New Zealand travel guide

Landscape in New Zealand

New Zealand is a haven for outdoor sports where you can ski and go to the beach on the same day. The islands' great sub-tropical climate, modern culture, and English speaking people make it a great long distance destination.

New Zealand was named God's own country and 'paradise of the pacific' as far back as the early 1800s. Travelers generally agree New Zealand deserves this description.

You need to allow plenty of time to travel New Zealand. Many travelers spend nearly all of their holiday time in neighboring Australia, then wish that they'd spent an equal or longer time in this fascinating archipelago.

Lonely Planet named New Zealand the world's top travel destination for several years in a row, and it was voted best long-haul travel destination in the 2004 Guardian and Observer’s People’s Choice award. It has won that award in 3 out of the past 4 years. At the 2005 Condé Nast Traveller Awards, readers voted New Zealand as the best holiday destination in the world.

New Zealand is also known by the Maori name of Aotearoa, which is usually translated as "(Land of the) long white cloud".

About New Zealand's islands

New Zealand consists of the two main North and South islands and a number of smaller ones:

  • North Island - warm, with scenery ranging from sandy beaches, through rolling farmland and forests to active volcanic peaks with bubbling mud pools
  • South Island - spectacular mountains and fjords, large beech forests, beautiful beaches, large glaciers
  • Stewart Island - heavily forested, a wilderness paradise for trampers with wonderful bird song and the only place to a see a sun-bathing Kiwi bird on Masons Beach
  • Chatham Islands
  • Sub-Antarctic Islands - very difficult to get to unless you're on a scientific expedition or deep sea fishing vessel

Nearly all visitors to New Zealand stay on the main North and South islands, with some intrepid travelers making it to Stewart Island and its fantastic wildlife and forests.

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Major cities in New Zealand

It's the countryside that's the star of the show in New Zealand so we only list the most prominent cities here. Listed in order from north to south:

North Island

  • Auckland - Called The City of Sails it's the largest city on New Zealand, with over a million in the metropolitan area, making it the largest in Polynesia by far. This is also where your international flight will arrive
  • Hamilton - 128km south of Auckland, capital of the Waikato, home to the Chiefs (super 14 rugby) and the Magic (ANZ cup netball) sports teams. Recently voted the world's fourteenth least cycle-friendly city (above Mexico City but below Jakarta), which for outdoorsy New Zealand is an achievement
  • Tauranga - known for its great weather, sun and beach Tauranga is a great holiday spot
  • Rotorua - famous for Maori culture, geysers, hot pools and that funny (from the water's sulphur dioxide content) rotten egg smell
  • Wellington - the national capital, also known as The Windy City - site of New Zealand's Parliament and the Beehive and the wonderful free Te Papa museum

South Island

  • Nelson - safe and friendly, with New Zealand's highest sunshine hours. Nelson is the geographic centre of the country and surrounded by 3 stunning national parks, vineyards and orchards
  • Christchurch - The Garden City and the Air Gateway to Antarctica
  • Queenstown - adrenalin and adventure capital of the world, where you can skydive, bungy jump, jet-boat, thrill yourself to your hearts content
  • Dunedin - a city proud of its Scottish heritage of sometimes called the Edinburgh of the South. Here you'll encounter a chocolate factory, Southern Albatross colony and its wonderful tramping tracks within a short drive from the CBD
  • Invercargill - the southernmost city and one of the very few places to see a living Tuatara
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    Things to do in New Zealand

    Fly by wire in New ZealandNew Zealand is an outdoor sports paradise. It's perfect for mountain biking, wind surfing, hiking, mountain climbing, fishing, and much else.

    Kiwis have also come up with some of the more interesting extreme activities the world has seen, such as Zorbing (sometimes called Sphereing, see video below) and Fly By Wire, a complete bonkers fun ride where you're essentially strapped to a wingless airplane on a wire and left to navigate a valley like a fun park ride gone amok.

    For a more peaceful time sightseeing, a New Zealand driving vacation brings you to some stunning views and interesting locations.

    Photo at top by Stuck in Customs on flickr

    New Zealand travel articles

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    Camping in New Zealand's astounding natural landscape is very popular. Follow these tips to stay as safe as you can.


    Top 5 New Zealand car rental tips
    A rental car allows you to see all the parts of NZ that you'd like. Just follow these tips to make your rental experience hassle free.


    Destination Idea: A New Zealand driving holiday
    For a change from adrenaline-filled adventure sports pursuits, maybe try a driving holiday in New Zealand? Here are some ideas to get you started.


    Getting there and around

    Travel to New Zealand

    There's not much option besides flying to New Zealand. To find a cheap airfare, look at our list of air ticket consolidators and our tips on finding a cheap flight.

    Visa requirements

    All visitors need to provide proof of onwards travel plans (tickets bought) when visiting New Zealand as a tourist. Also, tourists will need to prove they have enough funds to pay for their visit to the country

    If you are visiting for three months or less and are from a country in the list below, you will not need a visa.

    If you're visiting the country for a short period, up to 3 months, you won't need a visa if you're a citizen of the following countries:

    Andorra

    Bahrain

    Brunei

    Chile

    Denmark

    France

    Hong Kong**

    Ireland

    Japan

    Latvia*

    Luxembourg

    Mexico

    Norway

    Portugal***

    San Marino

    Slovak Republic

    Spain

    Taiwan

    Uruguay

    Argentina

    Belgium

    Bulgaria

    Cyprus

    Estonia*

    Germany

    Hungary

    Israel

    Korea (South)

    Liechtenstein

    Malaysia

    Monaco

    Oman

    Qatar

    Saudi Arabia

    Slovenia

    Sweden

    United Arab Emirates

    Vatican City

    Austria

    Brazil

    Canada

    Czech Republic

    Finland

    Greece*****

    Iceland

    Italy

    Kuwait

    Lithuania*

    Malta

    Netherlands

    Poland

    Romania

    Singapore

    South Africa

    Switzerland

    United States of America****

    * Visa waiver does not apply to people travelling on alien's (non-citizen's) passports issued by these countries.

    ** Residents of Hong Kong travelling on Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or British National (Overseas) passports.

    *** Portuguese passport holders must also have the right to live permanently in Portugal.

    **** Including nationals of the USA.

    ***** Greek passport holders whose passports were issued on and after 1 January 2006. (Greek passports issued before 1 January 2006 are not acceptable for travel after 1 January 2007.)

    United Kingdom and Australia

    British citizens and other British passport holders who produce evidence of the right to reside permanently in the UK can visit for up to six months without a visa.

    Australian citizens and people who hold a current Australian permanent residence visa or a current Australian resident return visa do not need a New Zealand visa to enter New Zealand.

    Towns and cities in New Zealand


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