New Zealand consists of two main islands – North and South – together with some small offshore islands. It is situated in the South Pacific and has an area a little larger than the United Kingdom.
Weather in New Zealand is very changeable throughout the year and all months are moderately wet. Fine sunny spells of weather can occur at any time of year, however, and the country has more sunshine than might be expected in such a variable climate.
Daily sunshine hours average from four to five in winter to six or seven in summer in most parts of New Zealand. The north of the country and the east coasts are rather more sunny than the extreme south and the wetter west coast of South Island.
Both North and South Islands are hilly and mountainous. The west coast of South Island is backed by the high Southern Alps with Mount Cook, the highest peak, rising to over 3,700 m/12,000 ft. There are several volcanic peaks in North Island rising above 2,400 m/8,000 ft. These higher mountains carry snow throughout the year.
In the New Zealand Alps there are extensive snowfields and glaciers, as precipitation on the western side of South Island is heavy; as much as 2,000–2,500 mm/ 80–100 in and over 5,000 mm/200 in in the mountains.
Snow can occur almost anywhere at sea level in New Zealand, but is very rare in the extreme north of North Island. Here the climate is almost subtropical with very mild winters and warm, rather humid, summers.
New Zealand as a whole has a very healthy and pleasant climate with few weather hazards. The combination of weather, altitude, and scenery provide excellent opportunities for a range of sport and outdoor activities.