Whilst the northern hemisphere freezes throughout January, Oceania benefits from glorious sunshine and warmth making it an ideal location to take a new year holiday. New Zealand’s South Island provides not only a wide range of activities to keep you occupied but also has a unique and varied land to explore. Here’s my guide to what New Zealand has to offer in January.
South Island cities
There are two main cities to visit on the South Island and both are located on the eastern coast. Christchurch is the capital of the island and the largest city here. In spite of the recent earthquakes, there are many must-see sights within the city which make it a certain stop in your itinerary. These include trips to Christchurch Botanic Gardens and the International Antarctic Centre.
- Location: 38 Orchard Road, Christchurch Airport
- Opening Hours: 9am – 5:30pm daily
- Admission: Adults $35; Child (5-15) $20
- Website: iceberg.co.nz
Head down the coast to Dunedin, where you’ll find a wealth of cultural sights to delve into. Visit New Zealand’s only castle, Larnach Castle or the beautiful First Church for its fine architecture. Take a deeper look at New Zealand’s past, visit the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum which is the largest museum in the country.
Of course, whilst the cities provide cultural fun, most visitors travel here to explore the landscape which you’ll find endlessly varied. For a beach break, visit Mason Bay on Stewart Island stretches along 12 miles of coastline and is as idyllic as you can possibly imagine. Another great destination for a beach break is The Catlins which sit on the southeast coastline. Here you’ll find a windswept coastline which is dotted with lighthouses, wildlife and of course great beaches. Whilst here, take a trip to Curio Bay to learn about its petrified forest.
The landscape here is filled with rolling hills and mountains, surrounded by rainforest, lakes and national parks. Take a trip up Aoraki, the highest peak in New Zealand and whilst your here, explore the glaciers that are around the mountain. To head inside, visit Paparoa National Park to delve into the cave system here or explore the coves of Doubtful Sound in Fiordland. Finally, enjoy the peace and tranquility by visiting Lake Tekapo which sits in the heart of the South Island.
New Zealand’s habitats are rather unique to this part of the world so a visit here is the perfect opportunity to meet some weird and wonderful creatures in their natural world. To ensure you see everything that the country has to offer, book onto a tour with a specialised company such as wildlifewilderness.com who will ensure that any itinerary covers opportunities to see the highlights.
Of course, most visitors to New Zealand yearn to see the famous Kiwi which has become the country’s symbol. The South Island provides a fantastic opportunity to see this rare bird by visiting the Rakiura National Park on Stewart Island. Situated 19 miles off the coast of the main South Island, Stewart Island is a haven for birds making it the perfect location to do some tweeting. Here you’ll be able to see penguins and Albatross in their natural environment amongst many other birds. You can also see Albatross on the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin as well as a wealth of dolphins, sea lions and whales.
There are many fantastic activities which are on offer for your trip to New Zealand. The beaches provide great opportunities to enjoy the ocean, both on and underneath the waves. There are many places to dive, but I recommend visiting Fiordland for both wreck and ocean diving. For surfing, definitely head to the coastline in and around Dunedin where you’ll find swells perfect for surfers of all abilities, particularly around The Catlins.
New Zealand weather in January
January is the middle of New Zealand’s summer and so you’ll find a pleasing warm climate when you arrive. Temperatures average 22.5C (73F) in Churchill with a nice sea breeze blowing in to keep the temperatures comfortable. With endless hours of sunshine, January’s weather provides a great opportunity to enjoy New Zealand’s beaches.