New Zealand Travel Guide
Being a long way from everywhere else in the Western World, getting to New Zealand can be a mission for anyone who isn’t Australian. The effort is worth it, however, as this nation is home to some of the world’s most dramatic natural scenery. The diversity of biomes found here is truly remarkable, especially when you consider this nation only covers 267,000 square kilometres of land area.
While it is home to one of the world’s youngest human societies (Polynesians only arrived here in the 13th century, followed by Europeans in the 17th century), the culture of the Maori people will only add to what will surely be an epic trip to the Land of Long White Cloud.
Currency: New Zealand Dollars
Languages: English, Maori, NZ Sign Language
What To Do
After spending your first few days of your New Zealand trip shaking off your jet lag in Auckland, make your way to Wellington, this nation’s capital. Among its many attractions, you’ll find the Museum of New Zealand.
Housed in a super modern structure, you’ll find a comprehensive slate of exhibits which make use of state of the art technology to tell this country’s story. The world’s only preserved giant squid is considered to be its top attraction – its scale is so gasp-inducing, your time here will be well spent even if this is the only thing you only manage to see during your visit.
However, there are a lot of exhibits worth your attention here – there are sections dealing with New Zealand’s geology (experience Earthquake House, and you’ll see how terrifying this natural phenomenon is), flora, fauna, history, Maori culture, and more.
After making your way over to the South Island via the Interislander ferry, make Abel Tasman National Park your next destination.
A deliciously scenic place whose effervescent water, white sand beaches, and lush temperate rainforest might have you convinced you are in the tropics, its coastal tracks make for popular voyages. There are huts situated on picture-perfect beaches along the way, each staffed with attendants who prepare the beds and set fires at the end of each day.
Want to hike a specific trail that is located up the coast from where you are? There are water taxis which will drop you off at the trailhead of your chosen walk, so be sure to make reservations soon after arriving at this gem in the New Zealand park system.
Prefer mountains to beaches? If so, then trekking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing should top your list. Along the way, you’ll be treated to world-class alpine scenery, which includes emerald coloured lakes and the imposing presence of Mount Ngauruhoe (more popularly known as Mount Doom by Lord of the Rings fans).
As you near the latter, the vegetation will decrease and the presence of steam vents and newer lava rock will become evident. Despite this trail’s epic name, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing can be done in a six to eight-hour time frame.
Given the vistas which can be enjoyed along the way, though, plan to be up there for most of the day.
Further down the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand, you’ll come across the mighty Fox Glacier. Created by aeons of heavy precipitation falling as snow along the mountainous western spine of the Southern Alps, the scale of this massive river of ice will shock you at first sight. Running 13 kilometres from the peaks above, it used to run to the ocean but now terminates more than 10 kilometres inland.
You can enjoy this monolith of ice by hiking to its mouth, or you can join a guided walk and actually set foot on the glacier. Do NOT attempt to walk on the glacier yourself, as you can break through a snow bridge and fall into a crevasse. A fissure which can run as much as a hundred metres deep, it can kill you via fall-related trauma (if you’re lucky) or slowly through exposure. Obey the safety signs and/or the instructions of your guide – they are there for your own safety.
Need some excitement in your life? Your trip to New Zealand is the perfect excuse to give your adrenal gland some love, as the small city of Queenstown is considered to be the adventure sports capital of the world. No matter the season, this place has a sport or activity that will help you push the envelope in your own life.
Never done anything even remotely spicy? Learn how to ski at Treble Cone, or embark on a whitewater rafting trip on the Kawarau River.
Looking to up the ante a bit more? Try your hand at street luging, or head into the backcountry of Mount Cook on a heli-skiing adventure.
Want to flirt with the bleeding edge of what’s possible? Bungee jump off the platform that launched the whole sport years ago, do a giant swing into a canyon, or go skydiving over some of the most exquisite landscapes New Zealand has to offer. No matter your choices in Queenstown, you’ll leave a changed person.
Make Milford Sound the final stop on your first trip to New Zealand. A misty, steep-walled fjord punctuated by waterfalls and coated by temperate vegetation, it is a mystical place even in less than cooperative weather.
Boat tours run deep into its core, offering views of Mitre Peak on sunny days. Afterwards, learn a bit more about the aquatic life which calls Milford Sound home at the underwater observatory. With all manner of local fish swimming past its windows, it is a great way to end your visit to one of the most outstanding attractions in New Zealand.
What to Eat
The local cuisine in New Zealand often mirrors traditional meals eaten back in the United Kingdom, and convenient fast food that is present in other Western countries. However, there are several dishes that will stand out during your time here.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 17th century, New Zealand was the domain of the Maori. True to their Polynesian roots, they often cooked their meals in the earth, using ovens called Hangi.
If you have the chance, enjoy a dinner consisting of fish, chicken, sweet potato and more: it will likely be one of the best meals you’ll have during your New Zealand trip.
During your many road trips across New Zealand, be sure to grab a Meat Pie when you paying for fuel at a gas station. Flaky pastries stuffed with fillings like chicken, steak, mushrooms, and others, these portable meals can become addictive, so don’t blame us if you gain weight during your travels in NZ.
After a meal, nothing is more kiwi than having a Pavlova for dessert. Consisting of a meringue base and a topping made from fruit and whipped cream, it is a decadently sweet way to end a dinner in New Zealand.