New Zealand Tours, Activities, Day Trips, and Things To Do
New Zealand is a country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean consisting of 2 main islands, both marked by volcanoes and glaciation. There are just 4.6 million New Zealanders, scattered across 268,021 square kilometers, so it's bigger than the UK with one-fourteenth the population. The country is packed with sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords that have made New Zealand one of the best hiking destinations on earth. Tackle one of nine epic 'Great Walks', or just spend a few hours wandering along a beach, paddling a canoe or mountain biking through some easily accessible wilderness.
New Zealand is a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty: jagged mountains, rolling pasture land, steep fiords, pristine trout-filled lakes, raging rivers, scenic beaches, and active volcanic zones. The countryside is magnificent, and perhaps the most stunning being the Southern Alps of the South Island. In the Mackenzie Country of Canterbury, the snow-capped jagged peaks rising above turquoise lakes have provided the inspiration for many postcards. Tucked in behind is the country's highest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook. The lakes and mountains continue south, becoming a stunning backdrop for the towns of Wanaka, Queenstown and Glenorchy.
Another region where mountain meets water with striking effect is Fiordland National Park where steep, densely forested mountains rise from the sea. The most accessible, and possibly most beautiful spot, is Milford Sound. The road in is spectacular and the view even more so when you arrive.
Another beautiful scene you can find in New Zealand are the stunning glaciers. Glaciers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an island in the South Pacific, but New Zealand has several. The most notable are the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in Westland National Park. These glaciers are unique in how close they get to sea level and are sustained by the enormous amount of precipitation that falls on New Zealand's west coast.
New Zealand is also a geological hotspot and has many dormant and active volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. The best place to start is Rotorua, where the smell of sulphur lets you know you're close to the action. The surrounding countryside has many parks with geysers and hot springs, and Mount Tarawera, the site of one of New Zealand's more famous eruptions, lies a short drive away. South of Rotorua is Taupo and Lake Taupo, which was formed in a massive volcanic explosion thousands of years ago. Beyond Lake Taupo is Tongariro National Park, dominated by its three volcanoes, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapheu. All three mountains are still active and Ruapehu has a crater lake that can be viewed with a bit of hiking. Ngauruhoe is famous for filling in as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. North of Rotorua is Whakatane, with tours to White Island, a volcanic island just off the coast. The island is truly a different world with its smoke plume, green crater lake and the pohutukawa trees clinging to a fragile existence on the volcanic rock.
While the countryside is the main attraction of New Zealand, you'll need to visit a few cities to see the truth of that. Auckland is a pleasant city with its waterfront districts like the Viaduct Harbour and Mission Bay, old volcanoes (Mt Eden and One Tree Hill), a handful of museums and the Sky Tower, the tallest free-standing building in the Southern Hemisphere. The more interesting architecture and the fine Te Papa museum can be found in Wellington, the nation's capital. Napier is worth a stop for its Art Deco CBD, and Christchurch was interesting for its English character along the banks of the River Avon before the destruction wreaked by earthquakes. Nelson is the arts, crafts, pottery and craft brewing capital and has the only European style cathedral left standing called "Christ Church Cathedral"; it doesn't hurt that Nelson has great beaches and is surrounded by three national parks.
NZ chefs find inspiration in new-world culinary oceans, especially the South Pacific with its abundant seafood and encircling cuisines. And don't go home without seeking out some local favorites: paua (abalone), kina (sea urchin) and kumara (sweet potato).
There are sparklingly modern visitor facilities, and transport networks are well developed with Airports throughout the country and well maintained highways. New Zealand often adds an adventure twist to nature: it's the original home of jet-boating through shallow gorges, and bungee jumping off anything high enough to give a thrill. This uncrowded, green, peaceful and accepting country is the ultimate escape.