Facts about New Zealand

Where is NZ?

New Zealand is a small country in the South West Pacific, about the size of Great Britain or Japan.

Population and the people

  • New Zealand has a population of just under 5 million made up of a multi-cultural society. Auckland, located in the North Island, is New Zealand’s largest city while Wellington, located at the bottom of the North Island, is the country’s capital. The largest and most populated city in the South Island is Christchurch.
  • The culture and influence of its Maori and Pacific Island residence makes a visit to NZ a unique experience
  • Most New Zealanders ( or Kiwis as they are informally referred to) live in cities. This leaves vast scenic areas of pristine wilderness unpopulated, perfect for vacationing and sightseeing
  • A well known fact is that New Zealand has more sheep than people

The scenery and what to expect

NZ is recognized for its majestic scenery, glaciers, spectacular alpine ranges, picturesque fiords, subtropical forests, volcanic plateau, and miles of untouched coastlines, all within relatively close proximity.

Refer to ‘Things to do/Popular activities in New Zealand’ for recommended sightseeing and tour options.

At the top of the NORTH ISLAND you will find the Bay of Islands, which due to it’s northern location and aspect,  is often referred to as New Zealand’s subtropical region. The Bay of Islands incorporates 144 islands and is sprinkled with stunning beaches. South of here you will find New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. With two natural harbours, you will find an endless choice of year round water based activities such as boat cruises, fishing charters, diving excursions, jet boating thrills, sea kayaking, sailing, surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. A short ferry ride from Auckland is Waiheke Island, often referred to as the ‘Island of Wine’.

Heading south from Auckland you will discover Hamilton and the Waikato region. Home to a middle-earth movie set, the world famous Waitomo Glo Worm Caves and the surfing mecca of Raglan on the West Coast, this area is diverse and intriguing in many respects. The Bay of Plenty and Tauranga, located on the East Coast of the North Island, offer beaches (including the well know surfing town of Mt Maunganui) and New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, which is accessible by helicopter or boat. South of here brings you to world famous Rotorua; set on the edge of a beautiful lake and featuring shooting geysers and thermal mud pools fueled by the areas geothermal activity. Sightseeing options include Geyser activity, Geothermal boat cruises, Gondola, Luge ride and Skyswing at Skyline Rotorua, a self-drive rail car adventure, lots of rafting, quad bike, jet boating and kayaking adventures and the amazing Rainbow Springs and Agrodome Sheep Show.

Further south you will find Taupo, set on the edge of a stunning lake by the same name. It is located close to the Central Plateau which offers the best skiing terrain in the North Island for winter and amazing walks in the summer (such as the world acclaimed Tongariro Crossing). Head south east and you will discover enchanting Hawkes Bay, featuring Hastings and Napier. Hastings, the largest city in the region of Hawkes Bay has a country feel to it. Close to Hastings you will find the chic village of Havelock North, Te Mata Peak for spectacular views, Craggy Range Vineyard (nestled below Te Mata Peak) and Cape Kidnappers – home to the world’s largest mainland gannet colony and popular with people of all ages. Napier is recognised for its local award winning wines and this sunny seaside city is considered the Art Deco capital of the world. While in the Hawkes Bay region, enjoy wine tours, hot air ballooning, water rafting,  walking trails, kayaking, a vast array of bike trails and if you are a golfer, be sure to visit ape Kidnappers Golf Course (listed as one of the top 50 courses in the world).

At the bottom of the North Island is Wellington. Recently named “the coolest little capital in the world” by Lonely Planet, Wellington offers something for everybody. Reputed to have more bars and restaurants per capita than New York, Wellington is well recognized for its diverse range of culinary offerings. While in Wellington, discover Te Papa Museum (national museum of New Zealand), Wellington Cable Car, Weta Cave (for movie making magic), a sea coast safari or perhaps a tour to Kapiti Island Nature Reserve.

The top of the SOUTH ISLAND includes three spectacular regions – Marlborough Sounds, Nelson Lakes and Picton. The Marlborough Sounds incorporates an extensive network of coastal waterways, peninsulas and islands. This region is also home to the famous 70km Queen Charlotte Walking Track which takes in coastal forest, coves and inlets, and skyline ridges. The Marlborough Sounds offers a vast array of marine based activities such as sea kayaking, jet ski-ing, dolphin encounters, diving for wrecks, fishing, and cruising. A visit to the top of the South Island should include a stop at the wonderful seaport town of Picton, the gateway to the Queen Charlotte Sound. Queen Charlotte Sound makes up a fifth of New Zealand’s entire coastline. There are frequent passenger and car ferry services between Wellington and Picton. Nelson is one of the sunniest regions in New Zealand and is the region of lifestyle featuring a vast array of art galleries and secluded studios. With three National Parks in this region (Kahurangi National Park, Nelson Lakes National Park and the Abel Tasman Coastal Track) those seeking some outdoor exploring are in for a real treat. You can also charter a yacht for a morning or a week and sail to interesting places like the Abel Tasman National Park.

Travel south west and you will find yourself immersed in the rugged West Coast region of the South Island which features Franz Josef and Fox GlaciersFranz Josef Glacier descends from the tops of the Southern Alps  into rainforest close to sea level.  The location and altitude of this glacier allows a rare opportunity to explore this dramatic natural wonder in a reasonably temperate climate. Fox Glacier is located in the foothills of the Southern Alps and is often referred to as being slightly more intimate than it’s big brother, Franz Josef Glacier. It is fed by 4 alpine glaciers and is actually longer and faster moving than Franz Josef and the glacier base is within only 5km from the nearby village.  Sightseeing options include Heli Hiking Franz Josef, a Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight from Franz Josef, a Lake Mapourika Scenic Cruise from Franz Josef and small-group Franz Josef Glacier Walks.

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home to the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mt Cook. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park incorporates 23 peaks over 3000 metres high and mountaineers consider this area provides among the best climbing opportunities in Australasia. Here you will find some amazing flight adventures such as Mt Cook Helicopter Flight and Tasman Glacier Walk, Mt Cook Ski Plane and Helicopter Combo Tour and Mt Cook Alpine Vista Helicopter Flight. Across on the East Coast lies Christchurch. Christchurch, known as ‘The Garden City’ has a population of 340,000. Within two hours of arriving at Christchurch airport you can be; on the ski slopes, wine tasting, white water rafting, cruising Akaroa Harbour, playing a round of golf, challenging yourself to a sky dive, bungy jumping, mountain biking, wind surfing and experiencing whale watching (to name just a few things you can enjoy). While in Christchurch, discover Banks Peninsula Walk, Adrenalin Forest, white-water rafting, hot air Ballooning, jet boating thrills, paragliding adrenaline, Hanmer Springs and stargazing in the South Island.

75 km’s from Christchurch city you will find Akaroa, a historic French and British settlement located in the heart of an ancient volcano. The village oozes with colonial architecture, art galleries, craft stores and an array of cafés. Just some of the attractions in Akaroa include a 4WD tour of Flea Bay, eco Harbour Adventure cruises, swimming with dolphins in Akaroa  Harbour, and MRX sailing on Akaroa Harbour. Heading south from the Christchurch and Akaroa area brings you to Dunedin and The Otago Peninsula. The Otago Peninsula is a region of unique contrasts and character. You can enjoy mountainous area’s, open plains, glacier-fed rivers and secluded and deserted beaches. The Otago Peninsula is home to many hiking and bike trails as well as colonies of albatrosses, sea lions and rare yellow-eyed penguins. Together with its 20km long harbour, it is home to a large variety of amazing marine wildlife, including The Royal Albatross, the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguin and the Blue Penguin. Dunedin, located at the head of Otago Harbour, is known for its Scottish heritage and Victorian and Edwardian architecture.

Queenstown. In land and south brings you to Queenstown (often referred to as the adventure capital of the world). Queenstown offers an amazing array of adrenalin-rush activities. Try abseiling, bungy jumping, canyoning, gliding, hang gliding, heliskiing, hot air ballooning, jet boating, para sailing or river surfing. A spectacular way to enjoy the amazing scenery is by air – whether this be by hot air balloon, a fixed wing plane or by helicopter. On the water you can enjoy a cruise on beautiful lake Wakatipu and there is always a cruise in the Milford Sound (the jewel in the New Zealand tourism crown) or a cruise in spectacular Doubtful Sound. Here are just some of the amazing tours and activities available in and around Queenstown. Skyline Queenstown | Gondola for luge tracks, stargazing, Kiwi Haka show, and mountain biking. Guided walks in the Glenorchy and Mt Aspiring National Park area, kayaking Eco tour, TSS Earnslaw Steamship Lake cruises, Walter Peak High Country Farm experience, Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound coach & cruise tour, Ledge Swing – AJ Hackett Bungy, 4wd Experience, Shotover Jet, Canyoning Queenstown. Also discover boat cruising, water thrills and trout fishing; discover some relaxation options such as this region’s  outstanding guided wine tours, wine tasting and cellar door deals, a dawn hot air balloon flight or just enjoy the ambience and atmosphere of the roaring fireplace in a boutique bar. Queenstown also hosts a number of luxury day spas for those requiring some body and soul focus. Discover world-class golf courses including six golf courses, all within a 25-minute drive of Queenstown. These include friendly 9-hole courses to some simply breathtaking fairways with rugged alpine backdrops and stunning 18-hole championship courses such as Millbrook Resort (frequently voted the ‘Best Golf Resort’ in New Zealand) and one of the finest alpine golf courses in the world. The par-72 championship golf course has been transformed into 27 interchangeable holes. Other world class golf courses located close to Queenstown include Queenstown Golf Course – Kelvin Heights, Jack’s Point, The Hills, Arrowtown and Frankton Driving Range and Golf Course.

30 minutes drive from Queenstown is Wanaka. The Lake Wanaka area is often referred to as the world’s first lifestyle reserve. The alpine air, small number of people, spectacular scenery, friendly locals and crystal clear water of the lake all combine to make this one of the most amazing regions to visit in New Zealand. Wanaka is a haven for skiers in winter, due to it’s close proximity to the world class skiing and snowboarding resorts of Cardrona and Treble Cone, cross-country skiing at Snow Farm and heli-skiing high in the Harris Mountain. While here enjoy mountain biking expeditions, the two world-class ski areas of Cardrona Alpine Resort and Treble Cone Ski area, Mt Aspiring National Park, walking one of the many tracks found in this region and kayaking out on the lake.

Further south, a visit to Lake Te Anau wont disappoint, especially in the summer months. The picturesque town of Te Anau is located on the edge of the lake with Mt Luxmore and the Murchison mountains serving as the backdrop. Te Anau is known as the ‘Gateway to Fiordland’ and is the closest town to Milford Sound (a scenic drive of approx 2½ hours). Te Anau is the “Walking Capital of the World” due mainly to it’s close location to 3 of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks being the Milford Track, Kepler Track and Routeburn Track. The final region and perhaps the most spectacular is Fiordland & Milford Sound. Fiordland is one of the most scenic and dramatically beautiful regions in New Zealand which has gained it a reputation for some of the most stunning sightseeing and walking opportunities in the world. You will find magnificent waterfalls, deep fiords and rainforest clutching on to the side of mountains and untouched by man. Deep within Fiordland National Park you will find New Zealand’s most stunning natural attraction: Milford Sound. Bounded by massively steep cliffs and dense rainforest, Milford Sound is the best known of all of the New Zealand fiords and perhaps the most famous in the world. Of the 3 well known fiords in the region, Milford Sound is the only one that can be accessed by road. At the pinnacle of Milford Sound is the spectacular and iconic Mitre Peak – standing at 1,692 metres above sea level. It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the open ocen and there are a variety of cruise options covering the return journey. Milford Sound was described by Rudyard Kipling as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Fiordland National Park is a World Heritage Site and includes Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds which you can explore by scenic flight, a cruise, by kayak or via a customised eco-tour which will get you to those less accessible places.

New Zealand is a movie buff’s dream

Since Peter Jackson made unprecedented success in Hollywood with his New Zealand films (such as Lord of The Rings Trilogy) New Zealand has established itself as the perfect film location.

With incredible scenery, world class directors and a top production company, New Zealand is a movie buff’s dream.  Wellington (the capital city) has been nicknamed Wellywood for its filming locations and for being the home of Weta – the special effects and props manufacturer based in the city.

You can even visit the set of Hobbiton in Matamata, the Samurai village of the Last Samurai in Taranaki and that special place featured in Narnia, Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel.

Here is a snap shot of some other movies that were either filmed exclusively in New Zealand or where the majority of the movie was filmed in New Zealand.

THE HOBBIT, KING KONG, THE PIANO, THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, WHALE RIDER.

Although Avatar wasn’t filmed in New Zealand, the special effects, props, conceptual design and costumes were created by Weta Workshop and Weta Digital. The workshop (based in the Wellington suburb of Miramar) is where you can go on a behind-the-scenes guided tour. The Avatar sequels are being filmed in New Zealand.

Movie tours (not to be missed):

Hobbiton – Matamata                                                         More info > here

Private tours featuring Samurai Village in Taranaki and Narnia at Cathedral Cove can also be arranged. Please email us to find out more discovernz@servicetravel.co.nz

Eco Friendly (Green)

New Zealand is recognised as one of the greenest countries on the planet and offers various eco tour options in support of this. There are a variety of eco tours exploring the amazing landscapes and wildlife, gorgeous beaches and plant life that make New Zealand’s natural environment especially appealing to visitors.

How safe is New Zealand to visit?

NZ is the 4th safest country in the world to visit.

There are no dangerous animals such as snakes in New Zealand.

What is the best way to see New Zealand?

Whether you are travelling as an individual, family or group, you can traverse New Zealand on a fully escorted coach tour or ‘book as you go’. There is an enormous range of hotel, sightseeing, vacation tour packages and adventure activities available. This website also details special vacation packages of New Zealand for the American and European traveller.

Language

English is the most commonly spoken language. Maori, the language of the indigenous people, is also an official language, and you’ll often hear Maori words used, such a Kia Ora for hello.

Time – the first country to see the sun

The first country in the world to see the sun each day, New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. In summer NZ adopts ‘daylight saving’ from the end of September to the beginning of April, when clocks are put forward one hour.

Weather

The weather is generally temperate, although it can be changeable, with moderately high rainfall and many hours of sunshine.  Weather varies throughout the country. The far north has subtropical weather during summer and is relatively warm in winter, whereas temperatures can get down to -10 (14F) in winter in the far south, rather cold but perfect for the ski fields. January and February are the warmest months in New Zealand, with temperatures ranging between 20-30C (70-85F) and in winter between 10-15C (50-60). Generally the further south you travel the cooler the temperatures.

Currency

The official currency of  New Zealand is the NZ Dollar (NZD).       View Currency Converter

Internet

If you prefer to stay connected to the internet everywhere you go, it’s recommended you purchase a plan from one of NZ’s major networks. Free Wi-Fi spots are generally available in most cities.

Electricity

NZ’s electricity supply runs on 230/240 volts and uses angled 2 and 3 pin plugs (the same as Australia). An adapter/converter are recommended for devices that do not feature a multi-voltage option.

Driving

Driving in NZ is generally very good, and a good motorway system exists, although care should be taken on some country and secondary roads. Motorists should also be aware of NZ’s weather and drive accordingly. Driving is on the left hand side of the road.

Some New Zealand (Kiwi) Language Terms

  • Eh – compulsory addition to the end of a rhetorical question… “Last night was really good, eh”
  • Sweet as – great, as in “sweet as pie”… “That bungy was sweet as!”
  • “ie” – often found at the end of shortened words, e.g. pressie (present), hottie (hot person), tantie (tantrum), cuzzie (cousin)
  • Heaps – used instead of “lots”… “We saw heaps of dolphins in Kaikoura.”
  • Hard case – someone who has a big personality, may do unusual things but basically is a real laugh… “Our bus driver’s hard case!”
  • No worries – no problem!
  • Bro – friend or brother
  • Cuz – friend or cousin
  • Chur bro – “cheers, thanks” or “that’s cool, my friend”
  • Good on ya mate -well done
  • She’ll be right mate – it’ll be OK
  • Not even – “no, it’s not” or “that’s not true”
  • Ta – thanks
  • True? – surprised question, as in “is that true?”
  • Togs – swimsuit
  • Jandals – flip-flops
  • Sunnies – sunglasses
  • Suss – to figure out
  • Wop-wops – out in the back country (middle of nowhere)
  • Piker – someone who backs out of doing something
  • Tiki Tour – to drive around casually taking the scenic route
  • Gawk – to stare
  • Pack a sad – to get upset and sulk

Some Maori language terms

  • Kia Ora (key-or-a) – hello, goodbye, thank you
  • Haere Mai (high-reh-my) – welcome
  • Haere Ra (high-reh-rah) – goodbye
  • Whanau (far-no) – family
  • Whare – house
  • Kai – Food
  • Kai moana – Seafood
  • Tena koe — Greetings to you (said to one person)
  • Tena koutou — Greeting to you all
  • Tino pai — Really good
  • Mana – respect, status earned through actions

 

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