Land of Superlatives, laid back locals and Lord of the Rings scenery, New Zealand is one of the world’s top tourist destinations these days, and with unbelievable natural beauty, delightful weather and the opportunity to do more outdoor pursuits than you can possibly imagine, it’s easy to see why. Bustling but cool cities, magnificent mountains, gorgeous beaches, excellent skiing and death-defying bungee-jumps all contribute to the irresistible appeal of this fabulous place.
Auckland: New Zealand’s largest city is a busy but relaxed place with loads of yachts, museums and things to do.
Wellington: the windy capital is a lovely mix of city living and natural beauty.
Queenstown: the sweeping mountains are home to amazing adventure sports in summer, fantastic skiing in winter and breathtaking views all year round.
Kaikoura: sample unbelievable seafood and go whale-watching in this delightful coastal town.
Mount Cook National Park: dominated by New Zealand’s highest mountain, this national park is home to some of the country’s most magnificent sights.
There is so much to see and do in New Zealand that you could conceivably spend a year or two exploring its attractions, but for the more budget and time conscious traveler, two to three weeks should give you enough time to see a great deal.
Hang out in exciting but relaxing Auckland for a few days.
Check out the ‘windy city’ of Wellington, New Zealand’s chilled-out capital.
Enjoy the stunning beaches, hot springs and majestic forests on Great Barrier Island.
Ski in winter or just hang loose in summer and enjoy the views in beautiful Queenstown.
Go whale-watching in Kaikoura, an unforgettable experience.
Exploring the South Island, partying in Queensland and hiking in Fjordland.
Sailing in the Bay of Islands
Tramping the volcanic mountains near Lake Taupo.
Be inspired by the majesty of the scenery in Mount Cook National Park.
Take a walk or two though the Otago Peninsula, full of the most amazing wildlife such as blue penguins and sea lions.
New Zealand is generally safe for tourists, but it pays to be careful with your valuables. If you value your life, do not make any disparaging remarks about the locals’ beloved Rugby Union team the All Blacks, or their cricket side for that matter. The inner cities can get a bit boisterous at night so if you’re not up for the possibility of a boozy fight, stay away during the small hours. Sunscreen is essential in New Zealand as the sunlight has a very high level of ultraviolet radiation. Be respectful of the Maori culture and ceremonies at all times.
New Zealand has several major airports, but the main ones are Auckland and Christchurch. Flights arrive from Australia and Asia daily and bizarrely, from Argentina. Once inside, you can utilize the slightly slow and expensive trains or take one of the cheap and frequent domestic flights which run between most major cities. Driving in New Zealand is a very pleasant and potentially rewarding experience making hiring a car and getting around by car a good idea. The bus and coach networks are pretty reliable and cheap.
What’s cool: Clean air, movie set type scenery, the All Blacks rugby team, a Maori hungi and hakka, zorbing, river sledging along the Rangitaiki, jetboating, skiing or boarding in fabulous Queenstown, partying in Auckland, bungee jumping off the Kawarau River Bridge, swimming and surfing on any of the amazing beaches, and swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura.
What’s not: Having too many choices of what to do and going slightly insane trying to decide, getting drenched in one of the occasional chaotic storms, realizing you’ve forgotten your sunscreen and baking gently but painfully in the blazing sun, questioning the supremacy of the All Blacks and getting menacingly stared down or worse.
New Zealand’s climate is warm and sunny with occasional showers throughout the year. The North Island is subtropical and enjoys milder winters (June to September) and summers (November to February) which are more humid than the South Island. The South Island is a bit cooler, and is noticeably colder in winter. Generally, there is more rainfall and humidity in the west of the country. While the weather is usually pleasant year-round, it is possible to experience all four seasons in one day in New Zealand, so be prepared for anything.
New Zealand has a multitude of annual events to keep you entertained.
February: the biennial International Festival of the Arts in Wellington is New Zealand’s largest cultural celebration.
March: take in the glamour of the big race during Auckland Cup Week.
May: hold on to your sides as Auckland and Wellington co-host the New Zealand International Comedy Festival.
June/July: the Maori New Year is celebrated all over the country.
November: the Royal New Zealand Show and the New Zealand Cup take place in Christchurch and make an exciting time to visit.
Whale-watching: marvel at the size of these gentle giants in Kaikoura.
Bungee jumping: cheat death to your heart’s content in the country that invented this daft but top-notch pastime.
Skiing and snowboarding: beautiful powder and bright sunshine make a brilliant winter sports combination.
Shopping: beautiful jewelry and stunning Maori arts and crafts are some of the shopping highlights.
Walking: stroll around and take in the unbelievable scenery in any of the country’s superb national parks.
Eating in New Zealand is a pretty relaxed experience. There’s loads of lamb as you’d expect and a great variety of seafood. Fish and chips (fush and chups as the locals call it) are a staple fast-food here. All over the country, barbeque areas are available for public use so grab one and a few ‘stubbies’ when it’s hot and while away the day in style. As you might expect, New Zealand has a wide variety of restaurants offering cuisine from all four corners of the globe. Beer is a big seller across the country and the export of the usually delicious New Zealand wine is now a huge industry.