August in New Zealand: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Wanaka, near Queenstown, in August
Image Courtesy of New Zealand Tourism/Lake Wanaka Tourism

August is the last month of winter in New Zealand, and the weather can be quite rainy (especially on the North Island) and cold with a mixture of stormy, wet fronts and sunny yet cool spells throughout the month.

The mountain regions of the South Island and central parts of the North Island experience snow throughout August, making this month the height of the ski and winter sports season in New Zealand. However, toward the end of August, there is often a hint of spring, which officially starts on September 1.

August is relatively quiet in terms of tourism, especially since kids around the world are generally in school most of the month. This means you can expect lower prices on airfare and accommodations and relatively small crowds at even the most popular ski resorts.

New Zealand Weather in August

TheĀ average temperatures, weather, and days of precipitation vary depending on where you are in New Zealand, with the North Island experiencing warmer highs and lows but more rain, on average, in August each year.

On the South Island, Queenstown and Christchurch experience around seven days of precipitation in August, with lows of 34 and 37 degrees Fahrenheit and highs of 50 F and 54 F, respectively. On the other hand, North Island cities like the Bay of Islands have lows in the mid-40s and highs in the upper 50s and lower 60s but experience more rain with 13 to 16 days of precipitation throughout the month.

What to Pack

When it comes to packing for your trip to New Zealand, what you'll need depends on what kind of vacation you're planning. If you want to hit the slopes, you'll need to pack all your winter gear including a ski jacket, pants, and undergarments, but if you simply want to explore the island, you'll really just need a winter coat, sweaters, long pants, and clothing you can layer to accommodate for warmer days and colder nights.

August Events in New Zealand

While it may be the end of ski season, New Zealand is already gearing up for the spring with a slew of cultural events and sports competitions, including several marathons and races as well as a number of music, arts, and food festivals. Although there aren't any official holidays this month (the big winter holiday in New Zealand takes place in July), there are still plenty of ways to celebrate the season.

  • International Film Festival: From July through August, the New Zealand International Film Festival makes several stops and screenings in cities across the country.
  • Coromandel Classic: An annual cycling, running, and kayaking race on the North Island at the end of August.
  • Visa Wellington on a Plate Wine and Food Festival: Restaurants, venues, and carparks across Wellington will host celebrations for 17 days from August 10 through 26, 2018, with exclusive menus of food and beverages.
  • New Zealand National Camellia Show: The national show pits camellia growers against one another for the title of best in the show in New Plymouth on August 18, 2018.
  • New Zealand Winter Games: A multi-sport competition that takes place every two years in Queenstown; in 2018, the games last from August 24 through September 8.

August Travel Tips

  • There are often good deals on airfare to New Zealand as well as low season rates on accommodation and travel within the country, so book through an agent to save big during the off-season.
  • With no school or public holidays in August, most New Zealanders don't have a chance to visit the ski fields mid-week, meaning they'll be less crowded (or more full of tourists) during this time of year.
  • If you don't feel like partaking in winter sports, there's plenty of beautiful snow-covered scenery to see on a cross-country drive or by booking cheap bus and coach travel.
  • The weather can get quite cold on both islands and wet and stormy in the North Island, which can make planning your sightseeing difficult, especially for weather-dependent activities as some tour operators and destinations may be closed.