New Zealand: Land of the Long White Cloud
New Zealand is filled with wonderful surprises – scenery beyond belief, an energetic Maori culture, super-friendly locals, and a tourism infrastructure equal to that of any country in the world.
Kia ora, or welcome to New Zealand, the “Youngest Country on Earth.” New Zealand is an incredibly popular destination and sits at the top of many travellers’ wish lists thanks to its outlandish scenery, fabulous festivals, superb food and wine, magical outdoor experiences, mainstream Maori culture and a real-life Middle-earth experience.
A holiday to New Zealand will be like no other – it will leave you with memories of rampaging outdoor activities, world-class food, wine and beer, and chilled-out locals. But your most sparkling recollections will come courtesy of New Zealand’s natural splendour – there are few countries in the world as diverse, unspoiled and so very photogenic.
New Zealand’s two main islands are more than 1,000 miles long and together encompass nearly every environment on the planet: glaciers, white-sand beaches, fjords, rainforests, alpine forest and lakes, agricultural plains, and volcanic craters and cones.
Fourteen miles separate the North and South islands, over the rough Cook Strait, but the two islands are worlds apart. North Island, with its golden beaches, ancient kauri forests, lakes, volcanoes, thermal areas, and large cities is the more densely populated. South Island, with its snow-capped mountains, glaciers, lush native bush, and fiords, is the larger of the two, proudly called “the mainland” by residents. It’s also the more scenic of the two with its colourful beaches, sunny vineyards and the Southern Alps.
Top Reasons to Visit New Zealand
Deep blue lakes, alpine peaks, green valleys – the scenery in New Zealand is breathtaking. So, pack your backpack and put on your hiking boots and head to NZ.
From the Bay of Islands’ pristine beaches in the north to the soaring pinnacles of Milford Sound in the south, New Zealand is a stunner. Its unique landscape is packed with magnificent and diverse scenery: craggy coastlines, sweeping beaches, primeval forests, snow-capped mountains, glacier-fed lakes, geysers and volcanoes. It is this unique scenery that has made New Zealand one of the best hiking destinations on the planet.
The South Island is the stunner: the colourful beaches, inlets, and sunny vineyards of the north give way to the Southern Alps. While the snow-covered Southern Alps and glacial-formed lakes and fiords provide spectacular scenery on the South Island, the extensive volcanic and thermal activity on the North Island central plateau is its main drawcard.
Not-to-be-missed natural landscapes:
THE GREAT WALKS
Nine famous trails, including the Milford Track, entice hikers from all over the world to New Zealand’s scenic shores. So, put on your hiking boots and choose your walking track.
While New Zealand is covered with walking tracks, its nine official ‘Great Walks’ are the country’s most renowned hiking tracks throughout some of the best scenery in the North and South islands. These walks take travellers past glaciers, along the coasts, through volcanic areas, and deep into pristine alpine wilderness. The most famous, Milford Track, is commonly called “the finest walk in the world”.
However hundreds of other tracks and routes crisscross the country, ranging from gruelling week-long, self-guided adventures to mellow, half-hour strolls through native bush. Often on these tracks you’ll have the scenery to yourself. The range of difficulty and variety of terrain means almost anyone can experience tramping (hiking) in New Zealand.
The nine Great Walks are:
Bungy jumping, jetboating and sky diving are some of the adventure sports adrenaline junkies can enjoy in New Zealand. So, are you ready for the time-of-your-life?
In the last two decades, New Zealand has gained a well-deserved reputation for high-adrenaline activities. The adventurous can rappel into a cave, raft through underground rivers, or go bungy jumping and jetboating. While bungy, skydiving, jetboating and paragliding are all well established, keep an eye out for weird-and-wonderful activities like zorbing (rolling down a hill inside a transparent plastic ball), quad-biking, cave rafting, river sledging (white-water body boarding) and blokarting (windsurfing on wheels). Queenstown, located on the South Island is the capital of adventure sports.
Best places to experience NZ’s adventure activities:
The Māori culture is a big part of the New Zealand culture and lifestyle. Spend some time getting to understand their native traditions shared in craft workshops and ceremonial feasts.
Māori are New Zealand’s tangata whenua (‘people of the land’), and the Māori relationship with the land has developed over hundreds of years of occupation. A visit to New Zealand is incomplete without experience Māori culture first-hand. See how Māori culture impresses itself on contemporary Kiwi life: across New Zealand you can hear Māori language, watch traditional Māori song, dance and usually a blood-curdling haka (war dance), visit marae (meeting houses) or join in a hangi (Māori feast). If you’re looking for a Maori experience in New Zealand, you’ll find it in performance, in conversation, in an art gallery, or on a tour.
Best places to learn about Māori culture:
SUPERB WINE REGIONS
Hawkes Bay’s Bordeaux blends and Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blancs are some of the best wines in New Zealand. Wine lovers should follow the wine trail from north to south.
New Zealand wines are some of the best and most affordable in the world and visitors to New Zealand who have a great passion for wine can follow a wine trail that will take them right through the country from North to South. Within each wine region, there are numerous wineries that welcome visitors at the cellar door, and many have excellent restaurants too. More adventurous travellers will find cycle tours within the regions, or can sign up for guided tours in minvans organised by wine experts.
In the South Island, Marlborough is the country’s largest grape-growing area, producing more than 70% of New Zealand’s wine, including some world-class sauvignon blancs. Auckland and Waiheke Island are known for their boutique vineyards, while the East Coast area of Hawke’s Bay is one of the oldest.
Best places to taste New Zealand’s famous wines:
New Zealand Climate
New Zealand’s climate ranges from subtropical in the northern North Island to temperate/cool in the South Island. Whatever the season, it is essential to bring umbrellas and waterproofs; a typical Auckland day, for example, veers between periods of showers and sun; and on the South Island, Fiordland and the west coast have very high rainfall – Milford Sound gets more than 6m (20ft) of rain a year.
Summer days are generally warm and pleasant in most of the regions. Winters can be cold in the central and southern North Island and coastal districts of the South Island, and can be severe in the central regions of the South Island. Alpine weather is notoriously changeable, so those planning on visiting mountainous areas should bring warm clothing, even in summer.
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New Zealand receives two waves of visitors. Summer (Dec-Feb) is the busiest time of year, with the bulk of international arrivals blending with New Zealanders enjoying their summer holidays. In winter (Jul-Sep), over a dozen ski fields are the focus of attention for both New Zealanders and Australians.
Climate-wise, summer is the best time to visit New Zealand. The focus at this time of the year is all outdoors – camping, tramping, fishing, golfing, swimming, surfing, kayaking and mountain climbing. The summer season is dominated by long, warm days, everything is open, and there’s plenty to do and see. Unfortunately, it’s also very busy, especially from Christmas through the end of January, which is the summer school holiday season. Spring (Sep-Nov) and autumn (Mar-May) are excellent times to visit New Zealand – you’ll avoid the crowds and you don’t need to have a firm itinerary.
Ski fields begin opening for the winter season (Jun-Aug) in June, although conditions are best July through early September. Winter is officially over at the end of the August calendar month, but some ski resorts stay open into October, including Whakapapa on the North Island.
Where is New Zealand located?
New Zealand lies in the South Pacific Ocean, 1,600 km (990 miles) to the east of Australia. Comprising two large islands and a number of smaller ones, its total land area is 270,530 sq km (104,420 sq miles), making it comparable in size to Japan or the British Isles. The main North and South islands are separated by Cook Strait, 20 km (12 miles) wide at its narrowest point. Two-thirds of the country’s 4.3 million people live in Auckland, the country’s largest city and the world’s most populous Polynesian centre. New Zealand’s capital is Wellington, at the southernmost tip of the North Island.