Rain, hail & sleet – a New Zealand summer

New Zealand weather really is like the song ‘four seasons in one day’. It’s been a crazy summer this year, with weather warnings in the south island and not enough rain in the north island. This was the summer I decided to travel around the south island in a caravan.

Today I’m talking about the weather!

Rain at Nelson Lakes

I’ve found that the most beautiful and uninhabited parts of New Zealand also seem to get the most rain. Nelson Lakes is a fine example. After settling in, I started walking a short loop track. An hour in, the weather changed. Luckily I’d shoved my poncho in my bag. Growing up in New Zealand, I’ve learnt to be prepared for the worst. When hiking, take warm clothes – just in case. The rain got heavier and heavier. I assumed I was half way along this short walk as it seemed silly to retrace my steps. I carried on. Then the path became a river.

I came across an English couple also walking who were surprised by the waterfall path and were laughing/grimacing at their experience.

I eventually squelched back to my caravan, after a longer walk than planned. I’m assuming I took the longer loop accidentally. Plenty of wet clothes on coat-hangers draped inside the caravan. One day I will get a caravan awning for all my wet clothes and life will be more manageable on wet days.

Rain, raging rivers & landslides at Moeraki

This is the area with the Moeraki Boulders, a popular tourist stop in Otago. I was staying at a campground further along the beach. I was told you could walk from the campground to the boulders, but only at low-tide. It had been solidly raining all day, and when there was a break in the storm, I desperately escaped the caravan to stretch my legs and clear my head. Walking past a bank, I saw some mud falling down, so decided to record it… did not expect a massive chunk to come away at the same time! I walked through 4 rivers along the beach to reach the boulders. By this time, the rain arrived again. The big plus was that all the tourists ran back inside, leaving the boulders to myself – a rare occurrence during the day.

Walking back, the tide was further in, and crossing the rivers was suddenly not as easy. The last river had an extremely strong current. A local stopped on the other side and I talked about my options. Climbing over a farmers fence and walking to a bridge seemed the safest option, but it turned out to have double barbwire and I could imagine things going terribly wrong for me. The local had left, so I decided to try crossing again, without looking like an idiot. I decided the best idea was to go into the surf to counteract the force of the river current. It worked, but I was drenched. Luckily not far from home and I was definitely energised by this adventure! The coat-hangers came out again.

Hail at Franz Josef Glacier

Another popular stop for tourists. A friend had joined me for this part of the trip and we had a bad stretch of weather along the west coast. Non-stop rain and low cloud restricted our activities and views. We’d been lucky with a brief fine patch at Fox Glacier and managed to see Lake Matheson (below) in all it’s glory.

Reaching Franz Joef Glacier, we had time to set-up the caravan before the rain arrived… and the hail. I now know it’s very loud in the caravan! You definitely feel closer to nature. The rest of the day was spent in the caravan before dashing to the local spa and then the restaurant.

Sleet at Milford Sound

Milford Sound seems to be one of the wettest parts of New Zealand, but it is still manages to be my favourite place. On my first trip there this summer, I had been watching the weather forecast and waiting in Te Anau for the weather to improve. Expecting sun, the weather changed and went extremely cold with snow during the night. I was at a non-powered campsite and got to try out my gas heater. I’ve found the heater warms the place up very quickly – perfect for winter. One of the friendly campground staff at Knobs Flat ended up lending me her spare hottie (kiwi slang for hot water bottle) and it made such a difference to my comfort level. Definitely a must for a caravan… I don’t care what it looks like.

I didn’t get to hike as much as I planned, but it’s also beautiful with snow and fog. I drove to the tunnel and the weather was dramatic with sleet and strong winds.

When I lived in Melbourne, I raved about Milford Sound. My boss at the time decided to visit in summer. She came back not that impressed… it had rained non-stop for her. I don’t think it helped that she was trapped in the car with her fiancees parents and brother.

The romantic trip became a tense family trip.


New Zealand summer can be chancy. I learnt to regularly check the Metservice website for their weather forecast. It can be glorious with non-stop blue skies, or rain and more rain. Have you experienced summer in the south island? Do you have any stories you would like to share below?

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