Made up of two islands, referred to as the North and South Islands, New Zealand has a great deal of history and heritage which originates from its native people, the Maoris. Evidence of this can be found mainly in the North Island, and in the names of towns which even those with the best intentions will have difficulty in pronouncing.
With only a population of 4 million occupying a land size that is comparable to Great Britain, it is understandable why New Zealand is often seen as a quiet, laid back country. This does not by any means denote that there is nothing to do there. With tourism being its greatest income, New Zealand has catered for the masses that come to travel round the country each year.
Its natural beauty and rich history provide many attractions for its visitors. However, New Zealand has also earnt itself a name for being a country which caters for the thrill seekers amongst us. In general, the North Island is livelier than the South, with Auckland being home to over a third of the population of New Zealand. However, the South island offers white water rafting, skiing, bungee jumping and sky diving, if petrol supplies can be found! Although the pace of life is slower, New Zealand, with its temperate climate, offers a great destination for those looking for an action packed or relaxing holiday.
English, with a very distinctive accent.
New Zealand Dollars. At the time of writing the rate was around NZ$3 dollars to £1.
Two seasons that are at opposite times to England. The North Island has a warmer climate and summers can get into the 30’s Celsius. The South Island is always slightly colder, which in the winter is an advantage for glacier climbing and ski seasons.
There are many attractions throughout the two islands, both natural and man made. On the far northeast coast of North Island is the Bay of Islands, a group of islands that offer unrivaled beauty. It is possible to visit these just for the day, or to actually stay on the islands, or sail around them.
Auckland, otherwise known as the 'City of Sails' due to its magnificent harbour, is the largest city in New Zealand. It is home to the America’s Cup which attracts visitors from all round the globe. A highly recommended excursion is to travel up the Sky Tower for remarkable views of the city.
Waitomo Caves, located in Waitomo town, combine New Zealand’s natural and thrill-seeking attractions. You can blackwater raft through the caves whilst taking in the natural sculptures and the amazing light show provided by the hundreds of glow-worms that live there.
Rotorua, with its many natural geothermal pools, is not far from here. These are dotted all around the town and walks have been set up to guide you to the most incredible of these. Spas have been built around some of the natural springs, so the day can be spent relaxing in one of these.
Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is located on the southern tip of the North Island. Although this city is not as large as Auckland it is worth a visit, if only to stop off at The Lord of the Rings set.
New Zealand is also renowned for its surfing beaches, the majority of which are found on the North Island. Auckland’s surrounding surf beaches are some of New Zealand’s most famous, for example Piha, Raglan and Mangawhai. There are numerous websites and books that can tell you more about where to go and when.
Travelling between the two islands can be an attraction in itself. The cheaper option is to take the ferry which takes around three hours, but for slightly more of an alternative method of travel is a flight in a six-seater airplane. This offers spectacular views of both the islands, and dolphin sightings are very frequent.
Things start to get colder when you head south and this is reflected in the natural attractions that are offered in the South Island. The most famous of these is the Franz Josef Glacier. There are a variety of trips based around the glacier, the most expensive of these being the helicopter ride which provides truly spectacular views. Alternatively, a variety of different climbs are available which cater for all abilities. All of these can be booked from tourist information offices at the town at the bottom of the glacier, or from the numerous different accommodations available here.
There are numerous ski resorts which spring up once the winter season begins. The resort at Wanaka is one of the most famous, but for a full list of all available see www.snow.co.nz
The South Island is also home to the Abel Tasman National Park. Abel Tasman was the first man to discover New Zealand, although greater emphasis is placed on Captain Cook and his excursion. The park is positioned amongst the Tasman Sea at the top western coast of the North Island and the best way to see it in its entirety is to hire a kayak to travel round.
Queenstown is located at the bottom of the South Island and is the adrenalin capital of New Zealand. Three bungee jumps of differing height and endurance are located at around the town. Other thrill seeking activities include white water rafting, sky diving, and paragliding. Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s liveliest towns at night due to it being a must-stop for the majority of its travellers.
Milford Sound, also located in the South Island, was described by Rudyard Kipling as the eighth wonder of the world and thus is a must to visit.
Chain shops selling clothes can be found in most towns, and markets vary from city to city. Although it is the capital, Wellington offers a limited variety and Auckland is recommended for more fashionable and diverse buys. Tourist shops offering Maori souvenirs are in abundance, especially at sightseeing sites.
Nightlife and Eating Out
New Zealand is not famed for its nightlife but that does not mean that there is none to be found. With the large amount of travellers visiting New Zealand there are a great deal of ‘backpacker’ bars found in most of the main tourist towns. These provide cheap drinks and even cheaper entertainment. In Auckland there is the widest variety of bars and clubs, look out for local press to find out what is going on where.
In New Zealand people drive on the left hand side of the road, and all distances are measured in kilometres. The speed limit on an open road is 100 km/h, which is approximately 60 mph, and in urban areas it is 50 km/h. The roads are often empty in New Zealand, and although this may tempt you to speed, caution is advised as the New Zealand police are regimental about enforcing speed limits. They carry state-of-the-art cameras which can catch drivers’ speeds from any direction.
The limit that is imposed for drinking under the influence of alcohol varies according to your age. If you are under 20 years old then no more than 30mg per 100ml can be detected in the breath. However, if you are over 20 this limit rises to no more than 80mg per 100ml. The amount of alcohol detected in your breath/blood determines the penalty. To learn more about the testing routine go to www.ltsa.nz.roadcode/knowing-your-limits
All motorway signs are displayed in green, with instructions written in white. Parking signs which have a red boarder mean that you cannot park in that area unless times are displayed.
A solid yellow line in the middle of the road indicates that overtaking is illegal. A dotted yellow line will show that this line is about to occur.
For more details about driving in New Zealand and the different codes log on to www.ltsa.govt.nz
Food and Drink
New Zealand is, of course, famous for its wine and wine tasting excursions are available throughout the country. Many of these involve bicycle trips around the vineyard that can prove interesting towards the end of the tasting! Marlborough is the country’s most famous region and is said to produce the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Hunter’s Wines and Cloudy Bay are both produced in this region. Hawke’s Bay is the country’s Chardonnay producing region, as well as being one of the oldest and largest in New Zealand. The same reputation does not extend to the cuisine, and influences from around the Pacific Rim can be found in the restaurants that are available. Asian food is particularly popular in New Zealand, and there is a recent emergence of a new culinary style that combines eastern and western features.
Tourist InformationFor the most useful guide on the Internet go to www.newzealand.com/travel. The site has a vast amount of information about travelling around New Zealand, tips for places to go and advice on accommodation. The Lonely Planet, Insight Guides and Rough Guide books are also extremely useful and a recommended buy before you go.
All car hire locations in New Zealand
- Ardmore Airport
- Auckland International Airport
- Christchurch International Airport
- Dunedin Airport
- Gisborne Airport
- Greymouth Airport
- Hamilton International Airport
- Hokitika Airfield Airport
- Invercargill Airport
- Kaitaia Airport
- Kerikeri Airport
- Lower Hutt
- Manukau City
- Mechanics Bay Airport
- Napier Airport
- Nelson Airport
- New Plymouth
- New Plymouth Airport
- Palmerston North
- Palmerston North Airport
- Picton Aerodrome Airport
- Pukekohe East
- Queenstown International Airport
- Rotorua Regional Airport
- Taupo Airport
- Tauranga Airport
- Timaru Airport
- Waitangi Airport
- Wanganui Airport
- Wellington International Airport
- Westport Airport
- Whakatane Airport
- Whangarei Airport
- Woodbourne Airport