About New Zealand
New Zealand is a country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Australia its nearest neighbor. Travelers visit New Zealand for its scenic beauty, consisting of active volcanoes, spectacular caves, deep glacier lakes, valleys, fjords, sandy beaches and the Southern Alps spectacular snowcapped peaks on the South Island.
The capital city is Wellington, home to Te Papa Tongarewa the expansive national museum but the largest urban area is Auckland; both are located on the North Island. Wellington’s dramatic Mt. Victoria, along with the South Island’s Fiordland and Southern Lakes, was featured in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films.
New Zealand Travel Info
Language: There are two official languages in New Zealand: Maori and The New Zealand Sign Language. English is spoken by the majority of people. Maori was granted the official status in 1987 and New Zealand became the first ever country to give official status to a sign language.
Currency: New Zealand Dollar.
Visa: U.S., British and European citizens can enter New Zealand as a visitor for up to 6 months on arrival without a visa, provided you can satisfy an Immigration Officer that you meet the requirements of the immigration rules and you must have an onward ticket. Visit the New Zealand Embassy website for the most current visa information.
Electricity: New Zealand generally operates on 230/240 volts whereas some hotels use 110 volts sockets. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
New Zealand Festivals & Celebrations
Rhythm and Alps: Are you passionate about music and mountains? Wanaka’s Rhythm and the Alps is that kind of celebration for you. It is one of the few festivals in New Zealand that brings together world-famous bands on a single platform for a scintillating musical experience during New Year’s evening. The major attractions to witness are Matt Corby and The Cat Empire.
Marlborough Wine Festival: For the people who believe in the saying “Wine is beautiful bottled poetry,” must travel to Brancott Vineyard to attend this festival. Held every year on 9th February, this festival gives you an excellent opportunity to taste a distinct collection of world famous wine, delicious native cuisines, and some music.
Hokitika Wildfoods Festival: The Hokitika Wildfoods Festival, the brainchild of Claire Bryant, is an annual event held in Hokitika, New Zealand. The main attraction of the event is food stalls offering items not normally consumed on a regular basis such as whitebait patties, smoked salmon, marinated tuna and different international cuisines.
Safety In New Zealand
Just like most countries in Oceania, New Zealand is a very safe place to travel to. Thefts and occasional scams are prevalent in all tourist destinations so be mindful of this. Based on my own travel experiences, I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit New Zealand.
Top Things To Do In New Zealand
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
The Waitangi Treaty grounds are the most historic site in New Zealand. On 6th February 1840, after extensive discussions, the treaty of Waitangi was signed between the 43 Maori chiefs and the British. Later on, more than 500 chiefs signed the same. You can take a guided tour of the place and visit the Museum of Waitangi, the iconic treaty house, the Whare Runanga and enjoy a lively cultural performance.
Visit the tree with the biggest trunk, Te Matua Ngahere
If you walk for 20 minutes from the car parking at Kauri Walks, you will come across four sisters, four trees standing tall and merged at the base, around Te Matua Ngahere or the Father of the Forest. He is about 30 meters in height and 16.4 meters in circumference and most significant living Kauri. He is believed to be more than 3000 years old, and in its comparison, the other surrounding trees appear like matchsticks.
Head to Cape Reinga
At the end of the state highway-1, there is a vivid headland where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. The waves thus created are about 10 meters high when the weather is rough. Cape Regina is literally and metamorphically the end of the road, and as per Maori Culture, this is the place from where the souls of the dead depart the earth. As a result, this is the most sacred place in all Aotearoa.
Blue Penguin Colony
As the evening approaches, cute little penguins from the Oamaru penguin colony wade towards the shore. They head to their nests located in an old quarry close to the waterfront. Most of the penguins can be seen during November-December (about 250). Just when it is about dark, they come in rafts, and the entire process takes nearly an hour. There are stands on both sides of the waddle route from where you can get a closer look at these creatures.
Hike the One Tree Hill
It is a volcanic cone that is the key pa’ of the isthmus and also the biggest fort of New Zealand. On the top of the hill is the grave of John Logan Campbell, the person who donated the land in 1901 and requested the Maori people to build a memorial on the summit. You can get a 360-degree view of the area from the top. Just near the monument is the stump of the last tree and the lush Cornwall Park.
Visit the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, South Island
Aoraki National Park also known as the Mount Cook National Park is lush green landscape, about 40 of which is covered by glaciers. Within the periphery of the park lie, Mount Cook, the tallest mountain and the Tasman Glacier, the longest glacier of New Zealand. The park is rich in diverse flora and fauna, and there are about 40 species of birds and more than 300 species of plants that call it home.
Lose yourself in Auckland, North Island
Auckland, also known as “City of Sails,” is New Zealand’s biggest and most densely inhabited Polynesian city of the world. The sandy beaches, picturesque coves, volcanoes and islands envelope the Auckland city hence turning it into an ideal base for day-long adventures and trips. To realize Auckland’s scintillating location, travelers can also climb up 328 meters high Sky Tower for the spectacular and breathtaking panoramic views. You also get to experience the authentic Maori culture in Auckland.
Admire the beauty of Queenstown, South Island
Nestled between the coast of Sparkling Lake Wakatipu and extraordinary snowy peaks in the city of Queenstown. The city is known as New Zealand’s escapade capital and gets flocked by tourists from all parts of the world, a variety of adventure sports like paragliding, bungee jumping, rock climbing, downhill skiing and mountain biking pump up the adrenaline. Apart from adventure sports, Queenstown also has super luxurious hotels, relaxing spas, jovial restaurants, and crowded markets. You can make a day-long trip from Queenstown to Central Otago region where travelers can discover gold mining towns.
Go Sealife Spotting at Kaikoura, South Island
The coastal town of Kaikoura, situated on South Island is one of the major attraction points for bird lovers, seafood aficionados and wildlife enthusiasts from around the world. Nestled between the famous Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean, Kaikoura is home to outstanding coastal hiking activity and whale sighting tours. Visitors enjoy watching massive sperm whales, humpbacks, playing dolphins, fur seals and a range of birds especially the charming albatross. Kaikoura is famous for freshly captured crayfish and mussels.
Spend a day at Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park, North Island
In the heart of North Island lies Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand and at a short distance from the lake lies the Tongariro National Park. This national park is a dual World Heritage Site, first due to its impressive volcanic features and second due to its significance in the Maori culture. It is among the world’s oldest National Parks and is dramatically beautiful with volcanoes, lakes, hot springs and meadows adding to its beauty.
Other than these top things to do in New Zealand, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in New Zealand that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In New Zealand
There are some traditional New Zealand dishes, drinks, and desserts that the Kiwis proudly claim as their own. Some must-try cuisine is listed below.
Hangi: The locals make the traditional Hangi from vegetables and meat, slow-cooked in an underground earthen oven. During the old times this was the conventional cooking method, but today, hangi is prepared only on special occasions as it takes a lot of time to cook.
Crayfish: Crayfish or lobster if another favorite of kiwis and is among the expensive food items. If given an opportunity, you must try it only then will you get to know why the Kiwis are crazy about crayfish.
Kiwi burger: Kiwi burger is unique because this incorporates fried egg and beetroot along with the regular burger patties and everything else that a regular burger includes. This combination is although unique but worth trying out.
Jaffas: Jaffas are small chocolate balls coated in sugar with orange flavor. Jaffas are available in any confectionary, dairy or supermarket across the country. Every year a Jaffa race is also held in Dunedin where the candies are rolled into Baldwin Street, world’s steepest residential street.
Pavlova: Pavlova is a delectable and drool-worthy dessert made of meringue, whipped cream, and fresh fruits. Australians also claims the ownership of Pavlova and believe that they invented the dessert, but the Kiwis have an alternative theory.
Where To Stay In New Zealand
New Zealand can be an expensive place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in New Zealand is easy but finding affordable accommodation, if you’re on a tight budget, is the hard part. Luckily New Zealand hostels and dormitories make travel here more affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. New Zealand is a very popular year-round destination.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in New Zealand.
If you’re backpacking in New Zealand or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Oceania very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
New Zealand Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit New Zealand
You’ll have a great time visiting New Zealand at any time of year but if you want to plan your trip at the optimum time of year then Fall in New Zealand is one of the best times to plan your New Zealand vacation. In Fall the summer crowds have gone, the attractions charge off peak rates, and the weather is still amazing.
New Zealand Travel Budget
New Zealand is a reasonably affordable destination for travelers, even those on a tight budget. The cost of your trip to New Zealand really depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between $35 to $60 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $60 to $120 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget about $250 plus a day.
- Budget: $25 – $50
- Mid-range: $50 – $150
- Splurge: $150 +
Meal For One
- Budget: $12 – $25
- Mid-range: $25 – $60
- Splurge: $60 +
New Zealand Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to New Zealand, like most places in Oceania is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for dry season and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during the rainy season.
Be prepared for the weather to get extremely hot during the summer so pack a high factor sunscreen and a sun hat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in New Zealand. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques (aimed at tourists) than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your trip to New Zealand.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to New Zealand include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to New Zealand check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Oceania Packing List For Female Travelers.