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The BEST time to visit Queenstown – Comparing the Four Seasons

The BEST time to visit Queenstown – Comparing the Four Seasons

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Are you planning your big trip to Queenstown, but don’t know when to visit? Well, I’m glad you asked! The time of year you visit can have a huge impact on your vacation as a whole.

Having lived here in Queenstown for a few years now, I’ve experienced it in every season, and can safely say that each has its pros and cons. I’m often asked by friends and family when the best time to visit is, and in this blog I wanted to paint the complete picture.

From which months are the quietest to unique seasonal activities and so much more, I’ve included tons of helpful info in this blog, so that by the end of it you’ll have a clear idea of which season you want to visit in! So without further ado, let’s dive right in.

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 New Zealand and Australia’s 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, 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.

It’s 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 adrenaline-filled activities, 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!?

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.

Cons of visiting Queenstown in the summer

Here me out, I actually wrote an entire blog on why NOT to visit Queenstown in the summer! It’s such a popular season that accommodation prices are higher and activities can sell out quickly. The same goes for restaurants – book your table early to avoid disappointment. If you rent a car, 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 if you want a campervan or motorhome. You need to book it at least 6 months in advance. A good website to use is Motorhome Republic. It compiles all motorhome companies into an easy-to-use booking site. For cars, Discover Cars is the site I use.

Best activities to do in the summer in Queenstown

  • Watersports – jetboating, SUP, and kayaking are all best enjoyed in the warmer summer months
  • Hiking – the best hikes in Queenstown in summer include Ben Lomond and the Moke Lake Loop Track. You can also take a tour with a local guide Bob’s Cove, and Routeburn Track to learn all about the area!
  • 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. You can even take lake cruises in Queenstown!

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 in New Zealand is the number one activity to do in winter! With three ski fields (Remarkables, Coronet, and Cardrona) within easy driving distance of town, you’re spoiled for choice. If you’re looking for a ski-filled holiday, you can book this 5-day all-inclusive package that includes accommodation, ski lifts, transportation, and breakfast for 5 days!

There’s a 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 lively après-ski scene in Queenstown – I love Rhinos Ski Shack, World Bar, and Little Blackwood for some après-ski fun.

Also, during the winter in Queenstown attractions outside of town are much less busy. Things like enjoying a road trip to Glenorchy or a Milford Sound tour are free from the large crowds that summer brings.

You can even take helicopter tours around Queenstown, like this helicopter tour that lands on the snow-capped peaks of The Remarkables! It’s a peaceful time to travel outside of town and embark on some amazing 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

  • Hit the slopes in Queenstown at the Remarkables, Cardrona, or Coronet Peak for world-class skiing. You can even go night skiing on Coronet on select days of the week!
  • Take on adrenaline-pumping winter sports, like snowmobiling, heli-skiing, or snowshoeing!
  • Après-ski drinks offer happy hour deals in many of Queenstown’s bars. Sit by the fire to warm up and relax after a long day on the slopes!
  • If you’re traveling with kids visit the family-friendly Snow Farm at Cardrona– it’s snow-much-fun!
  • Stay warm and explore the many indoor activities in Queenstown, which include 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!

Why I Book Tours on Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book all of my tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here

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, but don’t let it deter you, as there are lots of things to do in Queenstown when it rains!

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. This is true all across the country, and for those on a budget, spring is the perfect time to travel.

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 offer fantastic prices. 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!

Related Read: One of the prettiest places you can visit from Queenstown is Milford Sound! There are tons of wildflowers and wildlife out during the spring, so you get some unique sights during this time of year!

Best activities to do in the spring in Queenstown

  • Visit the Onsen Hot Pools – This is one of the best hot pools in New Zealand, and the quieter early spring season is about the only time you’ll get a reservation! This popular spot is usually booked out pretty far in advance. Plus, the views from the pools are the best in the spring in my opinion!
  • There are some great adventurous activities like bungy jumping, skydiving, jet boating, and whitewater rafting! 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.
  • Escape the spring showers by visiting picturesque wineries near Queenstown! There are some excellent wine tours in Queenstown, this one being my favorite, where you can try out the region’s award-winning Pinot Noir. Although there are so many amazing wineries, you will need a few days to hit them all!
  • Other great rainy-day activities include Fear Factory Queenstown, iFly Indoor Skydiving, and the Kiwi Wildlife Park in Queenstown.
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Autumn/Fall

A cute house in Arrowtown New Zealand
Visiting Arrowtown is a great idea during the fall!

Fall or autumn is the best time to visit Queenstown if you’re looking for amazing 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). Some of the best weather days I’ve experienced in Queenstown has 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 an ideal 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 find good value for money should you decide to visit Queenstown in the fall. The later in the 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

Where to Stay in Queenstown

Hot Tub over looking the river and mountains at Kamana Soak in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Kamana Lakehouse

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.

Honestly, during peak times, any of the best hotels in Queenstown will be fully booked several weeks in advance…you have been warned! To help you plan ahead, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.

Kamana Lakehouse – $$$

For a luxurious stay, I highly recommend Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel is located just on the outskirts of town. Although it’s super peaceful, it’s just a 5-minute drive into the center of town. The place overlooks both the lake and the mountains, and the onsite restaurant uses local, seasonal ingredients to create the freshest meals. To top it off, many of the rooms boast lake views, and some even have outdoor baths!

The trick will be snagging this for your dates (it’s a popular place!). Rooms start around the $400 NZD mark, and you can check availability and book online here.

La Quinta Queenstown – $$

If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel, then you should seriously consider La Quinta Queenstown. This beautiful hotel is right by the airport but still very quiet. Plus, the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!). The rooms are all studio or one-bedroom apartments, which is really handy if you want to cook or even just have breakfast in your room.

Prices start at $200 NZD and you can book online here.

Absoloot Hostel Queenstown – $

My top choice for budget travelers is the Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget private rooms, 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!

Dorms are around $55 NZD, and private rooms begin around $210 NZD. The Absoloot Hostel is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown and can be booked on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

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! Or you can read through some of my most popular posts below:

23 BEST Stops on the Drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound

21 Things to do in Queenstown at NIGHT

The BEST 5 Days in Queenstown Itinerary – From a Local!

Larry

Wednesday 16th of August 2023

Kia ora, Bailey, I thoroughly enjoy reading all your posts as we are scheduled to visit NZ in April, 2024. So informative and simply filled with invaluable advice and tips. Have days in Rotorua, Wellington, Nelson & Queenstown. Arrowtown is a planned day trip for us while n QT. Have you ever bungy jumped? Thoughts/feelings?

Bailey

Friday 1st of September 2023

Hey Larry,

Your trip sounds amazing! Be sure to search my site as I have some great articles on all those places but not all of them are shown on Google. I have and I do enjoy it but I have not gone in a long time as it is very expensive! It's so much fun but it's one of those things that I have crossed off the bucket list now!

Thanks Bailey

Elaine

Tuesday 28th of March 2023

Hi Bailey, great review of Queenstown, just wondering whether to pack clothes for warm or cold weather as we are honeymooning there 21st April. Also will a lot of shops, cafe's and restaurants be closed by then. Many thanks

Bailey

Thursday 30th of March 2023

Hey Elaine,

You will want to pack both, but more on the warmer side. Queenstown is cold by then, in fact, it's already cooled right off this year. I don't think you'll need gloves etc, but a warm coat and pants will certainly be needed! May usually brings the first frost in town for the year but it can come early.

Thanks Bailey

Jim

Sunday 29th of January 2023

I really enjoyed reading your blog post on visiting Queenstown during the different seasons. We are considering visiting Queenstown in early to mid June of 2023. Will we be able to get over to Milford Sound and take a boat tour? What else will there be to do?

Thanks!

Bailey

Tuesday 31st of January 2023

Hey Jim,

Yes! Getting to Milford Sound will be fine in June. If the roads are bad and there has been snow, you may want to take a tour, but I drive that way all year round.

I'm confused, do you mean what else there will be to do in Milford or Queenstown?

Thanks Bailey

Angel

Tuesday 27th of December 2022

HI Bailey! My fiance and I are planning to take our honeymoon trip in Queenstown on the 1st week of May 2023. Will there still be the beautiful autumn leaves by that time or no more?

Bailey

Friday 30th of December 2022

Hey Angel,

May is a little late in the season and most of the best colors will be gone. With that said, there will still be lots of beautiful fall colors during that time. Although it's not what I consider peak season, you'll get to see the last of it.

My first ever day in Queenstown was on May 2nd, over 4 years ago, and I remember arriving and still being blown away by the colors. Be sure to take a trip to Arrowtown, it's the most beautiful place in the fall!

I hope this helps! Bailey

Helena

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

It's very helpful for me. Thank you!