New Zealand may not be a huge country, but it has a wide variety of landscapes and climates across its 2 main islands. What to wear depends on the time of year and the parts of the country one plans to visit.
Thick clothing is recommended for the many people who come to New Zealand to hike. Conversely, light clothing and swimwear may be needed in summer for beachgoers.
With changeable weather, there are certain items visitors will need in all seasons. Discover the essentials for every type of New Zealand holiday with this quick guide.
Essential clothing for New Zealand
It is important to remember that the weather in New Zealand is highly changeable. In a country where it is not unusual to experience 4 seasons in one day, it is a good idea to pack a suitcase that can help travelers to adapt to anything the climate throws at them.
Essential clothing includes:
- Hiking boots
- A thick jacket — preferably one that is wind-proof, waterproof, and capable of handling snow
- A zip-up hoodie or fleece
- Extra jeans
- Active-wear t-shirts
- Tank tops
- Warm socks
- A sufficient supply of underwear
- Sunglasses (even in winter the sun can be strong)
It is worth bringing all of the above all year round.
Extra t-shirts and tank tops are useful for layering. Bringing an extra pair of jeans is advisable as getting wet, either in rain or snow, is likely.
Cold weather items, such as scarves and gloves will be necessary even in summer for those going into the mountains, while swimming gear is useful even in winter for hot springs and pools.
Other handy items could be leggings, hand and toe warmers, and a microfibre towel (which also helps save space in the suitcase).
What should I wear in summer in NZ?
In addition to the essentials listed above, individuals going to New Zealand in summer may want to consider packing the following items.
- Light waterproof
- Light shoes
- Swimming costume/trunks
- Beach towel
As always, it largely depends on what activities the traveler intends to pursue. If beach or pool trips are not on the agenda, but hiking is, trade the flip-flops for appropriate footwear.
What to wear in New Zealand during winter
Travelling to New Zealand in winter often means preparing for snow. Visitors from the northern hemisphere should bear in mind that winter in New Zealand falls in June, July, and August.
Those arriving in New Zealand in winter should pack the following clothing:
- Thermal underwear
- Waterproof trousers
- Extra layers
- Woolen socks
- Winter hat
- Extra jeans
Some of these items would also be useful during the summer for hikers heading to the highlands of the Southern Alps.
Packing list for New Zealand’s cities
People come to New Zealand from all over the world for different reasons. While many either come to hike and take in the unique landscape or relax on a beach, most travelers end up visiting one of the country’s urban centers, only if in passing through.
Those who stay in cities like Auckland or Wellington on the North Island may wish to dress up a little, compared to the layers and hiking gear needed in the mountains.
South Island tends to be more relaxed. Many locals will not bother to change for going out on a Friday night.
Visitors planning on going out in the North Island cities may wish to pack the following:
- Heels/presentable shoes
- Smart-casual clothes
New ZealanddDress code for business tourists
For international arrivals in New Zealand for business, the dress code is usually fairly formal, similar to other Western countries.
Men are expected to wear:
- Dark suits
- Shirts with a collar and a tie or an open-necked shirt
Women are expected to wear:
- Conservative dresses
What to pack for New Zealand North Island
The North Island of New Zealand, or Te Ika-a-Māui, tends to have a temperate climate. Most of it is fairly warm in summer, with temperatures between 13°C and 25°C, and mild in winter, with temperatures rarely dropping below 0°C and daytime highs of 13-15°C.
Rain can be expected at any time of year, especially in winter, so waterproof clothing is recommended.
The northernmost part of the island, the Northland Peninsula, has a subtropical climate and tends to be warm and humid in summer. T-shirts, shorts, and lighter dresses are advisable in order to be comfortable.
What to pack for New Zealand South Island
The South Island or Te Waipounamu is the largest landmass that forms part of New Zealand.
It is typically colder than the North Island, with winter temperatures usually between around 0°C and 10°C. However, in the more mountainous regions, temperatures can be much lower, getting down to -10°C.
In summer, it is milder, with temperatures between around 10°C and 22°C.
The weather is very changeable, so it is advisable to pack for all eventualities, even in summer.
The South Island is home to the Southern Alps and the Kaikoura mountain ranges, deep lakes, fiords, and glaciers. The dramatic landscape is one of New Zealand’s biggest tourist attractions and has been used extensively in movies, most famously the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
These environments are cold and exposed to the weather, so thick coats or jackets on top of several layers are essential.