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New Zealand Weather in May

Tourism NZ David Lambroughton

What is the weather like in New Zealand in May?

Want to avoid the tourist crowds, travel more spontaneously by not having to book too far in advance, and even save heaps of money on your travels? Then May is the perfect time to travel New Zealand. May is a “low season” for New Zealand tourism meaning that fewer people choose to travel in May, mainly because it is a colder month in New Zealand. But, as they say in New Zealand: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. So to help you prepare for your trip in May, we’ve put together this quick guide to the New Zealand weather in May.

May is the last season of autumn before going into winter. Winter is during June, July and August. Spring is in September, October and November. Summer is throughout December, January and February. Finally, it’s back to autumn in March, April and May. For more information on the seasons, check out The New Zealand Seasons and Climate.

Tips for visiting New Zealand in May

Make your travel planning a little bit easier with these tips for travelling New Zealand in May.

  • Be prepared for “four seasons in a day” by carrying a day pack with you when you’re out and about carrying extra layers and a rainjacket
  • May is considered a “low season” for tourism so it’s a great time to look for deals and don’t worry about activities, accommodation or transport being fully booked.
  • If driving to some of the more mountainous regions such as inland South Island, check the weather and consider hiring snow chains. Even in May, the snow can start falling
  • For those of you on a working holiday wanting to work for the ski season, May is a good time to find work and accommodation for the season – before there are no opportunities left!
  • Before doing any long hikes, check for track updates on the Department of Conservation website in case any bad weather has damaged the tracks.

Take a look at 10 Essential New Zealand Travel Tips for more tips!

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Typical Temperatures in May

As the last month of autumn, going into winter, expect temperatures to start dropping throughout the month of May. Pack some warm clothing, as nighttime temperatures can drop to about -2°C in some places. You’ll find warmer weather in the northern North Island, northern South Island and along the east coast with temperatures still reaching as high as 18-21°C. Nevertheless, there are different climates throughout New Zealand so with that in mind, here are the average temperatures in each area of the country during May.

Northern New Zealand (Northland, Auckland and Tauranga) – 14°C / 57°F

Central North Island (Hamilton, Taupo and Rotorua) – 10°C / 50°F

South-West North Island (New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington) – 12°C / 54°F

Eastern North Island (Gisborne, Napier and Wairarapa) – 12°C / 54°F

Northern South Island (Blenheim and Nelson) – 10°C / 50°F

Western South Island (Westport, Hokitika and Milford Sound) – 8-10°C / 46-50°F

Eastern South Island (Kaikoura, Christchurch and Timaru) – 9°C / 48°F

Inland South Island (Lake Tekapo, Queenstown and Alexandra) – 4-6°C / 39-43°F

Southern New Zealand (Dunedin and Invercargill) – 9°C / 48°F

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Other weather patterns in May

As with any time of the year in New Zealand, May has a mixed bag of weather. However, expect less sunny clear days than previous months and even a chance of snow in the mountainous regions. May is a time to prepare for any weather scenario with warm clothing and rain gear.

By this time in autumn, the autumn colours will start to fade so just a heads up, May is not usually a good time to experience “autumn landscapes”.

Rainfall in May

Compared to other autumn months (and even some winter months), May is a wetter month to be in New Zealand. It’s likely you’ll experience rain at some point during your trip. Some areas experience more rainfall than others in New Zealand so here are some average rainfall measurements in May throughout New Zealand.

Northern New Zealand (Northland, Auckland and Tauranga) – 120mm

Central North Island (Hamilton, Taupo and Rotorua) – 100mm

South-West North Island (New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington) – 120mm

Eastern North Island (Gisborne, Napier and Wairarapa) – 60mm

Northern South Island (Blenheim and Nelson) – 80mm

Western South Island (Westport, Hokitika and Milford Sound) – 250-450mm

Eastern South Island (Kaikoura, Christchurch and Timaru) – 60mm

Inland South Island (Lake Tekapo, Queenstown and Alexandra) – 30-50mm

Southern New Zealand (Dunedin and Invercargill) – 70mm

Tourism NZ Jeff McEwan

Best Places to visit in May

Here are some destinations to add to your May itinerary!

Wellington – while the weather is being unpredictable, it’s a good time to see the sights and experience the culture of New Zealand’s capital city!

Coromandel – see one of New Zealand’s most popular beach destinations at its quietest time. Bathe in your own sandy hot pool at Hot Water Beach, see Cathedral Cove and explore Kauri forests.

Waitomo – whatever the weather, there are cave tours available to see vast displays of glowworms and to go caving in awesome limestone caves!

Alexandra – the Central Otago, South Island town experiences amazing weather year-round. It’s a great place to escape the cold and take on the many cycle trails around the area.

Dunedin – the South Island city has a good mix of indoor and outdoor activities so staying there a while means that you’ll always find something to do! Check out the wildlife of the Otago Peninsula, visit Tunnel Beach or experience the bars and eateries of The Octagon in the city centre.

For events to stick on your May itinerary, check out New Zealand in May.


Packing list for May

Add these essentials to your packing list for a trip to New Zealand in May.

  • Rainjacket
  • Warm mid-layers
  • Thermal underlayers
  • Wool socks
  • Waterproof hiking shoes
  • Swimwear (for the hot pools)

For more things to pack, make sure you check out our 15 Essentials to Pack for New Zealand.

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