Loved throughout the world for its stunning natural landscapes and rich Maori heritage, New Zealand caters to outdoor-minded and culture-loving travellers alike. If you’ve seen The Lord of the Rings films, you’ve already seen the kind of stunning natural beauty that’s on offer.
When to visit New Zealand
Because New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, February is the last month of the summer. March and April are still pleasant, but after that you’re best to skip their winter and wait until Spring arrives in October or November.
Although rainfall is fairly equally spread across the year, February and March are some of the driest and sunniest months. Bring a waterproof jacket, as the weather can still change drastically from a bright period into an unexpected downpour. It’s advisable always to wear a cap or hat, as the UV rays are powerful.
The gorgeous North Island
New Zealand is made up of two main islands: the North Island and the South Island.
The largest city in New Zealand is Auckland, and although it’s not the capital city (which is Wellington), around 1.5 million of New Zealand’s 5 million inhabitants live here.
For plenty of travellers, Auckland is the first stop of their journey. It’s a vibrant destination humming with activities. Watch the city and the surrounding bays from almost 600 feet above the ground at the Sky Tower, take a relaxing stroll in the Auckland Botanic Gardens, or treat yourself to an enchanting dinner cruise in Waitematā harbour.
Outside of Auckland
Whether you’re looking for relaxation or an active holiday, the North Island has activities for all types of travellers. Tackle a hike in the barren, volcanic landscapes of Tongariro National Park, or soak up the stunning coastline of the Coromandel Forest Park. You can join a kayak tour that leads to rock arches and coves, of which Cathedral Cove is the most imposing.
To experience Maori culture and the geothermal baths, head to Rotorua, three hours south of Auckland. The coloured rocks and pools make it well worth the trip. Just be warned: the whole area really smells of sulphur! At least you know the thermal spas are authentic.
You can also take a ferry north from Auckland to Tiritiri Matangi, an island dedicated as a wildlife sanctuary. There are spectacular walks, and it’s a great place to explore.
The city of Wellington is at the south-west tip of the North Island. For stellar views of this coastal region, climb up to Mount Victoria or ride a cable car to Kelburn Lookout.
Te Papa Museum, the Museum of New Zealand, will give you an excellent introduction to New Zealand’s culture, Maori art, and natural history. Exhibitions display the way that New Zealand is shaped by tectonic plates, its flora and fauna, and the heritage of its inhabitants. The entrance to this museum is free.
The mountainous and beautiful South Island
The South Island is widely held to be even more picturesque and beautiful than the North Island.
Dotted with snow-covered peaks, towering glaciers, and numerous scenic walking tracks, New Zealand’s South Island is a dream destination for outdoor-minded travellers. Summer and autumn are the best seasons to get your hiking gear out and explore some of the countless trails in Fiordland National Park, like the multi-day Routeburn and Kepler Tracks. Shorter treks, such as the Humboldt Falls Track and the pathway to Lake Marian, offer fantastic scenery as well.
Walking on top of a glacier is another unique experience on the South Island. Accompanied by a guide, you can trek on the thick ice of Fox Glacier or Franz Josef Glacier. Various companies organise helicopter tours and guided glacier hikes.
The western fjord Milford Sound, which opens into the Tasman Sea, is well-known for its magnificent mountains and scenic cruises. Here, you can savour a refreshing shower under the Stirling Falls, and go on a day cruise of the area.
Travelling to New Zealand
New Zealand is the furthest from the UK that it’s possible to go. It’s two flights, each of around 12 hours. Our newsletter editor Ian, who’s tried a few different ways to make this trip, tells us:
“I love New Zealand, and several of my friends liked it so much when they visited on holiday that they emigrated there!”
“The first time I went to New Zealand I flew via Tokyo, with only three hours connecting time between my flights. It was just too tiring—when I finally arrived I was shattered, and it took me a few days to fully recover from the jet-lag! (By the way, Wikipedia has a surprisingly detailed article on jet-lag with some useful tips.)
“A much better way is to fly via Singapore, and allow around ten hours between your flights, so that you can sleep at the transit hotel in Singapore Changi Airport. Once you’ve had a sleep and a nice shower, the second flight is much more pleasant. Once you arrive, you’re not too tired, so actually you don’t lose any valuable time from your holiday.
“I once connected via America on the way home, stopping off in San Francisco for three days. It made my trip a true voyage of discovery! Most people find time-zone adjustment easier when flying from east to west, so you could take in a tour of America on your way to New Zealand.”
Once you’re in New Zealand, a popular option is renting a camper van, which provides you with the convenience of both accommodation and transport.
So if you’re looking for sun and scenery at this dull time of year, head to New Zealand for the trip of a lifetime. On such a long trip, our Go2 Travel Insurance could be the ideal insurance cover for you.