When Peter Jackson was searching for the perfect setting to realise J.R.R Tolkien's fantasy adventures for the big screen, New Zealand was the obvious choice.
Endless scenes of snow-capped mountains and ice-age glaciers, craggy coastlines and footprint-free beaches, mirror-still lakes in duck-egg blue and emerald green, steaming volcanoes, bubbling hot springs, virgin forests and plunging fjords; if nature had a design studio, full of her most stupendous ideas, it would be New Zealand.
The country certainly provides a canvas for adrenaline-charged pursuits like jet boating and bungee jumping, but you needn't view New Zealand as some kind of assault course.
Wine lovers will be enthralled by the vineyards of Hawke's Bay and Marlborough; foodies will whoop as they tuck into fist-sized oysters, green-lipped mussels and melt-in-the-mouth lamb; cultural connoisseurs can revel in a rich Maori heritage; and creatures of comfort will find luxury lodges and geothermal spas.
And with 30% of the country set aside as national parks, reserves and special heritage sites, it's no surprise that such awesome scenery is also home to a bedazzling array of wildlife.
Offshore you'll find seals and breaching sperm whales; you can swim with dolphins at Kaikouraand Paihia, or spot penguins and albatross on the Otago Peninsula. Most endearing of all is the flightless kiwi, still spotted in the wild in large numbers on spectacularStewart Island.
It's possible to see most of the main sights in just a couple of weeks, but for a really good look without racing through your tick-list, we recommend anywhere between three and eight weeks ... short of actually emigrating that is.
The Practical information displayed here is taken from The Traveller's Handbook, published by WEXAS (2009). While all possible care was taken to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, we are aware that situations change, so for the latest information and up-to-date visa requirements, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0614.
All year round is subtropical in the north and temperate in the south.
Waitangi Day, in February, commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840. It's celebrated with various services and functions around the country, as well as by New Zealanders across the world. ANZAC Day on 25 April remembers the actions of New Zealand troops in major wars, with a particular focus on the Gallipoli campaign of World War I. Public holidays are also held for Christmas, New Year, Easter and the Queen's birthday, in June. Laugh till your sides split at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, held in Auckland and Wellington in May, or feast on some cinematic treats during the International Film Festival, in Wellington and other big cities each July.
Food & drink
New Zealand is a leading producer of meat and dairy products, and cuisine is largely based on these. Venison and game birds are also popular. A wide range of seafood is also available, including snapper, grouper, oysters and crayfish. World-class domestic wines and beers.
New Zealand lifestyle tends to be relaxed and dress is usually informal, although business dress remains conservative. If invited to a formal Maori occasion, the hongi (pressing of noses) is common. It would also be respectful to learn something of Maori history and traditions.
Auckland (AKL) 21 km from the city, Christchurch (CHC) 11 km from the city, Wellington (WLG) 8 km from the city.
Reliable rail service, good road networks. Both the North and South islands have excellent buses.
Not currently required.
The national driving licences of EU nationals and various other countries are valid.
European (82%), Maori (9%), Pacific Islanders.
M 75.97, F 82.08.
New Zealand dollar (NZ$).
Credit cards widely accepted, traveller's cheques generally accepted.
+12 (+11 in summer).
230/240 AC, 50 Hz.
International dial code
The itinerary ideas listed below are designed to give you a flavour of the things to do in New Zealand. We can adjust any element and tailor-make your trip though, to suit your individual needs and available time. To start planning your trip, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0614.
The places to stay listed below only represent a handful of the accommodation options available in New Zealand. We can also recommend and arrange accommodation to suit your personal tastes and budget. To start planning where to stay in New Zealand, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0614.
The types of holiday listed below are just a flavour of the experiences available in New Zealand. We can also suggest and plan alternative types of holiday to take into account your individual interests. To start planning what to do whilst away, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0614.