Updated: Oct 10, 2018
Much has been written about New Zealand, and most of it is true! Admittedly, despite the 'Lord of the Rings' fame, you won't bump into Gandalf or Frodo, or be frightened by Gollum, but you can visit where Bilbo lived & travel to most of the film's locations. It is an astonishing country, mainly because it packs so much into one small package! Well, two actually, since New Zealand is made up of two main islands, North and South, each with their own distinct character. Their original Maori names hint at the different flavours. Te Ika a Maui, meaning the fish of Maui, for the North Island, and Te Wai Pounamu, the waters of greenstone, for the South Island.
The North Island is semi-tropical at the top, and it is a highly rare event for winter temperatures in Auckland to get down to zero. The bottom of the South Island, however can get to 20 below! The highest recorded temperature is over 40 degrees. It isn't just temperatures that vary widely, it's also the landscape. Nowhere else on the planet affords you so many diverse environments in one small geographical area. From the top of a snowy mountain to a tropical rainforest in one day! This video created in conjunction with National Geographic sums up the land that is New Zealand like no words can. From the tropical beaches and forests, the volcanoes, the thermal springs, the world-class ski fields, the wilderness biking and walking tracks, to the marine reserves, the fjords and the glaciers, just about the only thing New Zealand doesn't have is a sandy desert (and ninety mile beach doesn't count!).
New Zealand is known as one of the adventure capitals of the world. After all, it's the home of the inventors of the bungee jump and the zorb! But the adrenaline-pumping action is also tempered by the laid back culture and people of NZ. The kiwis know how to 'chill' and the 'Haka' aside, the native Maori population are renowned for their easy going lifestyle. In fact these themes of adrenaline and relaxation are interwoven into the kiwi culture, so no matter what you are looking for, you are sure to find it.
Maori culture is an intrinsic part of New Zealand's history, but it is also alive & thriving in today's society. Maori language (te reo Maori) is the other official language of New Zealand, with English. You won't need to speak te reo Maori, but you'll find most of the place names, outside of the main centres, are from the Maori language.
Because NZ has been geographically isolated from the rest of the world, it is home to some unique wildlife species. Indeed, it is to protect these that Immigration takes such care over protecting the borders from potentially devastating immigrants. New Zealand's iconic Kiwi birds are once again on the increase having been endangered for many years because of foreign pests. Hector's dolphins are still endangered & there are now fewer than 8,000 remaining. The Kea parrot is the only alpine parrot in the world, and probably the only one that takes pleasure in taking cars apart, rubber seal by rubber seal! With penguins, frogs, lizards, seals and others, there is no shortage of unique species to observe. And as you are travelling around, you can sample the delights of New Zealand's award-winning wines, direct from the wineries. Most of the vineyards here welcome visitors & can often provide not only great sampling, but also fabulous food to go with it.
Travelling around New Zealand is very simple. Although rail travel is limited to a few major routes, one being the unmissable TranzAlpine crossing in the South Island, buses and coaches are frequent and cars easy to hire. There is also a convenient network of small airports around the country if you wish to shorten your travel times. And if you want to be entirely self-sufficient, rent a motorhome - many people do. Ferries are an important constituent of NZ travel and even water taxis when you need to get to hard-to-reach places by water.
Friendly people. You will find everyone here is 'happy to help' if you are in need. Whether it's just directions or you are stuck for some reason, you can always call on the locals for support. Kiwis are very used to travellers to their land & more than willing to leap in with whatever assistance you require, no strings attached. However, you might find yourself in some situations where you'll need a mobile phone or some other means of getting help, as New Zealand is also famous for being very sparsely populated in most areas. The current population of New Zealand is around 4.8 million. With about 2.2 million in the three major cities, that leaves only 2.6 million for the whole of the rest of the country. If you choose to travel deep into the countryside, it is not unusual to see just a handful of people along your way.
Depending on the time of year you travel, there is always something going on. Whether it's an international music festival or a cultural event, or food and wine, or art and sculpture, or of course a sporting event, you'll always have some entertainment to choose from. The All Blacks brought New Zealand to the forefront of the sporting world, but NZ also has world champions and a depth of interest in many other sports such as rowing, cycling and sailing. Not for good reason is Auckland known as the 'City of Sails'. The kiwis eschew the remote lifestyle of celebrity, so it wouldn't be unusual to see an All Black shopping in a local Sunday Market, or a government minister enjoying the latest blockbuster at your cinema. New Zealand is a safe place to live & travel in. Famous or not, everyone mixes in here, that's what makes it so great.
If you want to know why New Zealand, then of course we would recommend you to JustGoThere!