Often called the “Land of the Long White Cloud”, New Zealand is a unique country with spectacular sceneries. This small country consists of two major islands, North and South Island with smaller ones surrounding it. Just because it is small does not mean you will have less to see in this clean and green country. It is jam-packed with awe-inspiring natural beauty from rocky coastlines, pristine beaches, and rich forests to proud snowcapped mountains. Fresh air and great exciting outdoor activities are the main attractions of the country. Pair this with friendly, warm, and honest people and you are sure to beg for more time to explore New Zealand.
The contrasting features of the two major islands have their own impact to visiting tourists. Explore the beauty that the North Island can offer. Sit and relax on its beautiful beaches and try their excellent sailing. See for yourself their volcanic landscapes and thermal areas. Enter their native forests and experience their strong indigenous Maori culture. Or you can head to the Southern Island and see marvelous mountain ranges, rich forests, snow covered mountains, deep lakes and glaciers.
Exhilarating activities are sure to find its way into a typical adventure-seeking tourist. Try skiing, bungee jumping and swimming with dolphins. Enjoy boat cruises and treks with superb sceneries. In contrast, if you want to enjoy the country in the quieter side and immerse yourself with New Zealand’s culture, head to remarkable museums and galleries in the country’s main cities.
Wherever you choose to go in New Zealand, you will soon find out that the country is an easy and an all-in-one destination. The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy movie gave you a peek of what the country can offer.
So instead of admiring it on screen, better take your backpacks, fly to these southern islands and see for yourself what a marvel it is.
When to Travel
New Zealand’s climate is subtropical in the north and temperate in the south. There is no extreme heat or extreme cold experienced in the northern region but winter in the southern part can be quite cool with snow in the mountainous areas. Summer season usually brings drought in the eastern region while there is more rain in the western part of South Island.
You will enjoy the country more if you time your visit according to what you want to do. If you are an outdoor person and want to have pleasure in outdoor activities, then the warmer high-season months, November to April, will be the best time to visit the country. On the other hand, winter months from June to August are good for ski enthusiasts. These are the months when skiing is in high season because of thick snow.
If you are into socialization, better visit between the months of December to February. This is the summer season when the country’s food and wine festivals are celebrated and concerts and events take place. December, however, brings some mild showers in the far northern areas.
Summer months are also school holidays so a lot of people are crowding in main tourist areas to enjoy the festivities. Better refrain from visiting the country during these months if you want to avoid the usual crowd. Instead, time your visit during October to November and April to May where there is less visiting tourists.
New Zealand Cuisines and Drinks
The country’s cuisine was influenced by the British style of cooking. Mixed with the indigenous Maori and Pakeha cuisines, New Zealand made its own distinct taste. Some specialties include Pavlova or pave, a meringue-like cake, topped with whipped cream and added with a sliced fruit, and the colonial goose, which is a roasted leg of a lamb. Another delicacy that you need not miss is the roasted kumara, a roasted sweet potato. It is sometimes fried and served with sour cream.
New Zealanders eat a lot of meat pies stuffed with lamb, pork, beef, kumara, potato, cheese and vegetables. In fact, the country holds a yearly contest showcasing pies in different categories. There is also the kiwifruit, a fruit containing a brilliant green flesh with edible seeds and a unique tart-sweet taste. Although this fruit originated in China, it is selectively bred in the country as a specialty. Another seasonal dish, served in a fried patty made from an egg based batter, is the whitebait. Literally, whitebaits are the young of some freshwater fish, usually herring and sprats.
In regards to places where you can eat, the country has a wide variety of eating places. There are fast food outlets that are particularly seen in major cities and tourist areas. McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s to name a few. Petrol stations have adjacent convenience stores where you can usually find chips, pies, sandwiches and other takeaway food. Independently owned stores selling burgers, pizzas and fried chicken can be found anywhere.
The locals are known to enjoy a bottle of beer from time to time. Quench your thirst for beers by choosing from any of the regional brands available, each with their own distinctive tastes. For wine enthusiasts, it will be good to know that New Zealand’s wines are very popular, not just in the country but across the globe. In fact, they have created a large exporting industry as the top producer of Sauvignon Blanc.
Coffeehouses are beginning to grow by the many in New Zealand. Coffee culture is quite notable in Wellington where office workers gather to have their cup of coffee. Highly popular is the cappuccino which can be served with chocolate powder or cinnamon sprinkled on top. Other available coffee flavors include latte, espresso, flat wine, vienna and many more. Tea is also an integral part of New Zealand’s culture.
Popular Sights of New Zealand
Auckland/Sky Tower- This is probably the best place to start your tour in the country. As the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, the Sky Tower in Auckland offers a magnificent 360-degree view of the city, its surrounding mountains, coasts and beaches. It has a casino, theaters and hotels where you can relax while enjoying the views nearby.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Reserve- As mentioned earlier, the country brags about their volcanic landscapes and thermal areas. The bubbling mud pools and performing geyser at Wai-O-Tapu (means Sacred Waters) are one of the best thermal attractions of New Zealand. The Champagne Pool, Devil’s Bath and the erupting Lady Knox Geyser are a few of the top features of the reserve.
Wellington/ Te Papa Museum- Located in the capital city of Wellington is the country’s leading attraction, Te Papa Museum. As one of the world’s largest museums, it holds everything that is New Zealand – from its rich past, the people, natural attractions to its dedicated culture and arts.
Christchurch Gondola- Visitors can take a ride to the top of Christchurch’s extinct volcano where spectacular views of the city can be seen. You can also take a peek of the Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps from the summit. You will also enjoy the Time Tunnel Heritage Show exhibition and a video showing the rich Maori mythology.
Mt. Cook National Park- Mt. Cook National Park houses New Zealand’s highest mountain called Aoraki Mt. Cook. The Maori name Aoraki means “cloud piercer” which is justified by the towering height of the mountain that is noticeable from the other snowcapped peaks in the park. Enjoy a walk in the area while taking in the natural beauty of the surroundings or you can trek the dramatic trails of Mt Cook.
Art Deco Napier- This humble town of Napier has one of the world’s most excellent collections of preserved art deco buildings. Though it was destroyed by an earthquake years ago, it was recently rebuilt without compromising its original architectural art grandeur.
Fjords- Spectacular fjords can be found in the western coast of the South Island. Cruise the Milford Sound hemmed with granite cliffs and dominated by Mitre Peak. To avoid the usual crowd, tourists can also try kayaking around the area especially in the Doubtful Sound.
The New Zealand dollar (NZ$) is the official currency used in New Zealand. One dollar is divided into 100 cents. Notes that are circulating are in denominations of NZ$5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Coins are in denominations of NZ$1 and 2 and 10, 20 and 50 cents.
Most businesses will accept Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and American Express credit cards. The last two are widely accepted in major tourist centers but may pose a great deal of trouble outside these areas. ATMs are common and can be found in all cities and towns.
Exchange facilities and offices are available all throughout the country. You can exchange foreign currencies at banks and other authorized money changers like Travelex (called Thomas Cook before) in the main cities. Banking hours start from 9:30 in the morning and ends 4:30 in the afternoon, Monday through Friday. They do not open during public holidays. Moneychangers can be found in major tourist areas, cities and airports. Their advantage is that they normally open beyond banking hours, sometimes up until 9:00 in the evening