Your full Wanderlust guide to

New Zealand

New Zealand

Remote, rugged and absolutely remarkable, New Zealand is top of many travellers’ wishlists. If it wowed you on the big screen in Lord of the Rings, New Zealand will knock you with the force of an All Blacks prop forward when you actually visit.

The two main islands – North and South – have different characters. North Island is warmer, with more rolling hills, beautiful beaches and some seriously sulphurous volcanic goings-on: visit Rotorua for the best thermal bath or Tongariro National Park to see still-active craters in an otherworldly landscape.

Dramatic South Island has the highest peaks, and glacier-carved fiords – a trip to Fiordland will show Mother Nature at her most artistic. Southerly Stewart Island (the best place to spot kiwis) and a few other outlaying atolls make up this nation – so best make your New Zealand visit a lengthy one…

You can’t miss

As New Zealand celebrates Māori New Year on 24 June, we take a look at the country’s top stargazing tours…
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Wanderlust recommends

  1. Climb Mount Cook, South Island, New Zealand’s highest peak and Edmund Hillary’s Everest training ground
  2. Search for elusive kiwis on a night walk on Stewart Island
  3. Fly or drive to the magical Milford Sound for cruises with dolphins, black coral diving and a gateway to wonderful walking
  4. Join a Maori guide to explore the beautiful coast and bush around Auckland
  5. Self drive South Island  – from adventure capital Queenstown to the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, Kaikoura’s whale-watching and chilled-out Christchurch
  6. Sea kayak across Marlborough Sound
  7. Drink wine and enjoy Art Deco cool around Napier, North Island

Latest New Zealand articles

You must not bring food into the country and any pre-used camping equipment/hiking boots, etc must be declared at customs and, if necessary, cleaned before you’re permitted to enter.

Capital
Wellington
Languages
English, Maori
Population
4.4 million
Int. dial code
+64
Visa
Not required by UK nationals
Time zone
GMT+12 (GMT+13 end Sep-early Apr)
Voltage
230/240V 50Hz
Currency
New Zealand dollar (NZ$). Foreign credit cards are widely accepted; ATMs are easily accessible. Tipping is optional; leave 10% for good service.
New Zealand travel advice
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
New Zealand tourism board
New Zealand tourism

Roads in New Zealand are quiet and generally good – it is easy to speed without realising it; obey the limit and watch out for sharp bends.

When to go

Southern hemisphere summer (Dec-Mar) is the warmest and driest time to visit New Zealand – and the most popular: hotels get booked up and prices are higher. Winter (Jun-Sep) is the wettest and coldest time in New Zealand, but great for skiing; some hikes, for example the Milford Track, are closed due to snow.

The shoulder seasons of spring (Oct-Nov) and autumn (Apr-May) are lovely – the weather is still reasonable, popular sites are less busy and airfares are lower.

International airports

Auckland International (AKL) 25km from Auckland; Wellington International (WLG) 7km from Wellington; Christchurch International (CHC) 12km from Christchurch.

Getting around

Getting around New Zealand is pretty easy. Domestic airlines serve small airports across the New Zealand – if you’re short on time, consider an airpass.

Bus travel is comfortable and efficient in New Zealand but can be time consuming; there are several backpacker-style hop-on, hop-off services you can use to access the main highlights. Train travel in New Zealand is a sightseeing option, rather than a practical one – routes are slow but generally stunning.

The best way to get around is by hiring a car or campervan  – roads are quiet, rates are reasonable and you have maximum flexibility.

Accommodation

Cool campsites, hip hostels, boutique lodges, wilderness retreats, city hotels – all types of accommodation are available in New Zealand, catering for all budgets and tastes. Maori homestays are also a possibility, as are farmstays, where you get to help out with the animals.

Touring New Zealand by campervan is a popular option – there are many campsites to stop at. Much accommodation gets busy December-February – book in advance.

Food & drink

New Zealand cuisine is generally fresh, natural and tasty. Dairy, meat and fish products are world-renowned: try New Zealand lamb, grass-fed venison, Bluff oysters, local scallops, crayfish and hokey pokey ice cream (vanilla with crunchy toffee pieces). Manuka honey is another local specialty – great for toast and your immune system. For a traditional taster of New Zealand, try a Maori hangi, a meal of meat, spices and vegetables cooked in an underground, hot-rock oven.

Vegetarians will be fine in New Zealand (if jealous of the succulent meat and fish on offer). The local fruit and veg is good – don’t miss the kumara (sweet potato) and the kiwis. Most restaurants in New Zealand will be able to cater to vegetarians.

The drinks scene in New Zealand is equally good – don’t miss a tour of a local vineyard to sample some of New Zealand’s excellent vintages (for starters, try the sauvignons in the Marlborough region and pinot noirs in Otago), then sober up for a brewery visit: good New Zealand beers include Speights and Monteiths, plus there’s a wealth of microbreweries fermenting excellent ales.

Health & safety

No specific vaccinations are required for New Zealand. The UK NHS has a reciprocal agreement with the NZ health service but it is advisable to take out good health insurance.

The weather in general, and especially in the mountains, is highly unpredictable – it’s essential to be well prepared and properly equipped with warm, waterproof gear. The sun is exceptionally strong – make sure you apply high-factor sunscreen regularly. Sandflies can be a nuisance in summer.

There are no poisonous critters in New Zealand so bushwalks are safe – just be sure to tell someone where you’re going if tramping alone.