Updated: Jul 27, 2019
One of the most common questions I get from travellers looking to head this way is 'when is the best time to visit Queenstown?' Although the generic answer that most folks would give to that question is 'Queenstown is always great to visit', it really comes down to what you are wanting to do and get out of your stay here.
Queenstown is arguably New Zealand's ultimate tourist destination! With so many 'bucketlist' adventures to be had in close reach, it makes for the perfect place to stay and play when exploring the South Island. Depending on what you are wanting to do or see whilst here will determine which time of year is best for visiting as all seasons have their advantages and disadvantages. Take a closer look and see which one best fits what you are after...
Seasons in Queenstown:
Let's start with the most obvious time of year to visit, Summer! Firstly, summer down under runs from about December to March (opposite to Northern Hemisphere). These months offer the warmest weather and the most sunshine out of any of the seasons giving visitors the best opportunity to make the most out of the amazing outdoor adventures that are to be had. Although the waterways in the region are on the cooler side year round (as many are glacier fed), the summer months give visitors the greatest conditions to make the most of the lake and rivers without freezing their butts off.
Pros: Best weather, opportunity to swim, festivals and events
Cons: Most popular time of year, so expect more tourists and higher rates for Accommodations and less availability (Tip: Book accomms well in advance).
Autumn (or Fall to those of you from the USA) is from March through to June down this way and is definitely an underrated time of year to visit. Although the tail end of the season can be rather cool the first couple of months definitely offer their share of warm sun-filled days with more mild temperatures than summer making those more physically demanding adventures more comfortable. If you are visiting during mid April then make sure to check out the Arrowtown Autumn festival! Watching the landscape transform with incredible colour changes is just one of the many reasons to visit this time of year.
Pros: Less tourists, Arrowtown Autumn festival, still great for outdoor adventures
Cons: Less dependable weather
Skiing, snowboarding, white-capped peaks and cosy pubs with mulled wine, Queenstown makes the perfect winter wonderland escape. With easy access to four world-class ski resorts and amazing heli-skiing opportunities, winter is a season not to be missed! It's not just skiing either, the town comes alive with a number of multi-day events like Winterfest, Snowboxx NZ and Winter Pride NZ making it one of the most popular times for visitors to our fair town!
Pros: Amazing skiing, stunning scenery and lots of festivities
Cons: Similar to Summer... busier time of year means higher rates and less accommodation available.
Similar to Autumn, Spring time (September to December) in the Queenstown area acts as somewhat of a shoulder season to the more popular Summer and Winter seasons. This means fewer tourists, lower rates on accommodations and still plenty of outdoor opportunities. Catching the tail end of the ski season means that visiting in this time offers some of the best spring skiing the Southern Hemisphere has to offer. Warm sunny days, soft snow and fewer crowds will have you carving up the mountains with ease. It's also during spring that the wild flowers start to show themselves. Getting into the back-country after the last of the lower lying snow has melted will reward those who do with stunning scenery and make for magic photo opportunities.
Pros: Fewer visitors, wild flowers, snow capped peaks
Cons: Wettest time of year, snow can limit hike access in the first few months.
Weather and Climate have some really useful statistics for you:
December, January and February are the months your most likely to experience good weather and pleasant average temperatures between 20 - 25 C which is 68 - 77 F.
June and December are the biggest chance of rain
On average, the warmest month is January.
The coldest month, on average, is July.
December is the wettest month
February is the driest.
Statistics from Weather and Climate:
Figure 1: Average Minimum and Maximum Temperature
Popular events and activities in and Around Queenstown:
Cheapest time to Fly to Queenstown:
May is the cheapest time to fly into Queenstown according to Skyscanner which makes sense as it is a shoulder season month in between the commercial ski fields opening and after the heat of summer.
Cheapest months to Stay in Queenstown:
It goes without saying the hotel and accommodation providers increase prices in the busier seasons. So just like buying a ticket May is the cheapest month for accommodation as well. Try to avoid the peak seasons of Summer and Winter and you should save a little on accommodation.