Climate & Weather
New Zealand or Aotearoa (Maori for ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’).
New Zealand or Aotearoa (Maori for ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’) has a temperate climate with mild temperatures, moderately high rainfall, and many hours of sunshine throughout most of the country. Its climate is dictated by its two main geographical features – the mountains and the sea.
While the far north has subtropical weather during summer with temperatures around 14 degrees celcius, inland alpine areas of the South Island can be as cold as -10 degrees celcius in winter, so it can depend on the area you visit as what the temperature is likely to be. Most of the country lies close to the coast, which means mild temperatures, moderate rainfall, and abundant sunshine
Because New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, the average temperature decreases as you travel south. The far north of the country has an average temperature of about 15 degrees celcius, while the Deep South has a cooler 9 degrees celcius average. January and February are the warmest months of the year, and July is the coldest.
While New Zealand does not have a large temperature range, lacking the extremes one finds in most continental climates, the weather can change unexpectedly – as cold fronts or tropical cyclones quickly blow in. Because of this, you should be prepared for sudden changes in weather and temperature if you’re going hiking or doing other outdoor activities.
The sunniest areas of New Zealand are the Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay and Nelson/Marlborough which receive over 2350 hours of sunshine every year.
New Zealand observes daylight saving from October through until March, and during summer months daylight can last up until 9.00pm. New Zealand experiences relatively little air pollution compared to many other countries, which makes the UV rays in our sunlight very strong during the summer months.
In order to avoid sunburn, visitors should wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats when they are in direct summer sunlight, especially in the heat of the day (11am — 4pm). While summer is sunnier than the other seasons, most regions in New Zealand have a relatively high proportion of sunlight during the winter months.
New Zealand’s average rainfall is high — between 640mm and 1500mm — and evenly spread throughout the year. As well as producing areas of stunning native forest, this high rainfall makes New Zealand an ideal place for farming and horticulture.
If you are looking to spend time in a warmer climate than your own winter, then New Zealand’s summer months are December to February, bringing high temperatures and sunshine. Many warmer weeks also fall during March and April, so the summer can be quite long and drawn out.
Days are long and sunny, nights are mild. Summer is an excellent time for walking in the bush and a variety of other outdoor activities. New Zealand’s many gorgeous beaches are ideal for swimming, sunbathing, surfing, boating, and water sports during summer.
March to May are New Zealand’s autumn months. While temperatures are a little cooler than summer, the weather can be excellent, and it is possible to swim in some places until April. While New Zealand’s native fauna is evergreen, there are many introduced deciduous trees. Colourful changing leaves make autumn a scenic delight, perfect for those who are looking for stunning landscape photographs
New Zealand’s winter months of June to August bring colder weather to much of the country and more rain to most areas in the North Island. Mountain ranges in both islands become snow-covered, providing beautiful vistas and excellent skiing. In areas such as the Central Northern Plateau, which is relatively high above sea level, snow is quite low lying. While the South Island has cooler winter temperatures, some areas of the island experience little rainfall in winter, so this is an excellent time to visit glaciers, mountains and other areas of scenic beauty.
Spring lasts from September to November and New Zealand’s spring weather can range from ‘fresh’ and frosty to warm and hot. If you’re into white water rafting, this is the time when melting spring snow and higher rainfall makes river water levels excitingly high.