Tourists can only ever skim the surface of New Zealand’s diverse range of scenery and all the different ways there are to experience it.
So, what sort of natural wonders can you expect? Frankly, it’s hard to know where to start.
If you’ve seen The Lord of the Rings or, more recently, The Hobbit, you’ll have an idea: soaring mountainscapes, mysterious lakes and rivers, dramatic volcanic plateau, vast open plains, braided rivers, native forests, thermal wonderlands, fiords, native forests, glaciers, miles of farmland and even more miles of glorious coastline with gorgeous sandy beaches…. all that sort of thing.
Even New Zealanders who’ve lived their whole lives here haven’t seen or done it all. It’s quite the fashion these days for retirees to buy a mobile home or caravan and take to the road exploring.
It’s not just the range of beautiful scenery there is for you to see – it’s all the different ways you can reach it and experience it: by car, on foot, by boat, on horseback, by helicopter, by rail, by rubber tyre…
New Zealand's temperate climate
Having a relatively kind climate is a big reason outdoor activities figure so highly here – you get plenty of opportunities to get out and enjoy New Zealand's open spaces, year round.
Technically, New Zealand has a temperate climate which means relatively mild, wet winters and warm dry summers. We don’t get great extremes between seasons – no weeks of baking heat or months of being snowbound.
However, being a maritime country, the weather can change rapidly from day to day or even during the day. And being such a long and skinny country, there are wide variations: the far north can be positively subtropical, while the deep south, where Antarctica is the next stop, can get icy winds. The latitude can also be misleading, with Alexandra, near the bottom of the South Island, regularly recording the summer high temperature as well as reaching some of the lowest temperatures in winter. Then there is Wellington, which sits at the bottom of the North Island and is perfectly placed to catch the winds that whip through the Cook Strait.
The weather also varies from east to west, due to the mountains found in the centres of both islands. So you could find it sunny and warm in Napier on the east coast, and cloudy and wet when you get to New Plymouth over to the west.
New Zealand has southern hemisphere seasons.
Average temperatures - main centres
Mean average daily minimum and maximum temperatures (°C) for each of the main centres (source: NIWA).
|Summer (February)||Winter (August)|
|Auckland||16 - 24°C||8 - 15°C|
|Hamilton||13 - 24°C||5 - 15°C|
|Napier||15 - 24°C||5 - 15°C|
|Wellington||14 - 21°C||7 - 12°C|
|Nelson||13 - 23°C||3 - 13°C|
|Christchurch||12 - 22°C||3 - 13°C|
|Queenstown||9 - 22°C||0 - 10°C|
|Dunedin||11 - 19°C||4 - 11°C|
|Invercargill||9 - 19°C||2 - 11°C|
For more on New Zealand’s weather patterns visit Niwa.