In New Zealand the climate is oceanic, mild in the north and cool in the south, and also windy and rainy, especially in southern and western regions. The weather is often variable, so that there can be sunshine and rain alternating in a few hours, as is typical of oceanic climates. In summer it rarely gets hot, and in winter it rarely gets very cold, except in the far south.
The rains are quite frequent throughout the year, but they are usually more frequent in winter than in summer, except in the extreme south (see Invercargill), where they are frequent even in summer.
The amount of sunshine is not exceptional, but it's acceptable in summer, at least in the north, where there is a good number of sunny days.
Being in the Southern Hemisphere, in New Zealand the seasons are reversed as compared with Europe or North America.


North Island

The country is made up of two main islands, the North Island and the South Island, plus several smaller islands. Let's start with the North Island, which has a mild oceanic climate.


In Auckland, in the northern part of the island, the average temperature goes from 20 °C (68 °F) in January and February, to 11 °C (52 °F) in July and August. Here are the average temperatures.
Auckland - Average temperatures
Min (°C)161715131188810111315
Max (°C)242423201715141516182022
Min (°F)616359555246464650525559
Max (°F)757573686359575961646872

Rainfall is fairly abundant, since it amounts to 1,250 millimetres (49.5 inches) per year, and is well distributed over the months; however, the rainiest season is winter, when rainfall exceeds 100 mm (4 in) per month, from May to August. Here is the average precipitation.
Auckland - Average precipitation

In Auckland the sun can be seen, between a depression and the other, all year round, but especially in summer.
Auckland - Sunshine

At Auckland the temperature of the sea is very cool, however, it reaches 21 °C (70 °F) in February and March, when those who do not suffer from the cold, can try to swim.
Auckland - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)202121191817161515161719
Temp (°F)687070666463615959616366


The capital Wellington is located in the southern part, in the Cook Strait, which separates the two islands, and it's very windy. Winter is mild, given that the average temperature in July is 9.5 °C (49 °F). Summer is cool: the average of January and February is 18 °C (64 °F). Here are the average temperatures.
Wellington - Average temperatures
Min (°C)15151412108779101114
Max (°C)212120171513121315161820
Min (°F)595957545046454548505257
Max (°F)707068635955545559616468

Annual precipitation in Wellington amounts to 1,200 mm (47 in), therefore it's similar to that of Auckland. The rainiest period is from May to August, which is also the one with the most frequent rains (11 to 13 days per month) and the lowest amount of sunshine (3/4 hours of sunshine per day). Even in summer, however, it rains on average for 7/8 days per month, except in February, when the days with rain are only 6. Here is the average precipitation.
Wellington - Average precipitation

The sunshine hours in Wellington follow a pattern similar to that of Auckland as well.
Wellington - Sunshine

The sea in Wellington is always cold, however, it reaches 17/18 °C (63/64 °F) from January to March, as can be seen in the following table.
Wellington - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)171817161514131313131416
Temp (°F)636463615957555555555761

In inland areas of the North Island, there are hills and even a mountain, Ruapehu, where you can ski in winter, and on top of which, above 2,500 metres (8,200 feet), eternal snows are found.


South Island

The South Island is cooler, and is exposed to the westerly winds, which here blow for most of the year. In winter, however, snow and frost may occur, especially in the southern part, due to cold air masses of polar origin.
This island is crossed by the Southern Alps, culminating in Mount Cook, 3,754 metres (12,316 feet) high: the western side is definitely wet, in fact precipitation goes from 2,000 to 3,500 mm (80 to 140 in) per year along the coast, and it's even higher on the western slopes, where it reaches even 6 metres (19.5 feet) per year, while the eastern side, where the main cities of the island are located, is definitely less rainy, so that precipitation decreases below 1,000 mm (40 in) per year, and some inland areas are even arid: in Alexandra, only 330 mm (13 in) of rain per year fall.

In the mountain range, there are eternal snows above 2,000 metres (6,500 feet). In the central and southern areas of the South Island, there are glaciers that descend from the mountains almost to sea level, and after turning into rivers, flow into the sea or feed lakes.


Christchurch, located on the east coast, receives 640 mm (25 in) of rain per year, and is the least rainy between the major cities of New Zealand, even though the rains are quite frequent. Here is the average precipitation.
Christchurch - Average precipitation

The average temperature goes from 17 °C (63 °F) in January, to 6 °C (43 °F) in June and July. In this as in other cities of the eastern side, sometimes there can be sudden rises in temperature, due to downslope winds that descend from the mountains.
Christchurch - Average temperatures
Min (°C)1212107411246811
Max (°C)232220171412111215171921
Min (°F)545450453934343639434652
Max (°F)737268635754525459636670

In Christchurch too, the sun can be seen, between a disturbance and the other, all year round, but especially in summer.
Christchurch - Sunshine

On the western side of the South Island, winds are frequent and intense, especially in the south-west, the area of the fjords. As mentioned, we are in fact in the area of the westerly winds that sweep the southern seas around Antarctica.


In the far south, the climate is very cool, if not cold: in Invercargill, the average temperature is between 14 °C (57 °F) in January, and 5.5 °C (42 °F) in July.
Invercargill - Average temperatures
Min (°C)1098642124679
Max (°C)191917151210101113141618
Min (°F)504846433936343639434548
Max (°F)666663595450505255576164

The rains in Invercargill are frequent throughout the year, as well as wind and cloud cover. Here is the average precipitation.
Invercargill - Average precipitation

In Invercargill and on the western side, the sun is seen a little less often than on the eastern side of the South Island.
Invercargill - Sunshine

The city of Dunedin, which is located in the south-east, is a little more sheltered from rain and wind, but all in all it has a similar climate.


The coldest cities in winter are those located in the southern inland areas, such as the aforementioned Alexandra, which in addition to being dry, is also cold, with an average in July of only 3 °C (37.5 °F). Here, during cold waves, there may be intense frosts at night.
Alexandra - Average temperatures
Min (°C)1110842-1-203579
Max (°C)2424211713981215182022
Min (°F)525046393630283237414548
Max (°F)757570635548465459646872

Here the rains are frequent throughout the year, but they are scarce, since they don't reach 300 mm (12 in) per year. Here is the average precipitation.
Alexandra - Average precipitation

The temperature of the sea in the South Island is always cold; at Christchurch it goes from 10 °C (50 °F) in the winter months, to 15 °C (59 °F) in January to February. In the far south, in Invercargill, it reaches 13 °C (55 °F) in January and February, although in winter it doesn't drop below 10 °C (50 °F).
Invercargill - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)131313121110101010101112
Temp (°F)555555545250505050505254

Small islands

Let us now have a look at the climate of some islands belonging to New Zealand, but far away from the main territory.
Raoul Island, more than 950 kilometres (600 miles) north-east of the North Island, is mild and rainy. The average goes from 16 °C (61 °F) in July and August, to 22 °C (72 °F) in February. On average, 1,500 mm (60 in) of rain per year fall, well distributed, with a relative maximum in winter and a relative minimum in spring.
Campbell Island, 600 kilometres (370 miles) south of the southern coast, is an uninhabited island, definitely cold and windy all year round, so that the average temperature goes from 9 °C (48 °F) in summer, to 4/5 °C (39/41 °F) in winter. Rainfall is frequent throughout the year, and even snowfall in winter. The sky is almost always overcast.
The Chatham Islands, 900 kilometres (550 miles) east of the South Island, have a mild oceanic climate, similar to certain areas of the South Island itself, with frequent rainfall throughout the year, though not abundant, and an average temperature of 14 °C (57 °F) in January and February, and 7 °C (44.5 °F) in July.

Tropical cyclones

New Zealand is not located in the path of cyclones, but once in a while a tropical cyclone, usually weakened, may reach these latitudes, usually affecting the North Island and the northernmost part of the South Island, bringing rain, wind and storm surges. In recent decades, tropical cyclones or their remains have affected New Zealand from mid-December to April 20, with a higher frequency from January to March.

When to go

The best time to visit New Zealand is the austral summer, from December to March, which is pleasantly warm in the North Island, and cool in the South Island. Wanting to visit the country in the winter, for example in August, you can choose the North Island, which is milder and more sheltered from cold waves, maybe combining the exploration of cities with some skiing in the mountains.

What to pack

In winter (June to August): for the North Island, Auckland and Wellington, spring/autumn clothes, sweater, jacket, raincoat or umbrella. For the South Island, warm clothes, down jacket, scarf, hat, raincoat. For high mountains, mountain clothing.
In summer (December to February): for the North Island, Auckland and Wellington, and the South Island down to Christchurch, light clothes for the day, a sweatshirt and a light jacket for the evening, raincoat or umbrella. For the south, spring/autumn clothes, sweater, raincoat and umbrella. For the Southern Alps, warm mountain clothing.

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