New Zealand’s sparkling islands lie within the vast expanse of the South Pacific Ocean giving them a classic maritime climate.
This means mild, equable, year-round temperatures with no extremes because of the constant moderating influence of the surrounding seas. No part of this narrow, insular country is more than 100 km from the sea. Regional weather variations can be identified to help visitors to plan their New Zealand holiday itinerary.
The North Island has a blend of subtropical and temperate climates. Subtropical Auckland and Northland remain relatively warm and mild throughout the year, but experience high humidity in summer months. Auckland’s average max/min temperatures are 23-16°C (73-61°F) in summer and 14-9°C (57-48°F) in winter. The rest of the island has warm, damp summers merging into cool, wet winters. North Island weather is extremely changeable – e.g. brief showers can interrupt sunny periods at any time of the year. Rainfall is evenly distributed and averages around 1300 mm a year.
The South Island extends a further 600 km into the Southern Ocean, so has cooler temperatures. Queenstown’s average max/min temperatures are 21-10°C (70-50°F) in summer and 9-1°C (48-34°F) in winter. Nelson and Blenheim enjoy the highest sunshine hours in the country (2500 hours a year).
Prevailing westerly winds have a major effect on our climate bringing warm, moisture-laden air in from the Tasman Sea. The South Island’s Southern Alps act as a barrier, creating annual rainfall of up to 7000 mm on the West Coast. By contrast the Canterbury Plains, lying in the rain shadow of the Alps, get only 330 mm of rain. Periodic southerly winds originating in Antarctic waters invariably mean cold weather all over the country. In winter (June-August) heavy falls of pure powder snow on the Alps means that New Zealand can offer some of the most varied skiing and snowboarding to be found anywhere in the world.
From the visitor’s point of view the ‘shoulder’ seasons of October-December and February-April are a good time to holiday in New Zealand, avoiding the busy summer peak season. Weather conditions are still pleasant and all the main sights and attractions are open and accommodation is plentiful.
Weather forecasts are given with regular radio and TV news bulletins. Situation maps and forecasts appear in all major daily newspapers. Telephone and internet sites can be readily accessed for updates. Note that New Zealand practices daylight saving from October-March when clocks are set forward by one hour.