New Zealand is the country of natural beauty, skiing, Hobbits and pavlova. Voted the best country in the world three times running, this little cluster of islands in the Pacific has a lot to offer. Visiting in summer gives you the chance to take advantage of the many beaches, while a winter visit beckons the snowboarders and skiers.
Popular destinations in New Zealand
Auckland: A city of two harbours, surrounded by hills, this city is one of the most beautiful in New Zealand. Not just a hub of culture and beauty, it also serves as a launching point for visiting Hobbiton (in Matamata), the beautiful Bay of Islands and geographical wonder Rotorua.
Wellington: The arts capital of New Zealand, Wellington’s beautiful waterfront combined with its working harbour and easy beach access makes this an ideal starting point for exploring the country. Its proximity to Cook Straight has awarded it the moniker “The Windy City”.
Queenstown: Set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains and lakes, this is commonly noted as being the adventure sport capital of NZ. Ski, snowboard, bungee jump, jet ski and more.
Canterbury: Surrounding the South Island’s biggest city Christchurch, this area is a popular wine-making region. Fantastic camping and road trip opportunities also abound.
West Coast: Remote and sparsely populated this region is calm, peaceful and offers a variety of experiences including jet skis, glacier hiking and natural blowholes.
How to reach New Zealand
About as far away as it’s possible to be from most places, there are international airports in all major cities. Domestic flights are available to smaller towns. An airline alliance means it’s easy enough to get to New Zealand from most of North America and Europe. Cruising is also a popular way to get to NZ, with boats launching from Australia.
Getting Around: Buses are readily available to go between major cities within each island. If driving, catch the ferry between islands.
Dos and Don’ts
Don’t smoke inside: Smoking is banned in all bars, restaurants, schools, on public transport and inside public buildings. Most bars have a smokers lounge or outdoor area; make use of it or you’ll be slapped with a frown and a fine.
Don’t Tip: tipping is not customary or expected in New Zealand. If you receive exceptional service, a small tip will be appreciated but not needed.
Do be careful to follow the road rules: There are high incidences of tourist crashes so ensure that you drive on the left side of the road, keep to the speed limit and pay attention to the road signs.
Do BYO if you’re invited to a barbeque: While it’s nice to bring a bottle of wine or box of beer when you’re invited to someone’s house, if you’re going to a BBQ it’s mandatory because BBQ is just another word for a drinking session.
Do make sure you try the food: From the Bluff oysters to the Hokey Pokey ice-cream, New Zealand cuisine is extremely unique. Be sure to try a slice of pavlova, a lamington, ANZAC biscuits and a Hangi.
Do ask if you need anything: Locals are extremely helpful and willing to help if you need a bathroom, a restaurant recommendation or to now where the best bar in town is.
Accommodation ranges from a cheap backpackers for $20 a night to $200+ for the higher range, 5 star hotels.
Food prices can range from $5 takeaways or fish and chips to $40 for a main meal from a higher lever establishment. An average meal will be approximately $50 for two people. Beers are approximately $7 a pint.
Petrol prices fluctuate but hover around $1.95/litre
Domestic flights are relatively cheap if paid in advance, and busses are plentiful and will take you almost anywhere.
Top Places to Visit
There are many beautiful beaches all around New Zealand, that offer opportunities for surfing, paddle boarding and sun bathing. But slather on the sunscreen, the ozone layer is a lot thinner here. The most recommended beaches include Piha (Northland), Taylor’s Mistake (Canterbury), Ninety-Mile Beach (actually only 88miles long), Raglan and Punakaiki.
Wander around the old movie set and discover the real Middle Earth. Take a two hour guided tour on beautiful private farmland. See the Green Dragon Inn, a replica of the Inn featured in both the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films as well as other sets designed especially for the movies.
The Waitomo glow worm caves are a major tourist attraction and when else would you get the chance to take a boat ride through a cave system and emerge in a serene grotto, glow-worms twinkling like stars all around. If you need a faster pace, you can also raft through and visit some of the lesser-seen corners of the caves.
Abel Tasman National Park
Located at the top of the South Island, this national park encapsulates forests, rivers, bays and islands. Also offers up some excellent bird-watching opportunities and some fantastic hiking and camping opportunities.
About as close to the bottom of the world as it’s possible to go, this little island off the bottom of the South Island can be reached by boat or plane. Take the chance to visit the pub quiz that attracted royalty and try some of the freshest seafood around.