Realized habitats of North Sea herring for two larval and two juvenile stages were estimated over the past 30 years, using abundances from surveys tied to modelled estimates of temperature and salinity. Newly hatched larvae (NHL) were found mainly in water masses of 9–11°C, pre-metamorphosis larvae (PML) around 5–6°C, juveniles aged 0 in summer around 13–14°C, and juveniles aged 1 in winter around 4–5°C. The median salinity in which the NHL were distributed was 34.4–35.0 and 33.7–33.9, respectively, for PML and juveniles. Interannual variations in temperature and geographic variables in the North Sea were compared with the time-series of realized habitats. The realized temperature habitats of the NHL did not change over time, but the habitat of juveniles in summer may be associated with higher temperatures. Juveniles aged 1 in winter are found in waters colder than the average for the North Sea, a result also reflected in their geographic shift east into shallower water. The results suggest that juveniles could be limited by temperature, but may also track changes in food or predator distribution, and/or internal population dynamics. Time-series analysis of realized salinity habitats was not possible with the available data because of differences between model outputs.