New Zealand, also called “God’s Own Country”, the “Paradise of the Pacific”, and the “Land of the Long White Cloud”, was the last significant land mass on earth to be settled by humans. It’s a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty: jagged mountains, rolling pasture land, steep fjords, pristine trout-filled lakes, raging rivers, scenic beaches, and active volcanic zones. These islands are one of Earth’s most peculiar bioregions, inhabited by flightless birds seen nowhere else such as a nocturnal, burrowing parrot called the kakapo and kiwi. Kiwi are not only one of the national symbols but also how New Zealanders call themselves.
New Zealand ranks #117/141 for price competitiveness in Justraveling’s Alternative Travel Index. Average travel costs per day: $73 (backpacker) – $246 (mid-range). Cheapest cities in New Zealand: Rotorua, Hamilton, Wellington. Most expensive cities: Queenstown, Christchurch, Tauranga.
Best time to go
Feb-Apr and Sep-Nov are the best time to go to New Zealand. The country has a temperate climate, and although the weather is changeable, there is certainly more sunshine and warm temperatures to enjoy during the summer period.
Places to visit
Nelson is surrounded by incredible coastal and mountain scenery, three stunning national parks, vineyards, and orchards. Culturally thriving, safe and friendly, this compact coastal city enjoys New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours.
Fiordland National Park, covering over 1.2 million hectares, is New Zealand’s largest national park and one of the largest in the world. The area is so remote and unexplored that some speculate that species thought extinct in New Zealand may still live in the park. The main visitor information centre is in Te Anau.
Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s first national park and consists of three active volcanos and two major ski fields. The mountains at the heart of the park have cultural and religious significance for the Maori people and symbolize the spiritual links between this community and its environment.
Kaikoura is the perfect place to enjoy both the wonders of the magnificent Pacific Ocean and the tall, majestic mountains. Situated about half way between Christchurch and Blenheim, the area is famed for its seafood (mainly crayfish).
The Bay of Islands is a popular fishing, sailing and water sports destination. The bay itself is an irregularly-shaped 16 km-wide, drowned valley system and a natural harbour. It contains 144 islands and numerous peninsulas and inlets.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is renowned for its natural environment, made of high peaks, lakes, and glaciers. Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in Australasia, and was a training ground for New Zealand’s explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, the first climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953.
Alternative vacation ideas & things to do
Te Araroa Trail is New Zealand’s long distance tramping route, stretching the length of the country from Cape Reinga to Bluff. The trail has approximately 300 sections and crosses all the most spectacular New Zealand landscapes.
The Abel Tasman Coast Track extends for 60 km at the very top of the South Island winding through golden beaches, impressive rock formations, and lush native bush and wildlife. It is classified as one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
New Zealand has an extensive network of safe and beautiful cycle touring routes. Just pick one (or two) by completing a simple and quick survey, but be prepared for any weather, and to experience four seasons in one day.
Train travel is a great way to see both the North and South Islands. KiwiRail Scenic Journeys offers three main long distance and scenic routes: Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific, and TranzAlpine. All trains have outdoor viewing platforms and panoramic lounges, which is a plus for photographers.
Help protect New Zealand’s unique ecological heritage by joining one of these environmental and wildlife conservation programs across the country.
More active travel ideas for your next trip can be found in the Hiking Series. Check out these five routes to enjoy an awesome day hike in New Zealand.
This Travel Guide is a work in progress. Improve it with a Kiwi touch!
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