October is the middle of spring in New Zealand, and temperatures can get quite warm in many places in the middle of the day. Likewise though, overnight and early-morning temperatures can still feel quite wintry. Average daytime high temperatures in spring range from 59° F (15° C) in Wellington and 61° F (16° C) in Queenstown, to 66° F (19° C) in the Bay of Islands (and elsewhere in Northland), and 64° F (18° C) in Auckland. Lows are unlikely to get to get below freezing, apart from high in the mountains.
Rainfall varies enormously across the country depending on latitude and proximity to the sea and mountains. Rainfall is average in most places in October. The North Island is wettest in the winter, so October is relatively dry, although you should still expect rain. In the South Island there's much less rain in winter, so October actually sees an increase. Wherever you're heading, be prepared for showers, as well as some days when it will rain continuously for several hours.
Crowds and Costs
October, and spring in general (September to November), is shoulder season in New Zealand. You can't rely on good weather, but as an island nation with high mountains, you can't actually rely on good weather at any time of year. October is generally warm and sunny enough for outdoor activities, and is a good time to visit if you want to avoid the thickest crowds but don't mind cool-to-warm temperatures. In many places you can expect to pay low or shoulder-season prices for accommodation, domestic flights shouldn't be hard to get at reasonable prices, and rental cars might be cheaper.
The ski season tails off in early-mid October, and you might be able to get some end-of-season discounts on accommodation in areas where people go to ski, such as Queenstown, Wanaka, and Methven (Canterbury) in the South Island, and the Tongariro National Park in the North Island.
New Zealand schools tend to take a two-week break from late September/early October. At this time, especially when the weather's good, expect to see local families out and about in the national parks, on the beaches, and enjoying city attractions.
Where to Go
Many parts of New Zealand are lovely in October, so where you go should be determined by your interests and preferences.
If you're wanting warmer temperatures and to check out some of the country's best beaches, head to Northland. While you probably won't want to swim, the air temperatures can get very warm in October, and there's generally much less rain than in winter. As well as beaches, Northland has fantastic native kauri forests to explore.
The area around Nelson at the top of the South Island is a great place to head in October. You can enjoy a diverse range of experiences in a relatively small geographic area, so if you only have a short time in New Zealand it offers an ideal microcosm of the whole country. Within a couple of hours' drive of Nelson you can find alpine lakes and mountains that will still have snow on them in October (the Nelson Lakes National Park), pristine golden-sand beaches and marine reserves (Abel Tasman National Park), short and long-distance hikes (Abel Tasman, Nelson Lakes, and the Kahurangi National Park), and the many attractions of Golden Bay and the Marlborough Sounds. Nelson regularly takes the title of sunniest city in New Zealand, so it's a perfect place to base yourself.
Another very sunny part of the country is the east of the North Island, the area around Napier and Hastings. The Hawke's Bay is a famous wine-making region, and travelers into good food and drink should spend some time in and around New Zealand's Art Deco capital.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
Although temperatures at higher altitudes can still be quite cold, October is a great time to do some hikes or longer treks. If you don't want to camp, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has an extensive network of huts in the national parks where hikers can stay overnight (pre-booking is necessary). October is a great time to hike the Abel Tasman Coast Track, for instance. It's always popular, but it doesn't get the same volume of visitors in October as later in the year, and the conditions are great for hiking.
If you're into adventure sports, October can be a good time to try whitewater rafting. You'll need a wetsuit as snowmelt will make the temperatures very cold, but that same snowmelt increases the volume of water, which is ideal for rafting. This can be done on both islands.
Taste of Auckland. During this food and drink festival, renowned chefs compete to prepare the most popular menus. Foodies who find themselves in Auckland won't want to miss this.
Traveling to New Zealand in October? Check out these great itineraries
Highlights of New Zealand: From North to South - 15 Days. Traverse New Zealand on this two-week adventure-packed trip, covering the highlights of the North and South Islands.
New Zealand's North Island Adventure - 7 Days. This self-drive itinerary hits the highlights of New Zealand's North Island with a wide array of activities and landscapes, from Auckland to Rotorua.
Best of New Zealand's South Island - 10 Days. This 10-day road trip through the South Island combines the best of New Zealand. Discover jaw-dropping scenery, including turquoise Lake Tekapo, the highest mountain in the country, Aoraki Mt. Cook, the peaks of Mt. Aspiring National Park, and magnificent fiords.