New Zealand Travel Guide

New Zealand, 'Land of the Long White Cloud', is a small, sparsely populated country consisting of two major islands, North and South Island, and a scattering of smaller ones. Despite its small size New Zealand is crammed with magnificent natural beauty and has an incredible amount to offer its visitors. Fresh air, breathtaking scenery and outdoor activities are the main attractions of New Zealand, with a tremendously friendly, honest and helpful population, colloquially nicknamed after their country's distinct symbol, the kiwi bird.

The North Island has dramatic volcanic landscapes and highly active thermal areas, long stretches of beautiful beaches and ancient indigenous forests. The South Island has a slower pace of life dominated by the magnificent snow-covered Southern Alps and the spectacular scenery of the southern waterways of the fjord lands, with glaciers, deep lakes and verdant forests.

The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 was New Zealand's founding document, an attempt to settle disputes between the European settlers and the Maoris, conceding the country to British rule while guaranteeing the Maori people possession of their land and cultural identity. Today, integration has been replaced by a policy of upholding two different cultures alongside each other. Their shared love of sport, most notably the revered national sport of rugby union, and their enthusiasm for adventure and the outdoors is the unifying factor among the whole population.

New Zealand offers a huge variety of activities, from bungee jumping to skiing, swimming with dolphins, scenic flights and boat cruises on the fjords, as well as several world famous walking trails. Alternatively visitors can immerse themselves in culture at the museums and galleries of Auckland and the capital Wellington in the North, and Christchurch in the south.

New Zealand is an easy and compact place in which to travel and its spectacularly dramatic landscapes alone, famous for its setting for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, makes the long trip to these southern islands more than worthwhile.

Best time to visit New Zealand

The weather in New Zealand is fairly temperate all year round, though the south of the country gets cold in the winter. The western sides of the islands tend to be very rainy, while the eastern parts are shielded from ocean winds by mountain ranges. Most locals and overseas tourists take a New Zealand holiday in December, January and February, crowding most beach destinations. The best time to visit New Zealand is in spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) when the temperatures are moderate.

What to see in New Zealand

-Take a tour of film sites from The Lord of the Rings.

-See the huge collection of Maori artefacts at the Auckland Museum.

-Watch the sun set from a yacht in the Hauraki Gulf Islands.

-Take a scenic ride in the Christchurch Gondola.

What to do in New Zealand

-Go kayaking in Milford Sound.

-Try extreme sports like bungy jumping, white-water rafting and paragliding in Queenstown.

-Go hiking on the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.

-Scuba dive in the coves of the Bay of Islands.

Getting to New Zealand

Direct flights to New Zealand are impossible to find from the UK or the US, but connecting flights with stopovers in Bangkok, Singapore or Dubai are common from the UK; US flights to New Zealand usually stop in Hawaii.

Read

Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff.

Listen

E Ipo (Prince Tui Teko) and Settle Down (Kimbra).

Watch

Whale Rider (2002) and Eagle vs Shark (2007).

Drink

New Zealand wine.

Eat

Hangi (meat cooked over heated rocks).

What to buy

Maori arts and crafts, carved jade and greenstone.

What to pack

Comfortable hiking boots; New Zealand's terrain can be challenging.

What's on in New Zealand

The Pasifika Festival celebrates Polynesian art and culture each spring. Some of the best comedians in the world gather each year in Auckland for the NZ Comedy Festival around the end of March.

Did you know?

-Wellington is the most southerly national capital in the world.

-To become a New Zealand citizen, an oath of loyalty must be sworn to Queen Elizabeth.

A final word

New Zealand's rustic blend of Western and Polynesian culture combines with its stunning scenery to attract travellers to the end of the world.

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