The BEST time to visit Queenstown – Comparing the 4 Seasons

The Wharf in Queenstown, New Zealand in summer

So you’ve decided you want to visit Queenstown – a great choice in my opinion! However, now you’re probably wondering when is the best time to visit? Well, every season in Queenstown has its pros and cons, for example, summer is hot but extremely busy whereas spring is referred to as ‘off-season’ with lots of great deals to be found in both the restaurants and hotels. With that said, it can rain a lot!

Winter is of course the time to go skiing in Queenstown and it’s also a very quiet time to enjoy road trips as campervans/motorhome rentals in NZ are at their cheapest then. Autumn is easily the quietest time to visit Queenstown and during this time you’ll get the best deals as well as the beautiful colors of fall. Be prepared for temperatures to cool down though!

No matter what season you chose to visit Queenstown I’m certain you will have the vacation of a lifetime. Queenstown is after all the best town in New Zealand in my somewhat biased opinion (it is my home after all.)

In this blog, I give you detailed information on each season in Queenstown – what the weather is like, what activities are best to do in each season, and the pros and cons of each.

Worth remembering is the seasons here are the opposite of the northern hemisphere. For example, winter in Queenstown runs from June to the end of August. This is completely different from the seasons in Europe, North America, etc.

Summer in Queenstown

Queenstown beach in summer
Beach day anyone?

Summer is a very popular time to visit Queenstown – especially with European and North American travelers who are trying to escape winter. Summer is also popular with families as the New Zealand and Australian long school holidays fall in summer. Remember, the summer season in Queenstown starts in December and ends in February.

The weather typically ranges from 20°C (68°F) to a maximum of 30°C (86°F) during the day and there’s usually very little rainfall (although some years it can be unpredictable!) A plus for early birds is that the sun rises as early as 5 am. And for night owls, it sets as late as 10 pm – so there is lots of daylight to tick all those amazing activities off your bucket list.

Pros of Visiting Queenstown in the Summer

Summer is my favorite season in Queenstown because you’re pretty much guaranteed good weather. If you’re a hiker the long daylight hours (over 17 hours of daylight!) and warm weather makes it the ideal season to explore the many hikes in the area. Summer is also the best season to try out the many watersport activities the region has to offer like SUP or kayaking on Moke Lake or Lake Wakatipu to the more adrenalin-filled activities in Queenstown such as jet boating, zip-lining, skydiving, or canyoning.

If you want a relaxing vacation then why not spend the summer days here relaxing on one of the many gorgeous lakeside beaches like Bob’s Cove; Wilsons Bay, and Frankton Beach.

Fun fact – there are lots of free BBQs along the edge of the lake in Queenstown for public use. Grab some supplies from the supermarket and have a BBQ with friends while you watch the sunset. It’s a great cheap thing to do in Queenstown when the weather is warm.

Cons of Visiting Queenstown in the Summer

Because Summer is such a popular season with tourists the prices for accommodation are higher and the activities can sell out quickly. The same goes for restaurants – book your table early to avoid disappointment. If you’re self-driving, traffic and parking in Queenstown can be a nightmare during these months too.

On top of that, planning needs to be done well in advance and if you want a campervan or motorhome. You need to book it at least 6 months in advance. A great website to use is Motorhome Republic. It compiles all motorhome companies into an easy-to-use booking site. For cars, Discover Cars are the site I use.

Best Activities to do in the Summer in Queenstown

  • Watersports – jetskiing, SUP, and kayaking are all best enjoyed in the warmer Summer months
  • Hiking – the best hikes in Queenstown in Summer include Ben Lomond; Moke Lake Loop Track and Twelve Mile Delta to Bob’s Cove
  • Relax at one of the many gorgeous lakeside beaches such as Bob’s Cove and Wilsons Point
  • Dining alfresco – get a seat outside at one of the amazing restaurants in Queenstown on Steamer Wharf and watch the famed TSS Earnslaw on the Lake (one of the popular lake cruises in Queenstown)

For more, check out my guide on the best things to do in Queenstown in summer!

Winter in Queenstown

Climbing high at The Remarkables Ski Field
Hey from the top of The Remarkables Ski Area!

The winter months in Queenstown run from June to the end of August and it gets pretty chilly here during these months. Expect temperatures of 8°C (46.4°F) to as low as 0°C (32°F) during the day and at night it typically falls below zero with lows of -6°C (21.2°F.) Despite the cold temperatures, it doesn’t snow regularly in the town itself but expect to see lots of snow dusting the surrounding mountain ranges.

Winter is an especially pretty season and one of the best times to visit Queenstown if you’re looking for snowy mountain peaks. Winter is popular with groups of young skiers as well as families in the winter. During this time, especially during the school holidays, Queenstown is extremely busy.

Pros of visiting Queenstown in the Winter

Skiing is the number one activity to do in Queenstown in winter. With three ski fields (Remarkables, Coronet, and Cardrona) within easy driving distance of town, you’re spoiled for choice. There’s a great buzz in town during ski season with lots of events like the Queenstown Winter Festival which typically runs for a few days at the start of July, as well as the Luna Light Festival at the start of June.

There’s a great après-ski scene in Queenstown – I love Rhinos Ski Shack, World Bar, and Little Blackwood for some great après-ski fun. These are great places to party in Queenstown.

Also, during the winter in Queenstown attractions outside of town are much less busy. Things like enjoying a road trip to Glenorchy or even a Milford Sound tour are free from the large crowds that summer brings. It’s really a peaceful time to travel outside of town and embark on some of the most popular South Island road trips.

Cons of visiting Queenstown in the Winter

Because it’s ski season prices for accommodation and activities are typically on the higher end (although you can get some good deals at the start and end of the season.) Daylight hours are short with sunrise around 8 am and the sun setting before 5 pm so there’s less time to pack your day with activities. Queenstown is also very cold in the winter which makes exploring the surrounding area less comfortable. Not to mention, the weather can make driving on the roads difficult.

Best Activities to do in the Winter in Queenstown

  • Skiing – hit the slopes of Remarkables, Cardrona, or Coronet Peak. You can even go night skiing on Coronet on select days of the week
  • Snowmobiling or other adrenalin-pumping winter sports like heli-skiing
  • Après-ski drinks avail of the happy hour offers in many of Queenstown’s bars and sit by the fire after a long day on the slopes
  • If you’re traveling with kids visit the family-friendly Snow Farm at Cardrona
  • All indoor activities in Queenstown are perfect and included relaxing in hot pools, shopping, and even visiting a luxury cinema

For more check out my guide on the best things to do in winter in Queenstown!

Spring in Queenstown

The Queenstown Gardens Trail
Walking along the edge of the lake is so beautiful! Photo credit – lucidwaters Depositphotos

Spring is one of the best times to visit Queenstown if you don’t mind a little rain. The spring season in Queenstown starts in September and ends in November. Temperatures can reach as high as 22°C (71.6°F) especially in late November but will be much cooler in September (they can fall as low as 8°C or 46.4°F). Expect lots of rain showers so be sure to pack your raincoat and umbrella. Late spring is surprisingly a busy time season in Queenstown as visitors come to enjoy the warmer weather. However, there are still fewer tourists than in summer which means your money will go further as many activities and restaurants run discounted rates.

Related read: If you’re visiting in spring be sure to read about the best things to do in Queenstown when it’s raining.

Pros of visiting Queenstown in the Spring

Early spring in Queenstown is typically one of the quietest times to visit so lots of hotels and activity providers have some fantastic offers. The same goes for the restaurants and cafes in town – a lot of them have great value menus. If you come early enough, you can also catch some spring skiing and get discounted rates. During these months you can often ski in a shirt! No jacket required!

The sun starts to rise around 8 am and sets at 7 pm so the daylight hours are relatively long giving you more time to explore and enjoy the day. By late spring the days are even longer and with the weather warmer, there’s a perfect mix between snow on the mountains and beach days.

Cons of visiting Queenstown in the Spring

Because it’s quieter in Queenstown in spring some activities have shorter opening hours or don’t begin operating until late spring. The rain can be off-putting as many of the activities in Queenstown are outdoors. In fact, this is the thing I hate most about spring!

If you visit in late spring don’t expect any special deals or Queenstown to be quiet. By November the summer season has truly kicked off and peak season prices and crowds should be expected!

Best Activities to do in the Spring in Queenstown

  • Visit the Onsen Hot Pools – the quieter early spring season is about the only time you’ll get a reservation as this popular spot is usually booked out (other than autumn). Plus, the views from the pools are the best in the spring in my opinion
  • Go bungy jumping – temperatures are milder than in winter and fall and because there are fewer tourists in town, you’ll likely have your pick of times/dates. Other adventure activities like zip-lining, jet boating, and whitewater rafting are also great in the spring
  • Go on a Wine Tour – escape the spring showers and visit picturesque wineries near Queenstown and try out the regions award-winning Pinot Noir
  • Other great rainy day activities include Fear Factory Queenstown, iFly, and the Kiwi Wildlife Park in Queenstown

Autumn/Fall

A cute house in Arrowtown New Zealand
Arrowtown is such a quaint place to visit from Queenstown in Autumn.

Fall or autumn is the best time to visit Queenstown if you’re looking for great photo opportunities or are traveling on a tight budget.

Autumn in Queenstown starts in March and ends in May with temperatures varying from 12°C (53.6°F) to as high as 25°C (77°F). In fact, some of the best weather days I’ve experienced in Queenstown have been at the start of fall (in March). Sunrise averages around 7:30 am daily with sunset at 8:30 pm in March but the daylight gets less and less from April on with sunset at approximately 6 – 6:30 pm in May.

Late fall is without a doubt the quietest time to visit in Queenstown. Seriously, it provides a much-needed break from the thousands of visitors (although I really do miss you all!) Early fall is still really busy with March being one of the busiest months. It begins to slow in April, and by May when the Great Walk season ends just about everyone leaves – except me of course!

Related read: One of the best things to do in Queenstown during fall is to visit Arrowtown for the stunning Autumn leaves. Be sure to visit a café or two while you’re there.

Pros of visiting Queenstown in the Fall

Fall is a great season for couples to visit Queenstown because it’s just so pretty to look at and has a relaxed and romantic vibe. Fall is probably the prettiest season in Queenstown when the town explodes in the typical autumn colors of red, yellow, and orange. The nearby town of Arrowtown (just a 20 minute drive away) is particularly gorgeous. Make sure to bring your camera to snap some pretty photos.

Fall is typically a quiet or ‘off-season’ as locals like to call it so you’re likely to get some great value-for-money should you decide to visit Queenstown in the fall. The later in fall you visit Queenstown the less busy it will be.

Cons of visiting Queenstown in the Fall

Again, because it’s ‘off-season’ activities and restaurants may have limited opening hours. It starts to get a lot colder by mid-April especially in the mornings and evenings, so if you don’t like cold weather then perhaps the summer or spring are better seasons for you. During late fall it’s also too early to go skiing and too late to enjoy some of the summer activities. In my opinion, late fall is only for those who like a slow, relaxing holiday without the crazy adventure sports

Best Activities to do in the Fall in Queenstown

  • See the gorgeous Fall colors – visit Arrowtown and Queenstown Gardens for the prettiest colors
  • Visit a Festival – the Arrowtown Autumn Festival (end of April) is a fun-filled few days with gorgeous scenery, live music, and even a street parade
  • Go for a bike ride – the best bike trails to discover in Queenstown are the Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley trail and the Jacks Point trail
  • Grab a hot chocolate – I recommend Patagonia Chocolates and stroll along Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown Gardens to see the full effect of Fall in Queenstown
  • Take advantage of the great offers on a scenic helicopter ride over the stunning region

Where to Stay in Queenstown

The Hilton Resort and Spa Queenstown
The sunning Hilton Hotel!

Finding the right place to stay in Queenstown can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awesome choices but things book up fast! For that reason, I highly suggest booking your accommodation well in advance. It’s not that you won’t find something later on, but that all the really good places go first!

To get you started, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.

The first is for budget travelers and that’s Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget privates and it’s really clean and comfortable. The location is in the heart of Queenstown – the window from the kitchen looks out over Lake Wakatipu! It is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown.

If you have a little more money to spend then you should seriously consider Chalet Queenstown. I’m a supporter of smaller hotels because I feel you get better service. Based on recommendations, I stayed at Chalet Queenstown when I first arrived. It’s a beautiful hotel in a quiet but close location and the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!)

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you know the luxury travelers, then you’re going to be spoiled for choice in Queenstown. I’ve personally stayed at the Hilton Resort and Spa on my anniversary and loved it. If you want an even more luxurious stay, look at Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel has the most beautiful spa overlooking the lake and is definitely one of the best hotels in Queenstown.

There are also lots of amazing Airbnbs in Queenstown as well as bach/holiday homes to rent! You can choose between modern homes, central apartments, cozy cabins, and so much more when staying in an Airbnb.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey from My Queenstown Diary poses for a photo at Lake Hawea near Wanaka
The beautiful Lake Hawea

Truth be told, Queenstown is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year. However, choosing the right time for your ideal holiday is important. The above info gives you a breakdown of each season so you can easily decide when the best to visit Queenstown is for you!

Thanks so much for reading this blog! I really hope you found it helpful and maybe even inspiring. Please be sure to browse around some more if you need any info on visiting Queenstown or New Zealand in general!

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