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The Ultimate Travel Guide For Fall In New Zealand (2024)

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Are you wondering about autumn in New Zealand, I’ve got you covered!

As a local Kiwi who has lived here for 27 years I’ve experienced New Zealand in autumn (aka fall) many times, it’s actually one of my favourite seasons! After summer of course.

Fall is an amazing time to explore New Zealand. The leaves are changing colours, the weather is cooling down, and there are a ton of fun things to do!

In this ultimate travel guide for fall in New Zealand, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know to make the most of your trip. It’s typically cooler than the summer months, but it’s still comfortable enough to enjoy all activities.

So whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures or cultural experiences, keep reading for all the details.

When is autumn in New Zealand?

New Zealand is located in the Southern Hemisphere which means autumn starts on the 1st of March and runs through to the 31st of May.

The average temperature in autumn can vary quite a bit depending on the month and also what part of the country you’re in.

For example, in March in the North, you’ll feel like it’s basically still summer. Expect to be hitting the beach and making the most of the warm ocean. In the South, it’s always a bit colder but March is still very pleasant.

Then in May, things are definitely starting to get a bit chillier. It’s not winter yet but it’s defs on its way. It’s still too early to get any snow in fall in New Zealand but on a windy overcast day, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got some layers!

Why You Should Travel To New Zealand In The Fall

fall-in-new-zealand

There are a few great reasons to travel to New Zealand at this time of year! Although I’m a summer gal through and through, New Zealand in Autumn comes a pretty close second.

✔️ Firstly, the weather is much cooler and more comfortable than in the summer months. This is a great time to enjoy outdoor activities without feeling too hot or sweaty.

✔️ Secondly, the fall foliage is absolutely stunning. The leaves are changing colour to a beautiful array of oranges and reds.

✔️ Lastly, all the popular tourist destinations aren’t that busy this time of year. Why? Because all the school and university students are back in school.

Just make sure you don’t accidentally book your trip during the school holidays and you’ll be sweet!


11 Best Places To Go To Experience Fall In New Zealand

Now that you know all the reasons why fall is an amazing time to travel to New Zealand, it’s time to start planning your trip! Here are some of the best places to experience fall in New Zealand:


1. Wanaka

wanaka tree new zealand

Wanaka is one of my all-time favourite places in New Zealand. It’s located in the South Island and is surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery you’ll ever see. Autumn is a particularly great time to visit Wanaka as the leaves make this already gorgeous place feel extra special.

There are plenty of activities to keep you busy in Wanaka. In the fall, I recommend going for a hike, visiting one of the many vineyards, or taking a scenic drive.

Where To Stay In Wanaka

Best Things To Do In Wanaka

  • Hike Roy’s Peak
  • Visit the Wanaka tree
  • Ski at Cadrona Alpine Resort


2. Arrowtown

arrowtown fall in new zealand

If you’re looking for a beautiful small town to explore in fall, then Arrowtown is definitely the place for you.

This quaint town is located in the country’s South Island, just south of Queenstown and is surrounded by stunning natural beauty which looks gorgeous in the fall. If you’re wanting an array of different coloured autumn leaves then this is the place for you.

Be sure to check out the historic buildings and have a wander through the main street. Arrowtown is also home to a number of historical attractions, including the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement and the Lakes District Museum.

In addition, Arrowtown offers a variety of shopping and dining options, making it the perfect place to spend a day or two exploring.

Where To Stay In Arrowtown

Best Things To Do In Arrowtown

  • Explore Arrowtown Village and take in the heritage
  • Drive Crown Range Road for some stunning scenery – officially the highest road in New Zealand!
  • Walk Tobins Track, an easy 30mins each way with stunning panoramic views


3. Christchurch

christchurch new zealand

Christchurch is known for its gardens, which are especially beautiful in the springtime. It is also home to many museums and galleries, as well as a vibrant nightlife scene.

Christchurch is an ideal destination for those who love nature and the outdoors, as well as those who enjoy exploring new cultures.

In the fall it’s pretty gorgeous. Since it’s known as the Garden City, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

The leaves turning red and yellow in places like Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens make for some pretty stunning scenery. And because it’s not peak season, you won’t have to deal with the crowds!

Where To Stay In Christchurch

Best Things To Do In Christchurch

  • Stroll through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
  • Check out the bays of Banks Peninsula, start at Lyttelton Harbour then walk through Governors Bay and Little River before finishing in Akaroa where you can stop for a bit to eat
  • Ride the Christchurch Gondola


4. Queenstown

queenstown-gondola

Queenstown is one of the most popular tourist destinations in New Zealand so it’s definitely worth a visit in the fall. I visited in March, right at the start of autumn and I loved every minute of it.

The weather was still warm enough to do all sorts of outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and kayaking but it wasn’t too hot. You also still get a lot of daylight hours in March due to it still being daylight savings so you’ll be able to squeeze plenty into your day.

Then when you’re done with all that adventure, you can relax in one of the many cosy cafes or restaurants.

Where To Stay In Queenstown

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Best Things To Do In Queenstown

  • Visit the Remarkables Ski area
  • Relax at Onsen Hot Pools
  • Ride the Skyline Queenstown – the views are gorgeous on the viewing deck!
  • Hike the Queenstown Hill walking track
  • Take in the stunning scenery from a different perspective by riding in a helicopter
  • Speed around in a shot over jet – perfect for any adrenaline junkies


5. Bay of Islands

bay-of-islands-best-places-to-visit-in-north-island-new-zealand

The Bay of Islands is gorgeous to visit any time of the year but if you head here in early fall, you’ll avoid the crowds and be able to make the most of the warm weather.

Located in the far North Island of New Zealand, fall in the Bay of Islands is pretty mild especially when the sun is out! Thanks to the warmer climate you’ll still be able to swim at the beach if you visit in March or even early April.

This is the perfect place to relax and unwind. There are plenty of beaches to choose from, as well as some great restaurants and cafes. Spend a weekend here or spend a week!

Where To Stay In The Bay Of Islands

Best Things To Do In The Bay Of Islands

  • Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
  • Explore the many bays and beaches
  • Take a boat cruise around the islands
  • Visit Rainbow Falls – one of the most stunning waterfalls in the country


6. Hawke’s Bay

hawkes bay te mata peak

Hawke’s Bay is a beautiful region located on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The area is known for its warm climate, stunning scenery, and delicious wine.

Hawke’s Bay is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. The temperature is mild in the fall and it’s a great time to visit.

There are endless opportunities for hiking, biking, and kayaking. And, of course, no visit to Hawke’s Bay would be complete without sampling some of the region’s renowned wines.

Where To Stay In Hawke’s Bay

Best Things To Do In Hawke’s Bay

  • Stroll down Marine Parade
  • Discover the many wineries – the Hawke’s Bay is known for its full-bodied red wines
  • Rent a bike and cycle through the region – a perfect way to take in the stunning fall scenery
  • Hike up Te Mata Peak


7. Marlborough

marlborough sounds new zealand

Marlborough is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty, and visitors are drawn to the region for its calm beaches, lush green landscapes and clear blue waters.

Be prepared for spectacular valleys of vines belonging to the many vineyards you’ll find here and relaxing sheltered waterways.

The Marlborough Sounds are a particular highlight, and there are plenty of opportunities for swimming, kayaking and fishing.

Marlborough is also home to some of New Zealand’s finest wineries, and the region’s cool climate produces Sauvignon Blancs of exceptional quality. Visitors can enjoy tasting sessions, tours and cellar door sales at many of the Marlborough vineyards.

There’s plenty to do and the mild climate in fall makes it the perfect temperature for exploring.

Where To Stay In Marlborough

Best Things To Do In Marlborough

  • Go vineyard hopping
  • Cruise through Marlborough Sounds
  • Walk or cycle the Queen Charlotte Track – this takes 5 days on foot or 3 days on a bike so make sure you’re well prepared if you plan to do this track


8. Lake Tekapo

lake tekapo new zealand

Lake Tekapo is a stunning turquoise lake located in the heart of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Surrounded by mountains and glaciers, Lake Tekapo is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

It is a beautiful place to visit in the fall. Not only are the colours of the leaves against the backdrop of the lake stunning but being surrounded by the Southern Alps is pretty spectacular.

Fall is perfect for visiting the lake because the wind dies off and you often get quite still days, so be prepared to see the gorgeous autumn leaves reflecting in the water. I love Lake Tekapo, it’s such a peaceful place along with its neighbour Lake Pukaki which I’d also recommend visiting.

In addition to its natural beauty, Lake Tekapo is also home to a number of unique attractions, including the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Lake Tekapo Observatory.

Where To Stay In Lake Tekapo

Best Things To Do In Lake Tekapo

  • Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd
  • Swim in the hot pools at Tekapo Springs
  • Go stargazing – Lake Tekapo is in one of the only Dark Sky Reserves in New Zealand so it’s one of the best places to see the stars


9. Taupo

river in lake taupo new zealand

Lake Taupo is the country’s largest lake and is surrounded by forests, mountains, and hot springs.

With long lakeside walls and plenty of other hikes, Taupo is beautiful to visit in the fall. The autumn trees line the lake with their gorgeous coloured leaves. I always love visiting Taupo, my boyfriend’s mum lives here so we tend to visit quite frequently.

One of my favourite things to do on a Sunday morning is wander around the lake and visit the local markets. There are plenty of stalls with some yummy food options too.

The hot springs are another popular tourist attraction and are perfect to visit when the weather starts getting a little cooler. Different temperature pools mean you can hop around and find the one that suits you best. It’s also possible to book private hot pools for a bit of privacy.

With its laid-back vibe, you’re sure to love Taupo not only in the fall but any time of year!

Where To Stay In Taupo

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Best Things To Do In Taupo

  • Take a walk around the lake
  • Visit Huka Falls
  • Cruise on Lake Taupo to see the Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings – it’s also possible to hire a kayak and paddle here yourself if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous


10. Matakana


Matakana is a small town located on the east coast in the North Island of New Zealand, about an hour’s drive from Auckland. It’s one of my favourite spots for a weekend getaway and with a family holiday home located in Omaha, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Matakana more times than I can count!

The town is known for its scenic beauty, with lush green hills, golden beaches and clear blue waters. Matakana is also home to a number of wineries, restaurants and cafes, as well as a farmers market that sells fresh local produce.

In Matakana Village, you’ll find a number of boutique shops worth browsing. The area has grown increasingly popular over the years and you can find some awesome local businesses killing it.

The fall colours in Matakana are pretty incredible and make for some great photo opportunities. If you’re a fan of wine then this is definitely the place for you as there are plenty of vineyards to explore too. My favourites are Omaha Bay Vineyard and Brick Bay.

Where To Stay In Matakana

Best Things To Do In Matakana

  • Head to the farmers markets at the weekends – there is one on Saturday in the village and one on Sunday in Omaha
  • Go for a stroll along Omaha Beach, even if it’s not warm enough to swim this gorgeous beach is still worth a visit
  • Browse the shops in Matakana Village
  • Go to the cinema in Matakana – it’s not just your average cinema, trust me!


11. Central Otago

central otago fall in new zealand

Central Otago is an amazing place to visit. It is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in New Zealand, and there are plenty of things to see and do. Central Otago is a great place for hiking, biking, and horse riding, and there are also lots of opportunities for bird watching and fishing.

The stunning scenery of Central Otago is sure to impress in the fall. Known for being sunny and dry, mix that with the beautiful autumn leaves and you’re in for a treat.

Central Otago is known as being one of the best winegrowing regions in New Zealand so make sure you stop by a couple of the gorgeous vineyards in the area.

The vines start to change colour in April and look pretty spectacular.

Where To Stay In Central Otago

Best Things To Do In Central Otago


Best Way To Get Around New Zealand In Autumn

best-way-to-get-around-new-zealand-in-the-fall

If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand in Autumn, or any season for that matter, you’ll need to figure out the best way to get around.

The most popular way to get around New Zealand is by car. Renting a car gives you the flexibility to explore at your own pace and make stops along the way. Plus, it’s easy to find rental cars in New Zealand.

Another option is to take the bus. New Zealand has an extensive bus network, and it’s a great way to see the country on a budget. Bear in mind though, the more remote the place you’re heading, the harder it is to find a bus that will get you there.

You can also take trains and planes, but they’re not as convenient as cars or buses. So, when you’re planning your trip to New Zealand, consider renting a car or taking the bus.

FAQ: Autumn in New Zealand

Best time to see autumn leaves in New Zealand?

If you want to catch New Zealand in full autumn mode then aim for late March to May. The best time to visit however will vary slightly depending on what region you’re visiting however.

For example, due to the warmer climate in the north, autumn tends to get into full swing a little later than in the south. April is often the sweet spot, when the colours are at their most vibrant and the weather is still pleasant, perfect for those crisp morning walks or leisurely bike rides through the leaves.

When does autumn start in New Zealand?

Autumn officially starts on March 1st in New Zealand and runs until the end of May.

How many days in autumn?

There are 92 days in autumn in the southern hemisphere, 31 days in March, 30 days in April and 31 days in May.

How many seasons does New Zealand have?

Like most places, New Zealand has 4 distinct seasons – summer, autumn, spring and winter.

Summer’s all about those beach days and sunshine from December to February. Then autumn takes over from March to May. Winter runs from June to August, sometimes bringing snow in the mix, especially down south. Then spring starts in September and ends in November.


Conclusion: The Ultimate Travel Guide For Fall In New Zealand

New Zealand is the perfect place to travel in the fall. The weather is cooling down, making it ideal for hiking and outdoor activities.

The leaves are creating a beautiful landscape and there are fewer tourists, so you can enjoy the country’s natural beauty without the crowds.

Whether you’re looking for an adventure-filled trip or a relaxing getaway, New Zealand has something to offer.

So pack your bags and head to New Zealand this fall for the trip of a lifetime.