In the shadow of its colossal South Pacific neighbor Australia, New Zealand punches higher above its weight than any other country in the tourism stakes. One of the most diverse lands on the planet, this sparsely inhabited country continuously astounds travelers with outrageous landscapes of snow-capped mountain peaks rolling down through rainforests and into sweeping coastal bays; a multicultural society that if were any more laidback would live horizontally; and more adrenalin filled activities than you can shake a stick at.
Split between the North and SouthIslands, in terms of landmass New Zealand is marginally larger than Great Britain yet with a population of only 4.3million. What’s more, with over half of these residing in the urban capitals of Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, the remainder of the country is free and open to explore at will. Yes, it does receive an unruly amount of visitors; however, by choosing destinations wisely, the tour buses and crowds are easily avoided.
Boasting scenery like nowhere else in the world, New Zealand is a country for the outdoors. Hiking to the summit of glaciers, kayaking vast freshwater lakes, white-water rafting down fierce rivers and bungy jumping whilst suspended between two mountains are all par for the course. Then there is the wildlife. In the 1980s there were rumored to be as many as 20 sheep to every person, which does not appear to be far from the truth today. Add to this, dolphins, whales and a medley of birds, including the wonderfully intriguing flightless Kiwi, it is easy to see why the country is so adored by nature enthusiasts.
There is never a bad time to visit New Zealand, however travelers deciding to spend an extended period here should prepare for all types of climate. November to April are the warmer months and high season, when festivals and sports events are in full flow. From April onwards things start to cool down and, besides the ski season of early June to October, it is generally less crowded.
With so much to offer, New Zealand should be on any keen travelers list of places to visit. A common mistake of European backpackers is to get overexcited in the country’s larger, more boisterous neighbor, thus flying into Auckland or Christchurch unprepared. Do yourself and everyone a favor, save some time and hard-earned savings for New Zealand as you never know when you’ll have the opportunity to return.
Auckland - The country’s largest city is a melting pot of cultures and cuisine stretching back from a stunning beach and harbour. Check out the views across the bay and mountains from the soaring Sky Tower or take the 192-metre Sky Jump plunge.
Rotorua - Come face to face with a Moari and learn about the native culture. Then cleanse the body in one of an abundance of geothermal spas.
White Water Rafting - Action packed adventure on one of the North Island’s powerful and picturesque rivers. Take your pick of destinations from the RangtikeiRiver at River Valley, Wairora near Tauranga, or Mohaka in Hawke’s Bay.
Wellington - Visit New Zealand’s capital city say in the shadows of MountVictoria. Sample the nightlife and café culture of Cuba Street or learn more about Maori culture at the impressive Te Papa Museum.
Bay of Islands - Pass Auckland, keep heading north to the Bay of Islands and enjoy laidback fishing towns, uncrowned beaches, dolphin cruises, sailing trips and big-game fishing excursions.
Ninety MileBeach - Is it really 90miles long? Who cares, this huge beach stretching along the AupouriPeninsula is a geological phenomenon. Bus tours make constant journeys along the coasts, with pit stops for sand boarding and tobogganing fun in the sand dunes.
Lake Wanaka - Experience one of New Zealand’s most tranquil settings located just north of Queenstown. Kayak, hike or simply sit back and admire the crystal clear waters of the 45km long lake at the foot of towering mountains.
Queenstown - The adrenalin capital of New Zealand and arguably the world. This is the place for thrill seekers with skiing, tobogganing, Bungy jumping, sky diving and jet-boat riding all at hand. If not for you then just take in the views and enjoy the vibrant nightlife.
Christchurch - The country’s Garden City is the spitting image of the traditional English university town. Relax on the river, admire the botanical gardens and visit the wonderful ChristchurchArtGallery.
Milford Sound - Rugged cliffs rise out from the eerily calm waters of Milford Sound to captivate the thousands that make the journey to the deep SouthIsland. Take a boat trip of the Fiordlands for seal and dolphin watching and waterfall gazing.
Fox Glacier & Fransz Josef - Take an all day hike or land on the summit in a helicopter. There is nothing more awe-inspiring than the sight of the majestic glaciers of the South Island.
Malborough Wine Region - Experience the stunning wine regions to discover the secrets behind New Zealand’s world famous sauvignon blanc. Finish the day off with dinner at one of many fine gourmet restaurants.
Taieri Gorge Railway - Sit back and relax as this historic train journey departs from Dunedin and weaves its way through scenic mountains, over dramatic gorges and through hand carved tunnels over 100-years old.
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