New Zealand

Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia New Zealand



tongariro looking back

tongariro looking back

© BlondePhiloSoph

Rarely has a country been so effectively promoted by a feature film as New Zealand has. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has imprinted images of New Zealand into the minds of millions. The epic proportions of the film are perfectly enhanced by the epic proportions of New Zealand's landscape.

This is a country for adventure sports and photo cameras. North Island's bubbling volcanic peaks and South Island's Southern Alps are a hiker's paradise. Or, if you prefer, they're also the perfect playground for bungee jumping, skiing, spelunking and much more.

New Zealand's attractions are not limited to natural beauty. Urban New Zealand is characterized by vibrant Maori culture and tasteful European modernism. Cities like Wellington and Auckland are not glamorous, but have a strong aesthetic appeal backed up by the surrounding landscape. Each town has a distinct and unique characteristic dependent on its history. No two places feel quite the same. Locations around the country have been used by many film makers to portray other countries around the world. Its climate is diverse and the wildlife is unique.



Brief History

New Zealand was settled by Polynesians somewhere between the 11th and 14th century. These original settlers are known as Māori. Māori legends are wild and fierce. They are influenced by the countries untamed beauty and raw volcanic power. Māori are a warrior race and tribal traditions still feature strongly despite outside influences. The most visible Māori tradition is the Haka, a challenge made famous through its use by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby union and New Zealand Kiwis rugby league teams.

The first Europeans to arrive in New Zealand were led by Dutchman Abel Tasman, who anchored in Golden Bay, at the northern end of South Island in December 1642. After a clash with local Māori, he moved on to Tonga. He did, however, sketch the west coasts of the two major islands and named them Staten Landt, after the States-General of the Netherlands. That name was later changed to Nova Zeelandia by Dutch cartographers, who named it after the Dutch province of Zeeland.

More than a hundred years after Tasman's visit, Captain James Cook visited the islands and was the first to circumnavigate them. Various whaling, sealing and trading ships visited the islands from the 1790s onwards, offering European goods for Māori supplies and services.

In 1840, a treaty was signed between Māori chiefs and the British, which brought New Zealand into the British Empire and gave Māori the same rights as British citizens. Land quickly became an issue in the following decades, eventually leading to the loss of much of the native land through wars and bureaucracy. This treaty is known as the Treaty of Waitangi and was signed on the 6th February 1840. This date is still celebrated as a public holiday.

In the early 20th century, the economy was highly regulated and an extensive welfare state emerged. During the World Wars, New Zealand, as part of the British Empire, committed significant numbers of troops to fight alongside Britain. New Zealand's national remembrance day to commemorate those lives lost in the wars is on the 25th April (ANZAC Day).

In the 1950s, Māori were moving to the cities in large numbers. This developed into a protest movement, which led to better race-relations in the late 20th century. Towards the end of the 20th century, the economy became increasingly deregulated. Foreign policy became more independent, rather than following the lead from Britain or the United States. Although still within the commonwealth New Zealand has been growing culturally, economically and politically apart from Britain since the 1950's.

In the 1980's New Zealand became a nuclear free zone prohibiting the manufacture or possession of any nuclear weapons or nuclear powered vessels. At the time this caused a major rift between New Zealand and the United States, and even today this limits the contact between the two countries. The legislation is the only one like it in the world and has become a political milestone and a symbol for green activists throughout the world.




New Zealand is one of the southernmost countries in the world, with the Tasman Sea to the west, the South Pacific Ocean to the east ans the Southern Ocean directly south of the country. It consists of two main islands: the volcanic and subtropical North Island and the South Island, with snow capped mountains and fjords. In between lies the 30-kilometre-wide Cook Strait. The highest summit is Mount Cook on the South Island at over 3,700 metres. Lake Taupo on the North Island is the largest body of water in the country. To the south of the South Island is the third main island, Stewart Island. It is much smaller and predominately a national park. It can be visited by boat or plane and is a good place to spot the elusive Kiwi bird (mostly during the night), the national symbol of the country.

The extreme north of the North Island is subtropical with magnificent beaches and the Bay of Islands. There are sand dunes here unlike anything to be seen in the rest of the country. The far north is also home to the unique Kauri trees some of which are over 1500 years old and 5 metres in diameter. In the centre of the island are the volcanic region of Tongariro National Park, with its three summits Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, also featured in the Lord of the Rings movies. Rotorua is a good place to see volcanic and geothermal activities as well, as mud pools are just below the surface and occasionally some eruptions do occur. When not causing eruptions however the volcanic activity is a source for hot thermal spas. The majority of the North Island is farm land, ranging from flat or rolling farm land through to rough and rugged lands, especially in the East Cape and King Country regions. In the west of the island is Mount Taranaki, a perfectly shaped volcano surrounded by flat farm land.

The west of the South Island is known for its great landscapes, with the Southern Alps forming the backbone and complemented by numerous glaciers and fjords. Fiordland National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, chosen because of its natural significance. Fiordland was once described by Rudyard Kipling as "one of the natural wonders of the world" and the area is extremely popular among travellers.

The eastern part is predominantly made up of grassy rolling hills, where sheep graze. Further north, there are vineyards, especially around the Marlborough region which is world famous for its wine production. Further south on the East side lies the Banks peninsula which formed as off shore volcanic islands, but which have now eroded. The craters now make up two big harbours in which dolphins can often be seen.

Thirty kilometres south of the South Island lies Stewart Island. Stewart Island is predominately a national park and is the most common location to see a wild kiwi bird. It has a wet climate. The hilly island is surrounded by a number of large and small islands off shore. The island is reportedly a great location for viewing the Aurora Australis (The Southern lights).




The two main islands comprising New Zealand, which are divided into smaller regions:

North IslandNorthland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, East Cape / Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui and Wellington
South IslandTasman, Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast, Canterbury, Otago and Southland

Several smaller islands, of which the Sub-Antarctic Islands are the least accessible to travellers:





Auckland Night Cityscape

Auckland Night Cityscape

© ArnaMarie

The "City of Sails", Auckland is a growing city strung between Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea at the northern edge of North Island. Boasting the country's largest population and the largest Polynesian population in the world, it's a unique, stylish city well worth visiting. Although not the official capital of the country, Auckland is known as the financial capital of the country. Its large harbours and ports as well as its northern location make it the most accessible city for ships coming from Asia and Australia.


Wellington is situated at the southern edge of the North Island, a short hop from the South Island. It is the capital city and invites visitors with its lively café culture and interesting galleries and museums. It is for many the gateway to the south island as the Interislander ferry makes many trips daily back and forth.


Rotorua probably is the cultural capital of New Zealand, located in the heart of the North Island. Although touristy, a deeper inside view of the Maori culture is recommended when you visit this town. Other features include the thermal springs and mud pools. A walk through the city park with its sulphur (rotten eggs) smell is great as well. It is often described as a capital of Maori culture.


Christchurch is the largest city on South Island. Founded in the mid-1800s, the city boasts a rich history, readily apparent through its Gothic architecture. Its parks and museums are unique to the country and have a distinct English feel. This is as a result of the large numbers of English settlers who have moved here during its development. The cathedral in the centre of the city looks like it has been taken straight from the United Kingdom. It is also home to a British style seaside pier. Christchurch gets many cruise ship visits during the summer months and the visitors spend lazy afternoons punting on the River Avon.
Christchurch was severely damaged by two earthquakes, one in September 2010 and one in February 2011, the latter killing 181 people and damaging most of the central city including the cathedral.


Queenstown lies on the edge of Lake Wakatipu in South Island, overlooking the magnificent Southern Alps. It became a growing settlement after gold was discovered in the area in 1862. Besides offering beautiful views, Queenstown is also now the adventure capital of New Zealand. It is has more recently been identified as the party capital of the country. During the winter season the city is full of skiers and snowboarders and it is difficult to look in the air without seeing a skydiver or paraglider.


Kaikoura is a town located in the northwest of the South Island, between Christchurch and Blenheim and is the whale watching capital of the country. There are many tour operators offering whale watching tours and other marine tours, including diving and snorkeling. Fishing and kayaking trips are also possible. Wildlife includes many species of whales, but also dolphins, seals, and many aquatic birds. There are several wineries near Kaikoura and the town itself has splendid seafood.

Other cities

On North Island:

  • Hamilton is a city on the banks of the Waikato River, south of Auckland, in a rich dairy farming region.
  • Tauranga is a growing city on the northern Pacific shore. It is popular for its outdoor activities. It is the kiwifruit capital of the world and like many townships in the region has several volcanic hot pools to boast of.
  • Gisborne is a town on the east coast of North Island. It is famous for being the first place in the world to see the sunrise, making it a popular destination for all night parties on new years eve.
  • Napier is a picturesque seaside town in Hawkes Bay. It is an extremely popular destination for backpackers during the summer season. Its is famous for its 1930's art deco style (the city was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake) and this is celebrated every summer with the art deco festival.

On South Island:

  • Nelson is a small city with one of the country's strongest arts scenes. It is located near several national parks.
  • Dunedin is the country's fifth largest city, located on the south east coast of South Island. It has been described as a southern hemisphere version of Edinburgh due to the high numbers of Scottish immigrants who have settled here. It also has a large student population giving it a reputation as a party town.
  • Invercargill is the southernmost city in the country and one of the southernmost cities in the world. Beware it can get quite cold in the winter.
  • Blenheim is located at the heart of the Marlborough region and is world famous for its vineyards and wine production.



Sights and Activities

New Zealand has many sights and activities and its natural beauty is of outstanding quality. Apart from that it is also the adrenaline country of the world.

Doubtful Sound

To the south of Milford Sound is the altogether more remote feeling Doubtful Sound. Both the Milford and Doubtful Sound are part of the Fiordland National Park.


Franz below blue skies

Franz below blue skies

© BlondePhiloSoph

There are several magnificent glaciers to visit in the South Island's Alps, the best known being the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. Options for visiting are plentiful and including day hikes up the glacier or helicopter flights. Have a look at The Franz Josef Glacier or at Fox Guides for some more information about possible visits at both glaciers.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is a beautiful stretch of water in the Canterbury Region on New Zealand's South Island. Together with Lake Pukaki and Lake Ohau they are located at the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin. Located at about 700 metres above sea level it is around 83 square kilometres large and is a major attraction in the region. The town with the same name has plenty of options regarding accommodation, restaurants and activities. It is famous as a location for stargazers due to its high altitude and isolation from city lights.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound Waterfall

Milford Sound Waterfall

© Laur456

Milford Sound, despite its remote location on the south western coast of New Zealand's South Island, is one of the country's most popular attractions. Boat tours around the Sound (which is technically a fjord, not a sound) are the most popular way to get around, though the more adventurous travellers can set out in their own kayak. The road to the sound is a spectacle on its own. Thousands of waterfalls flow from unseen heights due to the regions huge volume of rain fall.

Mount Cook

Mount Cook or Aoraki, which means "cloud piercer", is the highest mountain in New Zealand at 3,754 metres above sea level. Mount Cook is located in the Southern Alps on the South Island. Surrounding it are many glaciers and forests. Both Fiordland National Park and the Mount Cook National Park are part of Te Wahipounamu (see below), the southwest of the South Island which is a huge natural paradise, with fjords, glaciers, mountains, mild rain forest, temperate beech forest and marine life. Most of the area is unspoilt by any human interference.

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki (also known as Mount Egmont) is the second highest mountain on the North Island of New Zealand. It's an active volcano, but not as active as others. The last major eruption was around 1655, although a piece of the top of the mountain came down in 1855/1856. A second volcano crater has been forming at the southern flank of the mountain. Whilst from the other side it looks like an almost perfect symmetrical mountain. Due to the similarity to Mount Fuji, the area was used as a backdrop in the film The Last Samurai although the mountain itself was not used in the film. Since 1881 the mountain and the surrounding forest are a national park. You don't need to be an experienced climber to reach the summit in summer, but prepare the trip well and be prepared for the changing weather conditions of the mountain. The climb from the Stratford Plateau and return are about 9-10 hours of walking and climbing.

Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park

Nelson is the geographical heart of the country and is known as the sunniest place in New Zealand. Although the town itself and its nearby beaches are fun, the adjacent Abel Tasman National Park is the real gem in this area. There are great (multiple) day hikes along the beaches, coastline, through forests with huge ferns and the views are awesome. You will have to travel west from Nelson by road and be transported by boat further into the park where you can walk back in a day (or more if you like). The region is also popular among skydivers. idden away within Abel Tasman lies Harwood Hole, this is the deepest cave in New Zealand at a depth of 357 metres. It is famous among experienced cavers and is not an attraction for the faint hearted.

Sky Tower

The Sky Tower is located in downtown Auckland. This large observation and telecommunications tower is over 328 metres (1,076 feet) tall making it the tallest free standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere. For the more adventurous traveller there is even an option to Sky Jump off the tower at speeds up to 85 km/hour. Also the SkyCity, a casino and event centre, is located in the Sky Tower complex for a different kind of adventurous traveller.

Te Wahipounamu

Alpine Tarn

Alpine Tarn

© r.sinclair

Te Wāhipounamu (Māori for "the place of greenstone") is a World Heritage Site in the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990 and covering 26,000 km², the site incorporates four national parks: Aoraki/Mt Cook, Fiordland, Mt Aspiring and Westland. It is thought to contain some of the best modern representations of the original flora and fauna present in Gondwana, one of the reasons for listing as a World Heritage site.

Tongariro National Park

Home to the highest mountain on North Island, the 2,797-metre-tall volcano Mount Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park is one of the highlights of any visit to New Zealand. It became the first cultural landscape on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1993. Its increasingly popular to visit due to the easiness of the walks and reputation as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings film series.

TranzAlpine Railway

One of the most scenic routes in the world is the TranzAlpine between Christchurch and Greymouth on the South Island that has been in operation since 1987. The scenery along this 223-kilometre-long trip is outstanding, crossing the New Zealand Alps and passing many tunnels and viaducts, one of which is over 70 metres high! After leaving Christchurch, the train travels through the fertile Canterbury Plains past the Waimakariri River along the Main South Line, to Rolleston. It then turns onto the Midland Line, which passes through the Southern Alps past the spectacular Waimakariri River gorge, via the Otira Tunnel and Arthurs Pass, and terminates in Greymouth, on the West Coast.

Other Sights and Activities

Carol dangles from the Kawarau Bridge in QUeenstown

Carol dangles from the Kawarau Bridge in QUeenstown

© Blakei

  • The Catlins is an area of green rolling hills, abandoned coastline and wildlife like the albatross and rare yellow eyed penguin. It is found in the south east of South Island, with Dunedin its largest city.
  • Lake Taupo is a beautiful lake near the town of Taupo. It is one of the largest lakes in the southern hemisphere and is known for its boating, fishing and geothermal activities.
  • Napier is one of the best preserved examples of art deco architecture in the world. The peaceful surrounding countryside is famous for it vineyards and orchards.
  • Coromandel Peninsula is a lush and peaceful stretch of coast in the North Island, popular as a getaway for Aucklanders.
  • Outer Islands, including the Chatham Islands and the Subantarctic Islands.
  • North Cape is a haven of culture and beaches. Cape Reinga is the northernmost point of New Zealand. Huge sand dunes unlike anything else in the country can be found here.
  • Scenic Drives - Drive down the west west coast of the South Island from Nelson to Queenstown and see some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. Most of the region is untouched and the roads are long and for the most part empty.



Events and Festivals

  • New Years Eve falls in the middle of summer in New Zealand (and everywhere else in the southern hemisphere). Beach bonfires are a common way to celebrate.
  • The biennial Te Matatini Maori Performing Arts Festival, formerly the Aotearoa Traditional Maori Performing Arts Festival, celebrates Maori music and dance from all over New Zealand.
  • Waitangi Day is a holiday held on February 6th every year to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi which gave land and citizenship rights to Maori people.
  • Auckland Festival is a festival where you can enjoy the work of great composers, choreographers, directors, dancers and artists.
  • Christchurch Arts Festival takes place in August.
  • Christchurch buskers festival takes place in January and is a fun, family orientated festival in which the best street performers from all over the world entertain in the parks and town squares.
  • New Zealand Comedy Festival is held both in Auckland and Wellington.
  • Queensland Winter Festival - In June, visitors and locals head to Queenstown to see international skiers race and perform during this popular festival. The celebration marks the beginning of the winter season and has taken place every year since 1975. There are fairs, parades, and shows topped off by an amazing fireworks display.
  • Wellington International Jazz Festival - Jazz enthusiasts will love the International Jazz Festival, which takes place in November every year. For one week, enjoy a range of international musicians coming from all over the world.
  • Bluff Oyster & Food Festival - In May, visitors flock to Bluff on the southern point of the South Island to enjoy the freshest oysters in New Zealand and all kinds of other seafood delicacies. There is plenty of entertainment such as oyster shucking, blindfolded competitions and live music.
  • Matariki Festival - One of the most interesting cultural events is the Maori New Year. When the so-called Matariki star rises, the Maori celebrations begin. In Auckland, visitors can enjoy a range of traditional concerts, art and dancing.
  • Rally New Zealand - Word class rally car drivers and teams come to Auckland in August to race through the harsh New Zealand terrain. First held in Taupo in 1969, the event has been moved to Canterbury on the North Island since 1971. It forms part of the FIA Rally Championship calendar and is a must-see for car lovers.
  • Gisborne Wine & Food Festival - Nestled in the middle of New Zealand’s wine region on the east coast, the Gisborne Wine & Food Festival is a must over Labor Day weekend in October. Visitors can taste some of the best local wines while enjoying great music and food. Tickets for the event need to be purchased in advance.
  • Auckland Marathon - The Auckland marathon is held annually in October (sometimes early November). Known for crossing Auckland Harbor which requires a 108 foot climb, the New Zealand race attracts about 9,000 runners from around the globe.
  • Caroline Bay Carnival - Running for roughly three weeks in December, enjoy music, dancing, rides and acts, culminating with a big fireworks display.




Named by the Maori as 'Land of the Long White Cloud', New Zealand has a temperate climate with summers that are either warm and dry or warm and wet (it is a changeable climate!) and cold wet winters, especially in the south or cool wet winters in the north. New Zealand's warmest months are December through March, its summer. Winter spans from June to August and mountains on the South Island make New Zealand a popular skiing destination in this period. Most of New Zealand lies close to the coast however, resulting in mild temperatures and plenty of sunlight year round, especially the northern tip of the North Island is still nice and mild during those months.

The average summer temperature in the North Island is around 22-25 °C, with the South Island averaging 21-24 °C. Although New Zealand does not have a large temperature range, the weather can shift suddenly and it is not uncommon to experience "4 seasons in 1 day". Still, the North Island experiences much more of a subtropical climate, especially in the upper north, while the southern half of the South Island has a relatively cool maritime climate where high summer temperatures are not that common. Temperatures can drop well below zero in winter, especially at higher elevations, while temperatures in summer have been known to rise even slightly over 40 °C, most recently in February 2011.

For more information about the current weather, check the website.



Getting There

Being an island, there are really only two ways to get to New Zealand: boat or plane.

By Plane

Auckland Airport (AKL) is the country's busiest airport, followed by Christchurch International Airport (CHC), which is the main airport on the South Island and has a growing number of connections to destinations in the Pacific. Wellington International Airport and Queenstown Airport have some options as well. There are also international airports in Dunedin, Hamilton and Palmerston North, though these airports only have flights to/from Australia or, in some cases, Fiji.

The national carrier for New Zealand is Air New Zealand, which operates flights to New Zealand from/via most Pacific islands and Australia. There are also connections with London via Los Angeles and Hong Kong.

Many smaller carriers from neighbouring countries serve almost all the Pacific islands, including Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. Also carriers from South America, like Aerolineas Argentinas and Lan Chile and carriers from Asia, like Singapore Airlines, China Southern, and Korean Air are serving the country.

Neighbouring Australia's Qantas and low-cost carriers Jetstar and Virgin Australia have many daily connections between Australia and New Zealand.

By Boat

There are no regular boat connections with other countries. The only feasible way of getting there by boat is by private yacht or the occasional cruise ship or cargo ship.



Getting Around

By Plane

Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Qantas and a few others have domestic flights between the main cities. There are smaller airports served by Air New Zealand Link, a subsidiary of Air New Zealand. Virgin Australia has also commenced operations on some routes.

Stewart Island Flights flies from Invercargill to Stewart Island three times daily for around NZ$95 one-way, NZ$165 return for an adult, children are charged NZ$55/NZ$95 respectively. The bus trip from the airport to Oban is included in the fare.

Air Chathams has flights to the Chatham Islands from Auckland, Wellington, Napier and Christchurch, taking around 2 hours. There are about 5 days with at least one flights, but not from every city every day. Napier has just seasonal flights (summermonths). It's wise to book ahead as seats are limited.

By Train

KiwiRail is the railway operator in the country. The Northern Explorer is the main service between Wellington and Auckland, running on a six-days a week schedule. There are no overnight services. One of the most scenic routes in the world is the Tranz Alpine between Christchurch and Greymouth on the South Island. The Coastal Pacific is a seasonal daily passenger service between Picton and Christchurch, stopping en route in 6 other places, including Blenheim and Kaikoura.

By Car

Renting or buying a car is incredibly cheap and easy in New Zealand. Coupled with the relatively short distances it helps explain why road transport is the preferred way to travel around New Zealand. To see the entire country in detail one would need several months, however it is quite possible to see several major attractions in the space of a few weeks when travelling by car. Driving is on the left hand side of the road and petrol costs about $NZ1.80 per litre. Explore More is a cheap rental option with depots in Auckland and Christchurch offering several car and camper types. Some of the other options to rent cars in New Zealand include the following companies:

Before you rent, ask the rental company if they have any relocation deals. Even in high season there can be a bottle neck of cars and campers at certain locations that the hire company is willing to offer discounted sometimes free rental to move the vehicle, possibly right to where you want to go. The only down side is the vehicle often has a time restriction, but even this is negotiable, depending on how much the rental company needs the vehicle moved. If spending more than a few months in the country many travellers find it cheaper to buy rather than rent a car. Cars can be bought cheaply enough at the start of the winter months as backpackers arrive at Auckland or Christchurch to fly home. With the influx of visitors at the start of summer the prices tend to pick up again.

Thumbing a lift is back in vogue in New Zealand. Both single travellers and couples are often seen with their thumb out, and Kiwi's are a friendly bunch that are quick to pick up a traveller. A sign telling where your going will help you get that ride. Kiwi's are always keen to show travellers the things that they would miss otherwise.

By Bus

As with car transport, the distances and infrastructure make bus travel a great way to see a lot of the country inexpensively. The Kiwi Experience, Magic and Stray backpacker buses are a popular "hop-on, hop-off" method to travel around, visiting most of the major sights with commentary and advice provided by the driver. There are many different long-distance bus providers in New Zealand, which are all listed on the Bus and Coach Association New Zealand website. The two main nationwide bus companies are Intercity and Nakedbus. Intercity is the established operator with the largest number of routes and departures, while Nakedbus is a budget operator rather like MegaBus in the United Kingdom. The new Nakedbus launched in 2006 with cheaper fares than Intercity on all their routes, which caused Intercity to lower some of their fares. NZ$1 tickets can sometimes be found if you book early enough on certain routes. Buses connect seamlessly with trains such as the Northern Explorer and TranzAlpine; and the Interislander ferry. So, for example, it's possible to take the TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth, then take the waiting Intercity bus to the Franz Josef Glacier or the Fox Glacier. I-SITE tourist offices throughout New Zealand can book rail, buses, trains and accommodations, as well as tours, such as those to Milford Sound.

By Boat

Interislander operates a regular ferry service between Wellington on the North Island and Picton on the South Island. It is about a three hour journey and in the summer it is advisable to book well in advance. Prices depend on the size and type of vehicle or if you are a foot passenger. Bluebridge also operates between the North (Wellington) and South Islands (Picton) with up to four sailings a day between the two cities.

The Stewart Island Experience Ferry runs three times daily between Bluff on the South Island and the main settlement Oban on Stewart Island. It takes around one hour and costs are around NZ$55 for an adult, half-price for children. There are shuttles to Bluff with the same company from Invercargill, Te Anau and Queenstown.



Red Tape

Visa Restrictions: Entry is refused to holders of travel documents issued by Somalia.

As from 1 October 2019, all international visitors (including transit visitors) from 60 visa waiver countries except for those travelling on an Australian passport, will require an Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) before embarking on the journey to New Zealand. These will be available from 1 July 2019 and will cost NZD9 for the mobile version and NZD12 for the web version. The NZeTA lasts for up to two years. In addition, visitors will also have to pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) at NZD35. The IVL lasts as long as the NZeTA. Further details including information regarding other exemptions can be found on the NZ Immigration web site

For now, foreign nationals of the following countries and territories are eligible for a visa waiver and can stay in New Zealand visa-free as a visitor for up to 3 months: All European Union member states (except the United Kingdom), Andorra, Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong SAR (including British National (Overseas) passports), Iceland, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, Oman, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates, United States and Vatican City. Nationals from the United Kingdom (British citizens and other British passport holders who produce evidence of the right to reside permanently in the UK) are eligible for a visa waiver and can stay in New Zealand visa-free as a visitor for up to 6 months. Entry under a visa waiver does not permit employment or studying in New Zealand.

Citizens and permanent residents of Australia are entitled to reside in New Zealand indefinitely under the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement. Australians in New Zealand under the agreement are treated as New Zealand residents and can study and work in New Zealand without restriction, although there are stand-down periods for voting in elections and claiming some tax and social security benefits.

Citizens of the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue are New Zealand citizens. However, due to differing immigration laws, citizens of these countries will need to present a New Zealand passport when entering and leaving New Zealand.

All these visa waivers, including the one for Australians, can be refused. In particular, potential visitors who have a criminal record or who have been refused entry to or deported from any country should check with Immigration New Zealand if they need to apply for a visa. You may also be refused entry for health reasons, especially if you have tuberculosis (TB) or are likely to inflict large costs on New Zealand's health system during your stay (e.g. you need renal dialysis, hospitalisation or residential care). If you are pregnant and going to be in New Zealand beyond 37 weeks, you may need to prove that you have sufficient funds (NZ$9,000 or more) to cover maternity costs before being allowed to enter.

Visitors from countries not in the visa-free list or those wishing to stay longer than the maximum visa-free period for their nationality need to apply for an appropriate visa. Check the Immigration New Zealand web page for details.

If you require a visa to enter New Zealand, you might be able to apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no New Zealand diplomatic post. British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a New Zealand visa application and an extra £70 if Immigration New Zealand requires the visa application to be referred to them. Immigration New Zealand can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.

If you seeking entry as a visitor and this standard condition is not specifically waived by a visa, you must have a return ticket or evidence of onward travel to even check-in with airlines. If you don't, then you'll have to purchase a ticket before being allowed to check in. You also need to prove you have sufficient funds available for your time in New Zealand – NZ$1,000 per month, or $400 per month if your accommodation is pre-paid (proof of payment is required in the latter case).

For those who need visa and are travelling in a group (having the same travel plans and itinerary), it may be better to apply for the considerably cheaper group visas. While applying for such a visa, apart from individual application forms, a separate group visa application form (only one form for the entire group) should also be submitted.

Refugee applications should be made before arrival since New Zealand has a formal refugee induction programme. Those who turn up in an airport arrival lounge without papers, claiming refugee status, may find themselves in jail awaiting the outcome of legal proceedings.

Customs and Quarantine

New Zealand has very strict biosecurity laws. Being a long way from anywhere else in the world, many pests and diseases that are endemic elsewhere are not present in New Zealand. A significant proportion of the economy is based on agriculture, so importing even small quantities of food, unprocessed animal or plant materials is tightly controlled. These restrictions are designed to prevent the introduction of foreign diseases and pests.

At ports of international entry, both the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and New Zealand Customs Service will inspect passenger baggage and confiscate and fine for any prohibited items. Do not think you can get away with bringing items in surreptitiously by not declaring them; ALL baggage will be x-rayed on arrival as part of standard entry procedures, and random inspections by sniffer-dogs will take place. There are air-side amnesty bins available to cater for accidental importation. On-the-spot fines of $400 are issued for not declaring controlled items; serious breaches can result in a fine of up to $100,000 and/or up to five years in prison.

The best advice is to declare any item you think may cause problems — biosecurity control border staff may confiscate and destroy the item, but you will not have to pay a fine (or even face criminal prosecution). Even if you haven't declared an item on your arrival card, you can still advise staff when you get to the border check of any item without incurring a fine.

Items that must be declared include:

  • any kind of food, regardless of whether it's cooked, uncooked, fresh, preserved, packaged or dried.
  • any animal product, material or biological specimen
  • any plants or plant material
  • any animals
  • any equipment used with animals, plants or water (e.g. gardening, beekeeping, fishing, water sport, diving)
  • any items that have been used for outdoor or farming activities, such as footwear, tents, camping, hunting, hiking, golf and sports equipment.

All food must be declared to customs, even if the food items are permitted. Commercially-packaged or processed food is usually allowed through by MPI, but you can still be fined if you do not declare them. Take care with any items of food that you have obtained during your travel; many people have been caught and fined for not declaring fruit they were given as part of an in-flight meal. If you are unsure it is best to declare any questionable items as the immigration officers will be able to tell you if it needs to be cleaned or disposed of before entry. Some items may be allowable such as wooden souvenirs but be taken for sterilisation or fumigation before being released to you. You may be charged a fee for this.

Anti-money laundering and countering finance of terrorism (AML/CFT) laws requires you to make a declaration to customs if you are bringing NZ$10,000 or more, or its equivalent in foreign currency, in or out of the country. There are no restrictions on the amount of money that may be brought into or out of New Zealand provided the money is properly declared. Failure to declare could lead to arrest and a possible seizure of the cash.

In addition, importation or possession of most recreational drugs, including cannabis, is illegal and results in arrest. If found guilty, you would be subject to a range of penalties from hefty fines for minor offences to lengthy imprisonment, even life imprisonment, for larger offences.




See also Money Matters

The New Zealand currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZD). 1 dollar is divided into 100 cents.

  • Banknotes: $5, $10, $20, $50, $100
  • Coins: 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, $1, $2




There are several options for those who are looking to work and live in New Zealand, either permanently or temporarily.

New Zealand is a very popular destination for working holidaymakers from countries with a reciprocal agreement. Successful applicants of the Working Holiday Schemes will be granted visas which allow short term employment in New Zealand.

For Skilled Migrant Category, applications are processed via a points-based immigration system. Points are awarded for significant professional experience, relevant and recognised qualifications and working in a skill shortage area. Being related to someone already living in New Zealand is also a big bonus.

Popular short-term or working holiday jobs include fruit picking (mostly during summer) and working in ski resorts (mostly during winter). Short-term jobs in hospitality and catering are available year round, particularly in tourist centres such as Queenstown, though there may be keen competition for jobs. For temporary office work Auckland is the best bet.

Particular skill shortage areas at the moment include medicine/health care, high level IT (including technical and management) and some construction trades.




Generally, participation in education in New Zealand is high against international standards, but slightly lower than OECD neighbours. The proportion of young people progressing to Higher Education is similar to OECD neighbours, however New Zealanders are nearly twice as likely to return to university to study as adults. [2]

Academic standards in New Zealand's universities have been creeping upwards, with five universities in the 2007 Top 100 Asia Pacific Universities: The University of Auckland, Massey University, University of Otago, University of Canterbury, Victoria University of Wellington. [3] Fees for international students are generally slightly lower than those for universities of a comparable standard in Europe, Asia and the USA.

New Zealand is also a popular destination for those studying English as a Foreign Language.




English is the main language of New Zealand and is spoken by everyone. Although Maori is an official language it is not spoken much outside Maori circles.




With volcanic soil, a moderate climate and clean, clear water, New Zealand is blessed with an abundance of top quality produce. Items one might find on the menu include green-lipped mussels, crayfish, abalone (known locally as paua), venison, kumara, feijoas, tamarillo, and of course kiwi fruit. The quality of New Zealand lamb is legendary, and New Zealand has a fine reputation for its apples.

A traditional Maori way of cooking is the hangi. An earth oven is created by digging a deep hole which is filled with piping hot stones. The oven is filled with a stew of mixed meats and potatoes - including kumara, naturally.

Fish and Chips is a fast food favourite, including the uniquely kiwi fried whitebait fritters.

Haute Cuisine in New Zealand leans towards the 'keep it simple' approach, with well-presented top quality ingredients. There's certainly a pacific influence, with meat-fruit combinations popular.




Browse budget accommodation in New Zealand.

New Zealand has one of the best independent hostel networks in the world and you'll never find yourself too far away from a bed for the night. Hostels are usually of a high standard, with rooms the quality of a good basic hotel, sometimes better. These beds come at a very good rate of around $10 to $20.

There are plenty of moderately priced hotels and bed breakfasts across country with rooms from $50 to $100. It is possible to get very good deals on many rooms during the off season at these locations. Top end hotels and resorts are the same price they are at any country in the world.

New Zealand is also home to some really top-end luxury pads, including the luxurious Huka Lodge in the North Island and Blanket Bay at Glenorchy in the South Island.




Some of the world's top white wines come from New Zealand. The regions of Marlborough and Hawkes Bay are particularly suitable for viticulture and a wine tour of either of these regions is highly recommended.

New Zealand also boasts a good range of small breweries concentrating on flavourful, high quality beer. Monteith's of Greymouth have proved particularly successful and their brews can now be found worldwide. Other popular brewers include Speights, Mac's , Boundary Road and Emerson.




See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to New Zealand.

Tap water is perfectly safe to drink.

With no poisonous wildlife, no tropical diseases and a world-class health system, New Zealand is a particularly safe place to travel. Take the same health precautions that you would at home, with a little extra care as appropriate if you head out into the wilderness.

The highest risks to a traveller's health come from exposure to the elements. Use a high factor (higher than 48 SPF) when out in the sun and be sure to take on enough water when undertaking activities on hot days. Wear thermal clothing in suitable layers when out at altitude to avoid hypothermia, and be aware of the risk of altitude sickness; there are several mountains between the 2,797 metres of Mt Ruapehu in the North Island to the 3,724 metres of Mt Cook/Aoraki, New Zealand's highest mountain in the South Island.




See also Travel Safety

New Zealand is a safe country to travel in, with low crime figures. Take the usual precautions with your belongings, do not leave them in view in a vehicle as most of the crimes are of a dishonesty nature, i.e. theft. When going hiking or walking alone, always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

Some areas of Auckland are known to be less safe at night - make sure you stick to familiar areas after dark.

Adventure sports activities can pose some risks to safety. Ensure that you're using appropriate and properly functioning equipment at all times. Some activities may require you to make use of a guiding company, particularly for mountaineering, caving, glacier/ice climbing and whitewater sports. Make sure that you are confident of the reputation and credentials of the company before making use of their services.

Although New Zealand generally is not prone to severe weather, hurricanes or other climatological aspects, earthquakes on the other hand are a major threat. Recently, in September 2010 and February 2011, the area in and around Christchurch was severely hit, causing deaths and many buildings to collapse.

In case of emergency, dial 111 from any phones for police, fire and ambulance services. The worldwide emergency number for GSM mobile phones, 112, can also be used.



Keep Connected

Staying connected in New Zealand is an easy affair in most towns and cities, although naturally if you are heading off the beaten path it can become harder.


Internet cafés are widely available throughout New Zealand at rates of around NZ$2-4, though sometimes more in smaller places. Besides internet and e-mail services, most big internet cafés also offer some way for travellers to connect their digital camera and burn cds. Many public libraries have public Internet access, and most of them offer short free internet sessions. Wi-Fi access is getting more and more common in for example coffee places or fast food chains. It is becoming more common for Wi-Fi to be provided at hotels and motels, though sometimes at a fee. Wireless Hotspots are located in many cities and towns all over New Zealand from dedicated Wireless providers from whom you can buy connect time. Many camping holiday parks also have such services available.


See also International Telephone Calls

Dial 111 for emergency police, fire or ambulance services. The worldwide emergency number for GSM mobile phones, 112, can also be used.
The country code is 64.

Most payphones in New Zealand require the use of phone cards for payment and it is getting harder to find payphones that accept coins. As phone cards are available at a lot of outlets, they are easy to purchase and very handy as a backup in case of emergencies. Many of them also accept creditcards. Local calls are free from residential phones and charges for calling outside that area can be found at the front of the regional phone books, amongst many other services.

Mobile telephone coverage is effectively national in near urban areas although the mountainous terrain means that outside the urban areas, and especially away from the main highway system, coverage does have huge dead patches. Do not rely on mobile phones in hilly or mountainous terrain. Mobile telephone users can call 555 only to report Non-emergency traffic safety incidents, such as a breakdown, road hazard or non-injury car crash, to the Police. There are currently three major mobile carriers in New Zealand.

  • Telecom operates a UMTS (3G) network, named XT Network, nationwide on 850MHz with supplementary 2100MHz in metropolitan areas. (the same frequencies as Telstra in Australia and AT&T in the U.S.)
  • Vodafone operates a GSM network on 900MHz/2100 MHz and a UTMS (3G) network operates nationwide 900MHz with supplementary 2100MHz coverage.
  • 2degrees operates a UMTS (3G) network (2100MHz) in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, with supplementary GSM coverage provided elsewhere by Vodafone.

A prepaid sim-card connection pack with $10 credit from Telecom or Vodafone costs around $30, and prepaid sim-cards from 2degrees cost $10. It is possible to pick up a free 2degrees sim-card on the SkyBus service that runs between Auckland airport and the CBD. Telecom has broader coverage in remote areas away from major cities compared to Vodafone and 2degrees.


Most areas have dedicated PostShops, however stamps can also be bought at grocery shops, supermarkets and book stores. There are two main formats for domestic mail, namely Standard Post and Fast Post. Fast Post is used next day delivery between major towns and cities (two days from rural areas), whereas Standard Post will take a few working days to deliver nationwide. Standard costs NZ$0.50 for letters/postcards (NZ$0.80 for larger envelopes), Fast Post costs NZ$0.80 (NZ$1.20 for larger envelopes). International mail takes about 3-6 days to Australia (NZ$1.50), and 6-12 days to Europe, Asia and the United States (NZ$2). Post boxes are white, red and black and can be found in many areas throughout towns and cities, including information about when their contents are collected. Most post offices and smaller post shops have opening hours from 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 12:30pm on Saturday. You can buy stamps here, or at newsagents and general stores. For parcels, you can use the NZ Post or otherwise courier companies like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx.



  1. 1 May 2106 estimate, []]
  2. 2
  3. 3 Academic Ranking of World Universities - Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, retrieved on 31 July 2008

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English, Maori, New Zealand Sign Language
48% Christian (Protestant, Catholic), 46% None or undeclared, 6% others [2013 census]
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New Zealand Travel Helpers

  • Sander

    I spent ten months travelling all over New Zealand on a working holiday visa, and have gone back thrice since, including two whirlwind tours of the best the country has to offer, playing tourguide for friends. I've travelled by bus, campervan and car. There's few places in the country I haven't been to, and many of the main highlights I've visited during at least two different seasons.
    If you're into beautiful nature and love hiking, ask me for suggested itineraries (or search the New Zealand forum for posts by me containing those). :)

    Ask Sander a question about New Zealand
  • karolin155

    Have lived and worked there for about eight months, especially in the SI. Would love to answer your questions.

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  • Borisborough

    I have lived and worked in Auckland since emigrating from the UK over twelve years ago. I am the proud owner of a New Zealand passport (although I still have my British one too) and I've been through the whole immigration thing - work visa, medical, NZQA accreditation, permanent residency, citizenship.

    I know the Auckland area very well and I have toured the North Island visiting most tourist places (and many non-tourist places too). I can't say the same about the South Island - I've been to Nelson for a few days!

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  • stevieh

    Motorhome touring in South Island.
    Hotels and motels in the North Island.
    Bay of Islands.

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  • Miwi88

    I have lived in New Zealand for the past 10 years both in the South Island and now in the North Island. If there's anything you want to know about the Land of White Clouds, feel free to ask.

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