New Zealand in autumn

Autumn is one of the best times of the year to visit New Zealand. The weather is stable and the summer crowds have disappeared. It’s the perfect time to enjoy orchard fruits, see vineyards being harvested, and to explore the outdoors.

Here’s our picks for the experiences that are best had in autumn…

Central Otago colours

In autumn, Central Otago is a kaleidoscope of golds and reds, with the region’s vineyards becoming particularly picturesque. Indulge in a wine tour, followed by a long lunch at one of the many fine vineyard restaurants.

The tranquil days make the southern lakes around Queenstown and Wanaka perfect for picnics and long hikes, and the scenery is enough to wear your camera out.

This time of year is also the best time to cycle, walk or horse ride the historic Central Otago Rail Trail, taking in the expansive blue skies and incredible colours.

Food events

New Zealanders love to celebrate seasonal produce, and autumn has its fair share of unique food and wine events.

The Gibbston Harvest Festival, to be held on March 17 in Central Otago, is a welcoming community festival that combines wine and food from Gibbston Valley’s leading producers with fun, family entertainment. It also runs Master classes on wine tasting and food appreciation throughout the day.

The Pask Winery Great Long Lunch is another autumn event with a strong regional heart. It’s a catering headache as 800 guests sit down for New Zealand's longest lunch at a table that stretches for almost 250m along Marine Parade in Napier, Hawke’s Bay.

Guests enjoy a sumptuous three-course meal in a picturesque seaside setting, while a five-piece band provides the entertainment. The event is now in its 12th year and will take place on March 4.

The annual Bluff Oyster and Southland Seafood Festival is another event not to be missed, especially for those who are fans of the Bluff oyster, a real Southland delicacy. The festival, on May 26, marks the start of the oyster season and showcases other local delicacies and wines, along with the traditional oyster shucking and eating competitions.

For something completely different, the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival on the West Coast offers extraordinary edible morsels, like huhu grubs (beetle larvae) and wasabi ice cream. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but the adventurous will be sure you’ll to find something that has never passed their lips before. The next Wildfoods Festival takes place on March 10.

The Great Walks

With mild temperatures for most autumn, it can be the best time for tackling one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’.

The weather is more stable than in spring, and the soaring temperatures and crowds of summer have disappeared, making hiking a much more pleasurable experience.

Consider doing one of New Zealand’s spectacular alpine treks – perhaps the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, or the world-famous Milford or Routeburn Tracks – before their mountain passes get covered in winter snow.