New Zealand wasn't chosen as the location for filming The Lord of the Rings for nothing. It's undoubtedly one of the most spectacular places on earth. Situated southeast of Australia, it may seem like a long way to travel, but your visit will be one of the most memorable trips of your lifetime.
Diverse and Unspoiled Scenery
Made up of two main islands and a host of smaller ones, New Zealand has an amazing range of breathtaking scenery, from subtropical forests, beaches, and offshore islands in the north to glaciers, lakes, snow-covered mountains, and large flat plains in the south. There are also fjords, volcanoes, hot springs, and beautiful rolling green pastures, a diversity like no other place on earth.
"Kiwis," as the locals are called, are a friendly bunch and very welcoming to visitors. A wide range of cultures is represented here, but New Zealand is an ex-British colony and the European influence remains strong. There's also a unique accent.
Where else can you go surfing, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, tramping, sailing, swimming, parachuting, horseback riding, or caving all within a 100-mile radius and even on the same day? Don't forget to try the bungee jump, invented and made famous right here.
The Unique Wildlife
New Zealand split from the large landmass that once joined Australia and Antarctica about 85 million years ago. As a result, bird and plant species can be found here that exist nowhere else in the world. Forests are full of an abundance of interesting plant life, from the towering ancient kauri trees to fronds of nikau palms. You might even see a kiwi, the small, flightless bird that has become New Zealand's national symbol.
Ease of Travel
There's nothing easier than hopping in a car or RV, known locally as a campervan, and heading off on a New Zealand adventure. The country has a great road network, and every town has an information center to help tourists if you need directions or advice on the local attractions or on where to stay for less money. Fuel is much cheaper here than in Europe, and there's also an excellent intercity bus network covering the entire country. Distances between towns and attractions are not too great.
New Zealand wine is world-famous for its quality, quite amazing when you consider that the country makes less than one percent of the world's total. You can make a day of visiting wineries and tasting their offerings at a number of places, particularly in Hawkes Bay and Marlborough, the two leading wine regions. There are also many top-notch restaurants in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch where the best of New Zealand's wines are showcased beside world-class cuisine.
The Local Culture
Captain Cook found New Zealand populated by natives called the Maori when he arrived here in 1769. New Zealand has since developed into a unique South Pacific blend of cultures, but the Maori still play a role. You'll find the ethnic diversity reflected in a huge range of cafes and restaurants in the cities, particularly in Auckland.
The Sparse Population
With a land area the size of Great Britain, yet with only 4.5 million inhabitants, you don't have to go far to find complete solitude in New Zealand. Most of the population is concentrated in five main cities, Auckland is the largest with a third of the country's people living there. This leaves plenty of open space to explore in between.
New Zealand has a temperate climate. It is warmest in the north, coldest in the south. Average daytime temperatures range from 12 to 25 degrees Celsius (54 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit). The long, warm summers are ideal for spending at one of the country's many great beaches. The winters are cold enough to provide ample snow in the south for skiers and snowboarders. Spring and autumn are beautiful seasons, but often with the abundant rainfall that accounts for the country's lush green landscape.
You're very unlikely to experience crime in New Zealand. Safety isn't an issue, even for women traveling on their own. And if you venture off the beaten track into the wilderness, here's more good news: New Zealand isn't home to any nasty plants, critters, or creatures. In fact, it's one of only two countries in the world that doesn't have snakes, the other being Ireland. So head on over to New Zealand. You'll have an amazing time.