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New Zealand has been called the “paradise of the Pacific,” and with great reason. This sparsely-populated archipelago is replete with a diverse sampling of the full beauty of nature. From mountains to plains, lakes and rivers to active volcanoes, stunning vistas are practically a fact of life here. The tranquil and the thrilling exist side by side in this beautiful country, where any visitor can easily find an experience suited perfectly to their preferences.
Weather varies depending on where and when one visits: balmy subtropical breezes prevail in the north, while chilling winds blow through the south and interior regions, especially in the winter. Fewer than five million residents—commonly called Kiwis, after the national bird—call the islands home, meaning that much of the land remains pristine and undisturbed. Despite the thin population density, New Zealand is very accessible. Traveling from the North Island to the South Island is no more difficult than catching an air- or water-based “hop,” and high-quality private and public transport is readily available.
Most of the nation’s tourist attractions cater to those who want to bask in the majesty of nature, but that’s not to say that is all there is to New Zealand’s charms. The cultural influence of the indigenous Maori population is strong, and Kiwis are known for being open, friendly, and relaxed. Enjoy a traditional Maori hangi feast and performance, or spend some time in a cozy brew pub chatting up the locals as you enjoy one of the area’s famed real ales! Museums and galleries abound in the major metro areas, attesting to the country’s thriving creative side, and the film industry is burgeoning. World-class dining destinations exist right alongside natural attractions, offering the best of both worlds to gourmands and beauty-seekers alike. Still, there is little doubt that the scenic wonders of New Zealand are its showpieces.
An additional fun fact about New Zealand: it boasts of leading the world, timewise. At 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, it is the first place on Earth to welcome a new day.
Top New Zealand Sights
The tallest manmade structure in New Zealand is a premium entertainment destination the whole family can enjoy. Offering not just breathtaking 360 degree views of Auckland but world-class daredevil attractions like SkyJumping and dining as well, you will be dazzled by how much fun you can have under one very high roof.
Franz Josef Glacier
The Franz Josef Glacier is acknowledged to be one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. Exploring the pristine ice is an unforgettable experience for visitors of any age and skill level. Whether you choose to foot it through the dramatic maze of ice and famous hot pools on a small group tour or be swept away into thin air on a dazzling two-hour Heli-Hike of the frozen terrain, your adventure will be one to cherish for a lifetime.
Called the country’s outdoor playground, this mountain range has more than earned its effusive name! A top family travel destination, one can find holidaymakers of all stripes cavorting on the ski field in the winter months. From snowtubing and hiking to advanced slopes, everyone from the timid to the high-octane thrill seeker will find plenty to love. Located a mere 45-minute drive from Queenstown, the majesty of The Remarkables is a can’t-miss destination on any visitor’s list.
Situated on the lake of the same name, the town of Rotorua is known for its geysers and hot mud pools—both products of active geothermic activity. Rotorua is the ancestral home of the Te Arawa Maori people, and visitors are afforded a wide range of experiences steeped in rich cultural tradition. Visit a pre-European Maori village, untouched by time, or take in an authentic musical performance through which ancient tales are conveyed through the beauty of song and dance. Relax with a luxuriant spa treatment or whet your appetite for action on some of the region’s best mountain biking courses. Amazing trout fishing can be had in the town’s many lakes and tributary rivers ... bring your camera, because a big catch is virtually guaranteed!
LoTR Filming Sites
Take a journey to Middle Earth when you tour the stunning locations used to film the blockbuster The Lord of the Rings trilogy. From the serene farmlands of Matamata, which starred as the Shire, to the windswept Putangirua Pinnacles (the Paths of the Dead), you can relive the excitement of the beloved movie series travelling from north to south. You can plan a tour to visit the picturesque Hobbiton movie set, completely rebuilt to look as it did on film—walk through the Green Dragon Inn, which features spacious accommodations for private functions, or kick your feet up at the Shire’s Rest Cafe. As Hobbiton is situated on a working farm, you can end your day with woolly cuddles when you bottle-feed a baby lamb.
|Primary Airports: Auckland International (AKL), Christchurch International (CHC), Wellington International (WLG)|
|Government: Representative parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy|
|Currency: New Zealand dollar (NZD)|
|Population: 4,347,000 (2009 est.)|
|Language: English, Maori, and New Zealand sign language|
|Electricity: 230V/50Hz (Australian plug)|
|Time Zone: UTC +12 (DST +13)|
New Zealand Travel Reviews
Tramping through New Zealand
In college, I had the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand for a semester. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the scenes of natural beauty and tranquility which I knew New Zealand was famous for. Over the course of my stay in the ‘Land Down Under’ I traveled to multiple localities including Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown, the Bay of Islands, the Milford Sound, and many others. Each city has its own unique charm: Wellington has a large college population to fuel an active night life, Dunedin is home to one of New Zealand’s oldest and largest Breweries, Speight, and Queenstown is the hub of adventure sports, from street luge to bungee jumping. These attractions, however, pale in comparison to the gorgeous displays of nature in the country. New Zealand contains the Milford Sound (considered to be the 8th World Wonder), rain forests, black sand beaches, an impressive mountain range, a large inland glacier, and many other unique natural quirks such as the silver fern. With a dedicated tourism industry unlike any other I’ve experienced, it is easy to see everything the country has to offer. If you’re comfortable traveling in large groups, The Kiwi Experience bus tours are an excellent option. If, however, you prefer to travel with friends or desire more flexibility, there is abundance of van rental companies and ‘freedom camps’ scattered about the country which make exploring easy. However you choose to explore New Zealand, I guarantee you’ll have a remarkable time.
Kia Ora, New Zealand!
Before I entered college I traveled to New Zealand with a group of friends for an unforgettable adventure. We stayed in the North Island for two weeks and worked our way from the top of the island to the bottom. First on our journey was the city of Rotorua, which is famous for its natural geysers and boiling mud. There are lots of parks in the area that offer mud baths in the hot bud for the ultimate spa treatment!
We traveled south to Auckland and spent several days roaming the city. One day we went up in to the Sky Tower and had lunch in the Orbit 360 inside. The entire dining room rotates around to offer a view of the city on all sides as far as you can see. You can even spot the field that the New Zealand All Blacks play rugby on.
Just north of Auckland is Sheep World, a sheep farm that allows you to play with baby sheep and feed them (bottle fed of course!), watch a live shearing, and browse the gift shop where items are made from the wool produced. It's a great opportunity for anyone and is an absolute must!
We finished our adventure in Wellington City, where we camped at a ski lodge. The snow covered mountains are beautiful and the night sky offers an incredible view of constellations we'd never seen before being from the Northern Hemisphere. A spectacular trip that I would take again in a heartbeat!
Friendly New Zealand
My spouse and I recently returned from New Zealand having vacationed there for three weeks at Russell (Bay of Islands) on New Zealand's north island. My spouse and I are adventurous and we elected to not have a tour guide since New Zealanders speak English like us where the biggest obstacle was getting acclimated to driving on the "wrong" side of the road.
Our trip rates five stars based upon reasonable cost of room, food, ease to travel, diverse things to do and most importantly, how accommodating and just how friendly the New Zealanders were with us time and time again.
Russell (Bay of Islands) is on the eastern northern tip of the New Zealand's north island known as Te Ika-a-Maui. This quaint town on New Zealand's coast is sheltered by a wonderful bay suitable to many water sports such as fishing, wind surfing, kayaking and boat trips. A trip to the "Treaty House" where the British made peace with its indigenous people, the Maori is a cannot miss place to visit for history buffs. There are plenty of beaches to walk and beach comb as well as many picturesque green hills to wander and have a picnic upon in their national parks with a bottle or two of their splendid white wine such as chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
If you like seafood, then you surely do not want to miss dining at many of Russell's fine establishments where we dined on fresh mussels, crab, swordfish and tuna. The New Zealanders fancy Americans due to the fact that many New Zealanders were deployed to California soon after the United States entered into the second world war and have not forgotten how well their service people were treated while being trained in California. I recommend New Zealand as a vacation destination with many charming and friendly people who were genuinely interested in our journey.
More Than Just Hobbits
After five years of having moved from New Zealand to relocate in Arizona of the United States, it was about time to take my husband and new baby to visit the land where I was raised. The experience begins before the plane even lands. Flying low over the "City of Sails" immediately puts you into vacation mode as you hover over the many boats and yachts that gives Auckland city its nickname. I took my little family to Mission Bay Beach, over the Harbor Bridge, and up the Sky Tower that are hot spots for locals and tourists alike. If you're lounging on the sandy and relaxed beach overlooking Rangitoto Island, be sure to order up some fish and chips at the local takeaway shop to truly enjoy a Kiwi experience. Don't forget the Watties (ketchup)! Getting out of the city and into the country offers a whole new and serene experience. We enjoyed hiking to find hidden waterfalls and a tree large enough to be named "Lord of the Forest". Tanemahuta is the largest Kauri tree still standing today and dwarfs you at a height of 168 feet and a girth of 45 feet. Before we left we had to visit Cape Reinga which brings you to the very tip of New Zealand. If you're afraid of water, don't go. You'll feel tiny as you get in a full panoramic view of the majestic Pacific Ocean. Although our visit was short and sweet, it's definitely worth another visit.
New Zealand - Unique and Enthralling
My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary touring the north island of New Zealand. We were stunned by the beauty, by the easy friendliness of everyone we met and by the unique sights we saw.
We flew into Auckland and spent a couple of hours just sitting and watching the harbor with all its activity. As small town people we left the big city and drove north through the countryside to Kerikeri - Maori for "dig dig". A local resident told us it is an ancient piece of permanent farmland that was eventually settled. It is a quiet town nestled on a bay. The water was a perfect blue. From there we drove north to Cape Reinga - the Cape of Leaping - where the souls of the dead leap into the afterlife. Standing on the cliff we saw one of the many highlights of our trip - waves traveling both east and west towards each other about half a mile out to sea just breaking for no apparent reason. It is precisely the point where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet. What a sight.
The next highlight was Ninety Mile Beach. You need an off-roader to get the thrill of driving at speed through the surf on a beach we pretty much had all to ourselves. We clocked thirty miles acting like teenagers.
Rotorua was our next stop and is a must-see location. The hot springs, the boiling mud, the sulphur in the air make this place totally unique. We had never experienced anything like it. To get the most out of your stay, visitors must book a hotel room with a hot tub. To relax in a naturally-heated pool of hot water, surrounded by beautiful trees in the privacy of your own walled garden is amazing.
Traveling is easy, booking hotel rooms is easy, the lifestyle is easy and the sights are unbelievable.
New Zealand Trip
I traveled to New Zealand in 2006 with a private group led by a professor at a local college. The trip lasted 21 days and was filled with memories I will keep for a lifetime. We toured Rotarua, a small rural town located on the north island. We watched a sheep show where performers showed all different types of sheep, including the Merino sheep, which NZ is known for. The performers were entertaining, giving information about the sheep and even shearing one live! It was very informative and enjoyable.
On the south island we stayed in Christchurch for 3 days. A bustling city, Christchurch had everything from modern hotels and bars to outside marketplaces and great eateries. I highly recommend Sol Square, a fun and hip square in the heart of Christchurch. There are open air restaurants as well as live music. Get dinner at the Fish and Chip Shop; best fish and chips in NZ! Downtown Christchurch has a stunning cathedral as well as an outdoor art fair/market. Do yourself a favor and check out what the vendors are selling!
Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world, and visitors can do everything from base jump and bungee jump to ride in a jet boat. This is also the site of the Remarkables mountain range, which we remembered from Lord of the Rings. We went to a restaurant which was atop a mountain and had to take a gondola to the top. Stunning views of the mountains, harbor and sunset. Our dinner included a lot of seafood and a light as air pavlova. What a great trip!
Off the beaten path
35 miles around the island. Best transport is via motorcycle. Old time movie theater in town with wooden bleacher seats. Double feature with intermission. Airlines fly into capitol twice a week. Land on single runway, turn around and taxi back to terminal.
New Zealand Marvel
14 day escorted bus tour of north and south New Zealand. Absolutely amazing!! The tour company was first class in every way.
I highly recommend AAT Kings tour company.
Highlights include Franz Josef Glacier, Queenstown, Te Anau, Dunedin, Omarama Christchurch, Picton, Wellington Rotorua and Auckland.
Most tours were included in the price.
Hotels were centrally located.
Meals were very good.
Option excursions were exceptional but expensive.
Friendliest place on earth
Queenstown is not to be missed, beautiful and so much to do, perfect weather. Christchurch is heartbreakingly gorgeous as it rebuilds from the earthquake. Pancake rocks should be on the list, as well as Milford Sound. And go to Marlborough region for a refreshing glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The north island is nice but it's the south that I would return to.