New Zealand is an island country in the Southern Hemisphere, southwest of the Pacific Ocean. New Zealand with an area of 268,021 square kilometers comprises 2 big islands – North and South Island, and almost 600 smaller islands. The country is separated from Australia by the Tasman Sea – a distance of almost 2000 kilometers. Read our New Zealand travel guide to get vacation ideas for the country.
Auckland, with a population of 1,582,028 (2013), is the largest city. Wellington on the North Island is the capital city. The population density in New Zealand is only 15 people per square kilometer, so you will find vast stretches with very few people.
The stunning landscape of New Zealand is a huge draw. You will find everything – beautiful beaches, geysers, crater lakes, mountain ranges, glaciers, green valleys, Maori culture, and a lot more. As of 2016, tourism contributed 12.9 billion NZ$, which was 5.9% of the GDP that year. In 2018, the country welcomed over 3.8 million foreign visitors.
The indigenous people of New Zealand are called Maoris. The country is remote and geographically far from the rest of the world. This was the reason why it was one of the last lands to be settled in. The Polynesian settlers who arrived here between the years 1250-1300 AD gave birth to the Maori culture here.
New Zealand is a wonderland for travelers because of its natural beauty. A trip to this beautiful country will be a trip of a lifetime. The cities of Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch offer all modern amenities for tourists.
In the Maori language, New Zealand is called ‘Aotearoa’ meaning long white cloud.
New Zealand – Quick Facts
- Official Language: English, Maori, and New Zealand Official Sign Language.
- Capital City: Wellington
- Currency: New Zealand Dollar
- Major Religions: Christianity. Other practiced religions include Islamism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
- Regions: Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui, Wellington, Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland.
- Government: Constitutional Monarchy, the reigning sovereign is Queen Elizabeth II of England.
- Auckland is the largest city by size followed by the capital Wellington and then Christchurch.
- There are 9 groups of islands that lie outside the New Zealand continental shelf but are part of the country. These are the Kermadec Islands, Three Kings Islands, Chatham Islands, Solander Islands, Bounty Islands, The Snares, Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands, and Campbell Islands.
- The first European who landed in New Zealand was Abel Tasman in 1642. He was a Dutch navigator.
- Auckland Airport is the biggest airport in the country.
- Traditional Kiwi food includes pavlova, hangi, kiwi burger, hokey pokey ice-cream, and more.
It is said that forecasting the weather in New Zealand is very difficult. The country has a temperate climate. The North Island winters are much milder than those on the South Island. The climatic variations throughout the country are a result of:
- The fact that New Zealand is a long country,
- The winds that arise from the Pacific Ocean and
- The geographical features of the terrain
You will find higher humidity on the western side of the country than in the east. The mountain range running from southwest to northeast is steep. They block wind flow to the east. In South Island, the northern parts are the sunniest and the western coastal region receives a lot of rain.
|City/Town||Average Max Temp in C||Average Min Temp in C||Average annual rainfall in mm|
New Zealand Tourist Visa
Citizens of Australia and the UK do not need a tourist visa to enter New Zealand for holiday. There is a list of around 65 countries whose residents do not need any visa as long as their trip duration does not exceed 3 months. However, those with a police record will need to apply for a visa, even if they are from these listed countries.
Most people apply online for a visa to New Zealand. To be eligible for it the requirements include:
- Proof of entry into and out of NZ
- Monetary means to support yourself and dependants during the stay in NZ
- Proof of good health and character
- Proof of reason for a visit with supporting documentation.
Once your visa is processed, the passport will be sent to you with a stamp, or you will get a letter granting you the visa.
Since 2015, all airports in New Zealand have stopped charging arrival/departure fees. The fee is now included in the airline ticket price. There is a maximum of 15 NZD charged as airport tax on both arrival and departure.
However, the amount varies slightly from airport to airport. You may end up paying about 30-40 NZD extra to fly in and out of New Zealand.
Only in New Zealand can you find the flightless bird called Kiwi. New Zealanders call themselves ‘Kiwis’.
New Zealand: Attractions
New Zealand has 2 main islands on which most of the population resides. The cities and urban centers are located here as well.
- North Island
- South Island
Top 5 Places to Visit in the North Island
1. Auckland: The largest city in NZ, black sand beaches of the Tasman Sea, gorgeous hiking trails, amazing food and wine, world-class shopping opportunities
2. Coromandel: Laidback relaxed vibe, Cathedral Cove scenic beach spot, diving and snorkeling haven, gold-mining history, great for fishing
3. Rotorua: Maori cultural experiences, mud baths, geysers, and crater lakes, spas and health retreats, amusement and theme parks
4. Wellington: Capital city, cable car trip, scenic bay and nature trails for cycling and hiking, more than 55 galleries and museums
5. Hawke’s Bay: Te Mata Peak, local vineyards, rugged coastline, Maori food, art-deco architecture in Napier, largest gannet bird colony in the world.
Top 5 Places to Visit in the South Island
1. Christchurch-Canterbury: Christchurch city, Tekapo hot springs, and pool, Southern Alps, stargazing in McKenzie Basin, waterfalls, and wineries
2. Waitaki: World’s smallest penguins, Oamaru public gardens, Moeraki boulders on the North Otago coast, dolphins
3. West Coast: Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, caves with rock formations, beautiful national parks, seal colonies, artisan products
4. Queenstown: Film shooting locations, walking, and hiking trails, Lake Wakatipu and snow-clad mountains, bungee jumping, gold-mining history
5. Southland: Stewart Island, delicious seafood, Catlins wilderness, whale and dolphin watching, Stirling Point, native wildlife.
New Zealand FAQ
What is the best month to go to New Zealand?
The summer months (between December and March) are the best time to visit New Zealand. You will get bright and long sunny days this time of the year. The temperature will be between 61°F – 75°F. This will be a great time for visiting the beaches and for enjoying outdoor activities like mountain biking and hiking.
How much should I budget for a trip to New Zealand?
As a tourist, the average cost for each day in New Zealand will be about NZ$185, which is around $128. This is the average daily price based on what most visitors spend in the country. Expect to spend $29 or NZ$41 on food and $19 or NZ$27 on local transportation.
How many days do you need to see New Zealand?
A week won’t be enough to see both the islands. It would be better if you spend three weeks. You will then be able to see the best sights of the country and give adequate time for them. We believe, your New Zealand itinerary should be for at least 10 days.
What is the best way to travel around New Zealand?
Definitely, a road trip is the best way to get around New Zealand. The country offers some of the most stunning road trips anywhere in the world. We recommend you rent a car or a motorhome. You can also take a coach or bus if you are not comfortable with driving.
What is the cheapest month to fly to New Zealand?
This vacation idea will save you money. November, December, and January is the high season in New Zealand. May is the cheapest month. Visit in May and you can get cheap flight deals.
Is NZ expensive to visit?
Yes, New Zealand can be expensive for many tourists. But it is worth it. NZ is one of the world’s most beautiful countries. So you should visit at least once. If you spend about $1,400 on the flight, then your three-week vacation in New Zealand could be for about $3,000.
Why is it so cold in New Zealand?
New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, close to Antarctica. The average temperature will go down as you travel south. The average temperature is around 15°C in the northernmost parts of the country, while it has an average of 9°C in the southernmost areas. July is the coldest, while January and February are the warmest months in NZ.
Is it better to visit the North or South Island of New Zealand?
Visit the North Island if you want to learn about Maori culture and history. The South Island will be better if you want to enjoy the nature of New Zealand. You will see many fjords, lakes, mountains, and glaciers.
Why is food expensive in New Zealand?
New Zealand is a far way away from other countries. Naturally, the cost of importing will increase with distance. It is a small country by size, so a lot of things need to be imported.
What is the cheapest way to travel to New Zealand?
The bus will be the cheapest way to get around NZ. Buses will visit many tourist attractions and stop in every town. they depart frequently, even from the smallest cities. InterCity is the biggest public bus network in the country.
Highlights of New Zealand
|Unspoiled Natural Beauty||Human settlement in New Zealand is fairly recent compared to many other countries. The natural beauty is stunning. The sheer variety is impressive. There are beaches, lakes, subtropical forests, mountain ranges, glaciers, volcanoes, green valleys, and plains.|
|Unique Flora and Fauna||Much of the nature that you see in New Zealand cannot be seen anywhere else, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. Plants and trees like kauri and nikau palms are indigenous to NZ. Kiwi, the flightless bird, is the national symbol of the country.|
|Maori Culture||Get to know more about the Polynesian settlers and the Maori cultural history. There are many places throughout the country where you can still experience the traditional Maori rituals, their song, and dance performances, and their food.|
|Outdoor Activities||New Zealand is a country that begs you to step out of your comfort zone and engage with nature. There are some amazing hiking and walking trails all over the country. Cycling is also a good way to connect with nature. Try bungee jumping, parasailing, canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, and more while in NZ.|
|A Safe Country||NZ has just 4.5 million people. It is very easy to step out of the cities and find complete solitude in New Zealand. The crime rate is extremely low. Tourists love this country for the safe environment it gives them to travel freely. Fun Fact – There are no snakes in NZ.|
Best Time to Visit New Zealand
Remember, New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere. They have summer when the Northern Hemispheric countries (most of the world) have winters and vice versa. Also, New Zealand is famous for having a variable climate. Kiwis joke that you can experience all four seasons in a day in NZ.
To be fair, you can visit any time of the year and find some unique and beautiful experiences. Summer is the peak holiday season.
Summer (Dec-Feb): This is the peak tourist season. Prices of flights and hotels tend to be high. Summer festivals like the Christchurch World Busker’s Festival and Laneway Festival in Auckland are both in January. This is a great season to enjoy the stunning beaches. If you are planning to escape the heat, go to the Southern Alps to stay cool.
Fall (Mar-May): This season is all about the fall colors in the forests and valleys. The Otago and Wanaka regions of South Island are some of the best places to visit in the fall. The wineries have abundant produce in these months. In the North Island, try Hawke’s Bay in the fall months to enjoy the best views. There are fewer tourists after Easter, so the prices are likely to come down.
Winter (June-Aug): You will find the temperature really chilly only in the southern mountainous areas. The rest of NZ enjoys mild and short winters. If you love winter sports, then NZ will give you good ski slopes and resorts in the Southern Alps. Wanaka and Queensland are popular winter destinations for snow sports. The Winter months are also a great time to drive around the country as there are almost no tourists in this season.
Spring (Sept- Nov): Spring is the perfect time to visit New Zealand as the days start getting longer and you can see nature blossoming. For the thrill-seeker, there is white water rafting in the mountains as the snow starts to melt. Hawke’s Bay and the Taranaki Rhododendron Gardens are popular places where you can see the flowers blooming in the spring. The ‘Garden City’ of Christchurch bursts with blooms.