Look around at most tourist advice websites and you’ll see recommendations of visiting New Zealand in either summer or winter. True enough, both of these times make for a fantastic road trip holiday, offering up sparkling beaches and hiking adventures or skiing/snowboarding escapades.
But what about the off-peak season of autumn? This is the time where temperatures start to cool but snow has yet to fall, leaving it as what many consider a less-than-ideal time to visit. However, here at Ace Rental Cars, we totally disagree – this is why.
Visit for the colour
Autumn occurs around March-May here in Aotearoa, and it’s truly gorgeous. Imagine the same scenery you love – rolling volcanic plains in the north, and towering, dramatic peaks in the south – but swathed in the type of colours that fall on, well, fall. So where should you go to see the changing of the leaves?
Hagley Park, Christchurch
Described as a “real treat” by one TripAdvisor reviewer, Christchurch’s 185-hectare central park is a definite must-see in autumn. You’ll be surrounded by red, orange and even purple hues as the many trees here shed their greenery and prepare for winter. Plus, stay nearby in a location such as Amber Kiwi Holiday Park, which itself is on a lush green area, for when you want to enjoy sights of autumn without leaving your accommodation.
Arrowtown, Queenstown Lakes District
Also in the South Island is the historic township of Arrowtown, famous not just for its heritage, but also the brilliant rows of trees that line its main streets (not to mention the plethora of flora along the adjacent Arrow River). This gold mining town will literally turn gold come March/April, so grab a coffee here and soak it all in.
Cornwall Park, Auckland
In the North Island? Drive into Auckland’s Cornwall Park and stroll through this immense, natural wonderland. The trees will be shedding amber leaves as you wander beneath their towering avenues, littering the ground with luminous flakes of colour like an orange snowfall. Plus, the volcanic cone One Tree Hill is here, which offers unrivalled panoramic views of the local area.
Visit for the festivals
The changing of the seasons doesn’t mean local Kiwis slow down any. In fact, there are still loads of excellent events happening around this time that are worth popping on your road trip planner.
If you are journeying near Auckland, consider jumping on a ferry across to Waiheke Island to see its International Jazz Festival (April). Artists from across the nation and globe come here every year to celebrate the genre, culminating in numerous concerts and dinner parties that would make for an exciting weekend.
In May, you’ll also be able to visit the Chocolate and Coffee Show (May). Many of our best artisan chocolatiers and coffee brewers exhibit here, and most will be offering samples for you to gorge on with delight!
Wind your way over to the West Coast and try the Hokitika Wild Foods Festival (March). This event celebrates all things weird in the culinary world, so you’ll be able to try insects, seagull eggs and more.
Aviation buffs need to stick around for Warbirds Over Wanaka (March) as well, taking place each year at the eponymous township’s local airfield and museum. There are aeronautic displays, war reenactments and plenty of stalls to keep your taste buds busy, too.
Or visit any other attraction!
But of course, most of New Zealand’s attractions remain open for business during autumn. You can still see the famous lighthouse at Cape Reinga, marvel at mud pools in Rotorua or delve into our fascinating world at Te Papa museum in Wellington. You’ll still love the Interislander ferry, whale watching at Kaikoura, wine tasting in Central Otago and exploring Milford Sound on a tour with Jucy Cruises.
Basically, New Zealand is awesome no matter when you visit, so come on down!