Widely held to be one of the most breathtaking countries on the planet, New Zealand is a phenomenal travel destination. The rugged mountains and remote valleys that thrust the destination into the world's spotlight through The Lord of the Rings trilogy tell only part of the story – you'll also find beaches, fjords, lakes and gorgeous swathes of forest, not to mention age-old Maori culture, forward-looking cities and, famously, a world-class array of outdoor activities. Not only does it pack a punch as hard as an All Black tackle, but it's also incredibly easy to travel around. What's not to love?
Split into two main landmasses – the North and South Islands –New Zealand is a deceptively diverse and complicated destination that rewards both first-time and repeat visitors. The North Island is less visually dramatic than its southern counterpart, but it is home to around two thirds of the country's inhabitants. The majority of the major urban centres are here, including the capital, Wellington, and the increasingly dynamic city of Auckland. But nature is still a major player, thanks to volcanoes, thermal regions and the magnificent Bay of Islands.
The South Island is home to far fewer people, but boasts the country's most spectacular scenery. Empty beaches, soaring mountain ranges, glaciers, fjords, wide-open expanses – they're all here. Outdoor enthusiasts can take their pick from tramping (hiking), cycling, climbing, white-water rafting, caving, zorbing, sky-diving, bungee jumping and more. Christchurch, a city bouncing back with extraordinary creativity from earthquake damage, is also here.
New Zealand has also developed into one of the cleanest and greenest countries in the world. There are 14 national parks throughout the country and almost a quarter of New Zealand is protected land. What else? There's wildlife, wine and a cultural resurgence that's seeing local films, literature and art gaining more and more attention.
The country's overall blend of Maori and European culture provide New Zealand with a unique character – and its landscapes provide it with a unique setting.
When To Go
New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere and so December and January in New Zealand is hot and dry. Be sure to book your accommodation in advance during this period and the New Zealanders are also taking their holidays at this time.
The North and South Islands have weather patterns of their own with the north being subtropical with daily showers and quite a wet season during the spring.
The south can get cold during the winter and hot during the summer. The western half of the South Island, too, can get drenched with over 100 inches of rain while the east only suffers a third of this.
You can really travel to New Zealand at any time of the year, however. No matter the weather, the sense of adventure will see you through and remember to bring waterproof clothing, some Gortex lined boots and you can trek in any weather.
- You should never trek alone, instead seek a specialist tour operator whose local knowledge will be invaluable.
- Though some of the mountains are not necessarily high when compared to other mainland mountains, be considerate of your health and breathing. AMS (altitude sickness) can hit before you realize it. If it does, descend as quickly as possible.
- Be sure to use a tour operator who will know the best treks and the safest routes per the season.
- Give yourself plenty of time to explore and truly experience what New Zealand has to offer. Its nature is as natural as can be found anywhere on Earth. Enjoy it with plenty of time.
- Give yourself plenty of time to travel from one place to another. The roads are often narrow and getting from A to B takes longer than back home. One hundred kilometers, for example, on the coastal roads can take over two hours.
Classic Itineraries – The Great Walks
- Walkaremoana Track
- Waikaremoana Track
- Tongariro Northern Circuit
- Abel Tasman Coast Track
- Heaphy Track
- Routeburn Track
- Milford Track
- Rakiura Track
- Kepler Track