New Zealand is particularly spectacular during the Autumn months.
Sunny days, crisp nights- and every shade of yellow and red fill the trees. Whether you want to go hiking in the sunshine or cosy up for a warm meal, here are the very best spots to witness the country's changing seasons.
What is Autumn like in New Zealand?
Autumn in New Zealand is between the months of March and May, and is a great time to explore our beautiful country. Like Autumn in other parts of the world, the trees are filled with golden leaves and is a magical time of year.
The temperature may vary depending on where you’re located in the country, but it’s normally somewhere between 7 - 21 degrees Celsius. So, you can still go for a swim during the warmer days, and rug up for a cosy night.
Autumn is also considered as shoulder season, meaning less people are travelling around compared to peak tourist season.
In this blog we cover the following autumnal hotspots:
Arrowtown • Arthur’s Pass • Queenstown • Marlborough • Matakana • Christchurch • Tongariro National Park
The best way to experience Autumn in New Zealand
A scenic rail journey is a fantastic way to see the beautiful Autumn sites in New Zealand. A rail journey gives you a unique look at our landscape, revealing some of the secluded spots where the roads sometimes don’t go.
The Signature NZ Up Close Train Tour is your premiere front-row seat to the best of New Zealand. This 17-day guided tour, across both the North and South Islands, includes access to the best attractions spanning from Auckland to Queenstown.
Yellowing hills transform into a fairy tale destination in one of New Zealand's most picturesque towns. Stroll down the historic streets as leaves gently fall during the Arrowtown Autumn Festival, enjoying a celebration during this colourful time of year. With street parades, entertainment, and markets, there will be something for everyone.
Arrowtown’s gold-rush past is still beautifully preserved, with its heritage main street and authentically restored Chinese Village. Together, they tell the fascinating bicultural story of the Chinese and European gold miners of yesteryears.
In the heart of Arrowtown is the charming Fork and Tap. This family friendly historic restaurant serves up craft beer, excellent wine and delicious food to match. Just 20-minutes from Queenstown, this is the perfect conclusion to the Classic New Zealand Highlights Tour.
Tucked into the crown of the mighty Southern Alps is a small alpine village just 2.5hrs journey from Christchurch via the TranzAlpine Train. With waterfalls, beech, and rainforests, it will be a pleasure to explore Arthur’s Pass Walking Tracks before the winter snow sets and while the air is crisp with crunchy autumn leaves underfoot.
The showstopper is the Devil’s Punchbowl, a stunning 131 m waterfall where you can feel the full force of the mountain. There’s a good chance you’ll hear or see some Kea, or even the great spotted kiwi, during a twilight evening walk.
After all that hiking, you may want to check out the Wobbly Kea café. With a fully stocked bar and an extensive range of New Zealand wines – you can't go wrong with ducking into this quaint eatery.
There is nothing more magical than Queenstown in Autumn. The trees along the waterfront turn every shade of red and orange, and the leaves gently rain down to carpet the ground below. The botanic gardens are a treasure made even more captivating when covered in gold.
The Amisfield on Lake Hayes is an essential destination when it comes to fine dining. The seasonal kitchen brings the best in local produce to epitomise the tastes of Central Otago. Crowned Restaurant of the Year at the 2022 Cuisine Good Food Awards, bookings are essential for their culinary experience. Their three to seven-course feast is one of the most spectacular meals you will find in New Zealand.
The best way to enjoy the breathtaking autumn landscape of Central Otago is aboard the Classic Alpine Highlights Tour that explores off-the beaten track by train and scenic coach from Christchurch to Queenstown.
Marlborough's vines turn into golden rows this time of year. Join talented winemakers along a Hop ‘n Grape tour to indulge in an inside look into some of New Zealand’s internationally acclaimed wine varieties.
The days are sunny, and the waters are clear, so it's the best time to go on a walk and take in the views. Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve has short, easy options for kids, with beautiful forests and tranquil river scenery.
If you're in for a stylish dining experience, Arbour is a modern, restaurant offering a seasonal menu created from regional flavours. Experience the warmth of Marlborough hospitality at its finest.
Marlborough is the perfect place to either start or end your South Island journey. Travel with the Interislander to Picton or join the scenic Coastal Pacific train as it meanders along the coastline, offering spectacular views of the Pacific.
Located 45 minutes north of Auckland and the Northern Explorer train station lies the picturesque village of Matakana. Abundant in eateries, boutiques and galleries, this endearing location boasts the very best of urban tastes and country charm. While you're visiting, be sure to sample the local produce at the Farmers Market, and see an art house film at the quaint local cinema before indulging in some fresh fruit ice-cream.
Venturing out of the village, Plume is a winery restaurant offering a sensory seasonal menu. Take in the views of the winery from their al-fresco patio, or sit inside on brisk days for a cosy meal.
A Matakana institution, Morris & James is a pottery haven. Using clay harvested from an onsite clay pit, the team of 15 artisans create a vast selection of colourful ceramics, pots, and home décor.
The 'Garden City' of Christchurch puts on a stunning display in Autumn, with orange leaves cascading throughout the city. Meander through the Botanic Gardens with a warm coffee and witness the magic of this region's changing seasons. Within the heart of the gardens is Ilex Cafe- a bright and contemporary conservatory with floor to ceiling windows.
Just 1.5-hour drive away from the city centre is Akaroa. Known for being 'Nature's Playground' this beautiful sea-side village is bursting with autumnal charm. Set off for Ōtepatotu Scenic Reserve to ascend from the harbour passing the goblin forest, and summit with breathtaking views from Laverick’s Peak.
Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island, and the perfect place to begin a scenic rail tour. The Coastal Pacific train travels north to Picton, and the TranzAlpine train travels West towards Greymouth.
National Park Village
Tongariro National Park is New Zealand's oldest national park and a national treasure. Exploring this volcanic alpine landscape with steaming crater lakes feels like you are being transported to a primordial earth. A land of extreme beauty.
National Park's most popular activity is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This 19 km walk is challenging but achievable for most nature enthusiasts. The park is home to three volcanic mountains – Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.
Autumn is a great time to explore National Park. While Summer sees a high numbers of tourists, and winter conditions can become too harsh for casual hikers, March and April are the ideal months to explore this stunning landscape. If hiking isn't quite what you enjoy, why not book a guided quad Biking tour with Ruapehu Adventure Rides?
National Park is at the heart of the Northern Explorer train journey and is a centre point between Auckland and Wellington.
Ready to soak up New Zealand's autumn beauty?
Witnessing New Zealand's changing seasons is a site to behold, and the shoulder season is the perfect time to explore. Great Journeys offers a range of tours and packages to showcase the very best off the beaten track locations.
Book your rail journey today.
Explore these beautiful autumn destinations
Explore autumn on a dramatic escape by rail
Journey off the beaten track to discover a world filled with autumnal colours and gentle falling leaves