January in New Zealand: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

New Zealand beach, Raglan
Lauren Juliff

January is the most popular month for visitors to New Zealand. As the time of the main summer break for schools and businesses, it is also the busiest. The beautiful summer weather makes it a great time to experience the best of New Zealand outdoors. Plus, there are tons of special events and festivals, making this one of the best times of the year for a New Zealand vacation.

View of Queenstown
SammyVision / Getty Images

New Zealand Weather in January

January is the middle of summer in January in New Zealand, and it is the month with (usually) the highest average temperatures.

  • North Island: 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) high/54 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius) low.
  • South Island: 72 F (22 C)/50 F (10 C)

January in New Zealand can appear much warmer due to the humidity; days can often be quite rainy, and this adds a lot of moisture to the air, especially in Northland, Auckland, and the Coromandel. However, there are also many great summer days which see hordes of New Zealanders at their favorite beach.

The South Island is slightly cooler than the North Island, though certain areas such as Queenstown, Christchurch, and parts of Canterbury can experience much higher temperatures, reaching above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius).

And of course, remember to protect yourself from the sun. The levels of glare and ultraviolet radiation are amongst the highest in the world. Always ensure you have a good pair of sunglasses and a high-strength sunscreen (SPF 30 or above).

Woman enjoying the beauty of New Zealand
swissmediavision / Getty Images

What to Pack

New Zealand can sometimes experience all four seasons in one month—or even one day! Your packing list should reflect this climactic variability. Luckily, summer is generally a time of mild weather, making jeans and T-shirt appropriate attire for most of your stay on the island. You'll want to bring some clothing for layering too, in case of chilly nights or mornings. To start, your suitcase should include:

  • Tank tops and t-shirts for layering
  • Light sweaters or long-sleeve T-shirts
  • Jeans
  • A pair of non-denim pants, such as linen or cargo
  • Shorts, which are useful for wearing on the beach
  • Socks for cozy, chilly nights
  • A swimsuit, since you know there will be time spent in the ocean!
Bay of Islands Sailing Week, Bay of Islands
Will Calver/Bay of Islands Race Week

January Events in New Zealand

January is a busy month for activities and events in New Zealand. Most New Zealanders like to celebrate the arrival of the New Year at a party or social gathering. There is also usually a public celebration in towns and cities throughout the country, with the largest being in Auckland and Christchurch.

Waterfalls at Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand
MOAimage / Getty Images

January Travel Tips

  • This is the height of the New Zealand summer, so it's amongst the best times to enjoy New Zealand outdoors, and January is the time to enjoy the sea. You will find locals and visitors alike enjoying all sorts of watery fun, including sailing, fishing, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, waterskiing, and diving.
  • From Christmas Day until the end of January is the summer break for most New Zealanders. Although kiwis are a relaxed and friendly bunch at any time of the year, they're even happier when they are on holiday.
  • All of the schools and many offices and factories are closed for January (although most businesses reopen around the middle of the month). This means that the holiday spots are crowded with holidaymakers. If you're not fond of crowds this may not be your favorite month; you might want to postpone your trip to February where everything is much quieter, and often the weather is even better.
  • Accommodation can be difficult to find, especially around the New Year and in the first half of the month. Booking ahead is essential.
  • Tourist attractions are busy during January, too. Queues will be nothing like those in Europe, but you can expect a lot of people at the major tourist places and activities. Again, booking ahead is advisable if at all possible.
  • Being the high holiday season with accommodation at a premium, you can expect that prices of everything travel-related are at their highest during January.

To learn more about the best time to visit, check out our monthly guide to the weather in New Zealand.