New Zealand - Natural Beauty in the Ocean
New Zealand's singularity and extraordinary beauty can hardly be put into words. Fascinating rocky islands, green hilly meadows, smoking volcanoes and everlasting blue glaciers string together in this breathtaking landscape.
Geography - The hidden paradise in the Pacific Ocean
New Zealand is the greatest island state in Oceania and lies in the South West Pacific. The country is considered one of the most remote ones on earth. Even the neighbouring Australia is still over 2,100 kilometres away and reaching Antarctica in the south requires a journey of about 3,000 kilometres. Furthermore, New Zealand is the state which is furthest from Central Europe. The island, which was once one coherent island, is now divided into two great islands - the North Island and the South Island - by the Cook Strait. In addition, there are over 700 smaller islands with the Steward Island in the south as the biggest one. The administrative division occurs on two levels: the state is divided into 16 regional councils, which are in charge of 57 district councils. New Zealand has 16 cities altogether. The biggest and most populous one among them is Auckland City. It is followed by Christchurch and Manukau in second and third place. The capital Wellington only ranks sixth with regard to its number of population. New Zealand is mainly dominated by mild island climate. However, there are two different climate zones. It is considerably warmer in the northern region on the North Island with a climate which is almost subtropical. The south of the North Island as well the whole South Island have temperate climate with average yearly temperatures between 9 and 15 °C. You neither find extreme heat in summer nor icy cold in winter in New Zealand. The only exception are the glaciers in the high mountains. July is the coldest months with about 8 °C.
Nature - Beauty as far as the eye can see
If we were to create the world's most beautiful country on a drafting table, the result would probably be something very similar to New Zealand. Only a very few countries offer such a variety of extraordinary and unique natural spaces. Green hills string together, mountain chains with high snowy peaks resemble the European Alps and the shrubland and heath accommodate an abundance of the rarest types of animals and plants. Right next to the vast rainforests - the Waitakere Ranges - you see glittery blue glaciers such as the Franz Josef, Fox and Tasman Glacier. The spectacular fiordland at the coasts, the white sandy beaches around the islands, gigantic lakes like Lake Taupo (622 km²) and an impressive number of volcanoes are still not everything New Zealand's landscape has to offer. You can also see fascinating waterfalls such as the Brown Falls which have a drop of over 600 metres, the scenic Purakaunui Falls or the Bridal Veil Falls near Waikato. The best-known photo scene is the Mitre Peak (1,692 m) in the Milford Sound, fiords of 16 kilometres of length. About a quarter of the country's area is covered in a mix of conifer, broadleaf and rainforests. The majority of these forests are located in the protected Forest Parks. Over 85 percent of New Zealand's flora is endemic and does not exist in any other place on earth. Examples are the kauri trees, yellowwood, the nīkau palm and countless colourful types of flowers. The flora is equally extraordinary. Sea horses populate the corals of the surrounding reefs and both whales and dolphins can be watched throughout the year. Penguins, seals and the New Zealand fur seal live at the coasts and fiords. Albatrosses, sea birds and keas (a parrot) populate the air. You also find several species of birds on shore. Due to the lack of predators, a number of flightless birds such as the weka, the takahē and the kiwi were able to spread on the island. The latter is considered the country's national bird.
Natural sights - Fire, ice and evergreen
If you are planning holidays in nature, you should definitely come to New Zealand. No other place accommodates as many forms of vegetation on such a small territory. The region Rotorua is constantly filled with the smell of sulphur because New Zealand's ground is very active. Three of the many volcanoes permanently emit smoke. The volcanoes in the Tongariro National Park even reveal their craters. Whakaka is the name of the great thermal area in Rotorua. Clouds of smoke rise from holes in the ground, geysers shoot fountains of up to 30 metres of height into the air and bubbling mud fields make this environment look very inhospitable and strange. If you need cooling down after this adventure, you should go on a glacier hike along New Zealand's three most beautiful glaciers. The Franz Josef Glacier or the Fox Glacier are constantly changing and provide an insight into the country's icy development over time. Guided tours lead you deep into the ice landscape. Visitors have a particularly impressive view of the steel blue landscape from a helicopter or a small aircraft. Other formations of geological interest are the Waitomo Caves. Travellers reach the underground limestone labyrinth via the river and do not only discover gigantic stalactites and stalagmites in the dark aisles but also countless glistening fireflies. New Zealand's symbol is the Bay of Islands. 150 islands lie in this breathtaking bay. Orca whales arise from the water at close range and watch the small rowing boats or ferries which set off into this beautiful landscape every day. The Abel Tasman National Park is also characteristic of the whole country and constitutes a green paradise of smooth hills, meadows, sheep and unique types of plants.
Culture - The British colony with the heart of the Maori
The first people probably arrived on the islands of present-day New Zealand in the 13th and 14th century. The Polynesian people settled here and founded a culture which is now known as the Maori. They called their country Aotearoa - the "land of the long white cloud". Europe's sailors took their time to discover the world beyond Australia. Abel Tasman from the Netherlands was the first European who reached the land of the Maori. These people, however, protected their realm against the occupation and drove the sailors off the island. It was not until the 18th century that Europe renewed their attempt, this time under the British flag of Captain James Cook. The contact with the native inhabitants was much more peaceful this time. But from then on England and France were contesting for the beautiful country in the Pacific Ocean and even though the British won this fight, France's influence can be felt to the present day. The New Zealand Company remained a British colony until 1907 but it enjoyed a great degree of independence early on. Today the country is a parliamentary monarchy based on the model of the United Kingdom. The culture and language of the Maori are encouraged and play an important role in society. Maori is an official language in New Zealand beside English and is part of many cultural spheres. The New Zealanders are said to be very relaxed and uncomplicated. Casual to elegant with a marked health consciousness and always friendly - this is how people characterise New Zealand's population. These traits are all true as long as the inhabitants are not compared to their nearest neighbours, the Australians. The amicable competition between the two nations is most of all present during sport events.
Cultural sights - Native inhabitants and modernity
About three quarters of New Zealand's population live on the North Island. Most of them reside in big cities like Auckland or the capital Wellington. The latter is known for its modern and refreshingly light art and cultural scene. It emits small town charm and is popular with both tourists and locals. The Te Papa Museum of New Zealand is worth a visit in every respect. Much greater and better known is Auckland. The city was once built on a dead volcano, has two magnificent harbours now and is one of the cities with the highest standard of living worldwide. Travellers can enjoy music, food and sunshine at the harbour. It is particularly scenic at the Hauraki Gulf with its islands, sailing boats and dolphins between the yachts. Panell Street is characterised by the Victorian architecture of colonial times and invites visitors to stroll along its shopping mile and its countless small and big shops. The New Zealanders also kept a touch of France. In the small town of Akaroa in the region Christchurch you see French road signs and the Langlois-Ereveneaux House in the Rue Lavand reminds of the conflict between the English and the French. Travellers who come to New Zealand will come across Maori culture in many places. The centre of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds provides an in-depth insight into the tribe's history. In addition, the Maori war canoe, which is 35 metres long, is let into the water on Waitangi Day on the 6th of February every year. Furthermore, traditional dances and songs are performed in many places. An especially worthwhile example is the war dance "haka".
Experience - The home of the hobbits
Gourmets from all over the world treat themselves to New Zealand's delicacies. Freshly caught spiny lobsters and seafood, delicious local fish like the Red Snapper and the hoki and exquisite wine from the wine-growing areas in Blenheim in the sun-kissed region Picton make meals a celebration for the senses and the palate. Breakfast is still very British but with regard to a hearty cuisine in the evening, the New Zealanders are way out in front. Bluff Oysters and the delicate lamb dishes are growing more and more popular. In addition, steaks and fillets from cattle or deer are served increasingly often. Fruit and vegetables are equally popular among the New Zealanders. The sweet potatoes kūmara, kiwis and nashi pears - a cross-breed of apple and pear - are prepared in different ways. Wine from New Zealand is part of every good dinner. Whether you prefer red, white, heavy or fruity wine - the numerous types of vines produce an extraordinary range every year. A special delicacy is the kiwi wine. All cities offer a number of opportunities for going shopping. Popular souvenirs are pieces of jewellery made by the Maori using jade ("greenstone") or animal bones as well as mussels, ceramic ware or the mānuka honey. If you look closely, you may spot a little creature with hairy feet between the green hills. Since the film "The Lord of the Rings" conquered the world, New Zealand has been the home of the hobbits. The village Hobbiton in Matamata is especially popular with younger tourists. At night, you can enjoy yourself in bars, pubs and restaurants. The greatest casino is Auckland's Sky City near the Sky Tower. Although New Zealand's nightlife matches up to American or western European standards, it radiates the calmness which is typical of the island.
Activities - The mother of extreme sports
New Zealand prides itself on being the mother of extreme sports. According to legend, a woman from the island wanted to get rid of her unloved husband and told him that only true love could save them from certain death if they jumped down from a great height together. The naive husband believed her and they both jumped down the cliff. While the clever woman was saved by a rope she had tied around her foot, her husband was gone forever. This story and other ones about New Zealand's islands go round and bear witness to the birth of bungee jumping. You can jump from rocks, bridges, skyscrapers and towers in many places. Queenstown is known as the "city of adventure". Wildwater rafting in inflatable dinghies and kayaks, parachuting from a helicopter and mountain biking on the Heaphy Track in the Kahurangi National Park awaken the lust for life. Several operators even offer combination packs so that travellers can enjoy a number of adrenaline rushes in one day. Furthermore, winter sports are very popular in New Zealand. The season last from June to October and mostly takes place in Queenstown and Wanaka. The ski-run in the Coronet Peak is highly recommended. Where else do holidaymakers have the opportunity to slide down a volcano on a snowboard? The New Zealanders are enthusiastic rugby fans. Cricket and netball are also popular. In addition, New Zealand is one of the leading sailing nations. Of course, water sports, sailing and surfing can also be done by tourists. The Caromandel Peninsula is a bathing paradise and the perfect location for golfing and curling. A special experience are the unique whale watching tours in Kaikoura. The best time for watching dolphins and whales as well as seals and albatrosses is from October to April.
New Zealand is worth a visit at any time of the year. The warmest months are January and February with an average daily temperature of 20 °C. Although the temperatures are not as high here as on other oceanic islands, the same rules of sun protection (as, for example, in Australia) apply. Even in mild temperatures the solar radiation is very high and calls for a high sun protection factor. With over 100 airports and the great international Auckland Airport, New Zealand has a well-developed air traffic network. The infrastructure of the roads and highways is equally well-developed. If you want to explore the islands in a rental car, you need to pay regard to the left-hand traffic. Furthermore, the ferry service Interislander offers a great way of travelling from one island to the other. The passage from Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the South Island takes about three hours.
Travellers who love nature will probably lose their hearts in New Zealand. The unequalled beauty of the landscape fascinates every visitor from the first moment on. Lovers of culture have many opportunities of familiarising themselves with the traditions and customs of the Maori people and extreme sport fans and adrenaline junkies can indulge their desire for action and adventure in a breathtaking backdrop.