As we head into summer, a little heated debate broke out over Zoom about the best time of year to visit New Zealand. Don’t worry, no punches were virtually thrown! There were some strong opinions though about the best time to visit New Zealand. The skiers and snowboarders amongst the team were fighting hard for winter but the sun worshippers put up a pretty good argument for the summer months. With no conclusion in sight, we thought we’d put forth our arguments for each of the seasons and put it to a vote – seems to be the way to get things done these days!
The seasons in New Zealand
The first thing to agree on before we move forward is clarifying the exact months that make up each season as this often causes a bit of a stir as well. As the author of this post, my two cents would be that spring only truly starts when the clocks ‘spring’ forward at the end of September, however I was overruled! Here are the ‘official’ seasons from the Met Office:
- Spring – September to November
- Summer – December to February
- Autumn – March to May
- Winter – June to August
When is the best time of the year to visit New Zealand?
Ok. So now we’ve got those seasons cleared up, let’s hear the arguments for and against each of the seasons and let the public decide exactly when is the best time to visit New Zealand.
There were definitely quite a few of the team in the ‘spring’ camp and for good reason. Spring is a sign of hope. A promise of the good weather to come and the start of the warmer days. Spring in New Zealand depends of course on where you are and is very different in the North Island compared to the South. The North starts to see temperatures creeping back up near the 20s and as the spring flowers start to come into full bloom, the North Island is awash with stunning colours. In the South, as the winter ski season comes to an end, it’s a great time to head down for a visit and check out the beautiful colours as well as getting involved in some spring activities.
Top 3 places to visit in spring
If you are looking for ideas on places to visit this spring, here are three of our top tips:
- Lake Tekapo – heading to Tekapo in late spring is the perfect time for a visit. The lupins will be in full bloom which offer up a truly magnificent sight, the blue of the lake seems impossibly blue and the clear night skies are perfect for stargazing.
- Hamilton – New Zealand is not short on beautiful gardens, however Hamilton Gardens are simply stunning in the spring time. With five country-themed gardens to explore, you will be blown away by the vibrant colours. There are plenty of other things going on in Hamilton so check out our recent post and discover some of the amazing things to do in Hamilton.
- Rangitata River – if you are looking for some action adventure then head for the Rangitata River in Canterbury in the spring time. As the snow begins to melt in the Southern Alps, the rivers are free flowing which is the perfect time for a spot of white water rafting.
Vote for spring! If spring is your favourite time of the year, either comment with ‘Spring’ below or give our spring photo a thumbs up on Facebook!
Summer was the big winner in the team. Maybe it’s because a lot of us, especially the Auckland crew, have been in lockdown through a lot of the winter and spring months, but most people genuinely can’t wait for the summer months! From December through to February, New Zealand really comes into its own. Typically, visitors would begin to flock from all over the world to tour around our magnificent country and enjoy the long, balmy summer’s days. No matter where you go in summer, you can expect much of the same; BBQs, ice creams and jandals. Kiwis love to embrace the summer months and it is a great time to come and visit and explore. The sunshine and blue skies seems to make every place sparkle and we definitely look forward to the warmer weather.
Top 3 places to visit in summer
Summer is the time when most tourists flock to New Zealand so picking our top three places to visit in summer was a tricky one but here goes:
- Bay of Islands – this place was just made for the summer. A trip to the Bay of Islands is a must. With so many water based activities, this place is simply humming in the summer months and the temperature can top 30°.
- Abel Tasman National Park – we simply love this place. Catch a water taxi into the park or kayak around the crystal clear waters and golden sandy beaches. There are few better places in New Zealand when the sun is shining.
- Waiheke Island – making it into our top three is Waiheke Island. Such a great place to get away from it all in the summer months. A 40 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland and you may even feel the temperature rise a couple of degrees too. Simply stunning.
Vote for summer! If summer is your favourite time of the year, either comment with ‘Summer’ below or give our summer photo a thumbs up on Facebook!
Now this is where we start to divide opinion a little bit. There’s the warm weather lovers in one corner and the cold crisp day lover in the other. For us, the South Island is perhaps more spectacular than the North in the autumn months. The North Island has a lot of evergreen trees so many places don’t get the thrill of the autumn colours. The South Island on the other hand looks like someone went to town with the yellows, oranges and reds! Whilst it might be colder down in the South Island in autumn, there is no shortage of sunshine and blue skies which form the perfect back drop to the stunning autumnal colours – make sure your camera is well charged for a trip to any of these places.
Top 3 places to visit in autumn
Whilst you can head to the likes of Matakana or Warkworth north of Auckland or even pay another visit to the gardens in Hamilton, autumn is all about the South Island for us:
- Queenstown/Arrowtown – we reckon Arrowtown is one of the most photographed towns in New Zealand and that 90% of those photos are taken in autumn! Heaps of people flock down here to take in the magnificent autumn colours and we can see why.
- Wanaka – just over the Cardrona Range, Wanaka is also another great spot for autumn lovers. Lake Wanaka is always spectacular but throw in the golden yellow poplars than line Roys Bay in autumn and it will take your breath away.
- Christchurch – it’s not called the Garden City for no reason. Christchurch has more than its fair share of gardens and parks and they all take on a vibrant colour during the autumn. A trip to Hagley Park is a must but you can take your pick. You won’t be disappointed.
Vote for autumn! If autumn is your favourite time of the year, either comment with ‘Autumn’ below or give our autumn photo a thumbs up on Facebook!
Perhaps the biggest rival to summer in our little debate was winter. New Zealand is definitely an all-year-round destination and the winter months offer up so much for visitors to both the North and South Islands. The South, and Queenstown in particular is extremely popular with visitors in the winter months. With world class ski fields in abundance and an awesome apres-ski scene, Queenstown is a must-visit place in New Zealand during those winter months. Not to be outdone, there is plenty for the skiers to enjoy in the North Island too and the Mt Ruapehu skifield is one of the busiest in New Zealand. If skiing is not your thing, you can always take a visit to the ‘winterless’ north which enjoys warmer than average temperatures all through the winter months.
Top 3 places to visit in winter
The South Islands once again dominates when it comes to places to visit in the winter but the North Island still has its draws. Here are our top three places to visit in the winter:
- Queenstown – whether you’re into skiing or not, Queenstown is an awesome place to visit in the winter months. The world-class skiing is of course a big draw but the scenery down here in the winter is truly stunning and can be appreciated by anyone and everyone!
- Hanmer Springs – whilst it is possible to ski in and around Hanmer Springs, we recommend heading there for some serious R&R. There is no better place for a thermal spa experience than Hanmer Springs in the winter with the Southern Alps all around. Spectacular!
- Rotorua – we wanted to throw in a North Island destination so the South doesn’t have a complete autumn/winter monopoly! Rotorua is a cool places to visit in the winter thanks largely to the amazing thermal spas including plenty of free options.
Vote for winter! If winter is your favourite time of the year, either comment with ‘Winter’ below or give our winter photo a thumbs up on Facebook!
So there you have it. The people have spoken and now all that remains is for you to vote. We think some compelling arguments have been made for each of the seasons but which is your favourite season in New Zealand and when should people really come and pay us a visit down here in NZ? We’d love to hear about your favourite time to visit and where you like to go during your favourite season so let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Whatever the outcome of the vote, we hope this little post has made you think about booking your trip to New Zealand today, no matter what time of the year you are planning on visiting.
Republished: 25 November 2021
Book a vehicle for this trip