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Best Time of Year to Visit New Zealand

Explore > Travel Planning Articles > Best Time of Year to Visit New Zealand

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The best time of year to visit New Zealand depends on what you're going for. If you're a skier, ski season starts in early June and runs through late October. If you're looking to enjoy hiking, camping, swimming, etc., their summer runs from December through February.

Lake Hawea, South Island of New Zealand, from the mountains between Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka

New Zealand's latitude ranges from about -37 degrees to -47 degrees, roughly equivalent to the area from San Francisco to Seattle in the northern hemisphere.

However, because most of the country is relatively close to the ocean, you don't find quite as much of a temperature range in general.

The weather can change pretty quickly, though, as cold fronts or tropical cyclones move across the region.

The southern island has a climate similar to that of Oregon, whereas the northern island is more sub-tropical. Rainfall levels are high, ranging from about 25 inches/year to 60 inches/year.

  Thick fog at Auckland Airport early one winter (June) morning
Thick fog at Auckland Airport early one June morning.

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Typical airfares from LAX

Airfares vary by season, but also day of week, and are definitely affected by holidays. The chart above shows the typical minimum and maximum fares for a economy class ticket from Los Angeles (LAX) to Auckland, NZ (AKL), by month.

Rainbow over Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown
Rainbow over Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown harbor.

Most of New Zealand averages over 2000 hours of sunshine a year.

This, plus the fact that there's very little air pollution, means that the UV rays are quite strong in the summer months.

Seasons in New Zealand

Spring September to November
Summer December to February
Fall March to May
Winter July to August


Ski Season in New Zealand

Ski season in New Zealand starts in early June and runs through late October.

The best-known ski areas are near Queenstown and the incredible Remarkables mountains and Lake Wanaka.

This area is noted for spectacular scenery, a wide variety of terrain and types of trails, and popular resorts.

On the North Island, there's the Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas, perched on the active volcano of Mt Ruapehu.

  Helicopter against the backdrop of the Remarkables, near Queenstown
Helicopter against the backdrop of the Remarkables, near Queenstown.

Looking down on Queenstown from the top of the Skyline gondola
Looking down on Queenstown from the top of the Skyline gondola.

New Zealand Wine-Tasting

The country has become very well-known for its wines, especially its sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs.

Wine tastings are available in tourist areas throughout the year.

Harvest time for the vineyards typically starts in February, with some late-harvest types being picked as late as June in the Otago area.

Queenstown Wine Trail offers sight-seeing and wine-tasting year-round, visiting many of the premier vineyards and wineries in the Otago/Queenstown region.

Hunting and Hiking in New Zealand

Really, the weather extremes are not so extreme--it's a pleasant place to hike and explore the outdoors year-round.

Hunting is popular, especially for the incredible red stag--one of 7 types of deer introduced to New Zealand about 150 years ago by European settlers (who failed to consider the fact that New Zealand has no predators other than a small hawk).

Deer hunting season is officially from February through September, however, the rut (when the biggest stags are available) is during the rut, from late March through late April.

  Stalking red stag at Glen Dene Station, on the shores of Lake Hawea, South Island
Stalking red stag at Glen Dene Station, on the shores of Lake Hawea, South Island.


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About the author, Michael Cottam

Founder of Visual Itineraries, Michael lives in Bend, Oregon. He's an avid traveler, scuba diver, photographer, and a private pilot, and also the founder of Bright Yonder. He's been a Rotarian for 20 years, currently on the board of the Greater Bend Rotary Club. Follow Michael on LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter.