New Zealand in December! Experience Christmas in the Summer

December heralds the beginning of the Kiwi summer and the sun comes out in all its might, and with it so do the international tourists escaping winter from the world over. Parties pop up all over the country, barbecues and pavlova become Kiwi staples over the month, and the long days are celebrated well into the nights. 

International tourists throng to New Zealand to celebrate Christmas in a sultry summer environment rather than the winter wonderlands that typically dominate Christmas celebrations. 

Santa Clause Parade Dunedin
Santa Clause Parade Dunedin

December sees fewer tourists than peak summer months like January or February, which allow visitors to take in the sights without the rush of the summer crowds. Longer days let you take advantage of the fantastically sunny days but a surprising afternoon shower is never out of the question across the country.

Weather in New Zealand in December 

  • December clearly marks the beginning of the summer in New Zealand and temperatures continue to rise as the month draws on.

  • December is also notable for being particularly windy so while the temperature may be warmer than previous months, the perceived temperature may be lower as a result of these chilly winds. 

  • While generally stable weather conditions prevail during December, it is hard to ascertain with any degree of certainty how dry the month will be.

  • Sunny days are perfect for exploring beaches indulging in water sport activities, swimming, and more while rainy days can be set aside for long walks and treks through the lush national parks. 
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park in the Summer

  • The North Island typically experiences temperature highs of around 24°C and lows of 12°C or so. While in the North Island, around regions like Auckland, December is one of the driest months of the year.

  • The South Island experiences considerably cooler weather with temperatures reaching maximums of 22°C while dipping to lows of around 7°C. 

  • Other regions of the country, particularly cities on the west coast such as Hokitika, Queenstown and Invercargill receive some of the highest per month rainfall totals of the year.

  • During December it is generally accepted that the further northwards visitors travel to in New Zealand, the drier the weather conditions tend to be.

  • Daytime temperatures are also noticeably warmer on the eastern coast of the country, and results in cities like Napier and Christchurch experiencing weather as warm as 30°C, while west coast cities like Hokitika experiences wetter, and cooler weather. 

Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Where to Go in New Zealand in December

Along with the fantastic weather across the country, December has the added advantage that visitors can almost, quite literally, do whatever they wish to. The warm weather is perfect for most activities and also allows visitors the ideal opportunity to enjoy whichever part of New Zealand they would prefer to visit. 

North Island

Milford Beach, Auckland
Milford Beach, Auckland
  • Auckland and the regions around Northland are driest during this time of year so sightseeing around these places are going to be as enjoyable as they ever will be. The upper reaches of the North Island is perfect for those that want to enjoy drier and warmer weather. New Zealand has a bevy of beautiful beaches. 

  • Gorgeous and pristine white sand beaches are a feature of the ‘Top of the South’ and the beaches around the Coromandel Peninsula regions are perfect for swimming and indulging in water sports.

  • The Bay of Islands is one of the country’s favourite vacation hotspots and with good reason and is a great destination to visit during the month of December. 

South Island

Lake Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu Peace Park
  • Heading towards the South Island, the great weather opens up a ton of possibilities to undertake scenic drives along the island all the way up through its serpentine mountain passes to get a glimpse of stunning views of the Southern Alps.

  • Towns like Queenstown become tourist hotspots during December as this is when the quaint resort town truly earns its title for being the Adventure Capital of the World. 

  • The warm weather makes it ideal for white water rafting, as the melted glacier water flowing into the rivers make for truly world class rafting experiences, and the sunshine will make walks through Mount Cook National Park utterly splendid.

  • Beaches along the east coast of the country tend to have favourable swimming conditions so that is also a favourite option amongst those in search of the perfect beach escapade.
routeburn track
Routeburn Track

  • December is also the perfect time for those more experienced hikers and trampers that want to take on more challenging and higher altitude treks. December is also the peak season for tramping around the national parks and the Department of Conservation Huts are booked well in advance so make sure to enquire about availability before committing to anything. 

  • Even further south of the South Island, towards Rakiura/Stewart Island, regions which are relatively unexplored and lie off the beaten path experience fantastic weather during this time of year.

  • Temperatures are cooler over here than they are in the rest of the country and this makes it ideal to explore the wilderness of Rakiura National Park, which covers over 85% of the land on the island. 

What to Pack for New Zealand in December

The rapidly changing nature of New Zealand means that you cannot just pack nothing but free flowing shorts and skirts and loosely-fitting comfort wear because the weather will catch you out.

Ensuring that travellers are carrying the correct and weather-appropriate items in their luggage will make the difference between enjoying a trip warm and comfortably and shelling out on buying more expensive thermal wear to keep you warm.

Read on to know what essentials to pack for your trip to New Zealand in December:

  • Light t-shirts and freely flowing tops to layer as it will be easier to dress up and down as the weather changes and as you see fit.

  • Light sweaters or a couple of pullovers will definitely be helpful while trying to stay warm in the colder parts of the country or even simply during the night.

  • Jeans that can be worn multiple times or multiple days will be hugely helpful.

  • A pair of looser fitting pants out of more breathable materials such as linens will be wonderful to wear during the warm summer days.

  • Shorts will be a great option to carry on the beach.

  • Warm woollen socks will ensure that your feet stay warm during the chilly summer nights of New Zealand. 

Travel Tips for New Zealand in December 

While it may be tempting to look at weather reports in New Zealand during December and assume that summer wear will be more than enough, weather in the country is notoriously fickle.

  • It would be more than prudent to carry at least a warm raincoat, or a jacket because the infamously unpredictable Kiwi weather is something to prepare for.

  • It is also important to carry a good-quality sunscreen that will offer adequate protection from the fierce sun and its UV rays. The lack of cloud cover on most days during the summer also means that even on lightly sunny days, the potential to be seriously sunburnt is likely higher than you may expect.

  • Since December marks the beginning of the peak tourist season in New Zealand, it is important to make bookings for flights and accommodation well in advance. Hotels and flights fill up well in advance and it is close to impossible to make bookings especially during the first half of the month.

  • Tourist attractions will also see increased attendance and it would be a good call to phone ahead and find out how crowded the attractions are on a given day. Since this is also when summer holidays locally, most domestic holiday-makers will be enjoying the sun, so be aware that most places will have a certain degree of crowds.

This post was published by Ken Chiramel

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