Looking for perfect holiday weather? Queenstown ticks all the boxes.
Don’t worry about planning your holiday around monsoon season or drought season, Queenstown offers ideal holiday weather, any time of year.
With very little variance in rainfall throughout the year, there’s no need to avoid a rainy season when planning a visit to Queenstown. Ski bunnies will delight in the white, fluffy stuff that falls during winter and for the rest of the year, visitors enjoy the climate of one of the driest locations on the South Island.
Queenstown sits at 45°degrees south, with a climate that’s described as oceanic. Similar climates along the same latitude in the Northern Hemisphere are Oregon in the US and Bordeaux in France.
WHAT DOES QUEENSTOWN’S WEATHER LOOK LIKE?
- Long, warm days (but not hot) in summer.
- Long, settled autumn days.
- Cold, dry winters with a large diurnal temperature range.
- No excessive rainy seasons throughout the year.
- As a general rule, March is Queenstown’s wettest month and July is the driest.
Queenstown is protected from the extreme rainfall received on the West Coast by the Southern Alps. The mountain range provides a solid barrier to the flow of weather systems coming from the west. Weather is diverted around the South Island delivering moisture and precipitation to the mountains but leaving the interior basins mostly dry. Winds from the south bring cold weather (and snowfall) in winter and northwesterly winds bring warm weather and rain.
THE FOUR SEASONS OF QUEENSTOWN
Visitors from more temperate climates will love the distinct change of seasons on display in Queenstown and Central Otago. As summer transforms into autumn, a glorious show of colours is on display. The district lights up with the oranges, golds, and browns of trees preparing themselves for winter. As winter descends, a dramatic change occurs as the last of the leaves drop and the landscape becomes stark. Frosts and snowfall begin and the ski fields come alive. Spring then heralds the remarkable transformation from barren and cold, to bursting with new life. Flowers bulbs pop from the earth and new buds glisten on the trees. After spring comes the change to the long, hot summer days where we all enjoy daylight until 10 pm. The marked changes from season to season are a clear sign of the hand of Mother Nature at work.
WHY DOESN’T QUEENSTOWN RECEIVE AS MUCH RAINFALL AS THE WEST COAST?
As the crow flies, Queenstown is only 50 kilometres from the wet West Coast, but the climates are hugely different. Queenstown lies to the east of the mighty Southern Alps range and it is because of this location that rainfall is much lower than townships on the West Coast.
Rain in the Southern Alps
The Southern Alps receive some of the highest annual rainfall levels in the world. The glacier catchment area on the West Coast records around 15,000mm of precipitation per year (mostly as snowfall). If you’re planning on spending some time on the West Coast, be prepared for average rainfalls of 6,000mm – 8,000mm per year in the townships. Queenstown’s rainfall seems paltry to this, receiving around 913mm per year.
How does Queenstown’s weather work?
Prevailing westerly winds collect moisture as they travel over the Tasman Sea, towards the Southern Alps. As the moisture-laden air is pushed up over the high alpine peaks, it cools and drops huge amounts of moisture as rain, or snow. Most of this moist airflow is blocked by the Southern Alps mountain range before it is able to reach Queenstown. Known as the rain-shadow effect, the impact is striking when you compare the average yearly rainfall of 400mm received in Alexandra in Central Otago with Milford Sound’s average yearly rainfall of 6,800mm per year. The two towns are only 130km away.
Low Rainfall – not only good for holidaymakers
Queenstown’s closest neighbour to the east is Cromwell, an area famed for its fruit and wine producers. Pinot Noir grapes and stone fruit like cherries, apricots, nectarines, peaches and plums grow particularly well here. The low rainfall, coupled with a cool climate (with very few frosts), makes this the ideal location for growing a bounty of wine and fruit. The climate and soil give locally grown grapes a particularly intense flavor and allow growers to consistently produce a high-quality product. The dry climate also helps reduce disease, meaning less reliance on pesticide.
So thanks to the Southern Alps, Queenstown is protected from heavy rainfall allowing visitors to enjoy a pleasant climate throughout the year. Whether it’s skiing in winter, or hiking in summer the chances of being rained off are slim in sunny Queenstown.