Autumn in New Zealand is one of the most beautiful seasons to visit this beautiful country. The colorful autumn foliage is a treat for the eye. Together with the crisp mornings and stable weather autumn is a perfect season for all kinds of outdoor activities. So if you’re wondering if fall is a good time to visit New Zealand, then you’ve come to the right place! In this complete guide, I will answer all your questions about autumn in New Zealand. You will get to know when autumn is in New Zealand. Why autumn is a good time to visit and what the peak time is to see the autumn colors in New Zealand. Or are you planning a photography trip to capture all the stunning fall colors? I will share all the best spots for autumn photography in New Zealand.
What months are autumn in New Zealand?
Autumn in New Zealand spans the months of March, April, and May. While March is still early autumn with little fall foilage visible, the peak of autumn in New Zealand is usually mid-April. Depending on the amount of rainfall and wind, the peak autumn colors stay until the end of April. In May most of the trees start to lose their leaves while the winter season slowly makes its entrance to New Zealand.
What is autumn like in New Zealand?
Autumn in New Zealand is a beautiful and vibrant season characterized by mild temperatures, stunning foliage, fewer crowds, cheaper rates and a range of outdoor activities. It is some of the most settled weather of the whole year in the country and typically lasts from March to May. Therefore the New Zealand autumn months are a fantastic time for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and photography.
Autumn marks the grape harvest season in New Zealand, particularly in regions such as Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay, and Central Otago. Therefore the vineyards become bustling with activity as grapes are picked and winemakers begin the process of crafting world-class wines. Many wineries offer tours and tastings, allowing visitors to indulge in the flavors of the season. Autumn is a great season to visit New Zealand if you’re a wine lover and interested in indulging yourself in one of the many wine tours.
Autumn is also the lively season of festivals and events in New Zealand. One of the most notable celebrations is the Autumn Festival in Arrowtown, near Queenstown. It showcases the beauty of the region with street parades, live music, food stalls, and various activities. Additionally, many towns and cities organize farmers’ markets, art festivals, and cultural events during this season.
Is autumn a good time to visit New Zealand?
Yes, autumn is a very good time to visit New Zealand! It has some of the most settled weather of the whole year with the least chance of rain and mild temperatures. The crisp sunny days and cooler evenings are perfect for exploring the outdoors during the autumn months.
Because the New Zealand forests and National Parks are primarily formed of evergreen trees, you won’t see autumnal trees there. Nevertheless, the West Coast such as Fiordland National Park and Mount Aspiring National Park are wonderful destinations to visit in autumn. There are fewer crowds and the mild weather is perfect for hiking.
If you are coming to New Zealand specifically for the autumn colors, there are plenty of options to see and photograph them. Further in this blog post you will find a breakdown of the best locations in New Zealand to see the autumn colors.
Best time to see the peak autumn colors in New Zealand
Wondering when you can see the fall colors in New Zealand? Well, the timing of the peak autumn colors in New Zealand varies depending on the specific location, weather conditions, and tree species. However, generally, the best time to see the peak autumn colors in New Zealand is from April to May.
In the South Island, areas such as Arrowtown, Central Otago, and the Southern Alps typically experience stunning autumn colors from late April to early May. In the North Island, regions like Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, and the Central Plateau often showcase their peak autumn foliage during the same timeframe.
To ensure you catch the peak autumn colors, which is desirable if you want to photograph the fall foliage with all leaves on the trees, you should aim to be in New Zealand in the second week of April. The Arrowtown Autumn Festival usually takes place in the third week of April when all exotic trees are beautifully red, yellow and orange.
Wind and rain do play a huge role in how long the autumn colors last. With one or two days of big wind and rain, the autumn leaves can be gone overnight.
Best places to visit during autumn in New Zealand
Some places in New Zealand have exotic trees that display beautiful yellow, golden and red foliage during autumn. These exotic tree species have been introduced to New Zealand and contribute to the country’s diverse and picturesque autumn landscapes. You can find them in various parks, gardens, and public spaces across the country.
If you’re coming to New Zealand in autumn to capture the stunning autumn colors of these trees, you will have to do your research. Because not in every place throughout the country you will find these colorful trees. Below I made a breakdown of the best places to see the fall foliage in New Zealand.
Keep in mind that the exact timing and intensity of autumn colors in New Zealand may vary from year to year and depend on the specific climate conditions.
The North Island of New Zealand is a great destination to visit year-round. With warm summer months and mild autumn months, it is the perfect place for water sports and other outdoor activities.
If you are an autumn foliage chaser, there are a few areas in particular you want to visit. However, for the real deal of autumn overload, you will have to go to the south island. More about that below!
Auckland: To experience autumn in Auckland you have to visit Cornwall Park where the 8000 different trees burst of colours.
Hawke’s Bay: Known for its vineyards and orchards, Hawke’s Bay showcases beautiful autumn foliage. Explore the region’s parks, gardens, and vineyards for picturesque autumn colors.
Wellington: Wellington boasts several parks and gardens where you can witness autumn colors. The Wellington Botanic Garden and the Otari-Wilton’s Bush are popular spots to enjoy the fall foliage.
Tongariro National Park: While primarily known for its volcanic landscapes, Tongariro National Park also offers stunning autumn colors. Particularly around the alpine shrubs and golden tussock grasslands which offer a great contrast with the landscape.
The South Island’s landscapes transform into a riot of colors during autumn. The deciduous trees, such as beech, birch, poplar, and willow, display stunning hues of red, orange, and gold. The mountains, including the Southern Alps, take on a new beauty as they become carpeted with the fall colors. Especially in combination with fresh white snow, this will create a picturesque backdrop for outdoor activities and photography.
Queenstown: The hills and mountains surrounding Queenstown come alive with vibrant colors during the autumn season. Around Lake Wakatipu you will find plenty of colourful trees which make the perfect backdrop for a photo with The Remarkables mountains. Take a scenic walk around the lake’s edge or venture into the nearby mountains to enjoy panoramic views of the autumn landscapes.
Lake Hayes: Lake Hayes is a picture perfect autumn location nearby Queenstown. Visit on a day with no wind so that the billowing willow trees and rich colours of maples reflect in the waters of Lake Hayes. Take a walk along the lake’s edge to enjoy the stunning views of the Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Cecil Peak in the distance.
Arrowtown: The historic mining town on a 15 minute drive from Queenstown is uniquely enchanting in the fall months. The streets and lanes of Arrowtown are lined with trees that burst into vivid colors during this season. Take a stroll through the town, explore the gold-mining history, and soak in the atmosphere of autumnal beauty. Try to plan your visit around the yearly Arrowtown Autumn Festival which usually takes place in the third week of April. There are plenty of photography opportunities in Arrowtown. Walk along the banks of the Arrow River and take in the contrasts of the trees and the turquoise glacial river.
Shotover River: Between Queenstown and Arrowtown is the Shotover Canyon. Here you can see the Shotover Jet boats blazing through the narrow canyon. Going in the Shotover jetboat yourself is an epic experience, and a must-do! But for photography and admiring the autumn colors, Shotover Canyon is also a great place for a quick stop. Take a walk over the Edith Cavell Bridge where you can see the beautiful contrast of the turquoise water and orange, yellow trees.
Wanaka: Another popular autumn destination on the south island is Wanaka. Stunning yellow trees flank Lake Wanaka while the town and its surrounding landscapes are adorned with vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold as the deciduous trees, including poplars, birches, and willows, transform for the season. The Wanaka Tree, an iconic willow tree standing in Lake Wanaka, is particularly beautiful when surrounded by fall colors. It is without a doubt the most photographed tree in New Zealand and a very popular place to visit for tourists and photographers. Be prepared for a line of people along the lake’s edge throughout the day!
Twizel: Located in the Mackenzie district, Twizel has many amazing locations you can photograph during the autumn months. Lake Ruataniwha is the biggest lake and has lots of hidden spots to explore. The most famous and easy spot to get is the roadside view looking towards the fir trees. If you have good light, the trees in the background will pop in color against the mountain backdrop.
Wairepo Arm is another easy spot in Twizel to get to from the main road. You can safely park your car in the grass and walk towards the lake’s edge. The stunning yellow trees flank the lake and with the tussock mountains in the background it makes up for a perfect photo opportunity. Come during midday onwards for the best light. But if you can make it at golden hour you’ll be in for the real deal when the golden light hits the yellow trees!
Canterbury: The Canterbury region, including Christchurch and its surrounding areas, showcases lovely autumn colors. Explore Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Hagley Park, and the Port Hills for picturesque autumn scenery.
What to wear in autumn in New Zealand?
New Zealand has a diverse range of climates, from subtropical in the far north to cool temperate in the south, so conditions can vary widely depending on the area you plan to visit in autumn. Besides that, autumn in New Zealand brings a mix of temperatures. It can still feel like an ‘Indian summer’ one day, and then start snowing in the mountains a few days after.
I always advise to wear layers in New Zealand. The mornings and evenings can be cooler during autumn in New Zealand, so having a light jacket or sweater is advisable. Besides that, comfortable long-sleeved shirts and trousers protect against cooler temperatures and potential insect bites if you’re spending time in rural or wooded areas.
In many parts of New Zealand, autumn can bring occasional rain. A waterproof jacket or a coat with water-resistant properties can be handy, especially if you’re exploring outdoor areas.
At higher elevations, it can get chilly during the autumn months. So carrying a pair of gloves and a beanie can keep you warm during colder periods.
Is Autumn cold in New Zealand?
March marks the transition from the warmer summer months to cooler temperatures, but it’s definitely not too cold yet. Generally, early autumn in March brings temperatures ranging from 15 to 22 degrees Celsius (59 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit) in the South Island. In the North Island the temperatures are still pleasant with 18 to 25 degrees Celsius (64 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit).
In April temperatures continue to cool down. On the North Island temperatures often range from 13 to 22 degrees Celsius (55 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit). But on the South Island, the temperatures start to drop more from 8 to 15 degrees Celsius (46 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit). At higher elevations, it might even feel colder than this because of the wind.
May marks the end of autumn with daytime temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). But the evenings and nights can be cooler, especially in the southern parts of the South Island where temperatures can drop to below zero.
In the North Island, the daytime temperatures in May can range from around 9 to 17 degrees Celsius (48 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit), and in the South Island from 5 to 14 degrees Celsius (41 to 57 degrees Fahrenheit).
How to get around in New Zealand
To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a car, campervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots. But for some of them you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand.
Car rental in New Zealand
Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for this kind of roads. We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car!
The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pick up date.
Campervan rental in New Zealand
Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and fully connects you with nature.
We recommend booking your campervan with Travellers Autobarn. They have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, a 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!
More New Zealand travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about autumn in New Zealand! And that it answered all the questions you had about visiting New Zealand in autumn. If you have any other questions you can ask them in the comments or send us an e-mail!
We have many more New Zealand blog posts. The subjects vary of things to do, best hikes, restaurants and epic photo spots on the North and South Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides!
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