New Zealand’s majestic landscapes were made famous by the Lord of the Rings blockbuster trilogy and offer rugged coastlines, deep fiords, dense rainforest, vast mountain ranges and ancient volcanoes. Despite modern development, the country has managed to retain much of the ancient Maori culture it was built on. Settled by Polynesians in 1250–1300 CE, New Zealand developed a distinctive Maori culture which has remained, despite European settlers discovering the region in 1642.
Located 900 miles east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand is a spectacular vacation destination in the southwest Pacific Ocean, comprised of two main geographic landmasses divided into North and South Islands. Located approximately 600 miles south of the Pacific Islands of Fiji, New Caledonia and Tonga, New Zealand is home to 29 regions which stretch for more than 995 miles across the two main islands.
Due to its remoteness, New Zealand was one of the last lands to be settled by man and during this time it developed a distinctive biodiversity of plant and animal life. It is this unique natural environment that makes it such a popular vacation destination today. The country’s typography is equally as varied with sharp mountain peaks and the Southern Alps created from volcanic eruptions and tectonic lifting of land.
Home to a sprawling range of National Parks, more than 11,583 square miles of New Zealand is covered by these National Parks which are brimming with spectacular natural scenery ready to be explored. New Zealand is also a conveniently compact destination meaning you can easily visit several regions during your vacation. From rich history to active volcanoes and island sanctuaries, the North Island is home to the country’s capital, Wellington as well as its most populous city, Auckland. The North Island also features Northland and the Bay of Islands, the Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, Lake Taupo and Rotorua.
Each destination offers its own distinctive character and some of the most popular attractions of the North Island include the historic and architecturally unique city of Napier as well as the incredible natural attraction of the Waitomo Caves. Napier is a special town located midway along the east coast of the North Island approximately 4 hours north of Wellington. Famous for its incredibly preserved architecture, Napier’s special point of difference is its iconic 1930s art deco architecture. One of the world’s best preserved art deco cities, Napier also offers a number of excellent vineyards and a gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers.
Located on the west coast of the North Island, south of Auckland, the Waitomo Caves are an incredible labyrinth of sinkholes, caves and underground rivers created by streams carving through soft limestone over thousands of years. The caves are known for their incredible stalactites and stalagmites which grow from the ceiling and cave floor as well as the galaxies of glow worms which call the walls of the cave home.
The South Island of New Zealand is a palette of dramatic scenery and is home to some of the purest natural landscapes you’ll ever see. The South Island also features Christchurch and the alpine ski destination of Queenstown, the famous wine region of Marlborough, Lake Wanaka, Dunedin, the spectacular natural attractions of Fiordland, Otago and the West Coast. Easily accessible, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is a popular alpine attraction offering some of the country’s highest mountains and longest glaciers as well as permanent snow fields and a star-studded sky which forms the majority of the country’s only International Dark Sky Reserve.
While throughout the world glaciers are retreating, in New Zealand’s South Island the ice age is still well underway. The Fox and Franz Josef glaciers still flow almost at sea level and are some of the world’s most easy to visit glaciers. At 8 miles long, Fox Glacier plummets 8,530 feet from the height of the Southern Alps and receives around 98 feet of snow each year.
The famous alpine leisure and adventure playground of Queenstown is a popular ski vacation destination and is the greatest four season lake and alpine resort in the Southern Hemisphere. Home to the best skiing and snowboarding in New Zealand, Queenstown is popular year round however is most popular from June to August during winter.
Located on the west coast of the South Island, Milford Sound is another spectacular natural attraction that was once described as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ by Rudyard Kipling. Carved by glaciers during the ice age, Milford Sound features a stunning fiord whose cliffs rise from the dark water to mountain peaks which scrape the sky and towering waterfalls cascade down. Best experienced on a scenic cruise, Milford Sound offers unforgettable beauty.