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New Zealand in winter: weather, things to do and reasons to visit

New Zealand in Winter

New Zealand is truly one of those awe-striking destinations that you go to once and dream about for the rest of your life. It’s filled with literally everything a traveller could ever want: cities, beaches, mountains, lakes, adrenaline filled activities, and quiet farm-life experiences. Whether you’re looking for a thrill or a good chill, New Zealand is the place for you – and one of the absolute best times to visit is in winter!

Don’t believe us? Read on for more information on New Zealand in winter. By the end of this you’ll be utterly convinced, so pack your adventure best and prepare to have the time of your life!

Winter months in New Zealand

Winter? Huh? Well, you have to remember that the New Zealand climate is quite different to the climates of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s a pretty warm place, so even though it’s technically winter, the weather won’t be as frigid.

Therefore, visiting in the winter is ideal, and New Zealand’s winter months include June, July, and August.

Winter temperatures in New Zealand?

The warmest month in New Zealand is January, and the coldest is July, but ‘cold’ is a bit of a stretch as the average temperature is between 10 and 15 degrees celsius, making it rather mild. This depends on the region you’re in though: the North Island tends to be warmer than the South Island – so if you’re wanting true snowy winter vibes then the South Island is for you! You also have to take elevation into account: mountainous areas on either island will be cooler than the flat and coastal regions.

Because the weather is so varied though, and rarely freezing, there’s so much you can do, and your adventurous spirit doesn’t have to dim. Ski the slopes of the South Island, or enjoy beaches while they’re less busy in the North Island.

New Zealand in Winter

Image source:Contiki

Why you should visit New Zealand in winter

Let’s answer this with a pros list:

Can you take a road trip in New Zealand in winter?

Yes, you can! Because of the dip in tourism the roads will be quieter as well, so you can probably get anywhere you want to go faster. But that being said, driving in New Zealand in winter, especially on the South Island (which has a more rugged feel to it) can have its own set of challenges. Certain roads close during the winter months, and if there’s heavy snow fall or generally bad weather this can make driving difficult.

If you’re keen to see the whole country then we definitely recommend going with Contiki – all the driving will be taken care of for you by our expert Trip Drivers, so you don’t have to stress about any hazards or roadblocks. Sounds like the best of both worlds, hey?

Best things to do in New Zealand in winter

Because the weather stays quite stable and most things remain open, the good thing about a visit in winter is that you can do basically anything you can do in summer! So here are some of the best things to do in New Zealand during your visit – we’ve got a mix of activities for all kinds of travellers!

Hike Franz Josef Glacier

Besides the fact that this is a totally unique experience that you can brag to all your friends about, winter is prime glacier time in New Zealand, and this hike isn’t one you’re going to want to miss.

Great swathes of glittering white snow surround you as you make the climb where stunning views await you. It’s a great way to catch some fresh air and really capture the beauty of New Zealand. You can opt for a hike of a helicopter ride over the glacier on our Sweet as South trip.

Franz Josef Glacier New Zealand

Image source:Contiki

Go whale watching

June and July are the best months to spot humpback whales cresting over the water’s surface – it’s kind of a staple activity while visiting New Zealand in winter. Just off the eastern coast of the South Island in Kaikoura you’ll have the opportunity to go whale watching either by boat or by air with your Contiki crew.

Whales aren’t the only thing you’ll spot though as seals also dot the Pacific ocean with their curious, furry heads poking out. 

Visit a glow worm cave

Over in Te Anau on the west coast you can take a boat ride through a winding labyrinth of caves which, in the dark, glow bright blues and greens because of the worms that make them their home. It’s kind of a surreal experience, just surrounded by phosphorescent worms that glow like little jewels in the rock.

Get your heart pumping

If you didn’t already know, New Zealand is basically the adrenaline capital of the world – so any dare-devil activity that’s been collecting dust on your bucket list can finally be experienced here! Specifically, Queenstown.

Our Contiki trips that pass through Queenstown will give you so many options: from bungee jumping, skydiving, canyon swinging, climbing waterfalls, ziplining, jet-boating, and even being propelled into the sky from a catapult. Craving a rush? The Big Tiki is for you with 4 whole days in Queenstown to really feel alive. 

Skydiving in new zealand mountains

Image source:Contiki


I mean it wouldn’t be a proper visit to New Zealand in winter without some winter activities. Head to the Southern Alps for a week of shredding it down the slopes and slaloming over the purest, sparkliest, snow. In need of friends? That’s exactly what the Ultimate NZ ski trip is for – we’ve got you! 

The mountains of the South Island will be busy though as this is peak ski season! But don’t let that deter you from a fabulous time.

Bathe in hot springs

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can relax and get warm at one of the many hot springs across the country (or all of them if you’re feeling ambitious). We would definitely recommend having a dip at the hot springs in Rotorua for a real nature-filled vibe that’ll bring double the zen and relaxation.

Learn about Māori Culture

Easily one of the most amazing things about New Zealand is the Māori people, cultures, and traditions that still exist today. We’re firm believers that travel is as much about meeting people as it is about seeing gorgeous sights, but a visit to Rotorua lets you have both!

When it comes to Māori culture there’s so much to learn: it’s about as old as the country itself and vast and deep, so getting the chance to meet with people from different tribes is a total honour and an experience that’ll open up new ways of thinking and interacting with the world. Enjoy a traditional Hangi meal, craft your very own Pounamu jewellery, and absorb all the amazing culture. 

Maori in New Zealand

Image source:Contiki

Hit the waves

You might not be tempted to get in the sea in winter, but it’s beaut this time of year, and for anyone that enjoys surfing it’s actually better because the winter brings bigger waves! Head to the coasts and lounge around the country’s many beaches like in Paihia or Christchurch.

Visit wildlife rescues

Animal lovers gather: New Zealand is a boon of nature, animals included, and there are many nature reserves and wildlife rescues you can visit that ensure these animals’ wellbeing. From reptiles in Wellington, to native birds in Kaikoura, you can visit them all on our Kiwiana Panorama trip and capture some adorable photos.

See the Southern Lights

You’ve heard of the Northern Lights – those elusive ribbons of green, blue and purple light that grace the skies of Scandinavia and Canada, but have you heard of the Southern Lights? Well, they’re pretty much the same thing, but in the Southern Hemisphere.

The best places to catch a glimpse are Lake Tekapo, Queenstown, Stewart Island, and the Great Barrier Island. In fact, New Zealand is one of the best places to head to if you’re wanting to stargaze and feel your jaw-drop. Because so much of the land is wild and uninhabited, especially around the South Island, the skies are free from pollution and so clear. 

New Zealand in Winter

Image source:Contiki

What to pack for a New Zealand winter trip

Packing for New Zealand in winter isn’t much different to packing for the rest of the year: some casual tops and bottoms will do the trick with a mix of sleeve lengths, and don’t forget a bathing suit if you’re keen for dips in the sea!

If you’re planning on mainly sticking to the cities then pack a jumper and a coat, but you won’t need much else. But if you’re planning on hitting the country’s rural corners you’ll definitely want a few more layers. Thermals and waterproof and windproof jackets are a must just in case the weather takes a turn, and you’ll want a reliable pair of shoes that won’t pinch your toes after a long day of hiking.

Check out our New Zealand packing list for some extra tips!

Our winter trips

This all sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Whole mountains and valleys to yourself, mind-bogglingly beautiful scenery. If you’ve been toying with the idea of nipping to New Zealand for a while then you should take this as your sign to go now!

And we can help with that. We LOVE New Zealand, and we have lots of different trips to the North and South Islands that’ll cater to any travellers’ needs. 

New Zealand in Winter

Image source:Contiki

The Big Tiki

This is the one that encompasses everything the country has to offer: adventure and adrenaline, deep cultural moments and the chance to learn about Māori traditions, and all the views. 21 days of pure bliss which gives you loads of time to soak in the wonders of travel and form lasting bonds with your Contiki crew. Sound good? Book The Big Tiki!

The Ultimate NZ Ski

The Ultimate NZ Ski is for those that are after the rush of gliding down a mountain on a snowboard or skis, and you’ll be treated to a week of snowy heaven in Queenstown. And if you happen to get bored of the slopes (though we seriously doubt it), there are plenty of other thrills on offer. 

Sweet as South

With East and West variations, Sweet as South is a classic wanderlust lovers holiday. Bringing you the best views from either side of the island, be prepared to pick your jaw off the floor at every stop. There’s a healthy dose of adrenaline rushes available, as well as meaningful discoveries around Wanaka, and also Pounamu jewellery. 

Kiwiana Panorama

16 days of paradise is what you’ll find by booking the Kiwiana Panorama trip! Views, culture, and adventure are guaranteed, with the adorable addition of plenty of wildlife experiences: think whale watching, native birds and reptiles, as well as cuddly seals.

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