The Seasonal Guide to New Zealand – a holiday destination for all seasons.

January 5, 2019
Just NZ Holidays

New Zealand, the “Land of the Long White Cloud” is loved by visitors from all over the world for its diverse landscape, temperate climate and warm hospitality. It’s somewhere you can visit for a skiing trip on the breathtaking Southern Alps in winter, or a beach holiday on the golden sands of the Coromandel in the Summer. Autumn wine adventures in Central Otago or Martinborough, or Spring golf tours on one of the many world-class courses that are dotted around the North and South Islands. Wildlife lovers love being able to see penguins and whales in the cool months, and native birds and Spring lambs in the warmer months.

Whether you’re a sunseeker or a winter warmer, there’s magic awaiting you on your New Zealand holiday. We’ve come up with a whole bunch of our favourite activities for each season that will make planning your next trip a breeze, whatever the weather!

Tip: Are you on a budget or just looking for the best value? Book a holiday in New Zealand’s off-peak season between May and September… we have a range of Winter Specials available which offer maximum bang for your buck. Ask us about them today!

Summer (December to February)

New Zealand has warm rather than scorching summers, and long evenings that go on & on, making the days perfect for any activity. It gets hot, but you’ll still be able to head out and enjoy an outdoor activity on even the warmest days! Win win!

Beaches and Surfing

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Riding the Dunes in Northland

Amazing beaches are found all over the coast of New Zealand, as well as some legendary surf breaks. The quaint town of Raglan in the North Island is an unforgettable experience and is home to probably New Zealand’s most famous surf break. Mount Maunganui in Tauranga is a golden beach suburb surrounding the famous mount, which was formed from lava millions of years ago! In the South Island, Kaikoura is a surfer’s paradise and some of the smaller bays (Magnet Bay, Hickory Bay) on Banks Peninsula have good surf, or shallow sandy beaches perfect for those beach trips with the kids. Beach cricket is also a classic kiwi activity so don’t be surprised if you find yourself part of a game with some locals!

Helicopter tours of the Glaciers
You might think Summer is a funny time to visit a giant ice formation, but the glaciers at Franz Josef and Fox Glacier are actually best seen from a clear sky on a crisp Summer’s day! The glaciers are found on the West Coast of the South Island and can be viewed from above on a helicopter tour, or a short hike will get you up close and personal. The glaciers are surrounded by natural rainforests which really make them a sight to behold… whether from high above or on the ground… there’s a heap to explore!

Bush Walks

Hiking the Routeburn Track

The native bush of New Zealand is as famous as it is widespread – you’ll find it up and down the country – behind beaches, below mountains, on hillsides and surrounding lakes. It’s also a sample of the untouched world that still exists in New Zealand, and a haven for wildlife, especially native birds like the Tūi, Kererū (Wood Pigeon) and Fantail. Bush walks can be a quick wander or a multi-day adventure… some of the most popular walks in New Zealand are the Abel Tasman Track, Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Queen Charlotte Track, Milford Track and Roy’s Peak Track.

Swimming with Dolphins in Akaroa
The beautiful town of Akaroa has a uniquely French heritage, but is perhaps most famous for its resident dolphins, the Hector’s dolphins – they’re the world’s smallest and found only in New Zealand! You can take a guided tour to watch as whole pods of them swim alongside your boat, and jump in for a swim with them – they’re friendly! It’s a great way to experience the magic of nature up close, and all surrounded by the most beautiful green rolling hills. Truly unforgettable!

Autumn (March to May)

Autumn in New Zealand is one of the most picturesque times of year, the leaves on the trees turn golden brown and the temperature cools, but not so much that you won’t want to explore the outdoors!

Historic Arrowtown.

Arrowtown

Arrowtown full of colour

The beautiful small town of Arrowtown was built as a gold mining settlement, and it’s still a popular pastime to grab a pan and try your luck in the nearby rivers. The town is at its most beautiful with the colours of Autumn, and there’s heaps on – mountain biking trails connect you to rural areas and the vineyards of the region, and there are walking trails which range in difficulty from a casual stroll to a full workout. Take some time to wander down the tree-lined paths by the river, the atmosphere is magical, and you’ll want to bring a camera to capture the colours on show! Back in town, there’s a variety of local pubs and restaurants serving locally sourced food, and the laneways and backstreets are home to some quirky hidden bars… and all just 20 minutes from New Zealand’s adventure capital – Queenstown!

Gibbston Valley Wineries & Vineyards
Just a stone’s throw from Arrowtown is the Gibbston Valley wine region, one of the key winemaking areas in Central Otago, and the home of some of the world’s best Pinot Noir. There are dozens of wineries to explore, many with cellar doors for tastings and restaurants for lunches. Accommodation in the valley is available at Kinross cottages where you can stargaze from your very own hot tub or admire the view of the Southern Alps! For the adventure minded traveller, the bridge over the Kawarau river is home to New Zealand’s first bungy jump, or just grab a bike and explore some of the cycling trails that surround the area.

Explore the Bay of Islands

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Waitangi Meeting House

The Bay of Islands are known for their beauty, but they’re also a cultural landmark, rich with Māori heritage and historic places. A visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds lets you discover the history of New Zealand’s union under the treaty of Waitangi and learn more about Māori culture and traditions. Out on the waters, take a cruise out to Cape Brett, and on a calm day your skipper will guide the vessel right through the famous “hole in the rock”! This is also the best place to see whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, and sea birds, so a camera is a must! You can also take a tour on an old-fashioned sailing boat or explore the historic town of Russell, where you can learn how pioneers settled in the area and the processes behind making leather and binding books.

Winter (June to August)

Winter in New Zealand means crisp, cold weather. Wrap up warm because it’s one of the most beautiful times of year to visit and there’s a lot to explore!

Skiiing and Snowboarding

Snowboarding

Snowboarding in Queenstown

Skiing in New Zealand is world-famous, and there’s mountain ranges in both islands meaning you can hit the slopes whether you’re up North or down South! Otago is home to the best skiing in the country, with adventure capitals Queenstown and Wanaka both boasting a range of world-class ski fields… Treble Cone, the Remarkables, Cardona and Coronet Peak. The private resort Ohau is a boutique option with a lodge that is famous for its comfort. In the North Island, there’s Turoa and Whakapapa ski areas, where you can ski on New Zealand’s only skiable volcano, Mount Ruapehu! In Canterbury, Mount Hutt is conveniently located near Christchurch and is a favourite, while boutique ski fields like Mt. Cheeseman, Mt. Olympus and Dobson offer back country ski adventures.

Snowshoeing and Queenstown Winter Festival
Not a skier or snowboarder? Not to worry! You can still hit the slopes and explore with a snowshoeing tour on the Remarkables, where you’ll get an incredible view over the surrounding area. Helicopter tours of the mountains are also available for travellers who just want to keep warm, but not miss out on the sights… the view of the mountains over the lakes at Queenstown and Wanaka must be seen to be believed, and it’s at its most dramatic in winter when the snow caps the mountains! Queenstown also plays host to its own Winter festival every year, which sees the town buzzing with fireworks and celebrations – it’s a really amazing place to visit in Winter.

Live Rugby

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Grassroots Rugby

Rugby is New Zealand’s national game, and winter is the season to see it. The major cities all have their own teams, and the mighty All Blacks play host to other national teams every winter. A live game is worth braving a cold night for, and if you’re in Dunedin you can enjoy the game under the roof as the stadium is covered!

Natural Hot Pools and Geothermal Activities
The most famous of New Zealand’s geothermal attractions are in Rotorua, where you’ll find the geysers and hot mud pools at Te Puia, as well as hot water pools and waterfalls. But did you know there are abundant hot pools all over the country? Hanmer Springs near Christchurch is a Winter wonderland, with amazing hot pools and day spas where you can shake off any cold chill. There are also hot springs in Taupo and Tongariro in the North Island and Maruia Hot Springs on the West Coast of the South Island.

Spring (September to November)

Spring in New Zealand is full of beautiful colours as the flowers come into blossom, and on the farms it’s lambing season! Day time temperatures rise after the cold of winter, but mornings and nights will still get chilly, so keep some warm clothes handy.

Whale Watching

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Whale Watching in Kaikoura

Whale watching in New Zealand is available in multiple locations, but the best spot is Kaikoura on the coast of the South Island. You can expect to see sperm whales, humpbacks, dolphins and seals, and maybe even some orcas! Kaikoura is surrounded by some very deep coastal waters which means that whales and deep-sea species of all kinds are found there all year round. It’s also home to some of the best fish and chips and fresh crayfish that you’ll find anywhere in New Zealand!

Blossoms at Lake Tekapo
Spring is Lupin season! These colourful flowers are best seen at Lake Tekapo, midway between Queenstown and Christchurch in the South Island. The lake is a gorgeous turquoise blue, which makes the most amazing backdrop for the purple, yellow, pink and blue shades of the lupins. A mountain bike or walking trail round the lake is the best way to experience the beauty of Spring, and remember your camera because even though photos don’t do the colours justice, you’ll want to snap some pictures and remember these views for a lifetime!

Diving

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Dive Tutukaka

It may not be as warm as Summer but diving in Spring is one of the best times of year for clear, calm waters. The Coromandel and Bay of Islands are popular spots for divers seeking reefs, wrecks and drop-offs, but there are easily accessed spots up and down the country that are rich with aquatic life and dive attractions. Try your luck going for a fresh crayfish or some scallops – true kiwi delicacies!

Hiking
Spring is a quieter (and cooler) time of year to take a hike on one of New Zealand’s many walking tracks – the Abel Tasman track and other famous tracks are open all year round. Spring provides a good balance between warm weather and less foot traffic on the track!

New Zealand is open 365 days a year, let us help you get there for your next holiday.

Tags: Holidays, Tips,
Posted by

Vanessa Carey

Vanessa is a travel writer on a mission to explore every inch of New Zealand. Her ideal holiday would include at least one scenic flight, a bit of adventure and eating out every night! No one should cook on their holidays! Favourite NZ place to visit: Queenstown.