-lying areas, such as Christchurch, temperatures are milder, but still cooler than the North Island.

Rainfall is common on the South Island during the winter months, especially in the western regions.

On the South Island, the winter days are even shorter with around 6 to 7 hours of daylight. In the southernmost regions, such as Invercargill, the days are even shorter with only around 5 to 6 hours of daylight.

In New Zealand, the amount of sunlight and darkness during the winter months (June to August) varies depending on the region and latitude.

It’s a good idea to take advantage of the limited hours of sunshine, especially further south, by planning outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, or whale watching for the hours of peak light.

On the South Island, some popular winter destinations include:

  • Queenstown: This alpine town is often referred to as the adventure capital of the world and is a popular winter destination for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports. There are also plenty of other activities to enjoy, such as scenic flights, mountaineering, and heli skiing.
  • Wanaka: This picturesque town is surrounded by stunning mountains and is another great destination for skiing and snowboarding. There are also plenty of scenic walks and other outdoor activities to enjoy.
  • Mount Cook: This magnificent mountain is New Zealand’s highest peak and is surrounded by breathtaking glaciers and alpine landscapes. During the winter months, you can go skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing, or simply enjoy the stunning views from the comfort of a nearby lodge.

How cold does it get in New Zealand in the winter? 

On the North Island, winter temperatures usually range from 9°C to 16°C (48°F to 61°F).

On the South Island, average winter temperatures range from 4°C to 11°C (39°F to 52°F).

What is the Climate of New Zealand?

New Zealand has a temperate maritime climate with relatively mild temperatures and rainfall throughout the year.

New Zealand’s climate varies by region, with the west coast experiencing more rainfall and cloud cover compared to the east coast, which has abundant sunshine and little rainfall.

Coastal regions tend to have a more moderate climate, while inland areas can have more extreme temperature fluctuations.

North Island Climate

On the North Island, the Tasman Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west help to regulate temperatures and bring moisture to the island, resulting in a relatively temperate climate.

The island’s geography and topography also play a role in shaping local weather patterns. The volcanic plateau in the center of the island creates a rain shadow effect, causing less rainfall on the eastern side and more on the western side.

The North Island is also affected by westerly winds, which can bring cool and cloudy weather, as well as occasional heavy rain and thunderstorms.

South Island Climate

On the South Island, the Southern Alps run the length of the island. They play a significant role in shaping the local weather patterns by causing heavy rain and winter snowfall (more on the western side and less on the eastern side). The Southern Alps also cause cool temperatures year-round.

The Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east also bring moisture to the island, resulting in a largely temperate climate.

The westerly winds that are prevalent in the region can bring cool and cloudy weather, as well as occasional heavy rain and thunderstorms. Overall, the weather in the South Island is highly variable and can change rapidly, particularly in the mountainous areas.

Skiers in chairlifts at Remarkables ski resort near Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island

What’s the weather in New Zealand in June?

In June, many parts of the country are experiencing the start of the winter season. Cooler winter temperatures arrive, with average temperatures ranging from around 8 to 12 degrees Celsius (46°F to 53°F).

Some regions may experience frost, especially in the early morning. There is a chance of snow in the inland alpine areas of the South Island.

However, in some coastal regions and in the far north of the North Island, daytime temperatures can reach the mid to high teens Celsius (53°F to 65°F).

What’s the weather in New Zealand in July?

July is the middle of winter in New Zealand, and temperatures can be quite cold in many parts of the country. Average temperatures during July can range from around 5 to 10 degrees Celsius (41°F to 50°F).

In the higher altitude areas, such as the Southern Alps on the South Island, snow and frost are common. Expect temperatures to be quite chilly even during the daytime.

However, in some coastal regions and in the far north of the North Island, temperatures can be relatively mild.

What’s the weather in New Zealand in August?

August is still the heart of winter in New Zealand, and cold nights and days are the norm. Average temperatures during August can range from around 4 to 9 degrees Celsius (39°F to 48°F).

Snow and frost are common in the higher altitude areas, such as the mountain ranges of the South Island. There, temperatures remain low even during the daytime.

Because of the variations in the New Zealand Climate, in some coastal areas and in the far north of the North Island, daytime temperatures will be warmer.

What’s the weather in New Zealand in September?

September marks the end of winter in New Zealand. Temperatures start to warm up in many parts of the country as spring arrives. Average temperatures during September can range from around 6 to 11 degrees Celsius (43°F to 52°F).

Frost and snow are less common in the higher altitude areas, although there will be some spring snow. Temperatures start to rise, especially in the coastal regions and in the far north of the North Island.

Tongariro ski lodges. Snow is on the way…

Best fun winter activities in New Zealand

New Zealand is well-known for its stunning ski resorts and winter sports, and it’s not hard to see why. There are plenty of opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities.

Skiing in New Zealand

New Zealand is home to several ski resorts that are popular among locals and visitors alike. Some of the favorite ski resorts on each island include:

North Island

  • Whakapapa: Located on Mount Ruapehu, this is the largest ski resort on the North Island and offers a range of ski runs for all levels of skiers and snowboarders.
  • Turoa: Also located on Mount Ruapehu, this ski resort offers a range of ski runs for all levels of skiers and snowboarders.

South Island

  • Cardrona: Located near the town of Wanaka, this ski resort is known for its long, gentle ski runs and its excellent terrain park facilities.
  • Treble Cone: Also located near Wanaka, this ski resort is known for its challenging ski runs and its spectacular views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains.
  • Coronet Peak: Located near the town of Queenstown, this ski resort is known for its diverse range of ski runs and its lively après-ski scene.
  • The Remarkables: Also located near Queenstown, this ski resort is known for its family-friendly ski runs and its excellent facilities for beginner skiers and snowboarders.

Hot springs

Hot pools are popular with New Zealanders during the winter. These natural springs provide a warm and relaxing escape from the cold weather.

Whether you’re looking to relax, rejuvenate, or simply soak in the natural beauty of the region, a visit to a New Zealand hot spring is a must-do winter activity. Some popular hot springs in New Zealand are:

North Island

  • Polynesian Spa in Rotorua: This is one of the most popular hot springs in New Zealand, with a range of thermal pools and private baths set amidst a stunning garden setting.
  • Hells Gate in Rotorua: This geothermal park features hot springs, steam vents, and mud pools, as well as a range of spa treatments and massages.

South Island

  • Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa: This scenic resort town is home to a range of thermal pools and spas, as well as a variety of other outdoor activities and attractions.
  • Maruia Springs: This remote hot spring is located in the Maruia Valley and offers natural thermal pools, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery.

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park, located on the North Island of New Zealand, offers a range of winter activities for visitors. Some of the highlights include:

Winter Hiking

The park is home to several well-known hikes, including the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is a popular winter destination for its stunning views of the volcanic landscapes and its alpine environment.

To undertake the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the winter, you will need to book a guided tour with an experienced outdoors company. It will not be an easy hike, but it will be amazing!

Skiing and Snowboarding

The park is located close to several ski resorts, including Whakapapa and Turoa, which offer a range of ski and snowboard terrain for all levels.

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a popular activity in Tongariro National Park, with a range of trails and guided tours available.

Winter Photography

Tongariro National Park offers a stunning winter landscape, with its volcanic landscapes and alpine environment providing a unique and picturesque backdrop for photography.

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand’s North Island

Fiordland

Winter can be a great time to see the fiords in New Zealand, as the colder weather and rain can create stunning waterfalls and bring the landscape to life. (“Fiords” is more commonly used in New Zealand than “fjords.”)

The fiords are located in the Fiordland National Park, on the south west coast of the South Island.

The town of Te Anau is a good starting point for exploring the fiords, and there are several tour operators and outdoor adventure companies based there that can help you plan your visit.

Just be prepared for wet weather, and make sure to bring warm, waterproof clothing and gear.

There are several ways to experience Fiordland during the winter months, including:

Scenic flights

One of the best ways to see the fiords is by taking a scenic flight over the area. This will give you a unique perspective on the rugged, glacier-carved coastline and provide stunning views of the surrounding mountains and waterfalls.

Boat tours

Another option is to take a boat tour of the fiords. This will allow you to get up close and personal with the towering cliffs and glaciers, and you may even have the chance to see seals and penguins along the way.

A boat tour of Milford Sound is a must-do activity, especially during the winter when the waterfalls are at their most dramatic.

Hiking and trekking

For the more adventurous, there are several hiking and trekking trails that offer incredible views of the fiords. Some of the most popular trails include the Milford Track and the Kepler Track.

Photography

Milford Sound is a photographer’s paradise, and the winter weather can provide unique and stunning photo opportunities. Get ready for breathtaking scenery!

Wildlife watching

Milford Sound is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including seals, penguins, and dolphins. You may be able to spot some of these animals on your boat tour or hike.

Relaxation

After a day of exploring, you can relax and soak in the beauty of Milford Sound. Many accommodations offer hot tubs or other amenities for guests to enjoy.

Whale Watching

If you go whale watching in New Zealand during the winter, you can observe different types of whales in various locations around New Zealand.

Some popular whale watching locations in New Zealand include:

Kaikoura on the South Island

You’re likely to see sperm whales and humpback whales. It’s best to check with local tour operators for the latest information on whale sightings and availability.

Bay of Islands on the east coast of the North Island

You’ll probably see long-finned pilot and bryde’s whales, as well as dolphins and orcas.

Dolphins following a whale watching tour in Kaikoura, New Zealand

Winter Festivals in new Zealand

New Zealand is home to several winter festivals that are worth checking out if you’re in the country during the colder months. Some of the best winter festivals include:

Midwinter Carnival Dunedin

Dunedin’s Midwinter Carnival takes place in the southern city of Dunedin and features a range of events, including ice-skating, live music, street performers, and a range of food and drink stalls.

New Zealand International Film Festival

The New Zealand International Film Festival kicks off in Auckland and continues around the country.

Mt Hutt Winter Festival

Held at the Mt Hutt ski resort, this festival features a range of events, including live music, food and drink stalls, and a range of winter sports and activities.

Matariki Festival

Matariki Festivals around New Zealand celebrate the Maori New Year as the Matariki star cluster rises. These celebrations are an opportunity to celebrate the new year and learn more about Maori cultural traditions.

What to pack for New Zealand in the winter?

Pack clothing suitable for the New Zealand weather and the type of activities you’ll be doing.

Regardless of where you’re going, pack warm, waterproof clothing and gear for your trip to New Zealand in the winter. Be prepared for changing weather conditions and pack layers so you can stay comfortable no matter the temperature.

Here are some general packing guidelines for tourists visiting New Zealand:

  • a light waterproof jacket or sweater, even if you’re visiting the warmer regions of the North Island
  • long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and warm socks
  • a heavy coat (waterproof is best)
  • hat, gloves, and scarf
  • sturdy, warm, waterproof footwear
  • raincoat and rain pants
  • sunglasses
  • any gear you need (skis, snowboard, etc.)

Your complete packing list for New Zealand travel!

When are spring, summer, and fall in New Zealand?

New Zealand has four distinct seasons. There is no one best month or best season to visit New Zealand. They all offer incredible opportunities for culture, adventure, and cuisine.

You should choose when to come based on on what you’d like to see and do. What New Zealand experiences are on your bucket list?

Spring in New Zealand (September-November)

In spring, the weather in New Zealand begins to warm up, with average temperatures ranging from 12 to 20°C (54-68°F).

New Zealand’s spring weather is simply lovely, as the country comes alive with blooming flowers and green pastures.

Popular springtime activities include hiking, cycling, and exploring the countryside. Don’t miss seeing the baby lambs!

The spring also marks the start of the surf season on the North Island, so it’s an ideal time to go surfing and enjoy the beaches.

The beginning of spring kicks off the tourist season, but there are fewer crowds than in the summer.

Summer in New Zealand (December-February)

Summer in New Zealand is known for its warmer temperatures and sunny weather, with average temperatures ranging from 20 to 25°C (68-77°F).

The summer months are peak tourist season, with many people taking advantage of the warm weather to explore the country’s beaches, lakes, and forests.

The warmest months of the year are an excellent time for water sports, such as swimming, kayaking, and white water rafting.

Popular festivals and events also take place in the summer, as everyone loves to be outside, enjoying the high temperatures and sunny days.

Autumn in New Zealand (March-May)

In autumn, the weather in New Zealand begins to cool down, with average temperatures ranging from 12 to 20°C (54-68°F).

The autumn months are a scenic delight due to the changing leaves of deciduous trees. Visitors and the people of New Zealand enjoy seeing the countryside transform into a stunning tapestry of golden and red hues.

Popular activities during this time include hiking, hunting, and exploring the country’s scenic drives.

Autumn is also a great time to sample some of the country’s best wine, with many wineries hosting harvest festivals and tastings.

Safety tips for for winter travel in New Zealand

Be aware of the weather

New Zealand’s weather can change quickly, especially in the mountains, so make sure to check the weather forecast before heading out and be prepared for sudden changes.

Wear appropriate clothing

Make sure to wear warm, waterproof clothing, especially if you plan to spend time outdoors. This will help keep you warm and dry and prevent hypothermia. Dressing appropriately is of paramount importance–always take an extra layer just to be safe.

Wear appropriate footwear

Make sure to wear sturdy, waterproof footwear to protect your feet from the elements and keep from slipping.

Drive carefully

If you plan to drive in New Zealand during the winter, make sure to drive carefully and slow down on slippery roads and on winding roads in high-elevation regions.

Always carry chains if you’re driving in the mountains (and know how to use them). If you’re in a rental car, be sure you feel comfortable driving the car before heading into mountain passes.

Take precautions in the mountains

If you plan to ski, snowboard, or hike in the mountains, make sure to take appropriate precautions, such as carrying a map, compass, and emergency supplies.

Always check the weather forecast and trail conditions before heading out, and never go alone.

Be prepared for emergencies

Make sure to have a basic first aid kit and a fully charged phone with you, in case of an emergency. It’s also a good idea to let someone know your plans and expected return time.

Final travel tips for going to New Zealand in Winter

Winter is a wonderful time to visit New Zealand. The magnificent scenery is worth being a little chilly!

If you love the great outdoors in winter, Zealand offers abundant winter sport choices. You can enjoy excellent skiing and snowboarding, go hiking, or go sledding.

But not to worry if you’d prefer a tamer, warmer winter vacation. Explore the country’s art at independent galleries and public exhibitions and observe traditional Maori cultural experiences. Enjoy a hot spring pool, museums, and shopping. And, of course, enjoy delicious New Zealand cuisine, wine, beer, and coffee.

Winter in New Zealand is absolutely gorgeous. Whether you’re interested in doing outdoor sports, exploring the country’s culture and history, or simply relaxing, New Zealand has something for everyone even (maybe especially!) in the winter.

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