The Ultimate Off-Peak Guide to NZ in Autumn

In New Zealand, Autumn arrives in March and lasts until May. Up North, temperatures can range between 10°C to 20°C while South Island encounters cooler temperatures ranging from 5°C to 15°C.

To gear yourself up for the milder temperatures and activities available during the season, here’s a list of items you should consider packing:

  • Layered Clothing: As the weather in New Zealand can vary across the regions, pack lightweight, breathable layers like long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and cardigans. A mix of clothing allows for easy adjustment to temperature changes throughout the day.
  • Outdoor Gear: If you’re planning outdoor activities like hiking, pack comfortable, waterproof boots or shoes, a day backpack and comfortable clothes for walking or hiking.
  • Sun Protection: The sun can be strong despite the cool weather, so do remember to pack sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat to shield yourself from the UV rays.

Unmissable Experiences for the Season

Enjoy the fall foliage

Autumn transforms the New Zealand landscapes into a breathtaking canvas of warm colours, marking the fall foliage season. The best time to see autumn leaves is late April to early May when the colours are usually at their peak. From national parks to native forest trails, New Zealand is packed with short walks that offer prime spots for this visual spectacle, providing nature enthusiasts a front-row seat to the kaleidoscope of autumn hues. Here are some of the places to see them:

This historic gold mining town, nestled in the heart of Central Otago, transforms into a mesmerising scene of vibrant fall foliage. Arrowtown’s charming heritage buildings add to the enchantment, as the town hosts events celebrating the autumn harvest and the area’s rich history. Wander the peaceful lakes, soak in the scenic beauty, and relish the serene ambience of this quaint town amidst the stunning hues of autumn. Here are some of the best walking trails in the region.

This serene town, nestled by Lake Wānaka and surrounded by majestic mountains, comes alive with fiery hues of fall foliage during Autumn. It is the best time to take scenic walks, bike rides, or hikes to witness this natural splendour. With fewer crowds during this season, you will be able to savour the breathtaking landscapes, partake in local events and immerse yourself in the peaceful charm of this stunning lakeside town. Here are five of the best short walks in the region.

Visiting Lake Tekapo in autumn unveils a breathtaking symphony of colours against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty. Lake Tekapo’s crystal clear waters complement the autumnal palette, offering a serene reflection of the changing leaves and the majestic Southern Alps in the distance. Whether it’s hiking the surrounding trails, taking in the breathtaking views, or capturing the stunning landscapes through photography, it is the best time to explore this town during this season. Here are some short walks that you can include in your list!

Visit Vineyards

Autumn marks the harvest season in New Zealand, making it the perfect time to visit vineyards and wineries. Explore and savour the country’s world-renowned wine, or if time permits, staying overnight in a vineyard might just be one of the most picturesque places to sleep after a day’s exploring.

An iconic winemaking estate situated in Central Otago, Cloudy Bay is renowned for its world-class Pinot Noir wines. Immerse yourself in a world of fine wine and gastronomy as you indulge in a refined and intimate wine-tasting experience and savour gourmet cuisine with their locally sourced and seasonal menus

Marlborough is about the world-famous Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s largest wine-growing region. Join a guided tour or hire a bike, and head on a wine excursion as you explore the vines and wines in Marlborough.

At New Zealand’s oldest wine-growing region, discover how Church Road pioneered the creation of Hawke’s Bay wine industry. Renowned for being the first in New Zealand to craft exceptional Bordeaux-style red wine, learn about their winemaking philosophy along with a tour of the barrel halls, caves and historical underground museum while sampling some of their pre-release wines.

Surrounded by the breathtaking landscapes of the Southern Alps, Mt Rosa Lodge & Vineyard offers an exquisite escape for those seeking tranquillity and indulgence. Explore the vineyard and learn about the winemaking process as you indulge in tastings of the region’s renowned varietals, including Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. One of the most unique aspects about staying here is the chance to embark on an astronomy tour with local astronomer, Professor Brian Boyle, for a visual or photographic experience under the starry Gibbston sky.

Situated right next door to its gorgeous rustic cellar door, Mataehero’s luxury cabins are an experience on their own. With stunning views overlooking the vines, you’ll be able to enjoy a platter and wines on your private deck. Try their First Sun Rosé which celebrates the region’s climate and high sunshine hours, resulting in a wonderful fruit-driven Rosé.

Forage your meals

Autumn in New Zealand is a remarkable season renowned for its fresh seafood and abundant ingredients. With cooler weather setting in, this time offers prime conditions for harvesting succulent seafood like mussels, oysters, and various fish species. Undertaking foraging while travelling is an amazing way to build a connection with the land you are visiting, and understand the destination’s unique produce, flora and fauna.

Check out some of these farm to table experiences that offer a twist on traditional dining for your next trip:

Known for its exceptional dining experiences and commitment to farm-to-table cuisines, take part in cooking classes by Hapuku Kitchen. Forage and cook with fresh, seasonal ingredients from their gardens and enjoy a seasonal feast after, paired with local wine or beer.

Situated in the pristine waters of Mahurangi Harbour, this oyster farm cultivates some of the finest and freshest oysters in the region. The farm’s dedication to sustainable and environmentally friendly practices ensures the production of premium-grade oysters. Learn more about the oyster cultivation process and savour these renowned delicacies firsthand.

Suitable for all skill levels, try a hand at fishing and catch your chinook salmon in the fresh glacial waters with High Country Salmon. Take home your cleaned (gilled and gutted) whole salmon or have it fresh on the spot.

Explore Auckland’s urban landscape and discover a diverse array of edible delights at the Urban Forage Tour hosted by the New Zealand School of Food and Wine. During autumn, the program focuses on the changing botanical landscape, providing insights into the seasonal abundance of wild foods. Under the guidance of knowledgeable instructors, learn to identify and harvest seasonal fruits, nuts, and edible plants.

Set against the canvas of Wānaka’s autumnal landscapes, explore the bountiful natural surroundings, guided by knowledgeable foragers who share insights into the region’s edibles. After you gather a wide array of fresh, wild ingredients, skilled chefs will transform your foraged treasures into a delectable and locally inspired meal.

Events in Autumn

Autumn months are eventful in New Zealand, with a variety of captivating events spanning from culture to food. Here are some of the events that you definitely cannot miss when visiting during this season:

Hokitika Wildfoods Festival, Hokitika (9 Mar 2024)

Held annually in March, this renowned festival celebrates the country’s wild and unconventional culinary offerings, showcasing a diverse array of local and exotic foods from huhu grubs to whitebait fritters. Beyond the gastronomic delights, this festival is also a vibrant celebration of New Zealand’s culture and creativity where you can enjoy live entertainment, music performances and engaging activities.

Music Festivals in March

March marks a month of music festivals in New Zealand that celebrate some of their finest local musical talent. Dance the night away at one of many gigs and festivals across the country, no matter what genre gets your foot tapping. From Homegrown Music Festival, the crème de la crème of local music events, to Auckland’s Beacon Festival, an open-air dance festival on the waterfront.

Māoriland Film Festival, Ōtaki (20 – 24 March 2024)

The largest Indigenous film festival in the Southern Hemisphere, Māoriland Film Festival is held in the seaside town of Ōtaki. Heading into its 11th year in 2024, it is a cultural and arts event that invites travellers from all over the world to celebrate Indigenous voices and storytelling through screen storytelling.

Flavours of Plenty Festival, Tauranga (4-14 April 2024)

This annual festival is a celebration of the Bay of Plenty region’s rich culinary heritage, vibrant food scene and diverse cultural influences. Get treated to a delectable array of food stalls, featuring a diverse range of dishes that reflect the region’s agricultural abundance and coastal treasures. The festival also presents live cooking demonstrations, food workshops and tasting sessions where you can learn more about the region’s specialities and culinary techniques.

Arrowtown Autumn Festival, Arrowtown (25-28 April 2024)

Held in Arrowtown, a historic gold mining town in the South Island, this festival is a cherished annual celebration that pays homage to the town’s rich heritage, stunning natural surroundings, and the breathtaking beauty of autumn foliage. The town comes alive with a myriad of vibrant events and activities, with one of the main highlights being the charming parade that winds its way through Arrowtown’s streets. Get a chance to catch colourful floats, live entertainment and community groups as they showcase their creativity and enthusiasm.


Accommodations for the best Autumn Getaway

Planning the best getaway in New Zealand in Autumn involves considering accommodations that complement the season’s charm and diverse experiences that the country offers. Here are some accommodation options to make the most of your autumn retreat in New Zealand: 

Hidden Springs, Waikino

Set amidst beautiful gardens and natural surroundings, each cottage or lodge is thoughtfully designed to provide comfort and privacy as you immerse yourself in the serene ambience of Waikino’s countryside. Relax and unwind as you soak in the private outdoor hot tubs fed by natural mineral springs and enjoy the beautiful autumn views.

Puketui Forest Escape, Taupō

Nestled within the enchanting Puketui Forest, disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and immerse yourself in the tranquillity of the native bush at Puketui Forest Escape. The accommodation options, thoughtfully designed to minimise the environmental impact, range from charming cabins to eco-friendly lodges, ensuring a harmonious coexistence with the forest surroundings.

Te Hau Tiny House, Marlborough

This charming tiny house offers a unique and cosy retreat amid the picturesque landscapes of the Marlborough region. Located right on the shore, get stunning views of the North Island Coast, Cape Cambell Lighthouse and Lake Grassmere. When the day falls, unwind on the outdoor deck and gaze at the night sky full of stars.

Silver Fern Lodge, Taupō

The Silver Fern Lodge offers a comfortable and convenient stay in the heart of North Island. During autumn, the lodge offers a cosy retreat amidst the season’s changing colours. Its convenient location provides easy access to Taupō’s attractions, including the stunning Lake Taupo, geothermal parks and outdoor adventures like hiking and jet boating.

Millbrook Resort, Arrowtown

Set against the backdrop of Arrowtown’s picturesque autumn scenery, Millbrook Resort provides a luxurious and serene retreat. The resort boasts a world-class 27-hole golf course and stylish cottages and villas that offer a picturesque view of the surrounding landscapes. Indulge in a variety of activities, including spa treatments at the award-winning day spa or enjoy leisurely walks or bike rides along the trails for the most amazing autumn retreat.


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