New Zealand is a land of contrasts - including the weather. As the saying goes,
"There is not such thing as bad weather - just bad clothing."
If you want to travel lighter in New Zealand look no further. Here are my insider tips on surviving the weather here.
Packing for NZ - let's talk about the geography.
There are no rules with NZ weather. Summer is not always summer, and winter is not always winter. You need to pack for all seasons!
NZ is a long, thin country that is warmer at the top and colder at the bottom (most of the time).
There are mountain ranges down the main islands and these create distinct weather patterns on either side - so it could be flooding on one side of the ranges and a drought on the other side.
It can start out a beautiful clear skied day - full of potential, and then plunged into the depths of winter with rain, wind and hail by the afternoon.
We often experience "four seasons in one day".
It has stunning tropical beaches and alpine crossings. Be prepared for scorching heat and freezing temperatures even in summer.
The Southerly - you can't mention NZ weather without talking about the Southerly wind. It's ruined many a BBQ! Dropping temperatures hideously, having locals running for their warm gear and turning on heaters. Coming straight from Antarctica it can be bitterly cold in any season.
And then there is the wind. Probably because of the topography of the land we get alot of this. It too can ruin a nice day, or can take the heat out of a scorching day.
NZ weather is hard enough to figure out when you live here - let alone as a tourist. My advise? BE PREPARED!
High summer but Mt Cook is covered in snow still.
My packing list when I go on holiday in NZ.
We're always tripping off somewhere. And while it's easy travelling in a car - we still tend to pack light as it's just easier and simpler.
So what's in my bag for a NZ holiday?
- 3 merino tee shirts
- A denim or cotton shirt
- A silk blouse
- A cardigan
- 1 long sleeve merino
- 1 pair merino leggings
- 2 pairs of shorts
- A dress or skirt
- A sarong
- Travel towel
- Sandals or jandals (thongs, flip-flops)
- Walking shoes
- PJ bottoms - I use a tee shirt as a top
- Socks and underwear
- Rain poncho (and there's always umbrellas in our cars)
- Sunhat and sunglasses
- First Aid Kit, sunscreen, toiletries.
Scorching weather in Central Otago.
Some examples of NZ weather.
We've just had an early family Xmas in Taupo - a major summer destination. While it warmed up during the day to about 22C (72F) it was 2C (35F) overnight and quite chilly in the house we rented for the weekend. I wore my puffer jacket frequently over the weekend!
When we got home from Taupo (we live 2 hours north of Taupo) it was sweltering hot.
Another example is in Southland - right down the bottom or NZ. We've been to the Catlin region several times in summer - the first two times it was freezing and torrential rain and inland in Central Otago was scorching hot and in a drought. Our last visit to the Catlins was a heatwave!
In Northland - the opposite end of the country, I visited a friend in December. It was lovely and warm, but it's subtropical up there, so we had torrential downpours every afternoon. My umbrella came in very handy.
I've walked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in early January when one of our party broke her ankle. Once we had stopped walking and the area we were in lost the sun, it cooled down very quickly as we waited for the rescue helicopter.
We've had a fire burning on Christmas Day, and got sunburnt in winter. Sometimes there is just no rhyme or reason to our weather patterns.
In March 2019, we went to sunny Hawkes Bay, and froze at a Phil Collins concert. This normally dry and hot part of NZ had an unseasonal torrential downpour and an icy southerly wind come through - I can't remember if he sang, "Oh, I wish it would rain down, down on me..." but it certainly did just that!
A puffer jacket, merinos, poncho and rugs at the Phil Collins concert in sunny Hawkes Bay!
Packing for day hikes in NZ.
In NZ the weather is incredibly changeable. And while I hope that when you visit you have the most beautiful weather - I very much doubt that will be the case. There's a reason why NZ is so green - it's called rain.
A raincoat or poncho, and maybe an umbrella are essential. I always have an umbrella in my car - even in summer.
Be prepared for sudden changes in weather when you are hiking. Temperatures can plummet from 25C (77F) to 5C (41F) in a matter of hours. If you are in an alpine area this can become life-threatening.
I have walked a few of our alpine tracks or parts of, and have been really concerned at the lack of mountain safe gear that travellers wear. These areas are exposed and dangerous. You need good sturdy footwear, warm and waterproof layers, plenty of water and snacks to sustain you.
Every year tourists die on our mountains. Seek advise from the Information Centres on whether certain hikes are safe for the current weather forecast. And if they tell you not to go - please don't ignore them.
My packing list for day hikes on mountains.
I always check the forecast, but for mountain hikes I'm always prepared for the worst.
I take my 24L bag on day hikes. It contains:
- A water and windproof coat
- Merino leggings
- Merino long-sleeved top
- A fleece or puffer jacket
- A woollen hat, scarf and gloves (yes, even in summer)
- Spare pair of socks
- First aid kit
- Food and snacks
- At least 1.5 - 2L of water
I let someone know where I'm going and what time I'll be back - you can tell your accommodation.
Do remember to let that person know that you are back!
Eight hours of hiking over the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with Mt Ngaruahoe in the background.
The NZ sun is dangerous & aging - protect yourself.
In NZ we have a depleted ozone layer. This means that the suns harmful rays are pretty unfiltered and are the cause of our high skin cancer statistics. While a tan may be nice - melanoma is not. Research is showing that high exposure (sunburn) can lead to melanoma many years after the exposure has occurred.
Sunscreen (SPF50) is available throughout NZ and is provided at many places like public swimming pools and outdoor events. Use it! If you are travelling with carry-on, buy your sunscreen here, or buy ones that come in 100ml sizes. But if you're here for a month over summer you'll need quite a bit.
You can also get burnt on cloudy days too.
The better option is covering up. Slip, slop, slap and wrap is a kiwi slogan, short for SLIP on a shirt, SLOP on some sunscreen, SLAP on a hat, and WRAP on your sunglasses. They also recommend staying out of the suns harmful rays in the strongest part of the day 10am-4pm - but that's a bit hard for tourists to follow.
If you are following the weather ( https://www.metservice.com/ ) they will have burn times. That's the time it takes to get sunburnt.
If you are coming from the northern hemisphere winter to our summer you need to be extremely careful. 'Pale and pasty' turns to 'red lobster' in 30 minutes over here.
And if none of that convinces you - sun damage is the most aging thing you can do to your skin.
My favourite place to avoid sun exposure - under a Pohutukawa tree.
Golden rule for travelling in NZ - be prepared for any weather at any time of year!
Being unprepared with travel gear in NZ can leave you miserable but also at risk.
Taking a few warmer and wet weather options can allow you to not be stuck indoors looking at the horrible weather outside. While it might not be the most pleasant - it's still good to get out and about.
I think with climate change a lot of regions around the world are experiencing weird adverse weather events and I think as travellers we just need to be prepared.
You now need a travel visa (NZeTA) to visit NZ.
Since October 2019, any overseas visitor to NZ (except Australians) must apply for a visitor visa or NZeTA (New Zealand electronic Tavel Authority). It is quite quick and can be done easily online. It costs $NZ35. On the website it says allow 72 hours for processing.
The information about the visitor or NZeTA is here https://www.govt.nz/browse/imm…
Here is the link for the NZeTA application https://www.newzealandnow.govt...
Do let others know who you know that are coming to NZ. It's new, so people might not be expecting it, especially if they've been here before.
NZ is a beautiful country - just be prepared.