Travel to New Zealand

Travel to New Zealand

Spectacularly situated cities, rich Polynesian culture, and wild landscapes of almost unbelievable grandeur—that’s the allure of New Zealand!

Even today, with its energetic cities celebrated for their livability and its mighty landscapes splashed across movie screens the world over, New Zealand feels deliciously removed. You’ll love delving into its native Polynesian heritage, still wonderfully vibrant and linking these rugged islands with kindred spots as far away as Hawaii and Easter Island. On the North Island, revel in the joys of New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, from first-class cultural institutions such as the New Zealand Maritime Museum to the sublime Auckland Botanic Gardens. Down on the South Island, Christchurch is a fabulous place to soak up historic architecture as well as a thrumming nightlife, from symphony concerts to theater performances. Away from the pleasant hubbub of the urban centers, New Zealand’s glacier-clad mountains, titanic fjords (including world-famous Milford Sound), and foggy temperate rainforests will have you convinced you’ve stumbled into some magnificent dreamscape.

Today's "Kiwis," as New Zealanders are affectionately called, reflect a rich multicultural society that harmoniously blends its European heritage with Maori and Polynesian traditions. The majority of its people are of European descent, as the earliest colonists were primarily British, Irish and Australian; they brought with them technology, the English language and Christianity.

The country's unique geography and the fact that the settlers encountered rather rugged experiences have graced Kiwi culture with a reverence for all things rural; bucolic themes are common in music, visual art, cinema and literature - despite the fact that half of New Zealand's 4.4 million people reside in its four largest cities: Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Hamilton.

That being said, elements of Maori culture can be found throughout the country in music, dance, art, cuisine and everyday vocabulary. A recent revival and appreciation of New Zealand's indigenous culture is evident in the ever-growing popularity of traditional Maori arts and crafts like weaving, carving and tattooing. Maori expressions such as "Kia ora" (Hello), "Kei te pehea koe?" (How's it going?) and "Ka kite ano" (See you again) pepper New Zealand English, the most dominant of the country's three official languages; the other two are Te Reo Maori (the Maori language) and New Zealand Sign Language.

A traditional Maori challenge called a haka is performed at the beginning of international rugby matches, most famously perhaps by the All Blacks, New Zealand's national male rugby union team. The All Blacks are the current Rugby World Cup Champion. Other popular sports in New Zealand include cricket, netball, soccer, golf, tennis and horse racing.

The presence of new immigrants, many from the East Asian continent, has further enhanced New Zealand's great melting pot as has globalization with music, film and pop culture being easily accessible from America, Asia, Australia and Europe. The result is warm, welcoming country that is proud of its roots - all of them.

While many of New Zealand's classic dishes hail from Mother England, the national cuisine has evolved through the years to become pretty amazing. Spices carried by immigrants from the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and East Asia simmer with traditional Maori ingredients. Toss in this island country's fantastic variety of seafood and then slowly stir in the Kiwis' innate appreciation for freshness and locally grown produce. Hungry yet? Try a Maori boil-up, fish & chips, meat pies, green-lipped mussels, Bluff oysters, lamb chops, whitebait patties or one of Queenstown's famous Ferg burgers. This is a country crawling with farmers' markets for visitors to explore, and serious foodies can attend local cooking classes to learn how to serve up delicious Kiwi dishes on their own.

New Zealand's wines are internationally renowned, and touring the country's scenic vineyards ranks high up on many a vacationer's wish list. Fortunately there are vineyards in almost every region of the country, with the most acclaimed being the regions of Hawkes Bay, known for its full-bodied reds; Gisborne, New Zealand's chardonnay capital; Marlborough with its famed sauvignon blanc; Central Otago and Martinborough, both known for their excellent production of pinot noir and pinot gris; and Waiheke Island, often referred to as the little Bordeaux of New Zealand.

Beer enthusiasts traveling to New Zealand will delight as well with an abundance of beer festivals, brewpubs, breweries, microbreweries and nanobreweries to check out. They can even do a beer cycling tour in Nelson. Three top-rated beers to sample during a New Zealand vacation are 8 Wired iStout, Epic Armageddon IPA and Renaissance Elemental Porter.
Known to the Maori as "the land of the long white cloud," New Zealand is a long, narrow country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean comprised of two primary islands, appropriately named the North Island and the South Island, and several smaller islands; these largest of the inhabited smaller islands are the Chatham Islands, d'Urville Island, Great Barrier Island, Waiheke Island and Stewart Island. Despite being approximately the same size as the state of Colorado, the country of New Zealand boasts an incredible variety of topography, caused primarily by its location on the border of the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates. It is a land that has been largely shaped by its isolation with its closest neighbors being Australia, located approximately 900 miles to the west and the nations of Tonga, New Caledonia and Fiji, located some 600 miles to the north. Known for its beauty, New Zealand's dramatic landscapes starred in the Lord of The Rings trilogy.

The South Island, the larger of the two main islands, is home to the snowy, far-reaching Southern Alps mountain range, making it a prime ski destination; its highest peak, Mount Cook, extends over 12,000 feet. The island has been tremendously influenced by the presence of glaciers. Its Fiordland National Park is home to rugged mountains, numerous waterfalls and the beautiful fiords of Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound. It is the largest national park in New Zealand, and travelers visiting here will likely come across dolphins, seal and many species of birds. It officially forms part of Te Wahipounamu, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, as do Mount Aspiring National Park and Westland Tai Poutini National Park, the latter housing the famous Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers.

Other must-see spots in the South Island include Abel Tasman National Park and its golden beaches; Marlborough Sounds, whose breathtaking beauty is best appreciated by boat; and The Kaikoura Peninsula, where vacationers can join the locals for some good, old-fashioned whale watching. The largest cities in the South Island are Christchurch, Dunedin and Nelson while the resort town of Queenstown remains a major destination for tourists wanting to ski or do adventure sports.

The majority of New Zealand's population resides in the North Island, which has been heavily shaped by the presence of volcanos. Geothermal cities like Rotorua draw vacationers who come all year round to visit its hot springs, boiling mud pools and geysers. The North Island's plateau is home to the largest lake in New Zealand, Lake Taupo, which was created as a result of a major eruption 26,500 years ago. Of the many volcanos still active in New Zealand, one serves as the North Island's highest peak: Mount Ruapehu. Tourists flock here to ski and snowboard down one of the world's most active volcanoes. Mount Ruapehu, along with the other volcanic mountains of Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, forms part of Tongariro National Park, New Zealand's oldest national park. Because it contains many sacred Maori sites, UNESCO classifies it as both a cultural and natural World Heritage Site.

As does the South Island, the North Island promises visitors miles of diverse landscapes. They can visit Northland's beautiful beach that stretches an unbelievable 54 miles (inaccurately called "The 90-mile Beach") or spend the day touring scenic wine regions like Hawke's Bay. Te Urewera National Park, Whanganui National Park and Egmont National Park are also well worth a visit for their spectacular natural beauty. In Bay of Islands, tourists can enjoy one of New Zealand's best spots for sailing and fishing.

Caving tourism has also been popular in the North Island for over 100 years now with many visitors touring the limestone Waitomo Caves, dated to be over two million years old. Travelers wanting to experience the rich heritage of New Zealand's indigenous Maori heritage will find the majority of historic and culture sites in the North Island. The largest cities in the North Island are Auckland and Wellington - both of which are lively, cosmopolitan cities with excellent gastronomy and a wide variety of cultural activities.

New Zealand is one of the last places on the planet to become inhabited by people. For millions of years its only residents were its animals and vegetation. It wasn't until the 13th century that Polynesian settlers, the ancestors of New Zealand's indigenous Maori, arrived to settle these lands. Sailing so many miles across the Pacific Ocean in canoes was a daring undertaking in that era, but New Zealand's first inhabitants were rich in navigational knowledge and used the ocean currents and the stars to guide them. In addition to sailing, the Maori people were advanced in fishing, hunting, farming and weapon making. Today ancient Maori sites are protected, and many can be visited today throughout New Zealand.

The first contact with New Zealand by a European didn't occur until 1642 when Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer leading an expedition for the Dutch East India Company, sailed east from Tasmania to New Zealand's West Coast. Instead of settling the newly found lands however, he continued sailing north to Fiji. New Zealand remained untouched by Europeans for 127 years until the British explorer, James Cook, arrived to fully chart the islands. The Dutch dubbed Nova Zeelandia became New Zealand, and over the next decade Cook captained two additional expeditions to New Zealand. This introduced a new era of trade between Europeans and the Maori, which had strong implications for the local tribes. In addition to European diseases, the Maori also acquired muskets to use in their intertribal wars. Both factors had devastating consequences for New Zealand's indigenous population.

For the first seventy years after Cook's arrival, the majority of Europeans who settled in New Zealand were whalers, sealers, merchants and Christian missionaries. As more and more British settlers arrived, the local Maori feared a growing lack of order, particularly in regards to Maori lands and trade. Because of this and fear that France would soon attempt to formerly establish a colony on their lands, the Maori chiefs requested protection from the British Crown. In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by over 500 chiefs, officially making New Zealand a British territory.

Initially part of the Australian colony of New South Wales, New Zealand became a separate colony of the British Crown one year later in 1841. Today the Treaty of Waitangi remains controversial to New Zealand's Maori population. The issue stems from the misunderstanding of sovereignty; while the British believed they were getting full reign over Maori lands, the Maori understood that they were only giving permission to the British to use their land in exchange for protection. A surge in the population of European settlers led to violent conflicts and warring over lands with the indigenous Maori, resulting in the tribes losing many of their lands. In 1975 the Waitangi Tribunal was created to investigate historical mistreatment of the Maori and to offer government compensation to the tribes for breaches of Treaty of Waitangi.

By the mid-19th century the colony of New Zealand was managing its own representative government and had its own parliament. Throughout the 20th century it gradually gained more autonomy, and the British Empire came to recognize its self-governing status. Troops from New Zealand fought with the British Empire in both World Wars, and following the end of the WWII, the country saw its economy begin to prosper. During this time it also became a major ally of the United States and Australia. Today New Zealand is its own nation with Queen Elizabeth II serving as queen in a constitutional monarchy. According to the 2012 Global Peace Index, it was ranked the second most peaceful country in the world.

Interesting fact: the women of New Zealand were the first in the world to earn the right to vote - in 1893.

Auckland at Its Best
Auckland & Christchurch
Auckland & Sydney