Many people know how dramatically beautiful New Zealand is due to its use as the stunning backdrop for The Lord of the Rings films. The Land of the Long White Cloud, as the Maoris call it, is a temperate to sub-tropical nation consisting of two almost mythical islands, North and South Island, and a scattering of smaller ones. Full of magnificent natural beauty, including snow capped mountains, breathtaking valleys and lush greenery there is plenty to explore. And with 103,737 sq miles to go at, and with a population of only four million, there is plenty of space to enjoy it in. Fresh air, admiring the scenery and a full range of outdoor activities are the main attractions for visitors. Ski resorts, such as Queenstown, are especially popular during winter.
Everything from bungee jumping to skiing, hiking, swimming with dolphins, canoeing, fishing, scenic flights and boat cruises on the fjords, hot air ballooning and golf. City life is possible too. The museums and galleries of New Zealand's main cities - Aukland and the capital Wellington in the North and Christ Church in the south - are first rate.
Most visitors arrive by air. Flights To New Zealand are offered by most major airlines. There are seven airports handling international flights: Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Queenstown and Wellington. Cruise ships also visit but there are no regular passenger ship services. Auckland and Wellington have commuter rail services but trains generally are quite slow and most New Zealanders prefer to drive or fly. Domestic flights in New Zealand are quite reasonably priced and often cheaper than driving or taking the train, especially if crossing between the main islands. Buses are a cheap way to get around the country. To get your car between the North and South Islands you need to take a ferry across Cook Strait. Car hire and bike hire is also possible and with such stunning scenery also very advisable.
Basically New Zealand has a temperate climate in the South Island and sub-tropical in the North Island but the type of terrain, the constant winds and the length of the country lead to regional contrasts. Temperatures sometimes exceed 30°Centigrade but only fall below zero in the inland mountains. The warmer months are November to April and therefore the busiest. The two islands have two distinct patterns of rainfall. The South Island has the Southern Alps which act as a barrier for the winds, creating a wet climate to the west of the mountains and a dry climate to the east. The North Island has more evenly distributed rain. Both islands have snow in winter with the South being cooler. Winter: June to August. Summer: December to February. The weather can change extremely quickly so always have all weather clothes when trekking.
Largest urban area in the Northland region.
The City of Sails. The largest and most populated New Zealand city. Over a million people.
The city in the Waikato region is an hour and a half south of Auckland.
Gisborne is New Zealand's most eastern province with a similarly named city.
Geysers, hot pools and Maori culture abound here.
Art Deco buildings and wine region.
New Plymouth is the port and main city in the Taranaki region on the west coast.
A river city. The film River Queen was made here.
The capital and home of the New Zealand Parliament.
Sunny city with New Zealand's highest sunshine hours. The centre of New Zealand.
Ideal place for whale watching.
The Garden City.
Adventure sports HQ.
The Edinburgh of the South. Proud of its Scots heritage.
The most southerly city in New Zealand.
The name means Sacred Waters. The area has been active for more than 100,000 years featuring pools of boiling mud, geysers, sulphuric mineral smells and steaming pools. Walkways around the area allow visitors to experience in full.
Massive 2518m dormant volcano dominates the surrounding region. It was a sacred site to the Maoris who used it as both a burial site for chiefs and as a hide-away.
A series of beautiful bays west of the North Island's East Cape leads to this majestic gem. The beaches are deeply shelved and idyllic.
Two of the island's most famous attractions. These massive swathes of ice climb down a stunning valley. The twin towns of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier provide a base for exploration.
New Zealand is in the South Pacific Ocean. The people of this former British colony are mainly descended from European settlers but there is a sizeable indigenous Maori population and also Polynesian and other groups. English and Maori are the two official languages but English is more widely spoken. New Zealanders are passionate about sports, and especially Rugby Union, but there is also a thriving arts and music scene.