June is the first month of winter in New Zealand. In the north, this means rain and cool temperatures. In the south, colder temperatures on the coast (although snow at sea level is rare), and snow in the mountains.
Northland is nicknamed the 'winterless north' because it's subtropical. It's true that the temperatures here remain warmer than the rest of the country. It's not uncommon for daytime highs to reach 59° F (15° C) even in winter. But, Northland (as well as Auckland and other parts of the upper North Island) also get a lot of rain between June and August. So, whether you consider Northland to be without winter depends on your definition of wintry weather!
As a rule, the further south you travel in New Zealand, the colder the winter. But, the Nelson, Tasman, and Marlborough regions at the top of the South Island are famous for their sunny weather. The city of Nelson regularly takes top honor as the sunniest place in New Zealand. While the winters are cool here, there is a lot of sunshine, and the 'top of the south' is a great place to be in winter.
Temperatures are colder further south, with maximum temperatures in Wellington and Christchurch of around 53° F (12° C). These cities are coastal, and inland towns are generally much colder. Queenstown gets maximum highs of 50° F (10° C), although in reality, it will usually feel much colder than this, especially when winds come off the snowy mountains nearby.
Crowds and Costs
June is low tourism season in many parts of New Zealand, but it's the start of the ski season in the mountains, making it busy in some parts of the country. It's only possible to ski in the North Island around the Tongariro National Park area, but there are many ski fields in the South Island.
Many New Zealanders are into skiing so you will likely meet a lot of domestic tourists at ski fields (although those who aren't into skiing are more likely to head to the Pacific Islands for their winter vacation). In general, June is low season in the north, but much busier in the south. Accommodation and vehicle rental costs increase accordingly.
Where to Go
Unless you have a high tolerance for gray skies and damp weather, avoid most of the North Island in June. There are still beautiful things to see there, some fine weather, and you can enjoy indoor city sightseeing in Auckland and Wellington. But the North Island isn't at its best in June. The same applies to coastal areas in the lower South Island (Dunedin and Invercargill.)
The South Island, however, is a treat for skiers, snowboarders, and anyone who wants to enjoy snowy mountains. Mountain roads can be blocked when there's heavy snowfall, however, so if you're self-driving around the country then be sure to check local conditions before attempting to cross any high passes.
As mentioned above, the 'top of the south' also gets quite mild winter conditions. You'll need a warm jacket, but Nelson, the Abel Tasman National Park, the Marlborough Sounds, and Golden Bay are quite nice in winter.
What to Do
June is a good time to enjoy general sightseeing activities in New Zealand, which combine indoor and outdoor experiences. There are great museums, galleries, and museums in the big cities (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin), and fun activities elsewhere like Maori cultural shows in Rotorua and Taupo, dolphin or whale-watching cruises in the Bay of Islands and Kaikoura, other cruises in places like Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, and wildlife spotting on the Otago Peninsula. Many travelers to New Zealand rent a car or RV, and this gives you the flexibility to alter your plans depending on what the weather is doing.
June isn't an ideal time to go on long-distance treks because of the cold and damp, but if you're a keen and experienced hiker there are still some trails you can enjoy. Stick to lower elevations (such as the Abel Tasman National Park) unless you have strong alpine and snow skills, as unfortunately many international visitors underestimate the severity of the winter conditions in places like the Tongariro National Park or the Routeburn Track in Fiordland. Alternatively, keep your itinerary flexible and jump at the chance to go on a day hike when the weather is good.
Queenstown Winter Festival. Skiing is a big deal around Queenstown, so this town surrounded by mountains celebrates rather than hides from winter. Check out free concerts and snow sports events at this festival, which marks the start of the ski season.
Traveling to New Zealand in June? Check out these great itineraries
South Island Highlights and New Zealand Wines - 12 Days. Travel through New Zealand's beautiful South Island, getting to know its cultural hotspots, famous landscapes and public gardens, and sprawling vineyards along the way.
South Island Tour: Christchurch, Akaroa, and Hanmer Springs - 5 Days. Enjoy the outdoors of New Zealand's South Island on this quick, five-day trip that makes the most of a short stay. Check out the culture of Christchurch, the coastal beauty of Akaroa, and the natural hot springs at Hanmer Springs.
Best of New Zealand's South Island - 10 Days. This 10-day road trip in the South Island combines the best of New Zealand. Discover jaw-dropping scenery like Lake Tekapo, Aoraki Mt. Cook and the surrounding glaciers, the peaks of Mt. Aspiring National Park, and the magnificent fiords.