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New Zealand and Australia in January

A friend has proposed a trip to NZ and Australia in January, apparently to coincide with the Australian Open. She is a huge tennis fan. My biggest concern is how miserably hot it may be. I live in a hot climate, but it’s a dry heat. Are NZ and Australia humid? Inquiring minds would like to know. Thanks for any insight you can provide regarding traveling there during this time.

Posted by
3993 posts

I’m thinking that there are no guarantees with weather but we were in NZ and Australia in January-February for 4 weeks in 2020 and it wasn’t too hot nor humid on any day. Of course our middle 2 weeks were spent on a ship but we were touring somewhere on land each day. The weather was great from our first week on the South Island of NZ to our last week in Melbourne. We hope to go back for a second visit to explore even more. Don’t pass this idea up!

Posted by
10401 posts

Thanks Mona. I had forgotten you were there that time of year. You know I’ll be wanting to get more information from you. I definitely won’t pass the opportunity up.

Posted by
16894 posts

In January 2015 we spent two weeks in New Zealand (South Island only) and then flew to Melbourne for the Open, spending 3 nights there. The weather was ideal almost everywhere—-In New Zealand it was clear and sunny but not hot, in the 70’s. We did have cooler temperatures with rain on the 3 days we spent hiking the Milford Track.

We lucked out in Melbourne, as it was in the 80’s and not humid (at least as far as we noticed). We stayed within walking distance of the tennis venue and it was a nice walk along the river there and back.

Posted by
2899 posts

Melbourne in January can be a roll of the dice. The historical averages will show that daytime highs are usually pleasant enough with highs in the mid-80's and moderate levels of humidity. However, there is always the possibility of a mid-summer heat wave that can drive daytime highs into the low 100's for several days. One of my business visits to the city years ago coincided with one of those and it was toasty indeed for most of the week. My advice would be to try to get seats in the shaded portion of the stadium if you can ... just in case.
NZ weather can vary quite a lot depending on whether you're in the more tropical north or the more temperate south - the country stretches nearly 1,000 miles from the tip of the North Island down to its southernmost point. The climate is generally pleasant everywhere though and without the extremes you may encounter in Australia.
One cautionary note regarding NZ in January and February is that it'll be over the Chinese New Year period when things can get pretty clobbered - especially in the smaller towns where things can fill up in a hurry. Best to lock in your accommodations, rental car, tours, etc. well in advance.

Posted by
4473 posts

We were in both places in late Jan and Feb of this year. The only place I thought was somewhat hot was Auckland. I don't remember it being humid, but only Florida matches Charleston for humidity. The Melbourne Museum was overrun with people during Chinese New Year, but Fitzroy Gardens and the Botanical Gardens were very enjoyable.

Posted by
10401 posts

My friend will be planning this trip, which is not what I’m used to. I can make suggestions in any case. She indicated she wants to do a combination of a tour and independent travel. I’ve never done any kind of organized tour other than a day tour and have always planned my own trips.

If anyone has suggestions about tours to look at I could pass that information to her.

Thanks again.

Posted by
4473 posts

We took a Globus Small Group tour and it was wonderful. You can find my New Zealand report in the Beyond Europe forum. We had one free day when in Queenstown, Melbourne and Cairns, but obviously this may not fit with the Australian Open. We arrived in Auckland a day early and stayed one extra day in Sydney, so had free days in those two cities as well. The only place we thought was a little warm was Auckland.

Posted by
2744 posts

Hi Andrea. I’m sorry I can’t help you with the weather. We were in Australia and New Zealand in March 2019. However, I can tell you it was over 100 in the Outback, so I think you can count on it being really hot there. I don’t remember it being particularly humid though. The only place humidity was a factor was in Port Douglas, a great jumping off point for the Great Barrier Reef. The temperature was around 80 and it was really humid. (I don’t think January is a good time to hit the Great Barrier Reef because of the risk of cyclones. At least as far as I recall.)

My main purpose in responding was to comment on the combination of tour and independent travel. We did a tour of New Zealand because we didn’t want to rent a car and getting from place to place is very challenging without a car. We went with Mondumo Tours, a very small company owned by a former Rick Steves guide. I don’t think he has anything scheduled for January though. It was only my second group tour, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed traveling in a group, though I still prefer independent travel.

We did Australia on our own and found it pretty easy. We only went to three places (Sydney, Outback and Great Barrier Reef) and flew between them. The distances are so great, it was the only practical way to do it.

Posted by
86 posts

I’d try to avoid the northern parts of Australia in January. Not only is it very hot and humid, but there is also a real possibility of cyclones. There were a couple this year in December and January.

I dislike travelling in hot weather too. We were in Queensland (Sunshine Coast to Cairns) in March this year and it was very uncomfortably hot and humid. And March is in theory the tail end of summer.

The southern parts of Australia have more variable weather and certainly less humid. And more likelihood of pleasant weather. The Australian Open is a great event. We’ve been and the weather was fine. However, I’ve had friends go and it was 40 degrees centigrade, not so nice. This January it looks like the maximums were in the range of 25-32 degrees for the Open. At least Melbourne is not humid. I’m pretty sure they close the roof in Rod Laver arena in the case of extreme heat. Also, there is a map of which seats are exposed to sun.

Posted by
158 posts

There is a huge variation in weather that time of year. We have been to both NZ and Australia in December and January (separate years/ trips). North of Sydney was quite hot and humid, whereas Melbourne was warm but pleasant. In New Zealand, Auckland and most of the north was warm (but not hot, hot) whereas we sometimes needed jackets and hats around Milford Sound and the southern part of the south island.

Posted by
420 posts

Asking whether Australia is humid is a bit like asking if the US is humid. Melbourne certainly is not, Sydney a bit more, Brisbane ditto and far north Queensland and the Northern Territory is (but not as humid as Southeast Asia).

There's a chance Melbourne would be very hot at that time of year, but yes it's dry heat. It's certainly not miserable anywhere - it's prime holiday season. I also wouldn't concur with the recommendations to avoid northern
Australia - as an Australian, I'd say January is the best time to be somewhere like far north Queensland, and its neither unpleasantly hot nor excessively humid.

Posted by
2899 posts

Re your question about tours: You'll save yourselves a lot of money and still retain some independence by doing selective day trips and tours once you've arrived in whichever city you decide on.
Planning your own flights to get between points is really pretty simple. It'll be economical too if you research flights on JetStar - the Qantas low cost affiliate that flies all over the country.
Driving in NZ is the best way to get around and see the sights (IMO) but if you'd rather not do that then there will be tours running out of most of the major cities.

Posted by
10401 posts

Thanks for your input everyone. Since this is not MY trip to plan and I’m just accompanying my friend I can’t dictate what we do and where we go. I’m very comfortable planning my own trips and have no problem driving, even on the left. I don’t know how quickly tours get booked up and it’s possible she won’t be able to find one that allows for time at the Open, which I know she really wants to do. If she can’t find a tour I will certainly offer to help with the planning.

Posted by
2899 posts

Using Melbourne as an example, we've always had good luck using the Things to Do menu on TripAdvisor as a starting point for possible attractions in a particular city. They'll have a pretty comprehensive listing of day tour providers as well.
Two very popular day trips from the city that would allow ample time for the tennis is The Great Ocean Road (day) and the Phillip Island Penguin colony that many here recommend - that's a full day trip starting around midday and stretching into the evening in order to see the little guys when they return to the beach around sunset.

Posted by
3993 posts

I have another idea if you’ve got the time. What about a cruise around NZ and SE Australia for 14 nights for <$2,000 per person in a shared room and no one has to drive, find tours or book hotels? We did this in 2020 with a week tacked on at the beginning and end. You could do one of the 14 day cruises that ends in Sydney on Jan 19 then fly to Melbourne for the AO which will be barely underway by then. I think it ends on Jan 26. This is the January 5-19 itinerary.

https://www.hollandamerica.com/en/us/find-a-cruise/p5h14a/w510#cmp-rooms

Posted by
4 posts

We went to the Australian Open last year and made sure we purchased tickets that would be in the shade in the afternoons. It was sometimes very hot on the outer courts, but not really humid. We then rented a car and drove to Healesville Santuary and spent the night at Philip Island to watch the Penguin Parade. Then we spent a few days driving and hiking along the Great Ocean Road and a few days in the Grampians, which were not huge mountains but we stayed in a 'cabin' at an RV park where there was a field with kangaroos and emus. Then we flew to Wellington for a few days and took the ferry to Picton. We spent about 3 weeks driving around the South Island. We had a great time and it wasn't too hot or humid---we're from Los Angeles. We only focused on that small part of Australia because of heat at that time of year and our trip was originally just to go to NZ. GO!

Posted by
10401 posts

Thanks again to everyone for their excellent suggestions.