Not as well-known as Australia as a vacation destination, New Zealand boasts some of the most amazing natural attractions in the world and is truly an off-the-beaten-path gem. A country that has a larger population of sheep than humans (known as ‘kiwis’), New Zealand offers outdoor lovers an amazing array of sights in both winter and summer.
Visitors will be captivated by the Maori history. The country is split between North and South islands, each offering its own unique landmarks. Start by exploring the North Island, arriving in Auckland and taking to the amazing east coast, which is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and the town of Rotorua, with its natural hot springs. The larger South Island is where some of the most pristine national parks, glaciers and raging rivers can be found. Whether it’s skiing, hiking, bungee jumping, hiking, rafting or kayaking, New Zealand has it all.
A fun way to experience the country is on a road trip or by renting an RV. New Zealand offers excellent and extensive camping facilities, beautiful national parks and vast areas to explore without having to look for a place to stay at the end of the day. Keeping in mind that seasons are generally reversed, the peak travel months are New Zealand summers, which run from November to April and perfectly aligns with North America’s winter break. Hotels fill up well in advance and prices are high, making campers a viable alternative.
Although Wellington is the capital, most visitors will arrive via Auckland International Airport. It is the main air gateway and Air New Zealand offers direct flights to Asia, North America, and Europe. Within the country, there are seven international airports and 28 domestic airports, which makes flying the primary method of transportation. It is also possible to get around by car, train, bus, ferry, or boat.
There is really no ‘best’ time to visit New Zealand in terms of weather. The country has generally a mild climate throughout the year and depends on what activities you’re interested in pursuing. More budget-conscious travelers may want to choose the periods between October-November and April-May, which are considered to be off-season.
For those interested in skiing, the peak season is between June and August. However, ski resorts are popular vacation destinations for locals, as well and hotels book up quickly. Rates in Ohakune, Wanaka, and Queenstown are at their highest during winter.
If hiking and the beaches are what you’re after, the summer offers the best weather and the least amount of rain between November and April. December to February is a good time to combine outdoor activities with festivals and sporting events.
Currency: New Zealand Dollar
Official language: Māori, English, NZ Sign Language
Compared to other Polynesian nations, New Zealand has a relatively short history. It is estimated that the first settlers known as the Moriori, claimed the islands off the coast, while the Maori were making a home on the mainland around 950 AD. The first Europeans arrived in 1642, with the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman. He was repelled by the Maori and the next European generation did not arrive until about a 100 years later.
It was a British explorer, Captain James Cook, who landed in New Zealand in 1769. They opened up a trading and whaling post, with European traders and missionaries settling along the coast. They did not co-exist peacefully and much blood was shed during this time. The Maori’s spears were no match for the muskets of the Europeans, which led to the so-called Musket Wars in 1820, killing many tribes people.
In 1840, the Maori chiefs signed a treaty with the British, known as the Treaty of Waitangi which can be seen at the National Archives in Wellington. The treaty was supposed to give Maori land ownership, rights and protection under the British Crown, but the British believed this gave them sovereignty over New Zealand, perhaps getting lost in translation. Even today, there is heated debate about what the treaty did and meant. It is, however, considered to be the founding document of New Zealand as a nation and is celebrated on Waitangi Day. Today, New Zealand still remains part of the British Commonwealth, but is a parliamentary democracy, with the British monarch the constitutional head.
Under British rule, the Maori culture suffered and were marginalized. Many Maori leaders also realized that not being able to speak English was detrimental as all Parliament proceedings were in English. During this time the numbers of native Maori-speakers significantly dwindled and children were not taught Maori at home. By the 1980’s, it became critically clear that the Maori language on the verge of extinction and the tribal heads implemented an impressive language recovery program. Today, Maori is a thriving and many countries are using the recovery of Maori as a successful model.
New Zealand’s original inhabitants, the Maori and Maori, still play an important role in the country’s culture today. The Maori today make up less than 15 percent of New Zealand’s population, but the numbers are growing at a faster rate than those of other members of the island. New Zealand’s culture has also been heavily influenced by the Europeans, especially the British, who make up 69 percent of the country’s residents.
The colonialists greatly influenced New Zealand culture and in the early 19th century suppressed much of it. It has only been in the last decade or so that Maori traditions and language have been recognized and are being brought back to the forefront. Movies, such as the Whale Rider and the international success of the New Zealand Rugby team, the All Blacks, have popularized Maori history on an international basis.
Visitors should note that New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere which means that the seasons are opposite of Europe and North America. By months, the seasons are as follows: spring (September to November), summer (December to February), fall (March to May), and winter (June to August).
Temperatures and weather in New Zealand also differs greatly from the North to the South Island, as well as in the far south of the South Island. Generally the North Island is mild all year round. In the South Island, temperatures can range from extremes of -4°F to 100°F! Auckland, in the North Island, sees lows of 45°F and highs of 75°F.
Indian citizens can holiday in New Zealand for up to nine months on a visitor visa. The fastest and easiest way to apply for a visitor visa is online. If you hold a passport from the UK, or another country under the visa-waiver agreement, you do not need a visa to holiday in New Zealand.
Taxis are a safe and reasonable transportation option in New Zealand. In the cities, cabs can be hailed on the street or called. In Auckland, visitors should use Alert Taxis (+64-9-309-2000) or Auckland Co-op Taxis (+64-9-300-3000). In Wellington, Blue Bubble Taxi (+64-4-384-4444) and in Christchurch Blue Star Taxis (+64-3-379-9799) are the most well known operators.
New Zealand is made up of two main islands, the North Island and South Island, which are separated by the Cook Strait. The country also has numerous small islands, of which the three most inhabited are Stewart Island, Chatham Islands and Great Barrier Island. All are connected to the mainland by ferry service or water taxis.
The main ferry between the North and South islands runs from Wellington (North Island) to Picton (South Island) operated by Interislander and takes about three hours. The journey is considered to be one of the most scenic routes in the world and is well worth doing. The ferry can carry passengers, cars, and campers, but visitors should book well in advance to ensure availability.
New Zealand has a very good and reasonably priced bus network which is a popular way for visitors to see the country. There are numerous companies that offer both inter-city and long-distance travel, some more reliable than others. InterCity Coachlines is the national bus in New Zealand and offers connections to over 600 domestic destinations. In the main cities like Wellington and Auckland, there are also extensive public bus networks making them a good way to explore the cities.
Before you leave on your holiday, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:
Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)
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