January, ah January. The Christmas decorations are down, the New Year has been welcomed and the weather is good. It’s the perfect month for getting out and about to explore New Zealand, and where better to go than some places with a historic connection to the month itself.
Places to Visit in New Zealand in January
On New Year’s Day in 1859, after years of waiting, Wellington had its first permanent lighthouse. Many local settlers took a boat trip in the SS Wonga Wonga to see the light illuminate for the first time, clambering ashore to listen to Edward Wright, the chief engineer on the project, as he explained to them how the thing worked. These days, the lighthouse has been decommissioned, though the headland is a popular place for walking or biking.
New Zealand is so passionate about sheep shearing it’s recognised as a sport, so it comes as no surprise that the Federated Farmers of New Zealand asked for it to be included in the 2012 Olympics. On 6 January 1953, the originator of the Bowen technique, Godfrey Bowen, set what was then a world record, shearing 456 woolly ewes in eight hours. If you’d like to see how it’s done, drive to The Point just outside Kaikoura to watch; in January you can still cuddle one of their lambs as you give it a bottle of milk.
The Haast Pass
1863 saw the expedition of one Julius von Haast, a geologist from Canterbury who went in search of a route overland from east to west on South Island. He found coal at Grey River and gold further west. Prospector Charles Cameron was the first to “discover” what became Haast Pass, but it would be Julius who would give it the now-famous name after reaching it on the 23rd of the month. Today, it’s a deservedly popular place with tourists, with a myriad of walks to landmarks such as the Blue Pools, Thunder Creek Falls and the wild waters of the Gates of Haast gorge.
Anniversary day in Auckland
Commemorating Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson’s arrival in the Bay of Islands in 1840, anniversary day is marked in New Zealand’s largest city on 29 January. It’s best known for the regatta in Waitemata Harbour, one of the most impressive in the world, which takes place on the closest Monday to the actual day. This year, that means that there’s no better spot to be this 1st February than watching the dragon boats, racing tugs, radio-controlled yachts and more.