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New Zealand in May

Julian Apse on Tourism NZ

What is it like to travel New Zealand in May?

If you like the feeling of having a whole country to yourself then May is a great time to travel to New Zealand. May is one of the shoulder seasons in New Zealand, meaning fewer tourists and cheaper prices. The days and nights get cooler as May is the last month of autumn, yet it is still a beautiful time to see autumn colours in some parts of the country.

In this quick guide to travelling New Zealand in May, we’ll go over the typical weather in May, May events, activities best done in May and what the typical prices are like in May. Additionally, we’ll give you some travel tips for May.

For more advice on when to travel in New Zealand, take a look at When is the Best Time to Go Backpacking in New Zealand?

Travel tips for New Zealand in May

When travelling New Zealand in May, these are the things you need to know.

  • Wrap up warm! A beanie, woollen socks and wool/polypropylene thermals is not a bad idea to keep the chill off in May.
  • It might rain so pack yourself a rain jacket and overtrousers.
  • Don’t stress too much about making bookings well in advance. May is a shoulder season (less busy season) in New Zealand so this allows you to be more spontaneous. We do, however, recommend you book the ferry crossing a couple of weeks in advance to get a better deal than a last-minute booking.
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New Zealand weather in May

May is when it starts to get a little chilly in New Zealand. As the last month of autumn, going into winter, May is a time to wear a jacket and some thermals if you are off doing outdoor activities. The weather also starts to get more inconsistent so prepare for rain at any time. Snow is likely to occur in the more alpine regions.

North Island Temperatures: Highs of around 18°C or more, and lows of 6°C.

South Island Temperatures: Highs of around 16°C and lows of 2°C.


May Events in New Zealand

May is a relatively quiet month in New Zealand in terms of events and festivals. However, there are still a few worth checking out, such as the Bluff Oyster Festival. Bluff is the southernmost town of the South Island and an experience in itself. A brilliant time to go and taste some fresh seafood is during the Bluff Oyster Festival, which is usually during the last weekend of May.

Auckland and Wellington have some great events for creatives during May. Check out the Auckland Writers Festival for five days during May or sign up to some workshops at Handmade during May in Wellington.

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Activities best done in May

Most outdoor activities can be enjoyed in May, from hiking to mountain biking to white water rafting, bungy jumping and more. The weather doesn’t usually affect the enjoyment of these activities so most operators will remain open during May. Just check out these articles to get some inspiration:

May is also a good time to try some fishing in New Zealand. Good winter fishing can be found in Taupo, Turangi and lakes in the Northland region.


Typical prices in May

May is a fantastic time to travel New Zealand if you are on a budget. May is during New Zealand’s shoulder season, meaning there are fewer tourists and cheaper deals to be found. Find out why the shoulder season is so awesome in 11 Reasons to Travel in the Shoulder and Off-Season in New Zealand. For a general idea of costs in New Zealand, take a look at this guide.

Flights in May to New Zealand

Generally, flying to New Zealand in May is one of the cheaper months to do so. However, a number of factors influence the price of flights from how you book to how far in advance you book. Take a look at this cheap flights guide to see how you can get a great deal.

Rental Vehicle Prices in May

Thanks to it being the shoulder season in New Zealand during May, you will find some of the cheapest prices for car and campervan rentals. Expect rentals to start from NZ$20 per day for the cheapest vehicles. For more information on rental costs, check out How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car in New Zealand?

Accommodation in May

While many of New Zealand’s budget accommodations keep a similar price year-round, such as hostels that are usually NZ$21-$32 per bed in a dorm, May is usually a good time to find some deals on accommodation, such as multiple nights for a certain price. Also, holiday parks will have their prices at the lower end of the scale, usually around NZ$15-$25 per powered site for two people.

Activities in May

While a limited amount of activities close shop for winter, there are still plenty of activity providers who stay open year-round, particularly adventure activities. Promotions are often run on activities during May and you will not need to worry too much about booking way in advance. However, some activities in more off-the-beaten-track locations may require a couple of days notice so that they can run the tour for you. (Often enough, you can be the only one on a tour in quieter locations of New Zealand).

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