Reasons to Visit
This small nation has established a name for fabulous wineries, many internationally acclaimed. Whilst most will point connoisseurs to the Marlborough region for the finest vintages, Hawkes Bay and Martinborough should not be ignored. A trip here would not be complete without trying the local 'fush 'n' chups' or traditional Maori fare either.
For a small country, New Zealand incorporates landscapes as diverse as they come. Mountains, volcanoes, beaches, lakes, fiords, valleys and caves - to the everyday traveller these remarkable sights are other-worldly. Both the North and South islands share many common features, but are also wonderfully contrasting.
It's not necessary to throw yourself off a suspended platform in order to fully experience New Zealand. Alternative options include air safaris over White Island, heli-hiking the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers and wilderness cruises in Milford and Doubful Sounds.
New Zealanders are proud of their Maori roots. Maori song, dance and mythology are prevalent, towns are adorned with carvings and rooms are dressed in flax weavings. Most physical locations also have Maori names with literal translations such as Waimakariri River (Cold water river).
The 'outdoors' perception of New Zealanders is not something consciously cultivated; with such a plentitude of mountains, beaches, fiords lakes and forests on their doorstep it is simply a way of life.
New Zealand has wonderful roads - scenic, safe and, especially on the South Island, largely empty. They even drive on the left and some of the most scenic routes are waymarked. There are car hire stations at all of New Zealand's airports.
There are so many excellent hikes - or 'tramps' as the locals call them - in New Zealand that it is sometimes difficult to know which one to select. We feature several of the country's 'great walks' which can easily be incorportated into any itinerary.
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New Zealand & the South Pacific
This is a rough guide to when to travel to this region. Choose a month of travel to see typical temperature and rainfall around the country. The ticks indicate our recommended months to travel.
New Zealand has four seasons, broadly opposite to ours, but generally mild and temperate: the north is usually warmer than the south, and the central mountain ranges tend to cause a ‘rain shadow’, with eastern areas being drier than the western coast, an effect particularly pronounced on the South Island.
Summer, from December to March, is ideal for water activities with temperatures averaging from the mid to high 20s°C. Spring, from September to November, is good for exploring with the countryside blooming into life and temperatures from 15-20°C. Autumn, with its turning leaves and gentle sun, is in April and May and tends to be a little warmer than the spring. Winter, from June to August, is perfect for skiing in the mountains though at sea level temperatures rarely fall below 5°C. The North Island, in particular, is mild year-round while there’s always snow dusting New Zealand’s highest mountain peaks.
New Zealand attracts a huge number of visitors during the peak months of January and February, filling the best accommodation; you’ll need to book the more popular places in advance. By waiting just a little longer, you can take advantage of the lack of other visitors, enjoy the pick of the accommodation and experience New Zealand as it should be – peaceful and untouched.
Rugby in New Zealand borders on a religion for many so Wellington's Westpac Stadium in February becomes a sporting beacon as 16 of the world's top seven-a-side rugby teams compete in the International Rugby Sevens. If you love rugby you can combine it with a trip to one of the world’s most sought-after destinations.
The Wairarapa valley is at the bottom of the north island, around 20 or so miles east of the Capital, Wellington. Every March sees competitors take part in the spectacular Genesis Wairarapa International Balloon Fiesta. During the festival, it is possible to take a balloon ride and enjoy the breathtaking views of the valley and the surrounding rugged Tararua ranges.
The annual Bluff Oyster and Southland Seafood Festival takes place at the Bluff Events Centre, Southland, New Zealand. The event showcases the rich and varied cuisine of New Zealand. Restaurants will offer a wide range of food, with particular emphasis on seafood. If you are in the South Island during April it's well worth visitng the small town of Bluff.
As the name suggests the aim of the festival is to break the world record for the longest gumboot throw. It is a family event, which includes a number of other competitions such as the best-dressed gumboot. The overall winner of the competition receives a golden gumboot.
New Zealand has four seasons, broadly opposite to ours, so its winter (June to August), is perfect for skiing in the mountains though as temperatures rarely fall below 5°C.
Wanaka is surrounded by spectacular mountains and is in fact the the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park. Each August the Wanaka Snowfest hosts a wide range of events.
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Further reading:Tours in New ZealandRegions of New ZealandHighlightsItinerary IdeasPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationAbout New ZealandCountry Guides
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