Landscape photo of a beach with golden sand in the foreground, a rock with shrubbery on the ocean's edge, and the sea and rocky headland in the background.

New Zealand Summer

A New Zealand summer is idyllic – long, warm days when it’s light until late followed by balmy evenings. This quick and practical guide will help you with all the weather-related basics you need to plan an epic summer trip to New Zealand.  

Looking through the green treetops to a calm blue bay in the background, under a pink and yellow sunset sky.
New Zealand summer sunset at Wyuna Bay.

When is summer in New Zealand?

New Zealand sits very firmly in the southern hemisphere, so summer in New Zealand starts on 01 December and ends on the last day of February. However, nature doesn’t always check the calendar, so New Zealand can experience lovely warm weather in November and March, too.

Christmas in New Zealand

Christmas in New Zealand is a fantastic time of year! Not only because it’s (usually!) warm with lovely long, light days, but also because schools, colleges and universities are on summer holidays. It’s a festive, casual, and relaxed season that sees folks head to the beach and to outdoor activities. There are festivals, concerts, summer sports, and loads of beaches.

And don’t forget Santa’s visit on 24 December – wearing boardshorts, sunglasses and jandals! 🙂

Santa Claus standing on a red inflatable surf lifesaving dinghy as it arrives over the ocean.
No reindeer for Santa Claus in New Zealand!

An Overview of New Zealand’s Weather

New Zealand enjoys the famous (or infamous?!) ‘island weather’, meaning you might need layers – even in summer. Even locals who have spent their whole lives in New Zealand can be caught out in summer when the wind picks up or the sun goes down and it starts to get a bit chilly.

Generally, though, temperatures are mild in the summertime. Great for hanging out at the beach, having barbecues with friends, and going to summer music festivals.

Of course, the weather varies across the different regions. For example, the West Coast of the South Island is often wet, regardless of what time of year you visit. Let’s take a look at the New Zealand summer months one at a time:

Weather in New Zealand in December

If you are from the Northern Hemisphere, you might believe that December and Christmas mean snow, warm clothes, and hot mulled wine. Not in New Zealand! A New Zealand summer means barbecues, short and t-shirts, holidays, beaches, ‘jandals’ (that is, flip flops!), and a good feed of seafood.

On 22 December it’s the summer equinox – the longest day of the year. In New Zealand that means the sun rises before 6am and doesn’t set until 8:30pm in the North Island and 9:30pm in the South Island. Bliss!

Christmas is a major holiday in New Zealand and pretty much everything is closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (that is, 25 and 26 December).

Temperatures in New Zealand in December can range from 12 – 25 degrees Celsius (or 53 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit).

New Zealand experiences 7 – 9 days of rainfall in December; more on the West Coast of the South Island, as I mentioned earlier, but that just makes it more beautiful.

December is the ideal time to travel to New Zealand for those folks who prefer a temperate climate without too much humidity.

December is also a great time of year to hike in New Zealand. There is plenty of sunlight so you can do some awesome long day hiking, but it’s still not baking hot. (Please do wear sunscreen, though – especially at altitude!).

Landscape photo of a beach with golden sand in the foreground, a rock with shrubbery on the ocean's edge, and the sea and rocky headland in the background.
Gorgeous Kuaotunu Beach in New Zealand in the summer.

Weather in New Zealand in January

January is peak New Zealand summer, which means it’s high season. January is when pretty much the whole country goes on holiday – particularly at the beginning of the month. It’s school holiday time so it can be difficult (and pricey!) to book last minute accommodation and attractions. If you’re planning to head to New Zealand in January, make sure you’ve booked in advance.

Temperatures in New Zealand in January can get hot – think an average day time temperature of around 25 degrees Celsius (or 77 degrees Fahrenheit). Cooler in the evenings, but do expect some warm, humid nights.

If the beach is your thing, January is your best bet. Be warned, though, that the sun in New Zealand is very strong so drink lots of water and apply sunscreen several times a day. If you’re going hiking or outdoors in general, try to check if there are sheltered areas because sunburn and heatstroke are common – particularly among tourists who are not accustomed to the heat.

Also, be aware of the dreaded sandflies. Horrible things! These tiny insects are merciless and can seem to come out of nowhere. If you see a spectacular looking beach with nobody at all on it… it’s quite likely because there are sandflies. Trust me, they’re vicious and relentless and can leave you with red itchy spots that will really irritate!

New Zealand experiences quite a lot of rain in January, including some impressive late afternoon summer storms. If you’re on the West Coast of the South Island, expect even more rain! Milford Sound’s most beautiful landscapes come to life when it rains, so that’s a definite bonus!

Weather in New Zealand in February

February is the hottest month is New Zealand. And at the beginning of the month, schools are still on summer break so the crowds can be quite intense. From the second week of February, though, school has returned in New Zealand and neighbouring Australia, so the rest of the month is hot and peaceful. Fabulous for beaching, swimming, and water sports.

New Zealand’s North Island temperatures in February can get up to 33 degrees Celsius (just over 91 degrees Fahrenheit). Remember to wear a hat, drink lots of water, seek shade, and reapply sunscreen often.

In most parts of the country, February is the driest month of the year. The exceptions – again! – are the West Coast and Milford Sound.

Fun February in New Zealand Fact

The wettest region, Fiordland, is just a few hours drive away from the driest region, Queenstown!

Weather in New Zealand in March

Officially, the first day of March is the first day of autumn in New Zealand (and Australia). However, it’s usually still sunny and warm so there are plenty of ‘summery’ activities still on offer. Although the days are starting to shorten, you’ll still get 13 hours of sunshine, which is not to be sneezed at!

New Zealand’s average daily temperatures in March range from 15 – 23 degrees Celsius (59 – 73 degrees Fahrenheit).

New Zealand experiences a little more rain in March than in January or February, but it’s still pretty safe to plan outdoor activities.

Quick Facts About New Zealand Summer Weather

Hottest months: January and February.
Driest month: February.

Quick Facts About New Zealand Weather

Coldest months: June, July and August.
Wettest month: July.
Monsoon season: No monsoon season in New Zealand!
Windiest month: October.

New Zealand Summer Summary

New Zealand is a great place to travel and explore over the southern hemisphere summer months of December, January and February. The days are sunny and warm with lots of daylight, and the evenings are balmy and perfect for evening events. Just remember that the New Zealand sun is harsh so you will need to drink plenty of fluids, wear a hat, and reapply sunscreen frequently. I’m sure you’ll love New Zealand, whether you visit in spring, summer, autumn or winter!


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