Adventures are spoilt for choice in Australia with alps to ski, forests to explore and even glacier valleys to hike! Not to mention all the amazing cities to explore! For a more relaxing trip, cruise the stunning coastline or take a tour around the famous vineyards and film studios. In fact, Wellington, the New Zealand capital, is the film making hub for major movies including Lord of the Rings. Be transported to middle earth and discover behind the scenes secrets in the city’s Weta Studio Tours.
Table of Contents
- The Key Info
- The Country in Numbers
- The Five Largest Cities
- Top Tourist Attractions
- When To Travel
- Safety for Travelers
- Important Holidays
- Packing List
- Dos and Don’ts
- Secret Blogger Tips
- Top Instagrammable Places
- Fun Facts
Dive into our (free) travel guides below!
In the south-western Pacific Ocean off the east coast of Australia, lies the two main islands of New Zealand. Just 4.8 million people occupy the 268,021 square kilometers, leaving vast untouched landscapes in this corner of the world. The north island is full of kiwi history, with diverse vibrant cities and Maori culture to discover. The south island contains some of the most natural and stunning landscapes you will ever see.
Country in Numbers
- Population number: 4,866,000
- Total size of the country: 268,021 km²
- Capital city: Wellington
- Currency: New Zealand Dollar
- Main Language: English
- Religion: No Religion 48.5%, Christian 37%, Hinduism 2.6%, Islam 1.3%, Buddhism 1.1%, Sikhism 0.8%, Other 1.1%, Undeclared 6.6% (New Zealand Census 2018)
The Largest Cities in New Zealand
1. Auckland – Population: 1,467,800
Situated near the top of the country’s north island, New Zealand’s cultural hub and largest city has something for everyone. Get your cultural fix at the huge range of museums and galleries across the modern city centre. Alternatively, escape the city life and take a short drive to the unique black sand beaches or a boat ride to one of the many islands. Waiheke Island offers wine tasting tours around the vineyards or hike around the dormant volcanic cones on Rangitoto Island.
2. Christchurch – Population: 377,200
The largest city on New Zealand’s south island combines its English heritage with urban infrastructure. Historic trams and buildings meet creative modern architecture, as the city rebuilds itself after the 2011 earthquake. This charming city has plenty of scenic places to unwind too. Edwardian-style punting along the tranquil Avon River is not to be missed!
3. Wellington – Population: 215,400
The country’s capital may be a small harbour city but it is packed with activities. Nestled on north island’s south bay, Wellington’s iconic red cable car will take you to the beautiful Botanic Garden and the Space Place Observatory. Here, a lookout offers panoramic views of the harbour and the Rimutakas mountain range in the distance. If you are a film fan, Rover Rings enthusiastic guides will leave you amazed with a tour around spectacular Lord of the Rings filming locations.
4. Hamilton – Population: 169,300
Straddling New Zealand’s Waikato River, Hamilton is renowned for its it’s rich history and beautiful gardens. The enchanted Hamilton Gardens is a must see attraction, featuring a range of themed gardens in Japanese, Italian and traditional Maori styles. A totally different landscape awaits at the Hobbiton Movie Set. A short transfer to this family run farm will immerse Lord of the Rings fans in the ‘real’ Middle-earth. Including the famous Hobbit holes and Green Dragon Inn!
5. Tauranga – Population: 135,000
The perfect waterfront city, whether you would like to sit back and enjoy a dolphin cruise, or have an underwater adventure in a scuba diving trip, Tauranga has it all. A visit to Mount Maunganui’s hot saltwater pools and white sands will feel like paradise on earth. For something completely different visit the historic vintage village for a quaint shopping trip around the cobbled streets.
Top Tourist Attractions
1. Milford Sound / Piopiotahi
Fiordland National Park contains some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery. You will be surrounded by glistening waterfalls, huge fiords and snow topped mountains as you take one of the stunning hikes or cruises. Milford Sound is the stand out attraction where ferocious waterfalls cascade off the fiord’s towering cliffs. The nearby underwater observatory even gives you the chance to view the Fiordland’s black coral and aquatic life without getting wet!
2. Sky Tower
Dominating the Auckland skyline, the iconic Sky Tower is much more than a viewing tower. A huge entertainment complex stands at the base, home to two hotels, a great selection of restaurants, as well as a 700 seat theatre. At the top, the unique Orbit 360˚revolving restaurant offers panoramic views with a kiwi-inspired menu. Adrenaline junkies will love the SkyWalk and SkyJump, though your heart will race as you walk the buildings edge or jump 192 meters to the ground!
Wai-O-Tapu is a geothermal park famous for its colourful natural springs formed over 700 years ago. There are twenty five examples of geothermal activity such as steaming warm rock, amazing geysers and bubbling mud. It will feel as though the earth has come to life as you explore this fascinating land.
4. Waitomo Glowworm Caves
As far as unique experiences go, they don’t get much better than this! Thousands of glowworms light the way on a pitch black boat ride through the Waitomo caves. Your tour guide will explain the history and geology of this amazing sight that has to be seen to be believed. There are lots more incredible activities and tours to have a go at too. Try black-water rafting through underground rapids, abseil in caves or leap off waterfalls for the ultimate adrenaline rush!
5. Tamaki Maori Village
This authentic cultural experience will immerse you in traditional Maori life with stories, performances and a ‘hangi feast’ buffet. The truly interactive evening allows you to learn the haka and train to be a warrior, all while being surrounded by the sights and sounds of the native Tawa forest. Be captivated by the spirited way of life in this three and a half hour experience that you will remember forever.
Best time to travel
New Zealand has a varied climate. The north island can bring subtropical weather in the summer, while winter temperatures can hit freezing in the southern alps. The long summer days of sunshine mean visitor numbers are high in December, January and February. For fewer crowds, aim to visit in either spring or autumn where days are still warm but nights are cooler. Snow sport fans will love the winter season, July and August is the best time to hit New Zealand’s brilliant ski resorts.
Safety for travelers in New Zealand
New Zealanders are incredibly open minded and welcoming. Solo travelers and women will feel very safe as there is always a friendly local willing to help, though always take the usual precautions. Lonely Planet rates New Zealand as one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the world; the major cities are filled with gay bars, hotels and nightclubs.
Holidays in New Zealand
- 1st January: New Year’s Day
- 2nd January: Day after New Year’s Day
- 6th February: Waitangi Day
- March / April (varies every year): Good Friday & Easter Monday
- 25th April: Anzac Day
- The first Monday in June: Queen’s Birthday
- The fourth Monday in October: Labour Day
- 25th December: Christmas Day
- 26th December: Family Day
New Zealand has visa waiver agreements with over 50 countries. It allows citizens of the specified countries to enter New Zealand for up to 3 months without a visa, the full list is here. If you are a UK citizen or passport holder, you can visit visa-free for up to 6 months. For all other countries, you will need to apply for visitor visa, which allows you to stay in New Zealand for up to 9 months.
The New Zealand Dollar is the official currency often written as NZ$ or NZD. You won’t have a problem using your credit or debit card, nearly 75% of all transactions are card based. Though do carry some cash for smaller purchases, you will find plenty of exchange bureaus around the city centers.
Dos and Don’ts in New Zealand
|Respect Maori culture: Discovering this unique culture is an amazing experience. It is a very big part of New Zealand’s identity.||Plan too much: The vast scenery and huge amount of activities means you will not have time to do everything. Create a flexible plan so you have time to try those hidden experiences too.|
|Embrace the Maori way of life but be sensitive to its history and traditions.||Expect reliable internet: In cities you shouldn’t have much difficulty finding high speed wi-fi. Though in the remote countryside you will struggle to find wi-fi and a good mobile signal.|
|Prepare for walks: Do you research before setting off on a hike. Be wary of the local weather conditions and ensure you take plenty of supplies. The last thing you want to do is to get stranded.||Underestimate the roads: New Zealand has many winding and narrow cliff-hugging roads. They will be some of the most scenic roads you have ever driven on, but be aware and follow signs.|
|Try traditional New Zealand food: Experience the Maori way of cooking, taste a kiwi burger and indulge in hokey pokey ice cream.|
Must-Haves for Your Packing List!
- New Zealand plug adapter: Unless you live in Australia or China, you will likely need a New Zealand plug adapter.
- Travel backpack: A comfortable backpack is a necessity for those mountain hikes and adventure filled days.
- Outdoor clothes: A waterproof jacket, hiking boots and thermal layers will stand you in good stead for the unpredictable weather of the countryside.
- Sun protection: Through the sunny summer months you will need to protect yourself. Remember your hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
Secret Tips From Bloggers
Visit geothermal attractions early in the morning. The early start will be worth it to beat the crowds and get those perfect Instagram shots! – Bruised Passports
Hire a car to explore New Zealand to its fullest potential. Take your time and you will find unexpected activities and stops on the journey. – The Boho Chica
Wellington may be relatively small but it is packed with things to do. The wonderful waterfront, huge selection of eateries and unique museums mean two days won’t be enough. – Never Ending Footsteps
Top 7 Instagrammable Places
- #Wanaka (487.2k)
- #Milfordsound (375k)
- #Mountmaunganui (237.6k)
- #Tekapo (110k)
- #Waiotapu (65.4k)
- #Tamakimaorivillage (5.1k)
- #Skytowernz (4.6k)
Fun Facts about New Zealand
- New Zealand is home to a huge amount of sheep. It has been estimated that there are 10 sheep to every New Zealander, though this is disputed by many. Nonetheless there are a lot of sheep!
- There are 50 volcanic cones in the Auckland area, but don’t panic, most are extinct.
- One of the world’s longest place names is located in Hawke’s Bay: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu – good luck pronouncing it!
- The kiwi is New Zealand’s national bird though many New Zealanders have never seen one! It is a shy nocturnal bird that cannot fly, therefore they are very difficult to spot.