Autumn is undoubtedly one of the best times to hit the road and explore the New Zealand landscape. The Kiwi equivalent of America's 'fall', autumn sees the crowds start to die down, the sizzling summer temperatures tail off and the scenery start to take on exquisite autumnal hues of yellow, orange and gold. With some careful planning you can have the time of your life venturing into parts of the country you’ve yet to visit, or if this is your first time in NZ, you can witness the untamed land with an inviting and homely warmth unrivalled by other seasons. Let’s look at a few spots you can’t afford to miss in autumn.
Autumn weather in New Zealand
Before we get into it, we should probably address the whole upside-down, toilets go the wrong way, Christmas on the beach in the sunshine thing for those of you reading from the northern hemisphere. Down here in the southern hemisphere our autumn occurs March, April, May… the reverse of the globe’s more northern climes.
Temperatures will drop a little during these months with lows of around 10 degrees Celsius and highs of up to 20, depending on where you are in the country. The temperature of the sea and our favourite lakes and rivers will taper off to 10-15 degrees and swimming becomes the reserve of the very keen after late April. Unless of course you have a good wetsuit, which can see you surfing and diving year-round. Autumn weather is a calculated risk because while rainy and windy conditions can occur, so too can beautifully still days with bluebird skies and crisp temperatures. It pays to be prepared for all kinds of weather with warm clothes and raincoats close at hand – a layered approach is best so you’re ready for rain and wind but can easily remove layers for a more comfortable experience if the temperature does rise.
Regardless of the weather outside come autumn, Kiwi Holiday Parks and Accommodation (KHPA) have a huge range of accommodation options that are warm, dry and secure. Basic cabins, cosy motels, self-contained units with kitchens… you name it, KHPA have something to match every budget and required comfort level.
If you’re exploring mountainous alpine areas near Queenstown and Wanaka or the central plateau of the North Island, there may be the chance of snowfall. Tune in to local radio stations and log onto the MetService website to check the forecast for any inclement weather before you leave camp. If there is snow on mountain roads you may need to hire tyre chains to help your vehicle stay on the road and make it to your destination safely.
Where New Zealand looks best in autumn
Our native flora here in God’s Zone is evergreen so you’ll see little change from our stunning kauri, totara and pohutakawa trees. Our deciduous tree population on the other hand will transform into jaw-dropping hues of hot orange, gold and yellow, with fallen leaves decorating the ground and attached leaves contrasting striking blue skies for wonderful photo opportunities and once-in-a-lifetime visuals.
The best places in New Zealand to witness the autumnal palette are Central Otago and Hawke’s Bay. Depending on your budget and timeframe, a trip through Central Otago can be part of a mission up the West Coast or down to Southland.
If you decide to head to the Central Otago and stay at Wanaka, you must set aside a few hours to visit the historic gold mining area of Arrowtown (22 mins from Queenstown and 53 mins from Wanaka). The landscape was bare when the early miners settled from England and Ireland in the 1800s, so Mayor Alexander Innes launched a decade-long project that saw strategic planting of English variety trees to help the town-folk remember their homeland. The result are majestic sycamores, cork elms and oaks lining the streets today, framing the cosy village and making it a must-see in Autumn. See for yourself.
What to do in New Zealand during autumn
If you like the sound, and look of Arrowtown, why not visit during the annual Akarua Arrowtown Autumn Festival. While it’s over and done with for 2018, there’s always next year. The festival has something for young and old with live music, a rubber duckie race, a parade and art and photo exhibitions.
Further north, there’s a lot going on in the Hawke’s Bay area during autumn too. Dubbed the fruit bowl of New Zealand due to its plentiful orchards and vineyards, the region is abuzz with workers frantically harvesting wine grapes during autumn. It’s a great time to take a wine tour, feel the energy and sample some world-class tipples. Try the world-famous Mission Estate Winery or Esk Valley Winery. Both are a short drive from Napier Beach.
To witness the Hawke’s Bay flora in all its glory, head to Havelock North and take a bridge-to-bridge stroll along the banks of the Karamu Stream from the Crosses Road bridge to the Havelock Road bridge.
Falling in love with New Zealand’s autumn season already? Check out our Kiwi Holiday Parks & Accommodation map to see where you can stay during your autumn visit, and take a look at our Kiwi Card to see how you can save on accommodation, attractions and vehicle hire.