New Zealand has mild temperatures, moderately high rainfall, and many hours of sunshine.
New Zealand has a mild and temperate maritime climate (Köppen: Cfb) with mean annual temperatures ranging from 10 °C (50 °F) in the south to 16 °C (61 °F) in the north. Historical maxima and minima are 42.4 °C (108.32 °F) in Rangiora, Canterbury and −25.6 °C (−14.08 °F) in Ranfurly, Otago. Conditions vary sharply across regions from extremely wet on the West Coast of the South Island to almost semi-arid in Central Otago and the Mackenzie Basin of inland Canterbury and subtropical in Northland. Of the seven largest cities, Christchurch is the driest, receiving on average only 640 millimetres (25 in) of rain per year and Auckland the wettest, receiving almost twice that amount. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all receive a yearly average of more than 2,000 hours of sunshine. The southern and south-western parts of the South Island have a cooler and cloudier climate, with around 1,400–1,600 hours; the northern and north-eastern parts of the South Island are the sunniest areas of the country and receive about 2,400–2,500 hours. The general snow season is about early June until early October in the South Island. Snowfall is less common on the North Island, although it does occur.
You can check on New Zealand weather conditions on the New Zealand Met Service website.
Seasons and clothing requirements
As New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, it has opposite seasons to those living in the northern half of the world.
Summer: December – February
Summer in New Zealand is moderate to hot, with temperatures hovering around 20-30 degrees celsius. In most places you can wear shorts and a t-shirt or singlet during the day, adding a light jumper at night.
Autumn/Fall: March – May
Temperatures during this time are a little cooler than summer but the New Zealand weather can be excellent. Suitable clothing includes light pants or shorts, and a t-shirt or long-sleeved top. It can cool off at night more during this season, so make sure you are prepared with a warm sweater.
Winter: June – August
Winter in New Zealand brings colder weather to much of the country, with snow in the south and rain in the north. You'll need jeans, long-sleeved tops and coats in most places, and if you're heading into the mountains thermals, gloves and thick sweaters are also a good idea.
Spring: September – November
Spring brings weather of all types – expect everything from cold, frosty, clear days to sunny and hot. Make sure you are prepared for this type of weather if you are visiting during this time. Jeans are good and layers work well on top, as they can be added and removed depending on what the weather brings.
Most places in New Zealand receive over 2,000 hours of sunshine a year, with the sunniest areas - Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay and Nelson/Marlborough - receiving over 2,350 hours. As New Zealand observes daylight saving, during summer months daylight can last up until 9.30pm. New Zealand experiences relatively little air pollution compared to many other countries, which makes the UV rays in our sunlight very strong.
The sunlight here can quickly burn skin from September to April, especially between 10am and 4pm, even on cloudy days. Be 'SunSmart' by using these three simple steps when you go outdoors:
- Stay in the shade whenever possible.
- Wear a shirt, hat and sunglasses.
- Use SPF 30+ sunscreen. Reapply every 2 hours.
New Zealand's average rainfall is high and evenly spread throughout the year. Over the northern and central areas of New Zealand more rain falls in winter than in summer, whereas for much of the southern part of New Zealand, winter is the season of least rainfall. As well as producing areas of stunning native forest, the high rainfall makes New Zealand an ideal place for farming and horticulture.
Snow typically appears during the months of June through October, though cold snaps can occur outside these months. Most snow in New Zealand falls in the mountainous areas, like the Central Plateau in the north, and the Southern Alps in the south. It also falls heavily in inland Canterbury and Otago.