Know New Zealand?

by Craig Martin /
Craig Martin's picture
Jul 12, 2016 / 1 comments

"Sure, I know New Zealand. Lord of the Rings, Narnia and all that…"

New Zealand is a large country with a small population: about four million people in a country a little larger than Britain, a little smaller than Italy. This means there's a lot of unspoiled land to explore. In the new millennium, New Zealand's amazing landscapes have been pushed into international focus thanks to the work of Kiwi directors Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, King Kong) and Andrew Adamson (Shrek 1 & 2, Chronicles of Narnia) but there's plenty more where that came from.

Know New Zealand?

Auckland, City of Sails, is also home to the main international airport so this is likely to be your first taste of New Zealand. The central city is about 45 minutes from the airport and is also the centre for hostels, hot clubs, cafes and inner-city parks. To escape the guidebook treatment make your way out to Waiheke Island and chill with arty locals and boutique wineries. Alternatively head west to the beaches and bush for a spot of surfing or hiking: a popular hobby known locally as "tramping".

Head up to Northland for small communities or empty golden beaches. At the island's extreme point, Cape Reinga, you can see the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea collide. Indigenous Maori legend tells this is the jumping-off point for spirits entering the afterlife. To see a local trust's work in controlling predators and re-indroducing native species visit Puketi Forest Park where Oho Mai Puketi: Awaken Puketi is controlling introduced rats, possums and stoats to allow native birds, reptiles and insects to flourish along with local flora.

Rotorua is a central North Island town which showcases Maori culture amidst a bubbling, spurting geothermal wonderland. If the sulphur smell gets too much, head to local rivers for flashing rainbow trout or a monster brown. Freshwater fishing in New Zealand is tightly controlled by local authorities. Purchase a license at almost any local fishing shop and check with staff for rules and catch limits.

The capital, Wellington, has some of the country's best nightlife to complement a buzzing arts scene. Cuba Street forms the backbone of daytime cafes and night-time bars, with Fidel's being a perennial favourite. Culture vultures will appreciate Te Papa: the National Museum as well as international and homegrown music, theatre and standup comedy.

Jawdropping views will accompany a ferry journey across the Cook Strait into Marlborough. This is the powerhouse of New Zealand's burgeoning wine industry producing household names such as Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Casual hikers will appreciate walking the 71-kilometre Queen Charlotte Sounds track where waterbusses carry your packs from stop to stop. Relax for a couple of days: the views are amazing and dinner can be furnished by collecting shellfish from the bays.

Christchurch is the South Island's biggest city and a haven for cyclists - most of the city is flat, unlike volcanic Auckland and windy Wellington. The central city is arranged in an orderly fashion around the central cathedral and attractive Hyde Park, a central feature of which is the tiny Avon River.

No visit would be complete without a trip onto Banks Peninsula to visit the harbour and the town of Akaroa. Originally settled by French migrants, their influence is still present in this picturesque town.

Fox is a town of near-eternal rain but it's more than compensated for by two brilliant and accessible glaciers: both Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier can be explored by helicopter or on foot with registered guides. It can be a little pricey, but walking on a river of ice is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us. Glaciers around the world are retreating at record amounts: get in while you can.

What can we say about Milford Sounds? Who hasn't heard of this massive and diverse forest complete with fjords and unexplored tracts of land. The Milford Track is one of New Zealand's great walks but a car journey along the Milford Road will give the unadventurous a taste of its riches.

Then again, this is the country whose citizens demonstrated splitting the atom, broke speed records in a home-built motorbike, invented modern bungy jumping, and let women vote before any other modern nation. What does unadventurous have to do with anything?

New Zealand is a fantasy land worth exploring. This is a great time to visit Aotearoa: the Land of the Long White Cloud. Ravaging Orcs aren't too much of a problem either.


More NZ goodness: 7 Best Places to visit in New Zealand




Comments (1)

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    15 years 9 months ago

    Thanks, Craig! My brother and SIL have been there many times, and rave about it! I can't wait to go. Can you please tell us more about the food? I am a foodie! 




    Jessie Voigts


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