It's a great day for the beach in much of New Zealand, with warm to hot weather in many areas - but gales are on the way for many and the southwest is in for a downpour.

The Metservice has issued a severe weather warning for heavy rain in Fiordland and Westland south of Otira for up to 19 hours.

The heavy rain is expected to set in over Fiordland from 5pm, in South Westland from 9pm, and in the Westland ranges south of Otira from 3am tomorrow.

A severe weather watch has been issued for possibly severe northwest gales in exposed parts of Southland, Otago, high-country Canterbury, northern Wairarapa and Tararua. A front that will arrive in the southwest this evening and sweep up the South Island tomorrow is driving the northwesterly gales ahead of it.

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If you're not in the firing line for the rain or wind, today looks like being a hot, sunscreen-and-hat day for many.

Auckland is expected to be mostly fine and reach 25C - although there is the chance of a shower until evening. Expect more of the same tomorrow, but without the risk of a shower.

Hamilton's forecast is for a fine day with light winds and a high of 26C today. It can expect the same tomorrow but with cloud in the morning and evening and some westerlies.

Tauranga's line-up is fine until some morning cloud arrives, with a possible shower in the afternoon and 25C today. Tomorrow it is expected to be hot and sunny, reaching 28C.

Wellington is predicted to live up to its windy reputation this weekend, with northerlies rising to gale force in exposed places this afternoon and continuing tomorrow. A temperature of 22C is expected today, and 23C tomorrow.

Christchurch will bake in fine, hot conditions, with a high of 30C and gusty northwesterlies forecast this afternoon. Tomorrow's temperature will dip to 28C and rain is expected as the wind swings around to a southerly.

Dunedin will also be fine today, and can expect to be one point down on Christchurch, at 29C. Tomorrow's forecast is for southerly rain and a high of 20C.