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 traveling 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 however heavier snowfall isn't common until late May to early June. 

The amount of snow and in what months it occurs is largely due to the temperatures and rainfall as if it's not cold enough, snow won't 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 traveling 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 see 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 

MONTH

AVERAGE HIGH

AVERAGE LOW

March to May

13°C

3°C

June to August

6°C

-1°C

September to November

13°C

3°C

December to February

19°C

7°C

 

Click to return to the South Island FAQs

Our South Island Tours

5 Days From 2120

Take five days to discover New Zealand’s natural North Island with Intrepid. From Lake...

8 Days From 3785

Uncover the natural wonders of New Zealand’s North Island on an eight-day Premium...

17 Days From 8110

Discover the best of New Zealand on a 17-day Premium adventure, taking in the most...

7 Days From 1575

Spend seven days with Intrepid on a family-focused South Island adventure in New...

3 Days From 905

Explore lakes, mountains and rivers on this three-day Wanaka retreat, taking in...

Tailor-Made trips

Take two or more on an exclusive trip and tailor your itinerary

4 Days From 1375

Take in the spectacular scenery of the South Island on a 4-day walking adventure along...

10 Days From 2730

Discover New Zealand’s North Island at its very best on a 10-day journey from Auckland...

14 Days From 4415

Explore the best of New Zealand’s North Island on a 14-day adventure, covering Auckland...

4 Days From 1035

Get out of town and uncover the tastes and traditions of sweeping Hawke’s Bay on this...

4 Days From 1250

Explore lakes, mountains and rivers on a 4-day Wanaka adventure, taking in Arrowtown,...

5 Days From 1735

Soak up the sunshine and scenery of the beautiful Bay of Islands on a five-day...