Aotearoa New Zealand consists of 3 small islands bounded by the Pacific Ocean in the Southern Hemisphere. New Zealand, or more precisely the tiny islands to the east, are the first in the world to see the morning sunrise and welcome each New Year. New Zealand is therefore the furthest ahead in time on the clock, yet unlike its neighbour Australia, the whole country is within the same time zone.
Aotearoa New Zealand starts its summer at the end of the year and winter in the middle – the longest day is therefore December 21st and the shortest day is June 21st. The climate and temperature in New Zealand are generally quite moderate, however the seasons are distinct – the summer is December, January and February; autumn/fall is March, April and May’ winter is June, July and Aug and spring is September, October and November. The summers can be hot and dry – the temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius – the winter is generally quite short but sunny, a very cold day would be near zero. As a southern hemisphere country, the north of the North Island generally experiences the warmest weather and it is cooler the further south you travel.
A common expression in New Zealand offers a cautionary note – that there are four seasons in one day. Sometimes the weather can change quite suddenly from being seemingly warm and calm to stormy, wet and cold. Visitors, in particular outdoor adventurers, are advised to be prepared for these sudden weather changes by keeping well informed and by carrying sufficient clothing and supplies for such a change.
People often ask when is the best time to visit Aotearoa New Zealand. The answer would honestly be: anytime! The weather doesn’t necessarily need to influence everyday activities such as sight-seeing, relaxing and adventuring around the country. Summer appeals to the water activities such as swimming, diving, surfing, boating etc and winter appeals to the climbers and skiers of course!
Clothes appropriate for the kind of holiday you are taking would be the best suggestion, but do not rely on the summer being warm only and the winter being cold only. A range of options with layers is a great idea – all year round a jacket, warm jersey and rain gear could be needed. A smart-casual style would suit most tourist and hospitality occasions, events and locations in New Zealand. Only the most exclusive of restaurants and clubs would require men to wear suits. The bright sunshine of New Zealand requires good quality sun glasses and sunscreen (SPF 20+ – perhaps wait until you arrive to get some good sun skin care advice and purchase it here?)
Tramping (also called trekking, hiking and bush walking) is a popular past-time in New Zealand and the country offers a fantastic range of tracks with different experiences and for differing abilities. The top of the South Island offers tracks that can be walked all year round (the Abel Tasman, Heaphy and the Queen Charlotte Sounds Track). Winter snow closes the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler Tracks due to their higher altitudes – the former two are open October-April only and bookings are required.
It really depends on the kind of experience you would like to remember. The advantages of a guided walk are that the planning is taken care of, an expert is available for that little bit of extra information, local knowledge and support; and of course there are hot showers and home comforts at the end of your slog! Independent walking offers you the freedom of flexibility, pace, carrying your own pack and perhaps your own accommodation – the spontaneity of a tent or a bunk in a simple hut. Acrossnz can assist with track bookings for the popular Routeburn and Milford Tracks.
As with most modern countries, New Zealand offers a great range of accommodation options to suit every type of holiday and every traveller’s requirements. There are plush high-end hotels and exclusive lodges to mid priced hotels and motels; and budget farm or home-stays, campsites, holiday parks, backpackers and campervans! Even the campervans have their own star rating scheme – 2, 4 or 6 berth vans can have very basic facilities or be quite exclusive offering a shower, toilet, fridge and microwave, thus resembling a hotel room on wheels!
Yes! Farm and home stays are a way in which you could stay with a local family and experience their everyday rural living. Depending on the farm choice you make, you could experience first hand their working farm lifestyle: harvesting grain, milking cows, shearing sheep, harvesting fruit and so on. A popular stay for younger people (but open to all!) is WWOOF-ing, meaning “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” where food and accommodation exchanged for a helping hand.
There are a range of options including the following:
There is a great variety of night-life attractions depending on where you are in the country and your own personal tastes. The larger cities have night-clubs, host DJs, cabarets, pubs, concerts, bands, performances, theatre and entertainment from local and international artists throughout the year. There are frequent festivals which offer unique entertainment opportunities (film, buskers, beer, wearable art and the wild foods festivals to name a few). Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown have casinos.
New Zealand has a wide range of interests and activities for children of all ages from the big outdoor adventures to simpler indoor activities.
The natural wilderness – the national parks, forests and beaches offer endless possibilities to explore, learn and enjoy. There are organised activities available such as horse riding, bike trails, walks, snow or water activities, whale watching, wildlife centre and zoos. Simpler, perhaps indoor activities, such as museums of all types (butterfly, motor vehicle, natural history) are on offer as well as themed attractions in the main centres such as Rainbow’s End (Auckland), Splash Planet (Hastings), Marine Land (Napier) and the International Antarctic Centre (Christchurch). Quirky fun can be had too such as visiting the Cadbury chocolate factory (Dunedin) or Puzzling World (Wanaka).
Most cities and big towns have good library facilities for a rainy day; and suburban parks are well-equipped for a picnic and play stop. Main centres have play lands for young children called Chipmunks or Lollipops. The shopping malls are well equipped with feeding and changing facilities for babies; have good food courts and often small play areas. Most family restaurants and cafes are children friendly with a simple children’s menu, high chairs, toys and toilet facilities. Check at the local Visitor’s Centre, a library or even council office for more information.
The long 6 week summer break is from middle of December until the end of January (the school year starts at the end of January/beginning of February; the university year starts about one month later). There are three other two-week breaks throughout the year, the details can be found on the website of the Ministry of Education.
Generally, yes! All major international credit cards can be used in New Zealand; and if you have your own personal identity number (PIN) on your credit card, then you can withdraw cash at an ATM at banks and at shopping malls (probably incurring a fee, check with your bank). Travellers Cheques are accepted at major hotels, banks and some shops. New Zealand’s currency is the New Zealand dollar and cents, the Australian dollar (and cents) cannot be used here.
Yes! All people entering New Zealand must carry a passport that is valid – and valid for at least a further 3 months longer than the date you leave New Zealand. Generally people visiting for less than 3 months do not need a visa but a Visitor’s Visa is required if you would like to stay longer than 3 months or your home country does not have a visa waiver agreement with New Zealand. More information is available at the websites of: the New Zealand Immigration Service or the New Zealand Embassy.
No! Unlike our neighbours in Australia, New Zealand is fortunate to have no poisonous snakes or animals, no dangerous or wild animals and no significant nasties, making the outdoor life enjoyable and safe. Insect repellent is always a good idea near water and it’s generally advisable not to feed the wildlife unless you are in a protected sanctuary where advice about feeding is available.
Generally the tap water in cities, towns and villages is of an excellent quality; therefore tap water in hotels, cafes and restaurants is safe and refreshing. Water from natural outdoor sources – streams, rivers and lakes – may not be potable and it is best to avoid the possibility of stomach upsets. It is always advised to treat this water before drinking by boiling or chemically treating before drinking. Bottled water is inexpensive and found at most shops, stores and petrol/service stations.
Throughout the country the electricity voltage is 230/240 volts (50 hertz) – and yes, a converter (or adapter) is required (unless the piece of equipment being used has a multi-voltage facility). Throughout New Zealand the power sockets only take a 2 or 3 pin plug. Most accommodations offer a 110 V/20 W AC sockets for electric razors only.
As well as local and nationwide rental companies, New Zealand also has branches of international companies: Avis,Hertz, Budget and Thrifty.
The three international airports are in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. However some flights from Australia also land at Hamilton, Rotorua, Queenstown and Dunedin.
Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand, although it is not the largest city. As the country’s political, banking and financial centre, Wellington is a natural attraction for visitors and tourists. The ‘Beehive’ – named for its tiered bee hive shape – is the main building of New Zealand’s parliament. In terms of national identity and assets, Wellington is also home to the National Archives, the National Library, Te Papa museum and the Old Government Building (which is the second largest wooden building in the world). Wellington boasts many historic and modern, cultural, artistic and creative attractions.
Kiwi is a flightless brown bird which looks stooped with its long bill searching the ground for insects. Maori legend tells of Tanemahuta who noticed that the beautiful, tall trees of the forest were being eaten by bugs and dying. He asked his brother Tanehokahoka for help who asked each of the birds to come and live on the forest floor to eat the bugs, thus saving the trees and their home. In turn each bird made their excuses until the kiwi agreed to take on the job thus sacrificing its wings which would no longer be needed for the long, and much needed, beak. As a token of immense gratitude, Tanehokahoka promised that the kiwi would be the most popular and treasured of native birds.
Unique to New Zealand, protected and nocturnal, locals are fond of this bird that has become their national symbol to the extent that New Zealanders are known fondly and colloquially as “Kiwis”. It is very hard to spot a kiwi in the wild but many sanctuaries offer a viewing. Other kiwis include the kiwifruit and the stock market calls the New Zealand dollar, the kiwi.