Learn when is the best time to visit Queenstown New Zealand based on your interests and the things you would like to see or do in Queenstown.
Queenstown is located in the bottom-half of the South Island of New Zealand in the Southern Lakes area of Central Otago.
You can fly directly to Queenstown, but you could also fly to Christchurch and then drive from Christchurch to Queenstown to get there.
Queenstown is known as a skiing paradise in winter and a hiker’s heaven in summer, but in reality, it is a year-round travel destination, so you can visit it any time during the year.
While you would expect summer to be busier than winter in Queenstown, nothing could be further from the truth.
Visiting Queenstown in winter
Winter in New Zealand falls in the months of June, July, and August.
Winter in Queenstown sees the opening of New Zealand ski fields and the celebration of the arrival of winter through the Queenstown Winter Festival [winterfestival.co.nz], which generally takes place at the end of June.
Both events cause winter to be as busy as summer in Queenstown.
If you see busy as something negative, then you can say that winter is a bad season to visit Queenstown. But then again, you would miss out on seeing a good amount of snow on the mountains surrounding Queenstown.
In terms of a specific month, you can say that July would then be the worst month to visit Queenstown, because in July, Queenstown is highly likely to become busier due to the school holidays, which always fall in July.
July and August are typically the months in which most of the snow falls so in that regard, they are the best months to visit Queenstown for snow.
If you want to catch snow in Queenstown but not have it be that busy, your best bet would be August.
Lake Wakatipu and Cecil Peak in Queenstown
Polar blasts tend to be more frequent in August, so if you want snow without the crowds, try the last week of July to the first week of August.
Winter temperatures in Queenstown range between -6 and 15 degrees Celsius (21 – 59 degrees Fahrenheit) with July expected to be slightly colder than June or August. Fog and low clouds are common in June and July in Queenstown as well as in places like Wanaka and Central Otago.
Winter in Queenstown offers about 9 hours of daylight at the beginning of June, which decreases slightly in July by half an hour, and then increases again in August to about 11 hours of daylight at the end of August.
[Photo: Snow on mountains in Glenorchy near Queenstown in winter (49 KB)]
Visiting Queenstown in spring
Spring in New Zealand falls in the months of September, October, and November.
If you are looking for peace and quiet in Queenstown, spring is probably your best bet. Just like winter, you’ll have a greater chance of seeing snow on the mountains but unlike winter, the town won’t be as crowded.
Spring in Queenstown sees the blossoming of flowers with a dusting of snow on the mountains.
Spring tends to start early in New Zealand. The first flowers tend to come out in the first or second week of August, which is technically speaking still winter.
If you want to go to Queenstown to see spring blossoms, you can pay a visit to the Queenstown Gardens. While not plentiful, you should be able to see some spring blossoms on display there. An ideal period to visit Queenstown to see spring blossoms would be between September 15 and October 7.
[Photos: Lake Wakatipu and Cecil Peak in spring in Queenstown (50 KB); Pond and spring blossoms in Queenstown Gardens (86 KB)]
And if you do not mind a short drive, you can visit the nearby Arrowtown, which should also have a few spring blossoms on display along the roads and in people’s yards.
You can also drive on the Kawarau Gorge Road toward Cromwell – make sure you make a brief stop along the way to see Roaring Meg – and then on to Alexandra, which is about one hour away from Queenstown and which hosts the Alexandra Blossom Festival [blossom.co.nz] every year in spring. You do not have to go to the festival, though, to see spring blossoms; just drive through Alexandra and you’ll see flowers on trees.
And finally, September and October are not the only months with flowers on display. If you visit in November, you should also see lupins sprinkled here and there in Queenstown.
To see bundles of lupins, you must make a longer journey to Lake Tekapo. The lupins should start popping up alongside the road between Lindis Pass and Tekapo.
It takes about three hours to get to Lake Tekapo from Queenstown.
Spring temperatures in Queenstown range between -2 and 24 degrees Celsius (28 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit) with November expected to be the warmest month out of the three months in spring.
Spring in Queenstown offers about 11 hours of daylight at the beginning of September, which increases to about 15 hours of daylight at the end of November.
[Photos: Spring blossoms along Devon Street in Arrowtown near Queenstown (69 KB); Pink spring blossoms on tree in Alexandra (91 KB)]
Visting Queenstown in summer
Summer in New Zealand falls in the months of December, January, and February.
Summer, like winter, is a very busy time in Queenstown, because the weather tends to be nice and warm, it is a good time to be out on the lake, and because December and January is a holiday period for New Zealanders. February is probably the least busy month in summer.
Summer is a great time to spend on or around Lake Wakatipu or go for a walk up a mountain, while winter is good for skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing on a few walking trails high up in the mountains around Queenstown.
If walking is your thing, I’d recommend visiting Queenstown during summer rather than winter. The trails should be clear of snow and more daylight hours in summer means that you can venture off on longer trails than you would be able to do in winter.
Queenstown has hiking trails for all fitness levels and experiences, and enough of them to keep you walking for a week or two. But if that is not enough for you, you can always drive to Wanaka and climb Mt. Roy or do other easier walks in Wanaka.
I highly recommend doing the Queenstown Hill Time Walk, which is close to town and short enough not to get you too tired and which offers nice scenic views from several high viewpoints above Queenstown.
Summer temperatures in Queenstown range between 2 and 29 degrees Celsius (36 – 84 degrees Fahrenheit) with January expected to be the hottest month out of the three months in summer.
Summer in Queenstown offers about 15 hours of daylight at the beginning of December, which increases slightly by half an hour toward Christmas before decreasing again to about 13 hours of daylight at the end of February.
[Photo: Lake Wakatipu Queenstown in summer (61 KB)]
Visiting Queenstown in autumn
Autumn in New Zealand falls in the months of March, April, and May.
Autumn is the time of the year when trees are displaying golden colors in Queenstown. However, for the best fall foliage experience, you should head to Arrowtown, which hosts the Arrowtown Autumn Festival [arrowtownautumnfestival.co.nz] every year.
And if you have a bit more time on your hands, you can drive to Wanaka, Clyde, and Alexandra to enjoy more fall foliage. Stop at the Clyde Dam on your way to Alexandra to overlook Clyde and Alexandra below, which should be all in yellow.
Autumn is a season that I’d say is semi-busy in Queenstown. The trails are still good for walking, and you might get an occasional dusting of snow on the mountain tops.
However, autumn is notorious for the unpredictable weather it brings to New Zealand. It can sometimes bring lots of rain that may cause flooding or lake levels to rise to frightening heights. The weather in New Zealand as a whole is pretty unpredictable, but you can expect summer to bring the calmest weather.
Autumn temperatures in Queenstown range between -3 and 26 degrees Celsius (27 – 79 degrees Fahrenheit) with March expected to be the warmest month, May the coldest, and April somewhere in between.
Autumn in Queenstown offers about 13 hours of daylight at the beginning of March, which decreases to about 9 hours of daylight at the end of May.
Final words on the best time to visit Queenstown
I have visited Queenstown in all four seasons, and the season I like best is spring for the peace and quiet in and around the town as well as the snow on the mountains around Queenstown.
Everybody is different, though, so I’d recommend to first decide what you would like to do and/or see in Queenstown and then pick a suitable season for your activities.
This article falls under Travel Guide.
Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details
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