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The Best Time to Visit the South Island

NZPocketGuide.com

When to Visit the South Island of New Zealand

With the allure of the beautiful snow-capped mountains, striking golden beaches, braided rivers and an array of amazing outdoor activities, you might think that the best time to go to the South Island is right now! But, being the savvy traveller you are, you know that there may be a few factors to consider for choosing a good time to visit the South Island of New Zealand. Perhaps you want to go skiing or soak up the sun on a scenic cruise? Perhaps you prefer to be shorts and a T-shirt than a warm jacket? Or you want to travel at the cheapest time of the year? We’ll go through all these considerations and more in this guide to the best time to visit the South Island.

3 Things to Consider When Choosing a Time to Visit the South Island

1. The Weather & Season

The weather and season are extremely important to those seeking certain activities on the South Island. For instance, some experiences, especially around Abel Tasman, close for winter, while skiing can only be done on the South Island between July and October. Plus, some people simply prefer summer to winter and vice versa!

2. The Crowds

An overcrowded attraction doesn’t make for good photos, so if you prefer to have a whole place to yourself, then you might want to consider travelling in the tourist low season. Alternatively, match less-crowded attractions with good weather by travelling in one of the shoulder seasons.

3. The Cost

Finally, the time of the year certainly affects the cost of travelling in New Zealand. The most popular seasons to travel the South Island are when you’ll see higher hotel rates, higher vehicle rental rates and sometimes more expensive flights.

Haka Tours

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South Island Summer

Months: December, January and February
Tourist Season: High Season

South Island Weather in Summer

Temperature: 19-23⁰C (66-73⁰F)
Rainfall: 35-60mm

Find out about the weather in each month in:

About the South Island Summer

Summer is a super popular time to visit the South Island of New Zealand. The weather is generally the best it’s going to be for most outdoor activities. However, this also makes the South Island the most crowded time of the year to visit. It’s essential for travellers to book accommodation and even some activities in advance, especially in Queenstown, Lake Tekapo, Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo, to avoid disappointment. Not only is this a popular time for international travellers to visit the South Island, but you’ll find that this is when many Kiwis travel their country. Be aware of the school holidays, which you might want to avoid if you want fewer crowds, by checking out the New Zealand Ministry of Education website. Be also aware that summer is the most expensive time of year to visit the South Island in terms of vehicle rentals, flights and hotel rates.

Best Places on the South Island to Visit in Summer
  • Abel Tasman National Park
  • Nelson
  • Stewart Island
  • Kaikoura
  • Marlborough

See more places worth visiting in summer in our 5 Places to Visit in Summer in New Zealand.

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South Island Autumn

Months: March, April and May
Tourist Season: High to Shoulder Season

South Island Weather in Autumn

Temperature: 13-19⁰C (55-66⁰F)
Rainfall: 60-100mm

Find out about the weather in each month in:

About the South island Autumn

If you’re looking for a quieter time to explore the South Island, while still experiencing decent weather, then autumn is a good time. The South Island still feels a little busy in March, but April and May see the tourist crowds decrease along with the prices of car rentals, flights and hotels. The days might be getting cooler, but it’s still comfortable to do outdoor activities ensuring you have plenty of layers for the ever-changing weather. Toward April and May, you may also get the chance to see the brown and orange autumn colours, especially in the Central Otago region.

Best Places to Visit in Autumn
  • Wanaka
  • MacKenzie Region
  • Marlborough
  • Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers
  • Mt Cook

Find out why we love these places in autumn, as well as suggestions for the North Island in the 5 Places to Visit in Autumn in New Zealand.

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South Island Winter

Months: June, July and August
Tourist Season: Low Season

South Island Weather in Winter

Temperature: 7-12⁰C (44-53⁰F)
Rainfall: 70-130mm

Find out about the weather in each month in:

About the South Island Winter

Cool and crisp in the South Island’s drier regions and wet and windy in the country’s more coastal areas: that just about sums up the South Island weather in winter. The weather is also a little unpredictable, so it’s not always ideal for the outdoor activities you’ve inevitably come to the South Island to experience. Nevertheless, many travellers don’t tend to mind, especially with the country being so uncrowded during this time – just wrap up warm and have a good rain jacket! Winter is also one of the best seasons to see snow in the mountains and do some snow sports. Prices for car rentals, hotels and flights are also usually at their lowest during this time.

Best Places on the South Island to Visit in Winter
  • Queenstown
  • Arthur’s Pass
  • Hanmer Springs
  • Nelson
  • Milford Sound

Check out more places to visit in the 5 Places to Visit in Winter in New Zealand.

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South Island SPring

Months: September, October and November
Tourist Season: Low to Shoulder Season

South Island Weather in Spring

Temperature: 13-19⁰C (55-66⁰F)
Rainfall: 60-100mm

Find out about the weather in each month in:

About The South Island Spring

Spring is always a refreshing time of the year on the South Island when the clocks go forward, the sun starts to warm the days up again, and the daylight hours get longer. In early spring, you can make the most of the last of the winter sports and travel around the central South Island still seeing snow on the mountains. October is when spring really starts to get into full swing, with the chance to see lambs leaping about (although this means that some walking trails may be closed, so be sure to check). The island doesn’t feel busy until mid-November, so make the most of the uncrowded attractions and hiking trails before then! Prices for hotels, car rentals and flights are also reasonable until around mid-November.

Best Places on the South Island to Visit in Spring
  • Lake Tekapo
  • Kaikoura
  • Geraldine
  • Christchurch
  • Wanaka

Find out why these places are worth visiting in spring in the 5 Places to Visit in Spring in New Zealand.

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