New Zealand in January: Starting the New Year in New Zealand

Weather in New Zealand in January

  • January is notable in New Zealand for being the warmest month of the year and typically averages the highest average temperatures annually.
  • As a result of the higher humidity percentage of the air, the summer months in New Zealand may seem especially warmer as a result of the moisture in the air.
  • Summer rain showers are fairly common during January in New Zealand and results in a fair amount of rainfall, especially in the North Island.
  • January is also the ideal time to visit the plentiful beaches of the North Island and the regions around the Bay of Plenty and the Whanganui Cape are ideal beach destinations to visit during the peak of the summer season. 
New Zealand in Summer
  • The South Island is comparatively cooler, owing to the presence of the Southern Alps which keeps the moisture in the air relatively lower. However certain areas like Queenstown and Christchurch may experience temperatures exceeding 35 °C on a warm day.
  • A phrase you’re bound to hear over and over again in New Zealand is ‘four seasons in a day’, outlining the fickle nature of Kiwi weather and that it is possible even during the height of summer, for the day to turn and suddenly a strong gust bites at your skin.
  • Ensure that whichever time of year that you decide to visit that you carry an emergency raincoat or thermal wear to keep you warm.
  • Sunscreen of a sufficient strength (preferably SPF 30 or above) will also be hugely helpful as the level of UV radiation from sunlight in New Zealand during the summer is amongst the highest in the world and this results in skin burning up quickly.

What to Pack for New Zealand in January

  • The rapidly changing nature of New Zealand means that you cannot just pack nothing but free flowing shorts and skirts and loosely-fitting comfort wear because the weather will catch you out.
  • Ensuring that travellers are carrying the correct and weather-appropriate items in their luggage will make the difference between enjoying a trip warm and comfortably and shelling out on buying more expensive thermal wear to keep you warm.

    Read on to know what essentials to pack for your trip to New Zealand in January:

    • Light t-shirts and freely flowing tops to layer as it will be easier to dress up and down as the weather changes and as you see fit.
    • Light sweaters or a couple of pullovers will definitely be helpful while trying to stay warm in the colder parts of the country or even simply during the night. 
    • Jeans that can be worn multiple times or multiple days will be hugely helpful.
    • A pair of looser fitting pants out of more breathable materials such as linens will be wonderful to wear during the warm summer days. 
    • Shorts will be a great option to carry on the beach.
    • Warm woollen socks will ensure that your feet stay warm during the chilly summer nights of New Zealand. 

What to Do in New Zealand in January

The South Island is absolutely buzzing with life during the summer months. The cities of Queenstown, Wanaka, and Christchurch are positively teeming with the advent of the warmer temperatures.

Christchurch is known affectionately as the City of Gardens, owing to the multitude of public parks and horticultural reserves, namely Hagley Park. Hagley Park comes alive with the sounds, sights, and smells of summer. 

Lake Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu

Punting through the Avon River is a hugely popular pastime to take advantage of the beautiful summer sun. There are lots of public performances that are put on show across the park for the benefit of the park goers as well. 

Punting on the Avon River
Punting on The Avon River

The colourful flowers that bloom during the summer are in themselves a great reason to visit the Christchurch Botanic Gardens during this time. Resort towns like Queenstown and Wanaka are popular during the winter seasons to take advantage of the ski fields, during the summer they transform along the banks of Lake Wanaka. 

Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Adventure sports like bungee jumping, jet boating, become especially popular as the warmer waters make it far more enjoyable. The North Island becomes a haven for those wanting to explore the sprawling vineyards and sample their fantastic food and wine options whilst you meander through the vines. 

New Zealand Vineyards
Vineyards in the North Island

Events in New Zealand in January 

Since January is the peak tourist month in New Zealand, there are plenty of events that take place right after the new year and across the month. Both the North and South islands become havens for activity and some of the calendar year’s most anticipated events take place in the month of January. 

  • The rich tradition of the Scottish Highland Games that usually takes place in January in the Scottish Highlands have found their way into Kiwi culture as European settlers from Scotland brought their ways of life to New Zealand. Highland Games and Tartan in the Park are celebrated in January in the North Island region of Waipu. 

  • The Bay Islands Sailing Week and the Tall Ships Regatta, both take place in the Bay of Islands region and highlight the significance of sailing in the Kiwi culture. The Tall Ships Regatta has been conducted for over 30 years in Russell, around the Bay of Islands and is an eagerly awaited event. The Bay Islands Sailing Week is one of the most anticipated sailing events in the Southern Hemisphere and attracts top quality talent from across the globe to a week-long sailing extravaganza. 
Bay of Islands Regatta
Bay of Islands Regatta
  • The Rhythm and Vines Music Festival is one of New Zealand’s largest and highly-rated music festivals in the country. Taking place in Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island, it takes place usually in the last week of December or in the first week of January, either way making it an ideal way to ring in the new year.

  • The festival’s sister event, the Rhythm and Alps Music Festivals takes place around the same time on the South Island in Wanaka and is regularly described as being a slightly more posh and sophisticated version of its North Island sibling.
  • The Pinot Noir New Zealand Festival, taking place in the nation’s capital of Wellington is widely regarded as being one of the premier festivals in the world to celebrate locally made pinot noir. Conducted towards the end of January, the Pinot Noir New Zealand Festival is only held once every 4 years and the next edition will be taking place in 2022 and will be held on the South Island for the first time since the festival’s inception. 

New Zealand Wines
New Zealand Pinot Noir
  • The New Zealand Food and Wine Festival invites visitors to a beautiful and rustic cottage in Cromwell to indulge in the best that Kiwi food and wine, all locally sourced from nearby vineyards and farms. This festival that celebrates Kiwi cuisine is slated to happen during the first week of January in 2021.

Tips for Travelling to New Zealand in January

While it may be tempting to look at weather reports in New Zealand in January and assume that summer wear will be more than enough, weather in the country is notoriously fickle.

  • It would be more than prudent to carry at least a warm raincoat, or a jacket because the infamously unpredictable Kiwi weather is something to prepare for. 

  • It is also important to carry a good-quality sunscreen that will offer adequate protection from the fierce sun and its UV rays. The lack of cloud cover on most days during the summer also means that even on lightly sunny days, the potential to be seriously sunburnt is likely higher than you may expect. 

  • Since January is the peak tourist season in New Zealand, it is important to make bookings for flights and accommodation well in advance. Hotels and flights fill up well in advance and it is close to impossible to make bookings especially during the first half of the month.

  • Tourist attractions will also see increased attendance and it would be a good call to phone ahead and find out how crowded the attractions are on a given day.

  • Since this is also when summer holidays locally, most domestic holiday-makers will be enjoying the sun, so be aware that most places will have a certain degree of crowds.

This post was published by Ken Chiramel

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