New Zealand has a predominantly oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb). A few regions exhibit a subpolar oceanic climate (Köppen Cfc), while mountain tops fall under subarctic (Köppen Dfc) and tundra (Köppen ET) zones. New Zealand lies in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, 1200 miles southeast of Australia. The country consists of two main islands, the North Island and the South Island, and numerous small islands. The west coast of the South Island is exceptionally wet, while Central Otago and Canterbury's interior are semi-arid. The far north of the North Island is sub-tropical. The temperate latitudes, prevailing westerly winds, and proximity to the Pacific Ocean chiefly influence the climate. Mountain ranges are a significant factor in climate variations between various locations.
New Zealand lies 42°S of the equator and south of the Tropic of Capricorn. The country has a 990-mile long, and 250-mile narrow, northeast-southwest orientation. The vast coastline extends over 9300 miles. The exclusive economic zone, along with far-flung outlying islands, is 15 times the land area. The snow-capped Southern Alps run north-south in the largest landmass of the country, the South Island. At least 18 mountain peaks in the Southern Alps are over 3000 meters high. Fiord-like sounds, such as the Milford Sound, dominate the southwest. The Cook Strait separates the North and South islands. The North Island consists of a large volcanic plateau, with Mount Ruapehu as its highest mountain at 2797 meters. Sandy beaches dominate the far northern coasts. Lake Taupo, the country's largest lake, lies in the caldera of the Taupo volcano. The highest point in New Zealand is Mount Cook at 3724 meters.
New Zealand has four seasons that occur in the reverse order due to its location in the Southern Hemisphere. The average annual temperatures range between 10°C (50°F) in the south to 16.1°C (61°F) in the north. Temperatures rarely exceed 30°C (86°F) or fall below 0°C (32°F). Summers are warm, with average temperatures between 15.6°C (60.1°F) and 23.9°C (75°F) in the plains. The sunshine is moderate, but the ultraviolet index is high due to little air pollution. The Foehn winds bring high temperatures in the eastern part of the South Island. Winters are cold, with average temperatures between 7.2°C (45°F) and 15.6°C (60.1°F) in the lowlands. The South Island is colder than the North Island. Snowfall occurs mostly in the high mountains and interior regions. Spring is mild and often sees alternate periods of rain and shine. Autumn is mild to cold and sees a rise in precipitation.
The annual rainfall in New Zealand varies from 635mm (25") to 1524mm (60"). However, a few arid places, such as Alexandra, receive only 330.2mm (13"). On the other hand, Mount Cook receives 4470.4mm (176"), and Milford Sound registers a massive 6705.6mm (264") annually. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, with 85 to 150 wet days. The wettest period is from June to September in most regions. The driest period is from December to March. The least annual sunshine of 1400 hours occurs in the cloudiest southwestern part of the South Island. The highest annual sunshine of 2500 occurs in the sunniest northeastern part of the North Island. Snowfall occurs from June to early October. The southern and eastern parts of the South Island and mountainous regions across the country receive snow. The average seawater temperatures register in the cold 10°C (50°F) to 21.1°C (70°F) range over the year. The average wind speeds are in the 12.9km/h (8mph) to 25.7km/h (16mph) range.
The highest temperature on record in New Zealand is 42.4°C (108.3°F) in Rangiora, Canterbury, and Jordon, Marlborough, set on February 7, 1973. The lowest temperature on record is -25.6°C (-14.1°F) in Ranfurly, Central Otago, set on July 18, 1903.
The best time to visit New Zealand
The best time to visit New Zealand is during the summer from December to March. The conditions are warm and pleasant on the North Island, with clear skies and low humidity. The South Island is cool and comfortable in the summer. The average temperatures are in the warm 10°C (50°F) to 21.1°C (70°F) range and rarely go above 30°C (86°F). The daily sunshine lasts between 6 hours and 8 hours during the long summer days. The precipitation is relatively low, and there is ample sunshine for sunbathing on the sandy beaches. However, there is a possibility of tropical cyclones between January and March.
The worst time to visit New Zealand
The worst time to visit New Zealand is during the winter from June to August. Although freezing temperatures are rare, nights remain below 4.4°C (39.9°F) in many regions. July registers 1.1°C (34°F) in Christchurch and -2.2°C (28°F) in Alexandra. The average seawater temperatures are cold and register below 10°C (50°F). The daily sunshine is less between 3 hours and 5 hours, and the days are short. Rain, frost, and snow affect outdoor trips. The North Island has relatively warm temperatures than the South Island in the winter. Snowstorms occur during the winter, but ski-enthusiasts and snow lovers like the cold season.
New Zealand is prone to floods, earthquakes, volcanic activity, tropical cyclones, and tsunamis. Flooding is the most common natural hazard. Many settlements are close to hilly areas, which receive heavy rainfall. Mountain streams rise rapidly during periods of heavy rain. Christchurch has a history of several earthquakes between magnitude 6 and magnitude 7, especially since 2010. New Zealand records 14,000 earthquakes annually due to the constant activity of the Indo-Australian plate. Tropical cyclones occasionally occur between January and March, mainly on the North Island. Tsunamis affect the country periodically. The Taupo Volcanic Zone in the central part of the North Island is a region with active volcanoes. Droughts occur mostly in Otago and the Canterbury Plains but are less frequent. Forest fires occur during the summer.
Weather in January
January is the warmest month of the year in New Zealand in the summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Wellington, the capital, registers average temperatures in the mild to warm zone of 15°C (59°F) to 21.1°C (70°F). The daily sunshine lasts for 8 hours in the capital, and precipitation is to the tune of 78.7mm (3.1"). Christchurch in the east is between 12.2°C (54°F) to 22.8°C (73°F) and receives 7 hours of daily sunshine. In the far south, Invercargill is cool in the summer, with average temperatures between 10°C (50°F) and 18.9°C (66°F), 104.1mm (4.1") of monthly rain amid 6 hours of daily sunshine. The daily average wind speeds range between 20.1km/h (12.5mph) and 20.9km/h (13mph) in Auckland. Light summer clothing is suitable in the North Island, while a sweater is useful in the far south during the summer evenings. Warm mountain clothes are best in the Southern Alps during the climbing season. The average seawater temperatures in Wellington are cool to mild at 17.8°C (64°F), the warmest of the year. The New Year draws plenty of tourists to New Zealand in January.
Weather in February
February is the driest month of the year in New Zealand. The average temperatures are in the 13.3°C (55.9°F) to 24.4°C (75.9°F) range in the north. The south is between 10°C (50°F) to 25°C (77°F). The skies are generally bright and remain clear up to 66% of the time in Wellington. The daily sunshine lasts between 6 hours in the southwest to 8 hours in the northeast. The daylight recedes from 14 hours to 13 hours over the month. The North Island receives between 50.8mm (2") to 76.2mm (3") of rainfall, while the South Island registers 38.1mm (1.5") to 63.5mm (2.5"). The average monthly humidity varies between 74% in the south and 84% in the north. The summer is an excellent time to explore the cool Southern Alps. The daily average wind speed in Wellington remains constant at 20.1km/h (12.5mph). Wind direction is predominantly from the north. The average seawater temperatures at 21.1°C (70°F) in Auckland are comfortable for swimming and sunbathing. February is an ideal time to visit New Zealand.
Weather in March
March brings the mild warm autumn season to New Zealand, with a gradual decline of sunshine. The daily sunshine lasts for a maximum of 6 hours in the north and drops to 5 hours in the south. The average temperatures are in the mild 15°C (59°F) to warm 22.8°C (73°F) zone in Auckland and 13.9°C (57°F) to 20°C (68°F) in Wellington. The temperatures in the far south are in the 7.8°C (46°F) to 17.2°C (63°F) range, and nights are cold. The average precipitation ranges between 63.5mm (2.5") to 101.6mm (4") in the lowlands. Alexandra gets the least rainfall of 27.9mm (1.1") and is cold between 7.8°C (46°F) and 21.1°C (70°F). The daylight recedes to 12 hours by the autumn equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. March has the brightest skies of the year, with clear conditions up to 68% of the time. The average seawater temperatures range between a cool 12.8°C (55°F) on the southern coasts to a mild 18.3°C (64.9°F) on the northern shores. Tropical cyclones occasionally occur during the transition from summer to autumn. March has comfortable weather in much of New Zealand.
Weather in April
April is mild to cold in New Zealand during the middle part of the autumn. The landscape is colorful, and the atmosphere is pleasant. Temperatures are mild in Dunedin and Christchurch between 7.8°C (46°F) to 17.8°C (64°F). Napier registers between 10°C (50°F) and 20°C (68°F), while Auckland is in the 12.2°C (54°F) to 20°C (68°F) zone. The days are warm, but nights are cold in most regions. The cloud cover increases gradually, and the skies remain overcast for 40% to 45% of the time. The precipitation sees a slight increase and registers between 63.5mm (2.5") to 101.6mm (4"). Much of the country sees less than 10 wet days in April. The end of the cyclone season brings calm weather. In Christchurch, April is the calmest month of the year, with daily average wind speeds between 14.8km/h (9.2mph) and 15.8km/h (9.8mph). The average sea temperatures in Wellington are mild at 15°C (59°F) compared to 12.2°C (54°F) on the southern coasts. April offers comfortable weather for a vacation in New Zealand.
Weather in May
May is cold and wet in New Zealand. The temperatures decline to register in the average range of 6.7°C (44.1°F) to 17.8°C (64°F) on the North Island. The South Island registers cold temperatures between 1.7°C (35.1°F) and 16.1°C (61°F). The sunlight fades quickly in late autumn and hardly lasts between 3 hours and 5 hours. However, the skies remain clear up to 60% of the time. The days are short, and the daylight lasts only 9.5 hours by the end of the month. The precipitation is significant in most regions and ranges between 101.6mm (4") to 127mm (5"). The average monthly humidity is in the acceptable range of 75% and 85%. The average sea temperatures in the cold 10°C (50°F) to 15.6°C (60.1°F) are not suitable for swimming. Warm clothes are necessary, especially in the southern and hilly regions of the country. Expect cold days ahead. May is the perfect time for budget travelers to take advantage of discounts in New Zealand.
Weather in June
June is the beginning of the cold and wet winter season in New Zealand. The skies are cloudy up to 44% of the time. The sunlight is weak and lasts between 3 hours and 4 hours in most regions. Taupo is one of the coldest places in the north and registers cold temperatures between 2.8°C (37°F) and 11.7°C (53.1°F). Auckland records 8.3°C (46.9°F) to 15.6°C (60.1°F), while Hamilton is between 4.4°C (39.9°F) and 14.4°C (57.9°F). In the south, Lake Tekapo registers freezing conditions, with average temperatures in the zone of -1.7°C (28.9°F) to 7.2°C (45°F). The precipitation is significant between 101.6mm (4") to 152.4mm (6"), with at least 12 wet days in the month. June 20 is the shortest day of the year in Wellington with 9 hours and 12 minutes of daylight. The daily average wind speeds in the capital region are constant at 21.7km/h (13.5mph). The average sea temperatures register in the cold 10°C (50°F) to 15.6°C (60.1°F) range. June reports moderate snowfall in the hilly areas in New Zealand.
Weather in July
July is usually the coldest and wettest month of the year in New Zealand. The average temperatures in the north are in the 2.2°C (36°F) to 15.6°C (60.1°F) range, while the south is between -2.2°C (28°F) and 12.8°C (55°F). Nights register below freezing in the highlands. The precipitation ranges between 127mm (5") to 177.8mm (7") in the northern region. The south receives rain between 50.8mm (2") and 101.6mm (4"). However, southern places like Milford Sound and the mountains receive heavy rainfall above 254mm (10"). The Southern Alps experience humid, dark, and wet conditions. In Auckland, the earliest sunrise is at 7.20 a.m., and the latest sunset occurs at 5.34 p.m. on July 31. The daily sunshine ranges between 3 hours in the far south to 4 hours in the far north. The conditions tend to be muggy, with average monthly humidity between 85% and 90%. Expect moderate wind speeds amid damp weather. Avoid a trip to New Zealand in July as far as possible.
Weather in August
August is cold and wet in much of New Zealand. The skies are cloudy and dark and allow only 4 hours of sunlight every day. Christchurch records 2.2°C (36°F) to 12.2°C (54°F), with cold and frosty nights. Wellington is above freezing in the north between 6.7°C (44.1°F) to 12.2°C (54°F) but receives at least 114.3mm (4.5") of rainfall. Napier is between 5.6°C (42.1°F) to 15°C (59°F), while Dunedin is in the 4.4°C (39.9°F) to 11.1°C (52°F) zone. The skies begin to clear, and overcast conditions last for 38% of the time. The sunlight is weak in most regions and does not last beyond 4 hours. The northern regions see up to 127mm (5") of precipitation, while the southern regions mostly register below 76.2mm (3"). Snowfall is moderate in the interior but heavy in the mountains. Jackets and sweaters are sufficient in most parts, with extra layers only in hilly areas. The average seawater temperatures range between 10°C (50°F) in the far south to 15.6°C (60.1°F) in the north. Budget travelers find great deals on hotels and flights in August in New Zealand.
Weather in September
September is wet and cold in New Zealand in the early spring season. The skies begin to clear, and the humidity levels gradually go down. The landscape becomes green with the arrival of the spring. The average temperatures are in the 2.2°C (36°F) to 15.6°C (60.1°F) range, with mild to warm days and cold nights. The daylight improves sharply to 12 hours by the spring equinox on September 22. The sunlight improves slightly to 5 hours in the north. The southern region sees moderate daily sunshine of 6 hours. The precipitation is in the 76.2mm (3") to 101.6mm (4") range in most areas, with less rainfall on the South Island. Cold air masses frequently blow during early spring. The daily average wind speeds in Wellington increase from 22km/h (13.7mph) to 23.5km/h (14.6mph) over the month. Rain jackets and sweaters prove useful during the month. Expect the temperatures to rise with each passing day in September in New Zealand.
Weather in October
October is a mild and wet month in the middle of the spring season in New Zealand. The far south sees significant rainfall between 101.6mm (4") and 127mm (5"). The North Island receives between 76.2mm (3") and 101.6mm (4") of precipitation. The temperatures rise gradually to register in the average range of 4.4°C (39.9°F) to 18.3°C (64.9°F) range. Wellington registers comfortable temperatures between 8.9°C (48°F) and 15°C (59°F), with mild days and cozy nights. Christchurch is between 7.2°C (45°F) and 17.2°C (63°F) but receives only 45.7mm (1.8") of rain. Napier sees bright days with average temperatures in the 9.4°C (48.9°F) to 19.4°C (66.9°F) range. The daily sunshine lasts for 6 hours in most places. The daylight increases from 12.5 hours in the beginning to 14 hours by the end of the month. However, keep a rain jacket and sweater at hand. October is the windiest month of the year, with daily average wind speeds at 25.3km/h (15.7mph) in Auckland. October sees a rise in tourist footfalls in New Zealand.
Weather in November
November is warm and bright in New Zealand, with a significant amount of rain. The skies remain clear up to 60% of the time. Late spring registers an increase in temperatures everywhere. The average temperatures in Auckland register between 12.2°C (54°F) and 19.4°C (66.9°F), while Hamilton is between 10°C (50°F) and 20°C (68°F). Alexandra has extreme temperatures between 6.7°C (44.1°F) and 21.1°C (70°F). Dunedin has a cold to mild temperatures in the 8.3°C (46.9°F) and 16.1°C (61°F) range. The average rainfall is between 76.2mm (3") and 101.6mm (4") in the north and 50.8mm (2") to 76.2mm (3") in the south. Milford Sound at 548.6mm (21.6") and Mount Cook at 414mm (16.3") receive the highest precipitation in November. The daily sunshine improves considerably to register at 7 hours in most places. The days are long due to an increase in daylight from 14 hours to 15 hours. The average seawater temperatures range between 11.1°C (52°F) in the far south to 17.2°C (63°F) in the north. November offers comfortable weather to visit New Zealand.
Weather in December
December is the beginning of the warm summer of the Southern Hemisphere in New Zealand. The average temperatures rise to register in the 10°C (50°F) to 21.1°C (70°F) range. Auckland registers between 15°C (59°F) and 22.2°C (72°F), while Wellington is between 11.1°C (52°F) and 17.8°C (64°F). The precipitation is in the range of 76.2mm (3") to 101.6mm (4") in the lowlands and varies by topography. Mountains receive as much as 254mm (10") of heavy rainfall. Milford Sound registers hefty rainfall of 701mm (27.6") in the month. Light snowfall occurs in the hilly regions. The daily sunshine lasts between 6 hours to 8 hours. The sunniest region is the far north of the North Island. The South Island receives relatively less sunshine. December 21 is the longest day of the year in New Zealand, with 14 hours and 42 minutes of daylight in Auckland. The average seawater temperatures in Auckland are at a mild 19.4°C (66.9°F). Wind speeds decrease in December, and wind direction is predominantly from the west. The tropical cyclone season begins in December in New Zealand.