March marks the arrival of autumn on the beautiful islands of New Zealand. The attractions are less crowded, the prices are often lower, and the deciduous trees introduced across the country start to change colour adding more drama and beauty to an already stunning landscape. In short, it’s a great month to visit!
What’s New Zealand Like in March?
It may be the start of autumn, but this doesn’t mean it’s time to bring out the hats and scarves just yet. In fact, you might not notice much of a temperature drop from summer! This is particularly true if you’re up on the North Island, where March temperatures can be 25°C, even 27°C at times. The North Island isn’t called the ‘Winterless North’ for nothing!
The weather can be changeable though at this time of year and it can be rainy, especially in the south (pack a mac for Queenstown – March is its rainiest month). Temperatures are a little lower in the south as well, as polar winds start to cool the South Island, so make room in your luggage for some jumpers and warm clothes.
While temperatures can drop as low as 2°C depending on where you are, average daytime temperatures for the whole of New Zealand at this time of year are be between 18°C and 25°C and humidity is low. So, if you like the idea of warm autumn sunlight surrounded by the bounty of the summer and the promise of autumn, March is the month for you.
What To Do in New Zealand in March?
Arriving in New Zealand at the end of the summer means that there are still loads of things to do, some great weather to do them in, and not so many other tourists trying to do them with you. Here are our top five activities best suited to March:
- Tour the wineries and vineyards in the North and South islands
- Attend the Auckland Cup week
- Hit the festivals
- Take a cruise
- Get out and about!
Tour the Wineries and Vineyards in the North and South Islands
March is one of the best times of the year to visit New Zealand’s lush vineyards: the grapes have had all summer to grow fat on the vine and are just now hitting their peak. While New Zealand is most famous for its Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Otago Pinot Noir, there are wine growing areas all over the islands, and most come complete with breath-taking vistas to boot!
You could even plan your trip around the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, which begins in the vineyards of Hawke’s Bay on the North Island, takes you down through Wairarapa’s boutique wineries (which produce some of New Zealand’s best Pinot Noir), onto Wellington, and then across to Marlborough and the many vineyards across the Blenheim countryside. Add Otago onto the end of your trip and you’ve got yourself a week’s wine tour!
Attend the Auckland Cup Week
Auckland Cup Week sees the world’s greatest racehorses and their riders head to the warm Auckland sun for a show of some of the finest horse racing on the planet. It usually takes place around the beginning of March, and it’s not just the horses that are on show: the country’s fashionistas also come out in force with the kinds of headpieces and outfits you only find at the races!
With fine food and wine available all day long, prizes for outfits and an onsite after party, if you’re looking for something with a little glamour and decadence, you’ve found it.
Hit the Festivals
If you’re a fan of festivals, March is a great time of year in New Zealand. With the warm weather still hanging on from the summer, New Zealand in March and April is buzzing with festivals. Most areas will have something going on, which will be in part, a celebration of local heritage, so there’ll be plenty of culture and tradition to sample amongst the high-jinx and hooley!
There are way too many festivals on to mention them all, but some of our favourites are:
- Arrowtown Autumn Festival, which has been running for over 30 years, and is a great celebration of the tradition and culture of this very colourful town. It’s a 5-day festival offering art shows, competitions, parades and lots of community engagement.
- WOMAD, Taranaki. You may have heard of WOMAD as it is an international festival, and New Zealand’s takes place in March. With an emphasis on world music and diversity, WOMAD will give you three days of culture, music and revelry in the glorious New Zealand countryside.
- Balloons over Waikato Festival is New Zealand’s biggest hot Air Balloon festival and takes place over 5 days in the city of Hamilton. It is an enormous and very popular event that sees the skies filled with balloons in the daytime and fireworks in the evening. But never at the same time. For obvious reasons.
Take a Cruise
Autumn tends to bring calmer waters in New Zealand, so cruises are particularly worth trying at this time of year. You can cruise the rivers, lakes, or the open ocean, and this is a wonderful way to see the beauty of New Zealand’s flora and fauna. With grand city harbours, isolated fjords, great liners and high-speed jet boats, we’re sure you’ll find something to get your sea legs racing for the gangway.
Get Out and About
It may sound a bit basic, but New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest you just… get out and about a bit! Hiking and walking are very popular at this time of year because of the colours and the moderate climate, and this is the only way to view some of the best vistas available. But you could also consider cycling, as cycle tracks can be found all over both Islands. These range from advanced off-road mountain trails to gentle lake-side routes and some will take you through wineries, historic sites and wonderful old railway tracks.
What to Pack for New Zealand in March
Working out what to wear in New Zealand in March can be a tricky endeavour. On the one hand, you have the balmy summer weather of the Winterless North, and on the other, the polar winds of the south blasting the temperature down to almost 0°C. So, when you’re planning your packing list, we’d suggest you consider chucking in the following:
- A waterproof jacket to keep out the rain (and snow if you head to the mountains)
- Some lightweight fleecy layers to throw on if the weather turns cold
- A beanie hat and gloves
- Mosquito repellent
- Shorts and light cotton tops
It’s a bit like packing for summer and winter at the same time, but the temperature range is still moderate so don’t go overboard. You’re not trying to survive Death Valley or the snowy tundra of Alaska. Whatever you decide to take, rest assured that New Zealanders are pretty laid back, so unless you’re heading for Auckland Cup Week, casual clothing should do you fine.
Visiting New Zealand in March: FAQs
If you’re just here for the facts, here are our three most commonly asked questions about New Zealand in March:
- Is New Zealand Warm in March?
Average daytime temperatures for New Zealand in March tend to be between 18°C and 25°C, so yes it is pretty warm still in March
- Can you Ski in New Zealand in March?
Unfortunately the skiing season in New Zealand doesn’t start until June or July. But there’s plenty of surfing on offer!
- What Season is New Zealand in March?
March is the beginning of autumn in New Zealand, and a great time of year to visit.
Whether you’re still just thinking about it, or you’re here for a bit of last-minute inspiration before racing to the airport, we hope we’ve given you a good run down of what to expect, how to prepare, and what to do in New Zealand in March. It’s a great time of year for a great country and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to planning your itinerary. Just don’t forget to stop and look around once in a while!