Lonely Planet Writer

New Zealand: just as beautiful, but way less busy in spring and autumn

The world has truly woken up to New Zealand as a travel destination, with the country experiencing a record growth in visitors in the last year.

Set from the Hobbit in Waikato.
Explore the set from the Hobbit in Waikato, New Zealand. Image by Steve Shattuck / CC BY-SA 2.0

Travellers head there to see the real Middle Earth or to Instagram NZ’s amazing scenery and experiences across the country. But with loads of visitors arriving over the summer and winter peak seasons, New Zealand wants the world to know, it’s just as gorgeous — and way less busy — in spring and autumn.

The NZ summer is the busiest time of the year, especially around the Australian school holidays from December to January and then Chinese New Year visits in February. This puts pressure on local resources and finding accommodation or uncrowded attractions in visitor hot-spots like Auckland, Queenstown and Rotorua can be a challenge. Going to NZ in summer is sometimes akin to visiting Europe between July and September. Travellers should know that as well as a better visitor experience in the shoulder seasons, prices drop when the pressure is off in spring and autumn.

Waiheke Island, New Zealand.
Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Image by Goueg / CC BY-SA 2.0

Spring, from September to November, brings warming weather: sunshine in the north, wildflowers on the mountains and lush green landscapes in the south. Autumn will see your pictures littered with colourful deciduous trees introduced from Europe, and warm vineyards turning gold and red in the afternoon light. The best festivals to time an off-season visit to New Zealand include the World of Wearable Art Festival, Bluff Oyster & Food Festival, and Beervana.