New Zealand, 'Land of the Long White Cloud', is a small, sparsely populated country consisting of two major islands, North and South Island, and a scattering of smaller ones. Despite its small size it is crammed with magnificent natural beauty and has an incredible amount to offer; the only complaint travellers have is that they haven't allowed enough time in the country. Fresh air, breathtaking scenery and outdoor activities are the main attractions of New Zealand, with a tremendously friendly, honest and helpful population, colloquially nicknamed after their country's distinct symbol, the unusual but amiable flightless kiwi bird.
The two islands have surprisingly different characters. The North Island has dramatic volcanic landscapes and highly active thermal areas, long stretches of beautiful beaches and excellent sailing, ancient indigenous forests and a strong Maori cultural influence. The South Island has a slower pace of life dominated by a magnificent spine of mountains, the snow-covered Southern Alps, and the spectacular scenery of the southern waterways of the fjord lands, with glaciers, deep lakes and verdant forests.
The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 was New Zealand's founding document, an attempt to settle disputes between the European settlers and the Maoris, conceding the country to British rule while guaranteeing the Maori people possession of their land and cultural identity. Today, integration has been replaced by a policy of upholding two different cultures alongside each other. Their shared love of sport, most notably the revered national sport of rugby union, and their enthusiasm for adventure and the outdoors is the unifying factor among the whole population.
New Zealand offers a huge variety of action-packed and laid back activities, from bungee jumping to skiing, swimming with dolphins, scenic flights and boat cruises on the fjords, as well as several world famous walking trails with unrivalled scenery. Alternatively visitors can immerse themselves in culture at the museums and galleries of the country's main cities - Auckland and the capital Wellington in the North, and Christchurch in the south.
New Zealand is an easy and compact place in which to travel and its spectacularly dramatic landscape alone, famous for its setting for the 'The Lord of the Rings' film trilogy, makes the long trip to these southern islands more than worthwhile.
Local currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD), divided into 100
cents. Most businesses accept MasterCard and Visa, and while Diners
Club and American Express are also widely accepted in the main
tourist centres, they might have limited acceptance elsewhere.
Travellers cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at banks,
bureaux de change and some hotels. ATMs can be found in all towns
|NZ$ 1 =||US$ 0.79||Â£ 0.52||C$ 0.81||A$ 0.77||R 6.71||EUR 0.63||NZ$ 1.00|
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
There are no health risks associated with travel to New Zealand. New Zealand's accident compensation scheme (ACC) covers emergency treatment for visitors, but health insurance is recommended to cover any additional charges and for those not entitled to free emergency treatment. Those intending to participate in adventure activities, such as bungee jumping, white water rafting, etc should ensure that their travel insurance covers these types of activities.
All foreign passengers to New Zealand must hold return/onward tickets, the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country (usually NZD 1,000 per month, or NZD 400 if accommodation has been prepaid). Note that all visitors must obtain a permit to enter Tokelau from the Tokelau Apia Liason Office in Apia, at least two weeks prior to travel. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
New Zealand Tourism
Tourism New Zealand, Wellington: +64 (0)4 917 5400 or www.newzealand.com/travel
Foreign Embassies in New Zealand
New Zealand Embassies
The North Island has many superb physical features as well as New Zealand's two major cities, Auckland, the 'City of Sails' and the capital, Wellington. From island-studded bays and sailing, to volcanic activity and geothermal wonders, wild rugged coastlines and fascinating Maori culture and history, the North Island of New Zealand has much to offer visitors.
The beautiful region in the far north is known as Northland and includes the picturesque Coromandel Peninsula, reaching into the sea between Auckland and the Bay of Plenty, with magnificent kauri forests of enormous 3,000-year-old trees, stunning coastal scenery, beaches and scenic bays, quaint seaside townships and mountain ranges. The Bay of Islands is the most popular destination with opportunities for sailing, diving, snorkelling and kayaking on the clear blue waters around the islands. The top of the island tails off into a rugged desolate finger of land with sand dunes and the long white sandy stretch of Ninety Mile Beach along its west coast.
At the heart of the North Island is the Central Plateau, the centre of the country's volcanic activity. Volcanoes, bubbling mud pools, hot springs, spouting geysers, steaming lakes and rivers are strewn across the landscape. Rotorua, the Maori cultural heartland, sits at the edge of the most concentrated area of activity and is characterised by the unmistakable smell of sulphur. Lake Taupo, formed by one of the greatest eruptions ever recorded, has beautiful views across to the volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park, with excellent hiking, and is regarded as the trout fishing capital of the world.
At the southern tip of the island lies New Zealand's capital, Wellington, a beautiful city in a striking setting around a harbour and surrounded by mountains. It is the centre of the country and a major travel crossroads between the North and South Islands.
Auckland is situated on a narrow strip of land, flanked by two magnificent harbours to the east and west. The shallow Manukau Harbour opens out to the Tasman Sea to the west, while the Waitemata Harbour lies at the heart of the city centre and is Auckland's deepwater port. It has a vibrant waterfront that has flourished with the successful hosting of the America's Cup, and the trendy restaurants and waterside cafes are a constant hive of activity.
Known as the 'City of Sails', with a larger boat-to-person ratio than anywhere else on earth, it is a paradise for sailing enthusiasts and every weekend the waters of the Hauraki Gulf come alive with a flotilla of colourful sails. The best way to experience the city is from the water, sailing around the attractive harbour or on a ferry cruise to one of the many stunning islands dotted about the Gulf.
Auckland is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in New Zealand, and acts as a major gateway to the rest of the country. Yet it is also one of the least densely populated in the world, covering an area twice the size of London but with barely a million inhabitants. It has a friendly small-town atmosphere and a relaxed pace of life.
Beyond the bustling downtown area, dominated by the southern hemisphere's tallest building, the Sky Tower, the city sprawls outwards, with low-slung buildings and wooden houses among leafy parks and walking tracks. The suburbs wind their way around picturesque bays and harbours and between volcanic hills that provide panoramic views over the city and mountains, encompassing numerous green urban parklands that are dotted with sheep.
The capital city of New Zealand, Wellington is located at the southern tip of the North Island. It is situated on a splendid harbour and hemmed in by steep hills, creating a compact inner city centre with a mix of historic and modern buildings. It is the second largest city in the country, the energetic centre for culture and arts, and the entertainment, commercial and political capital of New Zealand with an air of pronounced sophistication and vibrancy. Apart from its importance as the capital, it is the main departure point for the South Island.
Also called 'Windy Wellington', it lives up to its name especially in winter when the lashing winds from the Cook Strait whistle through the wind funnels created by the high-rise buildings of the central business district. The bustling, pretty waterfront area is a sheltered refuge with a graceful promenade, featuring shops, restaurants and various leisure activities. Brightly coloured sails scud across the harbour, the reliable wind providing excellent sailing and windsurfing opportunities. The ferry to the picturesque Days Bay, one of Wellington's best swimming beaches, affords excellent views of the city from the water. Dominating the waterfront is the Te Papa Museum, the pride and joy of the nation that embodies the quintessence of New Zealand and its people.
In the city centre the Parliamentary District is the architectural masterpiece of Wellington, including the Old Government Building, the second largest wooden building in the world; the unmistakable modernist Beehive, the executive offices of Parliament; Parliament House and the Victorian Gothic National Library.
The cable car takes people up to the Botanic Gardens for vistas of the city centre and across the harbour to the Hutt Valley, one of the scenic locations used in the filming of 'Lord of the Rings'. Another film site is Mount Victoria, offering sweeping panoramic views of the city and its suburbs, the surrounding hills and bays, and the harbour.
The South Island is less populated than the North and appears to have a slower pace of life, with rural scenes of sheep-filled pastures and remote farm settlements backed by rugged snow-covered mountains. The scenery is magnificent, and with its alpine mountains, fjords, glaciers, lakes and forests it is possibly even more spectacular than the North Island. Often arrogantly referred to as 'the mainland' by South Islanders, the South is the main destination of New Zealand tourism.
Canterbury is the hub of the South Island containing the largest city, Christchurch, an English epitome, with punting on the River Avon and a grand Anglican cathedral dominating the central square. The Queenstown region is the capital for adrenalin-inducing activities and the home of the bungy jump, with a history of gold in the hills and rivers and set on a beautiful lake at the foot of the Remarkables Mountains.
The southwest holds some of New Zealand's finest scenery and natural wonders, including its highest mountain, Mount Cook or Aoraki, 'cloud piercer'; the Frans Josef and Fox Glaciers stretching down to within a few kilometres of the coast, the magnificent Fjordland National Park with beautiful fjords, waterfalls and forests, and several world-famous walking tracks.
The South offers an abundance of activities and attractions set in wondrous surroundings, with a huge diversity of things to see and do.
The largest city on South Island, Christchurch is the most English of New Zealand's cities, named after an Oxford college. The atmosphere is reminiscent of an English university town, with school boys in striped blazers and punting on the River Avon, a grand Anglican cathedral dominating the central square, little stone-walled bridges, elegant Victorian architecture and numerous parks and exquisite gardens.
Dubbed the 'Garden City', it is the lively capital of the Canterbury region, priding itself on its green areas, arts and history as well as its sports. The surrounds offer beach suburbs, protected bays and dolphin swimming, green valleys and snow-capped mountain ranges for skiing, hiking, mountain biking and climbing. The city itself has a relaxed and cosmopolitan centre with historic trams rattling along the streets of the bustling downtown area, a lively pub and restaurant scene, theatres, street buskers, museums and art galleries.
Christchurch was heavily damaged by a major earthquake in early 2011, and some of the damage is still evident, with several major tourist attractions closed for repairs, though most of the city is functioning normally. Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island and offers the visitor an appealing mixture of historic charm and vibrant city life, a pleasing balance between urban pursuits and outdoor activities. With the least rainfall of any of the other cities and plenty of sunshine it is a perfect base for a Canterbury experience.
With a reputation as the adventure sports capital of the world, Queenstown is New Zealand's premier tourist destination, offering visitors the chance to indulge in almost every adrenalin activity imaginable. But Queenstown has more to offer visitors than action packed activities.
Queenstown is a heavily commercialised, year round resort that is touristy, crowded and characterless, but with its magnificent scenery, set on the deep blue Lake Wakatipu and framed by the craggy Remarkables Range, it is appealing to adventurers and leisure seekers alike. The lake is the perfect setting for steamer cruises, there are many fine walking opportunities in the surrounding hills and valleys with breathtaking views, surrounding vineyards offer wine tasting, shopping at the town's many boutiques, and the nearby historic gold mining town of Arrowtown is a fascinating day's outing. Scenic flights take visitors on unforgettable excursions, such as those around the majestic peaks of Mount Aspiring and Mount Cook, or to Milford Sound.
Queenstown's popularity is also due to the fact that it is a year round resort, a renowned alpine playground for skiers and snowboarders in winter and activities such as jet boating, bungee jumping, luging, white water rafting and paragliding in the summer months.
The Fjordland is the most dramatic and beautiful part of New Zealand, a region of waterfalls and misty virgin forests, snow-clad mountains and towering granite peaks, crystal clear lakes, rivers and remote fjords that make for a stunning holiday destination.
The Fjordland National Park encompasses exquisite scenery and astounding natural splendour with some of the best walking tracks in the world. It is the largest national park in the country stretching along the southwestern corner of South Island, with a jagged coastline indented by numerous sounds and inlets.
Milford Sound is one of the most visited and famous sights within the national park, a spectacular glacier-carved fjord with waterfalls plummeting down the sheer granite walls into the ocean below. The walks in the park are world famous and the greatest of these is the Milford Track, considered to be the finest walk on earth.
Fjordland National Park can be explored on foot, on a boat cruise, by sea kayak or on a breathtaking scenic flight over the fjords, lakes and miles of ice and snow-covered mountains.
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