Best time to Travel to New Zealand
New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere; therefore, all seasons are the opposite of those in North America, Europe, and other Northern Hemisphere locations.
There really isn't a bad time to travel to New Zealand. Keep in mind, though, that most Kiwi families take their main annual holidays between mid-December and the end of January, which puts enormous pressure on accommodations in major summer beach destinations. During the Easter break and school holidays in April, June to July, and September to October, it also pays to reserve well in advance.
Remember, too, that accommodations at ski destinations like Ohakune, National Park, Methven near Mount Hutt, Wanaka, and Queenstown fill up quickly - reserve early and be prepared to pay higher winter rates. In most other areas, though, you'll be paying lower rates during the winter months (Apr-Aug). In some summer-peak areas, the winter also means that tour, lodge, and adventure operators may take advantage of lower tourist numbers and take their own holiday breaks, closing their businesses for 1- to 3-month periods.
Dialing the Weather - In New Zealand, call Metservice at tel. 0900/999 followed by your New Zealand area code to hear the current and expected weather conditions for the region you are in. Calls cost NZ$1.30 per minute including GST. You can also visit the Metservice website, for further details, or check their blog, for the latest updates. Check the website for details about receiving weather updates via SMS texting at a time to suit you. Daily updates cost NZ50¢; on-demand updates cost NZ99¢. For further information, call Metservice toll-free at tel. 0800/932-843.
New Zealand's climate, especially by Northern Hemisphere standards, is pretty mellow for much of the year. You'll find a far greater seasonal difference in the South Island than in the subtropical North, and don't believe anyone who says it never gets cold here or that there are no extremes. In Central Otago, winter temperatures are often 14°F (-10°C) and sometimes as low as -4°F (-20°C), with summers up to 100°F to 104°F (38°C-40°C). By comparison, the northern part of the North Island is subtropical. That means lots of winter/spring rain, and often daily light showers.
The west coast of the South Island can get up to 100 inches or more of rain a year on its side of the Southern Alps, while just over the mountains to the east, rainfall is a moderate 20 to 30 inches annually. Rain is also heavier on the west coast of the North Island, averaging 40 to 70 inches annually. Milford Sound, though, beats the lot; it's the wettest place in the country, with a phenomenal 365 inches of rain a year.
Spring (Sept, Oct, Nov) - This is a beautiful time to visit - the countryside is flush with new green grass, baby lambs, and blooming trees. Christchurch in the spring means blossoms, bluebells, and daffodils in abundance; Dunedin is a splurge of rhododendron color. The weather can still be very changeable right up to mid-October, so come prepared with light rain gear. In the South Island, it's still perfectly normal to get late snowfalls in September.
Summer (Dec, Jan, Feb) - This is peak tourist season, so you'll pay top dollar for accommodations and airfares. Book early to avoid disappointment - this also applies to the major walking tracks, such as Milford, for which you should make bookings 6 months ahead. The country's beaches come alive, and boaties flock to the water. Fresh fruit is falling off the trees. (You must try Central Otago cherries and apricots; the apple district is Hawke's Bay.) Everyone should see Central Otago when the lupines are flowering, with brilliant colors etched against blue skies and golden tussock.