New Zealand is a country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean consisting of two main islands, covered by volcanic mountains and glaciers, and another thirty smaller ones off the main coast and each with unique natural characteristics. The country has deep roots in Maori culture and art that are present in every corner and preserved by ongoing efforts by the government and the people of New Zealand.
Its capital is Wellington, sitting on the North Island under Mt. Victoria hill, and has a central position for country explorers to embark north or south to explore many national parks, go for epic hiking trails and enjoy breathtaking landscapes and scenery.
New Zealand became even more famous since the filming of the Lord of the Ring movies where the majestic nature of the country became world-known. Hobbiton movie set still attracts hordes of movies fans from around the world, every day.
New Zealand is especially suitable for adventurous travelers, who would enjoy wilderness hikes and active volcanoes climbing, sailing, skiing, scuba diving, and always available bungee jumping. It looks like New Zealanders (who proudly call themselves ‘Kiwis’, by their famous bird) would put bungee ropes on every high instance, whether it’s a bridge, a cliff, or a TV tower.
New Zealand is a scarcely populated country and even with so many tourists around throughout the year, you will enjoy less crowded experiences to almost every attraction.
1. Quick facts
- Official name: New Zealand
- Capital: Wellington
- Country population: 4.7 million
- Area: 270,534 sq km (104,454 sq miles)
- Major languages: English, Maori
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 80 years (men), 83 years (women)
- Currency: New Zealand dollar
2. Where is it?
New Zealand is part of Oceania and it is located southeast of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. It consists of two major islands (among others) – North and South and doesn’t have any land neighbors. It’s a relatively small country – it is 75th by size in the world. It is also known to be very underpopulated as there are only 4.7 million inhabitants.
3. Visa requirements
As with many countries, your passport must be valid for at least three months after you complete your visit to New Zealand, so please plan ahead. New Zealand has a visa waiver agreements with many countries and if you are a citizen of any of them you can stay in New Zealand for u to three months.
Most EU countries, the US, Australia, Canada, South American countries, and Japan do not require visas for tourism.
4. Getting there
Getting to New Zealand is the best via one of the international airports: Auckland (AKL), Wellington (WLG), or Christchurch (CRC).
Here are some flight offers to New Zealand from the US:
- Honolulu — Auckland from $271
- Los Angeles — Auckland from $356
- Honolulu — Wellington from $399
- Denver — Auckland from $480
- San Francisco — Blenheim from $563
- New York — Auckland from $595
- Saint Louis — Auckland from $671
- Los Angeles — Christchurch from $691
- New York — Wellington from $756
- San Francisco — Auckland from $761
More cheap flights and hotels in New Zealand:
You can create your travel itinerary for New Zealand or elsewhere in the world.
5. Where to stay in New Zealand
New Zealand offers a wide range of accommodation types, that we are sure will satisfy the needs of all possible visitors. There are standard hotels and rentals, luxury lodges, holiday parks and campgrounds, winery accommodations, farm stays, and even historic homes.
There are also very unique accommodations, such as old churches or post offices offered as lodging solutions, so definitely covering all bases.
It is up to you and your budget and personal preferences. For budget (and young) travelers, there is plenty of cheap accommodation to choose from in hostels.
For the latest offers on hotels from our providers use the search form below:
6. Moving Around
For moving between major cities, local flights are the cheap and the fastest option. For a cheaper option, you can rent a car or take a bus. If you have time to enjoy trips between cities you should take a train and enjoy the scenery.
Lots of scenic locations, especially fjords, are accessible only via helicopter or by boat, so these are also your forms of transport. Commuting between two main islands is possible with regular ferry lines.
Moving within larger cities such as Auckland or Wellington is possible by bus or taxi, and renting a bike is also a good option.
7. Food in New Zealand
New Zealand is a country of immigrants, who brought with them their own national recipes, adopted them to and influenced them by indigenous Maori’s food, and created some unique New Zealand dishes.
Since New Zealand is an island nation, food is very much reflected that in having lots of fish and seafood. Nevertheless, one of the traditional Maori dishes is Hangi, slow-cooked meat and vegetable dish that is nowadays prepared only for special occasions as it takes a whole day to prepare it.
Crayfish is a very popular seafood dish, although it can be pricey. Kina is a type of sea urchin that is considered a delicacy in New Zealand. Whitebait fritters are very unique dishes, small immature fish prepared in a way of an omelet. Kumara is a sweet potato, usually served with hangi.
Paua is another very New Zealand food, it’s basically sea snails, served either raw or cooked in a variety of recipes. Roast lamb is not actually genuinely New Zealand’s dish, but since the country is one of the biggest exporters of lamb meat, this is also a very popular meal. Various types of pies, with cheese, meat, and even fish fillings are also part of the regular New Zealand menu.
On a sweet menu, we have famous Pavlova, meringue cake whose origin is disputed between Australia and New Zealand, Jaffas, sugar-coated chocolate balls with orangey flavor, and Hokey Pokey Ice Cream, caramelized honeycomb. Enjoy!
How safe is New Zealand for tourists and to move around? New Zealand is very safe; it is ranked among the top 3 countries in the world (on various indexes). Tourist areas are generally safe, both for single tourists and groups or families, but extra caution for pickpocketers is advised.
New Zealand has very affordable prices for tourists, meaning food, drinks, and transportation are very reasonably priced. Accommodation prices will vary depending on your preferences, but you can get fairly cheap accommodation as well.
Prices throughout New Zealand can be different, larger cities are more expensive, Auckland and Wellington are the priciest places to visit.
New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere so seasons are inverted to the ones on the northern side of the planet. When there is summer in the US, New Zealand is in the winter season and vice versa. New Zealand has a moderate climate with normal rainfall and no extreme ranges of temperatures.
11. Best time to visit
New Zealand is a year-round destination for any traveler as there is so much to see and do, but the best times based on weather are between September and November, which is springtime.
12. Money matters
The official currency is New Zealand Dollar (NZD). Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but please do check card charges from your bank in foreign countries before the trip. It is always good to have some cash on you, especially when leaving a tip in the restaurant or for a taxi ride.
There are ATMs and banks on every corner and cash withdrawals are in NZ Dollars with a fee. Major banks don’t charge ATM fees to foreigners, but privately operated ATMs may sometimes charge high fees. However, the machine should warn you about the charge so you have a choice to cancel the transaction before committing to it.
13. What to see in New Zealand?
We are listing here close to fifty interesting attractions to see in New Zealand and this, of course, is just a small sample of what you can see and do there.
Milford Sound. Picturesque fjord located in the southwest of South Island. Offering spectacular views of mountains and waterfalls and accessible via boat and helicopter tours.
Aoraki or Mount Cook. The highest peak in New Zeeland, located in the center-west of South Island. Popular for trekking and mountain climbing.
Waitomo Caves. Expansive cave system near Waitomo village located in the North. Lit by glow-warms and some of them, like Ruakiri Cave, have a waterfall inside.
Fiordland National Park. Located in the southwest of South Island, this national park encompasses Milford Sound, Doubtful Fjord, Mitre Peak, and Mirror Lakes.
Bay of Islands. More than 140 islands of various sizes and shapes are located off the north coast of North Island. Popular with sailing, diving, wildlife watching, and Maori historic sites with artifacts.
Abel Tasman National Park. Located in the northern peak of South Island, this national park is featuring sandy beaches with granite cliffs, forested hills, and a famous coastal hiking trail.
Fox Glacier. Originally known as Te Moeka o Tuawe, this 13km long glacier is located within Westland Tai Poutini National Park on South Island. Popular with climbers and hikers.
Tongariro National Park. Located in the center of North Island, this park is famous for having three active volcanoes: Tongariro, Ngauruhoe (A.k.a. Mount Doom in “The Lord of the Rings” movies), and Ruapehu. It is also home to several historical sites important to the Maori people.
Sky Tower. Landmark communication tower in Auckland, 328 meters high, offers panoramic views from the high-end revolving restaurant and, wait for it, bungee jumping.
Franz Josef Glacier. Located in the west of South Island, this large glacier is accessible either by long, 8-hours hike or by helicopter.
Waiheke Island. The second-largest in the Hauraki Gulf, about 21 km away from Auckland. Famous for vineyards, wine tasting, and zip-lining activities.
Lake Wanaka. Located in the South Island next to the namesake small town, this lake is popular with boating, swimming, and fishing. It’s the 4th largest in New Zealand and about 300 meters deep.
Wai-O-Tapu. Active geothermal reserve in the North Island, famous for its colorful pools of water.
Lake Taupo. The largest lake in New Zealand, located in the central North Island, is actually in the crater of a volcano. Popular for boating and fishing and other activates around the surrounding mountains.
Lake Tekapo. A UNESCO recognized area with lake and namesake settlement. The glacial lake is famous for star gazing activity.
Mount Tongariro. A compound volcano in the Taupo Volcanic Zone of the North Island of New Zealand, southwest of Lake Taupo. Part of Tongariro National Park.
Lake Wakatipu. Clearwater lake stretched along with the mountain’s scenery. Famous for fishing and boating, located in the South Island.
Hot Water Beach. Located on Mercury Bay on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula in the North Island, this beach is famous for hot springs.
Huka Falls. Located on the Waikato River that flows out of Lake Taupo, this magnificent and powerful waterfall has a flow of 220,000 liters per second. There is a small footbridge over for great views.
Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve. Located on the Coromandel Peninsula in the North Island, this marine area features secluded bays and beaches, popular for boating and snorkeling.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. A rugged land of ice and rock, with 19 peaks over 3,000 meters together with New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook. Located in the South Island and is popular for hiking and scenic views.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Famous hiking track in Tongariro National Park in North Island. Popular with tourists for day tracks.
Milford Track. Famous hiking trail through fiord country in the southwest of South Island. Once described as the finest walk on Earth, this 54 km route goes around fiords, forests, waterfalls, and mountains.
Te Puia. Maori village with a museum and scenic geothermal geyser. Located next to Lake Rotorua on the North Island.
Routeburn Track. World-famous, 32 km track in the South Island in the Fiordland National Park. Scenic routes with mountains and lakes.
Mount Ruapehu. The largest active volcano in New Zealand, located on the North Island within Tongariro National Park. It has three peaks and features hiking and ski opportunities.
Doubtful Sound. Largest fjord in Fiordland National Park, accessible via boat cruises, famous for dolphins and other marine life.
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. National museum and art gallery, this is New Zealand’s main museum exhibiting native and colonial culture and natural history as well. Located in Wellington, known as ‘Te Papa’, meaning ‘Our Place’.
Mount Aspiring National Park. Located north of Fordland National Park in the South Island, this rugged national park with glaciers and peaks became world known when it was used as a location for the filming of the Lord of the Rings movies.
Rangitoto Island. The youngest volcano in New Zealand, formed only 600 years ago, is located off the coast from Auckland on a circular island five kilometers in diameter. Hiking and birdwatching destination for many tourists.
Mount Taranaki. Located on the west coast of North Island, this Iconic, snow-covered active volcano peak is popular for trekking and scenic mountain views.
Ninety Mile Beach. Located on the northernmost coast of North Island, this long beach features sand dunes, cruises, and 4-wheel drive vehicles tours.
Lake Te Anau. The second largest lake in New Zealand is located southwest of South Island. Popular with boating, hiking, and bird watching.
Marlborough Sounds. Located in the northern part of South Island, these sea drowned valleys are popular with sailing, dolphin sightings, fishing, and wine tasting.
Polynesian Spa. Lakeside spa facility based on natural geothermal sources. Located in Rotorua on the North Island.
Coronet Peak Ski Area. Ski resort, family-friendly, offering skiing and sledding, restaurants, and shops. Located just north of Queenstown on the South Island.
Auckland War Memorial Museum. Museum in Auckland exhibiting military and New Zealand history.
Nelson Lakes National Park. Located in the northern part of the South Island, this large park consists of two lakes, Rotoiti and Rotoroa with surrounding valleys and mountain ranges. Popular for camping, trekking, and fishing.
Tasman Glacier. The longest glacier in New Zealand, located in Aoraki/Mount Cook slopes
Larnach Castle. Privately owned and built in the 19th century, this Victorian-era home and gardens are located in the Otago Peninsula near the town of Dunedin.
Kepler Track. A 60 km circular trekking track that travels through the landscape of the South Island and is recommended for experienced trekkers.
Lake Matheson. Located in the center-west of the South Island, this lake is famous for its mirror reflections on surrounding mountains.
Mount Ngauruhoe. Active volcano and the youngest in the Tongariro National Park. Popular with hikers and climbers and offers spectacular panoramic views.
Agrodome. Working farm near Rotorua in the North Island, offering family tours and shows.
Whakaari / White Island. An active volcanic island with guided walking tours into the crater. Located off the coast in Bay of Plenty in the North Island.
International Antarctic Centre. Located near Christchurch, this is a popular tourist attraction with Antarctic simulations, rides, and animals such as penguins and huskies.
14. Interesting facts about New Zealand
Here are some interesting facts about this amazing country:
- The Maori name of New Zealand is Aotearoa which means the land of the long white cloud.
- There are no snakes in the country.
- It was the first major nation to have universal suffrage. Since 1893 all male and female citizens have legally been allowed to vote.
We hope you enjoyed reading about New Zealand!