This Island Will Be the First Place on Earth to Welcome the New Year

Waitangi, Chatham Island
Waitangi, Chatham Island | © Wikimedia Commons
Thalita Alves

In the race to reach the New Year’s finish line, the Chatham Islands are the world’s true victor – and, unlike its dissenting opponents, they managed to do so without mangling with their time zone. Find out more here.

Loved by over 40s

If you’ve never stumbled across the name before, the Chatham Islands is an archipelago approximately 650 kilometres (400 miles) east of New Zealand’s South Island. Only two of its 11 islands are actually inhabited: the Chatham and Pitt Islands, which are in turn the area’s largest. According to the US Navy’s Astronomical Applications Department, Kahuitara Point on Pitt Island is the first populated place in the world to see the 1 January sunrise every year, at 4:50 am in its local time – just 45 minutes ahead of mainland New Zealand.

It must be said that competition for who gets the bragging rights for the first New Year sunrise is incredibly fierce and not without controversy. In the 1990s, Kiribati moved its International Date Line further east to Honolulu – putting forth the claim that their very own Caroline Island (later renamed Millennium Island) was set to be the first place in the world to enter the third millennium. Alas, by the time the year 2000 was looming, the sun rays over Pitt Island beat Kiribati’s by a full 25 minutes.

Kahuitara Point, Pitt Island

Other Pacific Island contenders have tried to step up since then, with little success. Both Samoa and Tokelau skipped December 30 2011 as they shifted to New Zealand’s side of the dateline – a move mainly attributed to an improvement in international trade opportunities – but were still behind the New Zealand city that’s usually the first in the world to see the sunrise, Gisborne.

But there’s more to the archipelago than its millennial milestone.

The Chatham Islands are also renowned for their unique natural landscapes and unique wildlife. Over the years, these have inspired a handful of New Zealand-made documentary features as well as attracting keen photographers and nature lovers to the islands. Each distinctive region on the Chathams has its own speciality, from sand dunes and basalt columns to rolling cliffs and rugged terrains. The bird life is what has, over the years, brought the islands plenty of international acclaim: famous species include the Chatham Island Tui, the Chatham Island Petrel, and the endangered little black robin.

Black Robin On the South East/Rangatira Island, Chatham Islands

Despite its firsts, the little Chathams were the last Pacific Islands to be settled. Polynesian Moriori are believed to have arrived on Chatham Island some 800-1000 years ago, naming it ‘Rekohu’ and living there for a good 200 years without any contact from the outside world. In 1791 Lieutenant William Broughton ‘re-discovered’ the island during his voyage on the HMS Chatham and Maoris reached its shores in 1835 – the latter group decided to call their new home ‘Wharekauri’. Nowadays these three distinct cultural groupings have come together to form the contemporary Chatham Islander identity, and there are numerous historic sites across each settled island showcasing its eclectic settlement roots.

These days, some 600 people call the Chatham Island home, while another 40 reside on Pitt Island. Commercial fishing is the island’s biggest trading sector, while the tourism, farming and forestry industries follow closely behind. While visitors can fly onto Chatham Island from the major New Zealand airports, Pitt Island can only be reached by charter transport.

Dead tree on Chatham Islands’ sand dunes
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.