New Zealand Weather
About the weather in New Zealand
The weather in New Zealand can change very quickly. This is partly due to New Zealand’s geographical location, and partly to its rugged terrain. Especially in the South Island, the difference between the east and the west coast can be huge. Its south west coast (Fiordland in particular, with its spectacular Milford Sound) is one of the wettest places on earth, with an annual rainfall of over 6500 mm! One of the driest areas of New Zealand however, in Central Otago, is located just a few hundred km to the east. This big difference is caused by the high mountain range that runs from north to south (the Southern Alps). It blocks the incoming (western) wind from the Tasman Sea, and makes it lose most of its moisture.
In the North Island, the difference between the east and the west coast is much smaller. This island doesn’t have a mountain range like the Southern Alps, though it does have some big volcanoes that block the incoming western wind somewhat and make it lose its moisture.
Visit our When to visit New Zealand page for more information about the best time of year to plan your New Zealand campervan rental holiday.
There’s only one thing to say about the weather you can expect when touring New Zealand by campervan during the summer months (December – March): it can be really nice and sunny, but also quite cold and rainy! It’s just impossible to tell. According to the New Zealand Metservice (the NZ weather experts), January and February are the warmest months of the year.
The sunniest regions in New Zealand are Marlborough, Nelson, Hawke’s Bay, and the Bay of Plenty. An important note about the sun: The UV rays in our sunlight are very strong during summer so we recommend you regularly apply sunscreen as well as wear sunglasses and a hat. If you have fair skin, it’s essential that you ‘slip slop slap and wrap’ – Slip into a long-sleeved shirt and into the shade, Slop on some sunscreen (at least SPF30+, half an hour before going outdoors), Slap on a sunhat and Wrap on a pair of sunglasses. The danger hours are between 10AM and 4PM. Visitors to New Zealand, especially from Europe, often underestimate the strength of our sun – they’re the ones turning red on the beach in the heat of the day when everyone else is covered up! Sunburn and sunstroke can be very painful and could ruin the rest of your holiday, so please take care. Find out more about being ‘sunsmart’
Rain is hard to avoid in New Zealand – it’s why the landscape is so lush and green! The North Island has 120 wet days a year on average. However, rainfall is spread evenly over the year and a high proportion of sunshine hours are recorded in winter. The exception is in the north of the North Island, where most of the rain occurs in winter.
In the North Island, the driest areas are central and southern Hawkes Bay, the Wairarapa and Manawatu. In the South Island, rainfall varies dramatically. Some areas are the driest in the country while the Milford Sound receives 180 wet days a year!
NZ weather does get cold but even our coldest locations are modest by international standards. July is the coldest month. In winter, the average maximum temperature ranges between 8-15ºC (46-59ºF) outside the mountain areas. The coldest winter conditions are experienced in Central Otago and the Mackenzie Plains of inland Canterbury in the South Island, and on the central plateau in the North Island.
Although snow can always been seen on the South Island’s Southern Alps, it only falls on the low-lying areas in winter. In the North Island, snow falls on the central plateau mountains and several other ranges during the winter months. There are skifields on both the north and south islands.
Extreme NZ weather conditions are rare. Severe hailstorms, thunderstorms and tornadoes are not common.
Temperature in New Zealand
You can find information on the current temperatures in various places around New Zealand on the MetService website.
If you like detailed weather reports, download the summaries that are available from the website of the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research: Weather New Zealand – summaries.
If you’re used to °F instead of °C, please use this temperature converter.
How to dress for the weather in NZ
New Zealand weather is changeable so we recommend taking the ‘four seasons in one day’ approach: Be prepared, and bring warm as well as light clothing. So make sure you bring a warm fleece or a woollen sweater, and good waterproof clothing, but don’t forget to pack enough T-shirts and shorts either! Wear layers, and always have a raincoat or umbrella handy.
New Zealand daylight saving times begin on the first Sunday in October each year and end on the first Sunday in April the following year. In mid-summer, the sun goes down between around 9 and 10PM – earlier in the north and later in the southern part of the country.