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

New Zealand

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August is the final month of winter in New Zealand, which means the weather can be quite wet (especially on the North Island) and cold with occasional storms and brief sunny spells. The mountainous regions of the South Island (namely the Lakes District and Mount Cook) and central parts of the North Island (surrounding Lake Taupō) experience snow throughout August, making this a popular month for skiing and other winter sports. Most of the country's famed ski resorts will remain open partway through spring.

August is relatively quiet in terms of tourism, with children around the world generally returning to school and the powder seekers beginning to pack up and go home. This often leads to a higher likelihood of finding deals on airfare and accommodation, not to mention relatively small crowds at even the most popular ski resorts.

Distant View Of Hikers Standing On Cliff Against Lake During Winter
Jianmin Chen / EyeEm / Getty Images

New Zealand Weather in August

The average temperatures, weather, and precipitation varies depending on where you are in New Zealand. Whereas the North Island experiences warmer temperatures and more rain (around 15 days of precipitation), the South Island's colder climate is less conducive to rain (seven days of precipitation) than it is to an August snowstorm.

  • Bay of Islands, North Island: 61 F (16 C)/49 F (9 C)
  • Auckland, North Island: 59 F (15 C)/46 F (8 C)
  • Wellington, North Island: 54 F (12 C)/45 F (7 C)
  • Queenstown, South Island: 50 F (10 C)/34 F (1 C)
  • Christchurch, South Island: 54 F (12 C)/37 F (3 C)

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 plan to hit the slopes of Whakapapa, Cardrona, or The Remarkables, you'll most definitely want to pack your warmest winter gear: A ski jacket, waterproof pants, sturdy gloves, and insulated undergarments are all musts. If your itinerary includes more low-to-the-ground adventuring, you can likely get away with a winter coat, sweaters, long pants, and plenty of warm layers. Because New Zealand is so outdoorsy, it's always a good idea to travel in this country with a pair of waterproof hiking boots.

August Events in New Zealand

While it may mark the end of the ski season, New Zealand is already gearing up for spring with a slew of cultural events and sports competitions come August. There are no official holidays during this month, but celebrations—and endurance races, a favorite pastime in New Zealand—still abound. Some events have been altered or canceled in 2020, so check the websites of organizers for updated information.

  • International Film Festival: The International Film Festival—usually held for about a week in different parts of the country, including Auckland and Wellington—will be hosted virtually in 2020 at nziff.co.nz. Screenings can be streamed between July 24 and August 3, 2020.
  • New Zealand National Camellia Show: This New Plymouth, North Island, event that pits camellia growers from all over the country against one another for the title of best in the show has been canceled in 2020.
  • New Zealand Winter Games: This multi-sport competition is the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest snow sports event, taking place each August in Queenstown on the South Island. In 2020, the event will be replaced by another, more physically distanced event called Obsidian, in which 21 of New Zealand’s best ski and snowboard athletes will participate in a 10-day team challenge throughout the Southern Alps. Tune in from August 10 to 20.

August Travel Tips

  • There are often good deals on airfare to New Zealand as well as low rates on accommodation, so book through an agent to save big during the off-season.
  • With no school or public holidays in August, most New Zealand natives (i.e. Kiwis) don't have a chance to visit the ski fields mid-week. This means the slopes will 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—especially for weather-dependent activities—difficult. Some tour operators and destinations may be closed.
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