New Zealand

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New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty: jagged mountains, rolling pasture land, steep fiords, pristine trout-filled lakes, raging rivers, scenic beaches, and active volcanic zones. These islands form a unique bioregion inhabited by flightless birds seen nowhere else, such as kakapo and kiwi. New Zealanders have adopted the kiwi as a national symbol, and have even taken the word Kiwi as a name for themselves. These islands are sparsely populated, particularly away from the North Island, but easily accessible. There are sparklingly modern visitor facilities, and transport networks are reasonably developed. New Zealand often adds an adventure twist to nature: it's the original home of jet-boating through shallow gorges, and bungy jumping off anything high enough to give a thrill. Māori culture continues to play an important part in everyday life and government and corporate symbolism with abundant opportunities for visitors to understand and experience the history and present day forms of Māori life. (less...) (more...)

Population: 4,365,113 people
Area: 267,710 km2
Highest point: 3,754 m
Coastline: 15,134 km
Life expectancy: 80.82 years
GDP per capita: $30,200
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About New Zealand

Climate

New Zealand weather is influenced by fast moving weather systems and the strong westerly winds – often referred to as the roaring forties – that predominate over southern parts of the country and seas to the south. There tends to be a seven day cycle associated with these westerlies as a cold front sweeps over the country associated with a couple of days of rain. These westerlies are often disrupted by large high pressure systems or by storm systems.

During the summer and early autumn months from about December to April, the westerlies tend to move south giving more settled weather. Always be prepared for a change though. Also, during this time, weather systems from the tropics can make their presence felt, mainly over the North Island, with a period of warm wet windy weather.

In the winter, May to August, the weather tends to be more changeable. Cold fronts often bring a period of rain to western areas followed by a cold wind from the south bringing snow to the mountains and sometimes to near sea level over eastern parts of the South Island. When the weather turns cold and wet in the east, to the west of the mountains it will often be fine. At this time of the year it is not uncommon for high pressure systems and clear skies to park over the whole country for long periods bringing crisp frosty nights and mornings followed by cool sunny days. Winters are fairly cold in the south of the South Island but mild in the north of the North Island. The nature of the terrain, the prevailing winds and the length of the country lead to sharp regional contrasts. Daytime maximum temperatures sometimes exceed 30°C (86°F) and usually only stay below 0°C (32°F) in the elevated inland regions. Generally speaking, rainfall and humidity is higher in the west than the east of the country due to the north-south orientation of the mountain ranges and the prevailing westerly/northwesterly winds. In the winter, southerly gales can be severe but they also bring snow to the ski-fields and are usually followed by calm clear days.

In spring, from August to November, the westerly winds are typically at their strongest – these are called the equinoctial westerlies. It tends to rain more in western areas, and especially on the South Island, at this time, while in the east, warm dry winds can give great cycling weather. Once again though, a cold front and its accompanying south winds can give you a taste of winter at any stage.

The unsheltered areas of the country can get a bit breezy, especially in the centre, through Cook Strait and around Wellington.

New Zealand is one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to forecast the weather. Although the weather is changeable, there is certainly more sunshine and warm temperatures to enjoy in summer. It is not uncommon, especially on the South Island, to experience four seasons in one day. A complicating, but often beneficial factor on the day to day weather, is the steep mountain range running down the spine of New Zealand orientated in a southwest-northeast direction. These mountains often shelter eastern parts of the country from an onslaught of westerly winds and rain.

Metservice has weather forecasts for five days in advance.

Geography

New Zealand consists of two main islands and many smaller ones in the South Pacific Ocean approximately 1,600 km (1,000 mi) south east of Australia. With a population of four million in a country about the size of the United Kingdom or Japan, many areas are sparsely settled.

Be sure to allow sufficient time to travel New Zealand. It's certainly worthwhile to tour for at least three or four weeks on each island, although you can certainly see highlights in far less time. Roads wind along the coast and through mountain ranges, particularly in the South Island. In exit polls at Christchurch International Airport, many international visitors commented that they had underestimated the time they would need to properly enjoy their visit.

Auckland, with a population of around 1.4 million people, is both the largest city in New Zealand and Polynesia.

Activities

Outdoor and adventure activities include:

  • Abseiling Waitomo
  • Aerial sightseeing (helicopter and fixed-wing)
  • Birdwatching
  • Black water rafting (cave rafting)
  • Boat Tours
  • Bungy Jump Queenstown, Auckland, Taupo - the modern bungy jump was invented here by New Zealander A.J. Hackett.
  • Canoeing and kayaking on rivers and lakes
  • Canyoning
  • Caving: Waitomo, Nelson, South Island West Coast, Te Anau
  • Climbing
  • Diving
  • Fishing: both Freshwater (some of the finest trout-fishing in the world) and Gamefishing (some of the best sport fishing in the world for marlin, broadbill, sharks, tuna, kingfish and many other salt-water species)
  • Fly by wire (invented here)
  • Four-wheel driving
  • Gliding - Omarama is one of the best places in the world for gliding
  • Golf - New Zealand has over 400 registered golf courses, from local clubs to internationally renowned resorts, offering uncrowded golfing & superb scenery.
  • Hang-gliding
  • Heli-hiking at Fox Glacier
  • Hiking - New Zealand has a number of national parks and other wilderness and forested areas, much of which is managed by the Department of Conservation (DoC). The activity known in other countries as hiking, trekking or bush walking is known as tramping in New Zealand and is a very popular activity for visitors and locals.
  • Horse trekking
  • Hot-air ballooning
  • Hunting - several species of deer, wild pig (wild boar), tahr, chamois, goat, wallabies (they are protected in Australia but a pest here), game birds.
  • Ice-climbing
  • Jet-skiing
  • Kite surfing
  • Luge (on concrete not ice) Auckland, Queenstown, Rotorua.
  • Mountaineering - this was the training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two people to climb Mt Everest.
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums
  • Nature tours
  • Paragliding/Parapenting
  • Quad biking
  • Rafting
  • Rap jumping
  • River jetboating - the Hamilton jet was invented by New Zealander William Hamilton.
  • Rockclimbing
  • Rodeo in New Zealand features steer roping, barrel racing, bull riding and barebacck bronco as well as sheep wrangling for the toddlers
  • Rugby - the national game. Major tournaments include Super Rugby, Tri Nations and ITM Cup. New Zealand hosted the last Rugby World Cup in 2011
  • Sailing - New Zealand has produced many world-champion yachties and is the only country apart from the US to have won and successfully defended yachting's ultimate prize, the America's Cup.
  • Scuba diving and snorkelling, especially down to the sunken Rainbow Warrior at Matauri Bay, not far from Kerikeri.
  • Sea kayaking Abel Tasman Marine Reserve and the colder waters of Milford Sound
  • Shark cage diving Kaikoura
  • Skiing and snowboarding including heli-skiing Queenstown
  • Skydiving
  • Stand up paddleboarding, especially in the warm and sheltered waters of Tasman Bay
  • Surfing
  • Swimming with dolphins Kaikoura, Bay of Islands
  • Swimming with seals
  • Whale watching Kaikoura
  • White water rafting Fox Glacier
  • White water sledging / dam dropping
  • Windsurfing
  • Zorbing (invented here) Agrodome in Rotorua
  • Zoos

Food

New Zealand does not have a culture of going out to eat: meeting for dinner at a restaurant is typically something that is done only on special occasions such as birthdays, or on romantic dates, although eating out is becoming more common.

New Zealand has a distinctive café culture, with arguably some of the best espresso on the planet. Cafés often have excellent food, serving anything from a muffin to a full meal.

In smaller towns food is always available at the local pub/hotel/bistro, although the quality tends to be of the burger-and-chips variety.

Fast food and convenience food outlets are plentiful. Every major town has a KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Subway, and most have Burger King and Domino's. There are a number of local fast food chains; Burger Fuel and Burger Wisconsin are both worth trying, while the American pizza chains face competition from satanic-themed local chain Hell Pizza. Petrol stations often sell pies that can be heated in-store.

Fish and chips are a local speciality. The fish is often supplied by local fishermen and of extremely good quality. The style is somewhat different to the English style: chips tend to be crisper, and vinegar is never used as a dressing. The menu consists of battered (or crumbed if you prefer) fish portions deep fried in oil together with chunky cut potato chips as well as a range of other meats, seafood, pineapple rings and even chocolate bars, all wrapped in newsprint paper – today it is unprinted but traditionally it was yesterday's newspaper, until someone decided it was unhealthy. A good meal can often be had for under $5; a poor one for the same price.

Cuisine

New Zealand's cultural majority, mainly British, do not have a definitive and recognisably distinct cuisine that differs markedly from the traditional British cuisine. However there are a number of small differences.

  • Kumara or sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) – roasted in the same manner as potatoes and often served instead of or alongside. May also be deep fried like potato chips and known as kumara chips – nice served with sour cream but rarely done well as kumara cooks at a different temperature than potatoes, so it needs a skilled chef for the dish to be done perfectly.
  • Pavlova or pav – a cake of whipped egg whites baked to have a crusty meringue-like outside but soft in the middle, topped with whipped cream and decorated with sliced fruit. The dessert is also common in Australia, and while there is debate between the two countries as to where it was first invented, New Zealand is generally accepted as the origin.
  • ANZAC biscuits – plain hard biscuits made primarily from oatmeal bound with golden syrup. Originally made for and by ANZAC troops during the First World War. Also found in Australia.
  • Pies – New Zealanders eat large numbers of non-flakey pastry pies containing fillings such as beef, lamb, pork, potato, kumara, vegetables, and cheese that fit nicely in one hand (around 170 g/6 oz). They're so iconic in New Zealand that even McDonald's sells them (it's a long story), although their prices are a little on the steep side. Some companies now market ranges of "gourmet" pies and there is an annual competition for the best pie in a variety of categories.
  • Kiwifruit – a plum-sized green fleshed fruit, with fine black seeds in the flesh, originating from China, selectively bred in New Zealand, and first known to the home gardener as a Chinese gooseberry. Now commercially farmed, with production centred on Te Puke but in many orcharding areas. Slices often served on pavlova. Known by its full name of kiwifruit and never shortened to "kiwi" in New Zealand, as "kiwi" refers to a type of bird or a New Zealander.
  • Whitebait – the translucent sprat or fingerlings of native freshwater fish species that migrate from spawning in the sea each year. After being caught in coastal river mouth set or hand nets during November/December, this highly sought after delicacy is rushed to all ends of the country. Served in a fried pattie made from an egg based batter, they may be seasonally available from a local fish and chip shop and are cooked without gutting or removing their heads, as they are tiny (2-7 mm broad).

Māori have a distinctive cuisine.

  • The hangi or earth oven is the traditional way that Māori cook food for large gatherings. Meat, vegetables and sometimes puddings are slowly steam-cooked for several hours in a covered pit that has previously been lined with stones and had a hot wood fire burn down in it.
  • Kaimoana (sea food) – particularly shellfish gathered from inter-tidal rocks and beaches as well as crayfish (rock lobster, Jasus edwardsii) and inshore fish caught on a line or with nets. Species such as paua (blackfoot abalone, Haliotis iris) and toheroa have been overfished and gathering restrictions are strictly enforced, while green mussels (Perna canalicula) are commercially grown and sold live, or processed, in supermarkets.
    Warning: While it is common to see people collecting shellfish, crustaceans and other kaimoana, there are a number of rules, for example minimum sizes or daily catch limits, which are usually posted on signs at the approaches to the collecting area. These rules are strictly enforced. If in doubt, check the Ministry of Primary Industries' (MPI) fisheries website: www.fish.govt.nz or with a local. Rules may be seasonal or all-year catch limits set by MPI, or they may be that certain areas are reserved solely for tangata whenua, or a combination. At times areas may have a prohibition against them for health reasons.

In addition to the above, New Zealand cuisine has taken a decidedly international turn over the past decade. Sushi is becoming increasingly popular (albeit in a somewhat different form to the Japanese original), as are many of the cuisines of the Pacific rim.

Drinks

New Zealanders have a reputation for enjoying their beer. Although there are now only three major breweries, there are many regional brands, each with their own distinctive taste and staunch supporters.

Take care when and where you indulge in public. New Zealand has recently introduced liquor ban areas – that means alcoholic drinks cannot be consumed or even carried in some streets, such as city centres and popular beaches, at certain times of the day or night. Police can instruct you to empty bottles and even arrest you if you do not comply.

The New Zealand wine industry has developed into a significant export industry. New Zealand is now known as one of the top producers of Sauvignon Blanc. The Hawkes Bay region is well known for its Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and more recently Viognier varieties. Marlborough is the largest wine producing region and famous for its Sauvignon Blanc. Waipara in North Canterbury specialises in Riesling and Pinot Gris. Further south in Central Otago, Pinot Noir is produced in the most concentrated of styles. Many vineyards now offer winery tours, wine tasting and sales from the vineyard.

The minimum legal purchase age for alcohol in New Zealand is 18, and can only be supplied to under-18s via a parent or legal guardian. It is universal policy for bars and retailers to ask for photo identification from any patron who looks under the age of 25, and the only forms of identification accepted are a passport, New Zealand driver licence, or a Hospitality Association of New Zealand (HANZ) 18+ card.

Coffeehouses are a daytime venue in many of the larger cities and tourist destinations. The café culture is notable in downtown Wellington, where many office workers have their tea breaks. Most coffee styles, cappuccino, latte, espresso/short black, long black, flat white, vienna etc., are usually available. Flat whites are probably the most popular. Cappuccinos are usually served with a choice of cinnamon or chocolate powder sprinkled on top. Its usual to request which one you want. Fluffies are a small frothed milk for children, sprinkled with chocolate powder.

Tap water in New Zealand is regarded as some of the cleanest in the world; it is safe to drink from in all cities, most come from artesian wells or freshwater reservoirs - however, some are from rivers which can be chlorinated to be made safe but do not taste very nice. Some of the water in Auckland comes from the Waikato river, a long river that has its source in Lake Taupo in the centre of the North Island. But by the time it reaches Auckland, it has been treated so that the quality is no worse than that of the Thames in London or the Hudson in New York. Auckland water is also drawn from run-off reservoirs in the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges. Tap water in places such as Christchurch and Hastings is not chlorinated at all as it is drawn from the pure artesian aquifers of the Canterbury and Heretaunga plains. Bottled water is commonly available if you prefer.

L & P or Lemon & Paeroa is a sweet carbonated lemonade style drink said to be "world famous in New Zealand". It is a sold in a brown plastic bottle with a yellow label similar to the traditional brown glass bottles it used to be sold in. It is now manufactured in Auckland by Coca-Cola.

Shopping

On Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and before 13:00 on Anzac Day (25 April), most businesses must remain closed - exceptions include dairies, convenience stores, petrol stations, cafes and restaurants, pharmacies, and some other shops located in airports and tourist hotspots such as Taupo and Queenstown. If you are in New Zealand on one of these days, ensure you have all your needs met prior to the date.

Currency

The currency used throughout New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar (NZD, $), divided into 100 cents. Other currencies are not readily accepted other than at some of the larger hotels and at banks throughout New Zealand. Attempting to make a transaction in a foreign currency may result in some light hearted bemusement.

The smallest coin is 10c, since New Zealand reduced the size of its silver (cent) coins in 2006, and eliminated the 5c piece. If paying in cash, the total price will be rounded to the nearest 10c (5c can round either way, but most businesses round down.) It is also not uncommon to see prices, especially in restaurants, that end in multiples of 10c to drop the last zero, e.g. $9.4 instead of $9.40.

The 10c piece is a coppery colour similar to a US or UK penny. The 20c piece is silver with a Māori carving depicted, as is the 50c piece with captain James Cook's ship the Endeavour. The gold $1 features a kiwi, whilst the $2 features a heron.

Banknotes come in $5 (orange with Sir Edmund Hillary), $10 (blue with Kate Sheppard), $20 (green with Queen Elizabeth II), $50 (purple with Sir Apirana Ngata), and $100 (red with Ernest Rutherford). Since the turn of the century, all banknotes have been printed on polymer, so you can keep them in your shorts when swimming and not have them too badly mangled if you leave them in your laundry.

Electronic transactions

New Zealanders are among the highest users of electronic banking services in the world. Nearly all shops have eftpos terminals for debit and credit cards, so most purchases can be made electronically. Credit cards are not accepted by some merchants with eftpos, especially smaller food retailers such as dairies, takeaways and cafés that do not serve alcohol. Smaller retailers may often set a minimum purchase of around $10 when dispensing cash, if they agree to provide cash. Many New Zealanders don't carry cash, seeing it as a risk and bothersome compared to using their eftpos card. All NZ banks offer telephone and internet banking services. If you are going to be in New Zealand for a while it may be convenient to open a New Zealand bank account and set up a local debit card. Payment by cheque is becoming rare in New Zealand, and most shops won't accept them. Most businesses and people now supply their 15 digit bank account number (eg: 12-3456-0789123-00) on their invoices, and customers transfer the money into their account via Internet banking. This is common when purchasing a vehicle, or pre-booking accommodation; the payment usually completes the following business day.

All New Zealand banks will allow visitors and migrants to set up an account via their respective websites fewer than six months before arrival. Your eftpos card will take about two weeks to arrive and the bank will be more than happy to have it waiting for you at the branch of your choice.

Automatic teller machines (ATMs), locally known as 'the hole in the wall' or a 'cash machine', are available in just about every town, even those without a bank.

New Zealand is a user of the nearly universal (except for the US) chip and PIN card system which uses an electronic chip in the card and the holder's Personal Identity Number to verify a transaction. Most merchants also accept the swipe and sign method; if you're using a card with no embedded chip, then after your card is swiped, the terminal will prompt you for your PIN. Just press "ENTER" and your transaction should be approved. After signing the printed receipt, you may be asked to present photographic ID. Automated machines such as those at unattended fuel pumps may not accept cards without a PIN.

MasterCard and Visa are universally accepted, other cards are not. American Express is widespread, Diners Club less so. Theoretically, you can use a Discover card everywhere you see the Diners Club International acceptance mark; however, almost no merchant will know this so, as long as you have a chip and PIN card, it's worth sticking it in the terminal and giving it a try. UnionPay cards are accepted at the Bank of New Zealand's 420 ATM's nationwide and selected EFTPOS merchants.

Price negotiation

Because of strong fair trading laws, the displayed price is normally the purchase price for most goods sold in New Zealand. The principle The price stated is the price you pay is strongly ingrained in New Zealand culture.

Most retailers will not negotiate on price, although some have a formal policy of matching the competition and will match or even discount their prices for you if you can find a better price for exactly the same product elsewhere within a reasonable distance (eg, Wellington and Lower Hutt, but not Wellington and Auckland). However, this seems to be changing as there are stories about people finding appliance and electronics stores very willing to negotiate on price in order to get business, especially if you're looking at high-end items or have a shopping list of multiple high-priced items. Some places you have to ask for a discount, while others have salespeople that offer discounts on pricey goods as soon as they approach you. Other than high end appliance stores, haggling is generally viewed as extremely rude. As a customer you are seen as wasting a shopkeeper's time because they believe that they have priced the goods at a reasonable price (and a shopkeeper would be wasting the customer's time if they overpriced the item expecting customers to haggle).

If you are in New Zealand for an extended period of time, the website Trade Me provides a similar business model to overseas giant eBay. However Trade Me has a greater focus on direct bank transfer based trading (a pre-requisite is that you must have a New Zealand bank account) and minimal to no fees required upon an item's initial listing.

Taxes and fees

Advertised prices usually include the Goods and Services Tax (GST), a sales tax, of 15% – exceptions must state that GST is excluded or is additional. Some shops, especially in tourist destinations, will ship purchases overseas or make them available to pick up at the airport, as export goods are not subject to GST. Ask about this service before making your purchase. Goods purchased and taken with you will be subject to GST.

A few restaurants and cafés may charge a holiday surcharge of 15%, often claimed to cover the cost of higher wages for staff working on public holiday (staff working in public holidays must by law be paid one and a half times their ordinary rate and get a paid day off to take later)

Tipping

As a general rule, tipping is not customary in New Zealand, though it is becoming more common, especially in areas that receive many tourists. However, do not be surprised or offended if you receive bemused looks or if your tip is initially refused or questioned, as New Zealanders themselves generally do not tip, and it is also a form of courtesy in New Zealand culture to first decline such a gesture before accepting it. It can be viewed very negatively by New Zealanders as being made to 'pay twice', or as a form of bribery. In the major cities, tipping tends to be embraced by workers, especially over the summer when students wait tables for part-time work. Tip jars may be placed on counters, but these are for loose change and although it is appreciated, you are not expected to place coins in them. It is common practice and polite to donate your spare change from the meal to what ever charity has a collection jar on the counter, and this acts as the standard substitute for tipping.

Major retail chains

The supermarket sector has three major chains: Countdown, New World and Pak'nSave. If you are looking for the lowest prices, Pak'nSave is probably your best bet. However, they carry a limited range of brands, force everyone to pack their own bags, and if you forget your reusable bags they charge you 10c per plastic bag - they even use stick figures in their adverts to show how cheap they are! Countdown and New World pretty much the same, except the former's Australian-owned and the latter's New Zealand-owned; they carry a full range and checkout staff will pack your bags free of charge, but keep an eye on the prices if you are on a budget. Countdown has a coupon card called Onecard - you can pick a temporary visitor card up from the supermarket and most hotels and motels if you want to get the discounts.

The Warehouse, commonly referred to as The Red Shed, is the New Zealand equivalent of Wal-Mart, containing a variety of bottom-end products including clothing, tools, camping equipment, toys, music, etc. Their motto is "where everyone gets a bargain" and most things are made in China. While you might not find the top quality brands here, prices are cheap. More traditional department stores include mid-market Farmers, and the upmarket department stores in the major cities: Smith & Caughey's in Auckland, Kirkcaldie & Stains in Wellington, and Ballantyne's in Christchurch.

Other 'big box' chains include Briscoes, a homewares store which seems to hold a "30–60% off everything sale" every other weekend.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article New Zealand on Wikivoyage.

Popular cities in New Zealand

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Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand. It is the major international entry point for touring the South Island and has enough attractions to be a worthwhile destination in itself. Christchurch is in the process of recovering from a large earthquake in February 2011 that severely ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Victoria Square
  • Canterbury Museum
  • Hagley Park
  • Christchurch Botanic Gardens
  • Christchurch Art Gallery
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Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand, with a population of over 1.5 million. It is in the northern half of the North Island, on a narrow isthmus of land that joins the Northland peninsula to the rest of the North Island. Auckland holds the distinction of being the most isolated city with a population ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Britomart Transport Centre
  • Sky Tower
  • SkyCity Casino
  • Albert Park
  • Auckland Art Gallery
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Queenstown is a world renowned resort town in the South Island of New Zealand. The town sits on the edge of Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by the Southern Alps.

Interesting places:

  • Skycity Queenstown Casino
  • Queenstown Beach
  • Queenstown Gardens
  • TSS Earnslaw Steamship
  • Steamer Wharf
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Rotorua is known as the thermal wonderland of New Zealand. Its hot springs and geysers have attracted tourists for over a hundred years.

Interesting places:

  • Blue Baths
  • Government Gardens
  • Polynesian Spa
  • Rotorua Arts Village
  • Rotorua Museum of Art and History
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Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand and its third largest city. The Windy City is on the foreshore of Wellington Harbour and ringed by hills, providing the scenic home of many of New Zealand's national arts and cultural attractions.

Interesting places:

  • Civic Square
  • Frank Kitts Park
  • Michael Fowler Centre
  • Wellington Town Hall
  • Museum of Wellington City and Sea
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Taupo is a town in the central North Island of New Zealand. It lies at the northern end of Lake Taupo, at its outlet into the Waikato river.

Interesting places:

  • Huka Falls
  • Craters of the Moon
  • Taupo Museum and Art Gallery
  • Taupo Bungy
  • Wairakei International Golf Course
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Hamilton is an inland city in the Waikato region of New Zealand's North Island. The Waikato River, New Zealand's longest river, flows through the middle of the city. This effectively cuts the city in half, with Hamilton West containing the Central Business District and main shopping areas. Hamilton East, ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Hamilton Gardens
  • Seddon Park
  • Raglan Beach
  • University of Waikato
  • Memorial Park
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Nelson is the second oldest settled city in New Zealand and the oldest in the South Island. Nelson is in a region often known as Nelson Bays or the "Top of the South" and is actually slightly north of the capital city of Wellington. Nelson is the geographical centre of the nation and, together with Richmond, ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Nelson Provincial Museum
  • Nelson Market
  • Queens Gardens
  • Trafalgar Park
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Dunedin, old Gaelic for Edinburgh, is a regional centre and the second-largest city on the South Island of New Zealand, located in the Otago region.

Interesting places:

  • First Church of Otago
  • Otago Settlers Museum
  • The Octagon
  • Dunedin Town Hall
  • Cadbury World
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Paihia is an historic town (population 1,800) in the Bay of Islands in the Northland region of the North Island of New Zealand. It has numerous sights and activities, and stunning views of the bay.

Interesting places:

  • Paihia Beach
  • Haruru Falls
  • Waitangi Golf Club
  • Ngaiotonga Scenic Reserve
  • Paihia Wharf
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States in New Zealand

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Points of Interest in New Zealand

Mountains, lakes and glaciers

It can be said that in New Zealand it's the countryside that's magnificent, and perhaps no more so than the Southern Alps of the South Island. In the Mackenzie Country, the snow-capped jagged peaks rising above turquoise lakes have provided the inspiration for many a postcard. Tucked in behind is the country's highest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook. The lakes and mountains continue south, becoming a stunning backdrop for the towns of Wanaka, Queenstown and Glenorchy.

Another region where mountain meets water with striking effect is Fiordland National Park where steep, densely forested mountains rise from the sea. The most accessible, and perhaps one of the most beautiful, spots is Milford Sound. The road in is spectacular and the view even more so when you arrive.

Glaciers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an island in the South Pacific, but New Zealand has several. The most notable are the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in Westland National Park. These glaciers are unique in how close they get to sea level and are sustained by the enormous amount of precipitation that falls on New Zealand's west coast.

Volcanoes and geysers

New Zealand is a geological hotspot and has many dormant and active volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. The best place to start is Rotorua, where the smell of sulphur lets you know you're close to the action. The surrounding countryside has many parks with geysers and hot springs, and Mount Tarawera, the site of one of New Zealand's more famous eruptions, lies a short drive away.

South of Rotorua is the town of Taupo, on the shores of the country's largest lake, which was formed in a massive volcanic explosion 26,500 years ago, and expanded by an equally massive explosion 1800 years ago (it reputedly turned skies over China and Rome red). Beyond Lake Taupo is Tongariro National Park, dominated by its three volcanoes, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. All three mountains are still active (Tongariro last erupted in 2012) and Ruapehu has a crater lake that can be viewed with a bit of hiking. Ngauruhoe is famous for filling in as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Northeast of Rotorua is Whakatane, with tours to White Island, a volcanic island not far off the coast. The island is truly a different world with its smoke plume, green crater lake and the pohutukawa trees clinging to a fragile existence on the volcanic rock.

Dormant and extinct volcanoes help define the landscape in many other regions, including Taranaki and three of the largest cities (Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin). Hot springs are sprinkled across the country, and are often popular bathing spots.

Flora and fauna

Being so remote, New Zealand has very unique plants and animals. One of the most impressive is the kauri tree, one of the biggest species of tree in the world. Few of these giants are left (a result of overlogging), but a visit to the Waipoua Forest in Northland will afford a glimpse.

The beaches of the South Island, particularly The Catlins and the Otago Peninsula, are good places to see marine animals such as penguins, seals and sea lions in their natural habitat. The Otago Peninsula is also noted for its albatross colony.

Unfortunately, many of New Zealand's most unique animals are endangered and can only really be seen in captivity. This includes the kiwi, a common national symbol, the flightless takahe and the tuatara (a small reptile believed to have existed at the time of the dinosaurs).

New Zealand's National Parks are maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and various local governments. Access is usually free but may be restricted in some parks during some parts of the year due to weather (e.g.: avalanche risk) or farming needs (e.g.: lambing season). It's best to check with local tourist information centres for up to date information on access.

Urban fare

While the countryside is the main attraction of New Zealand, it's worthwhile to spend some time in the cities. Auckland is a pleasant city with its waterfront districts like the Viaduct Harbour and Mission Bay, old volcanoes (Mt Eden and One Tree Hill), a handful of museums and the Sky Tower, the tallest free standing building in the Southern Hemisphere. The more interesting architecture and the fine Te Papa museum can be found in Wellington, the capital. Napier is worth a stop, if you have the time, for its Art Deco CBD and Christchurch was interesting for its English character.

Itineraries

  • Nine days in New Zealand's North Island
  • Two weeks in New Zealand's South Island
  • Eighteen Day Small Group Tour Covering Both Islands

Britomart Transport Centre - Auckland

Frank Kitts Park - Wellington

Victoria Square - Christchurch

Church of the Good Shepherd - Lake Tekapo

Blue Baths - Rotorua

Skycity Queenstown Casino - Queenstown

First Church of Otago - Dunedin

Opossum World - Napier

Mount Manganui - Tauranga

Cathedral Cove Beach - Whitianga

Picton Harbour - Picton

Artisans Gallery - Akaroa

Cape Reinga Lighthouse - Kaitaia

Russell Beach - Russell

SkyCity Casino - Auckland

Sky Tower - Auckland

Albert Park - Auckland

Civic Square - Wellington

Michael Fowler Centre - Wellington

Wellington Town Hall - Wellington

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