When is the best time to visit New Zealand?
Wondering when the best time is to visit New Zealand? It really depends on what you want to do when you get here.
New Zealand is beautiful no matter what time of the year or season you visit. The best time to visit NZ is the time that suits you most. And more importantly what you want to get up to while you’re here. Most activities can be done year-round, barring a few (eg. skiing). It’s best to have a think about the style of holiday you’re after, then make sure the time of year fits in with the activities and places you’re wanting to enjoy.
The weather is definitely the warmest between December and February (New Zealand summer). Sunny and colourful, it is a time for beaches (or lakes, depending on where you’re headed), barbeques, swimming and relaxation. It is also a popular time of the year for active adventures amidst our world-famous landscapes and pristine environment.
As you’d expect, tourist hot spots like our backyard of Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park are abuzz with activity at this time of the year. There can be a few people around, so if you’re planning to visit us in summer, book in advance. Typical of Fiordland and Milford Sound weather, be prepared for rain – even when the rest of the country is dry. And take a local’s word, visiting Milford Sound on a rainy day is any day more spectacular than a clear day – such is the magic of those waterfalls!
If skiing is your thing, you’ll absolutely love NZ in winter. From June to October, our resort towns in both the North and South Islands put on a spectacular show. Outside of these resort towns and skiing, you’ll pretty much have the great sights all to yourself, making the experience even more special.
Definitely keep Fiordland on your itinerary in winter. Increased rains bring on the best of Milford and Doubtful Sound. Wildlife abounds – you’ll see pods of dolphins, fur seals and birds – and the snow capped mountains are a photographer’s dream. A short walk on a clear, crisp winter’s day can be very rewarding.
Before the summer rush and after the short winter days comes one of the best times of the year to travel NZ – spring (September to November). Weather-wise, spring is a moveable feast – warm one day and frosty the next. But if you can cope with the unpredictable weather, it is a great time to be out and about. Just have back-up activities for days when the weather turns to custard!
We love hiking in Fiordland National Park on our days off at this time of the year to admire the rivers, listen to the bird song and see the seals, dolphins and penguins who make the most of the changing weather.
For the Milford Lodge team, if we had to choose a season to travel in NZ, it would be autumn (March – May). It’s not as hot as summer but not freezing either. The days are long, sometimes crisp, and emerald landscapes are making way for the bright golds of autumn. It’s the perfect time for outdoor activities, particularly hiking. If you are planning one of the multi-day hikes in Fiordland, autumn is definitely the best time for them.
When to book a NZ vacation?
Accommodation and popular activities tend to fill up quickly in summer; book in advance so you don’t miss out! If you’re planning to visit in winter, make bookings for accommodation and rental vehicles in ski towns like Queenstown, Ohakune, Wanaka, Taupo, Lake Tekapo and Methven.
For anyone planning a multi-day hike in summer or autumn – especially one of our Great Walks – jump on the DOC website, and reserve your spot well in advance. Both guided tours and DOC huts or trail accommodation for independent hikers are rarely available last minute at these times of the year.
We live in Milford Sound all year, and we reckon New Zealand is pretty awesome year round. Here’s a local’s tip: Winter in Milford is seriously magical – you can really feel the wilderness all around you, and we get heaps of crisp, still days – so don’t hesitate to come and visit us during the cooler months.