New Zealand enjoys a moderate climate, without extremes of hot or cold. This is due not only to the latitude of the country, but to the fact that most of New Zealand's landmass is relatively close to the sea. Having such a maritime climate there is an abundance of sunshine and pleasant temperatures for most of the year.
New Zealand Geography and Climate
New Zealand's long narrow shape is dominated by two main geographic features - the proximity of the sea, and mountains (the most famous of the latter are the Southern Alps which traverse almost the entire length of the South Island).
The North and South Islands have quite different geographic features and this is reflected in the climate as well.
On both islands there tends to be a marked difference in the weather between the eastern and western sides. The prevailing wind is westerly, so on that coast the beaches are generally wild and rugged with stronger winds. The eastern coast is much milder, with sandy beaches good for swimming and a generally lower rainfall.
North Island Geography and Climate
In the far north of the North Island, summer weather can be almost tropical, high in humidity and temperatures into the mid 30s (Celsius). Winter temperatures are rarely much below freezing on this island, apart from the inland mountain regions in the middle of the island.
South Island Geography and Climate
The Southern Alps neatly divide the east and west coasts. South of Christchurch snow is common in the winter. Summers can be hot in the South Island although changeable, due to the proximity of the mountains.
New Zealand Seasons
Everything is around the other way in the southern hemisphere: it gets colder the further south you go, and summer is over Christmas and winter is in the middle of the year. A barbeque on the beach on Christmas Day is a long-held kiwi tradition that confuses many a visitor from the northern hemisphere!
New Zealand Rainfall
Rainfall in New Zealand is reasonably high, although more so in the west than in the east. Where there are mountains, such as along the South Island, it causes the westerly weather to cool and precipitate into rain. That is why the west coast of the South Island is particularly wet; in fact, Fiordland, in the south west of the South Island has amongst the highest rainfall of anywhere on earth.
New Zealand Sunshine
New Zealand enjoys long sunshine hours in most places and at most times of the year. There is not a huge difference in daylight hours between the summer and winter, although it is more accentuated in the south. In the North Island, daylight hours are generally from around 6am to 9pm in the summer and 7.30am to 6pm in the winter. In the South Island add an hour to the summer at each end of the day and subtract one in the winter for a very rough guide.
A word of warning about the New Zealand sunshine: New Zealand has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. The sun can be rather harsh and burn times are short, especially in the summer. It is essential to apply a high-protection sunblock (factor 30 or above) in the summer months.
Best Time To Visit New Zealand
Any time of year is a good time to visit New Zealand; it all depends on what you are wanting to do. The majority of tourists tend to favor spring, summer and autumn (fall). However the quieter months of winter (June to August) can be a wonderful time for snow-based activities such as skiing and snowboarding and the South Island, in particular, is spectacular in the winter.
Accommodation rates are also generally lower in the winter, apart from in such winter resort towns as Queenstown.
Most tourist activities are open all year round, except for ski resorts which are generally open between June and late October.
New Zealand Temperatures
Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for some of the main centers are listed below. Note that while in general it gets colder the further south you go this is not always the case. New Zealand weather can also be somewhat changeable, particularly in the south.
Sep, Oct, Nov
Dec, Jan, Feb
Mar, Apr, May
Jun, Jul, Aug
|Bay of Islands||High||Low||High||Low||High||Low||High||Low|