Weather on the South Island

The weather in New Zealand is known for being fairly temperate, however, it is possible to experience changing weather conditions within just one day - from sunny one minute to cold and rainy the next. Specifically, the South Island's landscape is quite varied so this means the weather is also varied depending on which area you're in. 

If you're travelling to the coastal areas of the South Island, the temperatures are more likely to be warmer, although you should also be prepared for icy winds coming off the Pacific Ocean. If you're heading to the Southern Alps area in the middle of the South Island, the temperatures will be a bit colder and you can experience snow and frosts. 

What's the climate like on the South Island? 

The climate on the South Island is often quite mild and temperate just like the rest of New Zealand, if not perhaps a little on the extreme side when it comes to winter. Overnight frosts are common in winter and the average temperature is closer to 0°C, especially inland near the Southern Alps. 

The South Island also receives the most rainfall during the year with most of it evenly spread. However, surprisingly the winter months are the driest. Instead, it's more likely to see frosts and snow during the months of June, July, and August. 

The South Island is also home to the sunniest regions of New Zealand with Marlborough and Nelson leading the way when it comes to total hours of sunshine experienced. Each region gets around 2,300 hours of sunshine per year with the rest of the island fairly sunny all year round too. 

How much does it snow on the South Island? 

The South Island experiences a lot of snowfall throughout the year, especially around the Southern Alps region and in cities like Queenstown. Snow can be expected as early as April with a light dusting on mountain peaks. Heavier snowfall isn't common until late May to early June. 

The amount of snow and in what months it occurs is mainly due to the temperatures and rainfall; if it's cold enough, snow will fall. The months that experience the heaviest snowfall are June, July, and August. 

These months are popular among tourists who travel to the South Island for snow sports such as skiing and snowboarding. 

What to pack for the South Island 

The weather on the South Island is known for being more on the cooler side, so packing clothing items such as jumpers, thick socks and pants are a must no matter what time of the year you're travelling in. During winter, you should always bring appropriate footwear (for hiking and walking around) as well as waterproof jackets and other snow gear if you're planning on participating in various snow activities. 

There are a number of locations that offer snow gear for hire if you forgot something or didn't pack the right clothes. 

Alternately, the warmer months on the South Island don't seem especially high temperatures with the average high being around 15-20°C. This weather is fine for dresses, shorts, and t-shirts, but make sure you've packed some warmer weather as it does get colder in the evenings. 

Average temperatures on the South Island 


Average high

Average low

March to May



June to August



September to November



December to February



Want to learn more about the South Island? Return to South Island FAQs

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