New Zealand has four very distinct seasons and there are unique and beautiful aspects to each time of year. There is no bad time of year to visit New Zealand as long as you’re prepared for what the season brings. New Zealand weather can also be quite unpredictable, so it pays to have a rain jacket and sun hat handy!
Spring hiking in New Zealand
In New Zealand, spring is September, October and November. This time of year is the start of our walking and hiking season. It is one of our favourite times of year and it’s not hard to see why.
Weather-wise, temperatures in spring are relatively mild making it the perfect time to head out hiking. It can be quite fresh in the morning and evening, but there will be plenty of sunshine during the day.
In saying that, the weather in New Zealand can be a bit unexpected, particularly at the start of spring during September. Warm sunny days can turn to rain and sometimes even snow so it’s best to be prepared.
Waterfalls are an added bonus of hiking during spring. A lot of our hiking trails wander past waterfalls which are at their best in spring with a bit more rainfall and snow melt after winter. Milford Sound has some particularly impressive waterfalls which only get better with the rain.
Summer hiking in New Zealand
Summer in New Zealand is in December, January and February. Generally this means long, warm, sunny days. In saying that, we have been known to get snow on Christmas Day and a hot sunny day on Boxing Day so anything can happen!
January and February are the warmest and driest months with temperatures between 23-28°C. It’s not common for temperatures to rise about 30°C across the country, making New Zealand summers great for hiking. Our dry climate and fresh breezes will help keep you cool, even on the hotter days. You’ll come across streams, lakes or the ocean on a lot of New Zealand hikes so there is often somewhere nearby to cool off!
Autumn hiking in New Zealand
March, April and May are the autumn months in New Zealand and the changing colours make this time of year especially beautiful. The temperatures drop a bit to around 18-23°C and the long days make this an ideal time of year for hiking. March is one of the best months for hiking with settled weather and plenty of daylight to hit the trails without the summer crowds.
Daylight saving ends in April when we move our clocks back and you notice the days starting to get shorter. This does mean the mornings are lighter with sunrise around 7am, and sunsets around 6pm at this time of year are particularly amazing.
Temperatures start to noticeably cool down in May, when the South Island sometimes gets a bit of a snow if a cold front comes through. It can also drop below 10°C during the day so it pays to be prepared with a warm jacket and some extra layers. You can feel the oncoming winter in late May with shorter days and cooler temperatures, ready and waiting for the ski season to kick off!
Winter hiking in New Zealand
Winter in New Zealand is during June, July and August. This is the time of year when some Kiwis will hang up their hiking boots and replace them with ski boots! Cold weather runs the length of the country but in the whole scheme of things, it isn’t too extreme. There are still hiking trails around for well-equipped experienced hikers. You just need to be prepared for the conditions whether it’s the cooler weather or snow and ice on the trail.
The North Island has reasonably mild winter temperatures between 10-16°C. You might see the occasional frost inland and some colder nights – cooler nights are common across the whole country. The far north doesn’t get very cold at all with temperatures staying up around 15-16°C throughout winter.
Make sure to pack your woollies for the South Island. The weather down south is more extreme with frosts and snow across the mountains, sometimes even down to low levels. Temperatures will generally sit below 10°C but blue-sky days and snow-capped mountains make this a pretty magical time of year.
So when is the best time to go hiking in New Zealand?
Hiking in New Zealand is something that you can do all year round, but spring, summer or autumn would be the best with longer days, milder temperatures and more settled weather. Some hiking trails are closed over winter with variable conditions on the trails due to snow, ice or heavy rainfall so make sure you check this out before coming if there is a particular hike you’re set on doing.