New Zealand travel guide
The South-West Pacific country of New Zealand has recently shot to fame as the majestic backdrop in The Lord of The Rings movies, increasing the tourist trade exponentially. But despite the masses of tourists that are drawn by its exotic location, dramatic scenery and the southern-hemisphere promise of December sunshine, New Zealand retains its beauty and attractiveness by virtue of the fact that it is all natural.
Working to curb the pollution that so many tourists bring, New Zealand’s government fights hard to keep the country clean and green. Many of the activities on offer make the most out of the gorgeous mountains and unique fauna. For an outdoors adventure holiday, New Zealand cannot be beaten. Bungee jump down a breathtaking gorge, trek up picturesque hiking trails in search of magnificent waterfalls and crystal clear pools, enjoy all manner of watersports at any one of the stunning, sandy beaches. If you visit during winter, the skiing is some of the best in the world.
If it’s culture you’re after, this island nation does not disappoint. With bookstores and art galleries galore, New Zealand has a thriving café and bar culture, where you can enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and meet the locals. Kiwi live music is a popular feature of the nightlife, blending hip-hop, reggae and rock. New Zealand is also home to an enormous array of festivals, including Pasifika, an Auckland-based annual celebration of Polynesian culture. There is also a large Māori population in New Zealand and their culture is welcomed and integrated with the mainstream culture, giving New Zealand an ethnic, natural and exciting flavour.
New Zealand has a maritime climate, which means that the weather can often be unpredictable. The country lies in the path of prevailing winds from the Tamsan Sea as well as feeling the blow of the winds that howl through the Cook Strait. The average temperatures in the summer (December to February) range between 20 and 30°C and in the winter (June to August) can fall to 10-15°C. The South Island is usually a few degrees cooler than the North Island.
The best time to go is between the months of November and April when you can make the most out of the weather and enjoy New Zealand’s great outdoors. To avoid the tourist crush you may want to avoid going between mid-December and early February. Of course, if you’re after skiing, then winter is your prime time. The slopes are best between June and August.
A valid passport is pretty much all you need to get into New Zealand as there are no restrictions.
As a largely agricultural economy, much of New Zealand’s cuisine is based on local produce, and there is a lot of seasonal variation. The majority of the food is based on British cuisine, although there are growing Mediterranean, Asian and Māori influences. The cuisine is often described as Pacific Rim, acknowledging its varied influences. Popular foodstuffs include lamb, pork and venison, as well as plenty of seafood and shellfish.
Traditional Māori cuisine includes a significant British basis such a focus on pork and potatoes, combined with foods brought by the Māori to New Zealand from Polynesia, including sweet potato and fenroot. Māori food is often cooked in a hangi, earth oven. Sweet cakes and desserts, the kind brought to New Zealand by the 19th-century British are also popular
Traditional Kiwiana cooking is also popular and includes dishes such as custard squares, pavlova, meat pies and fish and chips, derived from a British origin with a local Pacific twist. Kiwiana cooking has remained popular due to a nostalgia arising from the increasing American and South Asian influences on New Zealand’s food scene.
However, the mainstream New Zealand cuisine has seen the influence of New American cuisine, leading to the rise of take-away dinners and a growing fast food culture. Social meals often include a popular feature known as ‘bring-a-plate’ in which guests bring a dish to share at larger gatherings, thus spreading the cost. Barbecues are also a common way to have social meals with easy-to-share costs.
New Zealand’s wine industry is very successful and established, mainly produced in ten wine growing regions throughout the country. There are several annual food and wine festivals in New Zealand, a sign of the importance and popularity of wine in the country’s diet. Many vineyards also run their own restaurants, often employing top chefs which allow New Zealand dishes to be eaten alongside local wine.
The New Zealand dollar (NZD) comes in notes of denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. It is also used in the nearby Pitcairn Islands, the New Zealand territory Tokelau, and on the Cook Islands, where it is also issued as the Cook Islands dollar. For the up to date currency conversion please use the Pampo exchange rates calculator.
Auckland Airport (AKL) is the country’s busiest airport.
Christchurch International Airport (CHC) serves the largest city on the South Island.
Queenstown Airport (ZQN) is located on the South Island and mainly handles domestic flights and routes to Australia. It is also the destination of extra flights during the ski season.
Wellington International Airport (WLG) serves New Zealand’s capital city and handles both domestic and international flights.
New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote (in 1893), introduce retirement pensions and adopt an eight-hour working day.
Charles Darwin made a note about the Kerikeri winery during his 1835 visit to Kerikeri.
There are more golf courses and bookstores per capita in New Zealand than in any other country.
The kiwi bird is the only bird to have its nostrils at the tip of its bill rather than at the base.
The most southerly pub, vineyard and railway station in the world are all located in New Zealand.
The longest place name in the world is a hill in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu.
The world’s largest hot water spring, with temperatures reaching up to 200°C, is located near Rotorua and called Frying Pan Lake