The locals like to call this country ‘God’s own’. They’re justifiably proud of their island home in the South Pacific. What makes New Zealand the perfect destination? Its small size means the coast is never more than a few hours away from a snowy mountain range, and wilderness is never far from any city. Whether you prefer museum and gallery hopping or catching waves and/or drifts, you can do it all in this island nation.
While the South Island wins the prize for best scenery, Queenstown is home to numerous cultural experiences. Wellington and Auckland in the North Island are the cosmopolitan centers, but they are also the perfect jumping off point for the sandy beaches way up north. Whatever type of travel you crave, it's worth the long-haul flight to find it in New Zealand.
If you haven't realized it yet, New Zealand pretty much has it all. Here are some of the most popular types of tour activities you can enjoy on a trip to the land of kiwis.
Any kind of adventure you desire can be found in New Zealand. From skydiving and (urban) bungee jumping to surfing and skiing, you name it – you can do it all within a few hours or days in New Zealand. While the North and South Islands vary slightly in terrain and adventure travel experiences you can enjoy, it's not hard to plan a trip to visit both and do it all!
New Zealand is home to the Maori, an indigenous people who have called New Zealand home since the 13th Century. There are loads of cultural experiences to be had in New Zealand, and the popular 'haka' (war dance) of the Maori is just the tip of the ice berg.
Like many island countries, New Zealand is a great destination to see species you can't find anywhere else in the world. If you love bird-watching, seek out tours that show you birds unique to New Zealand like the Kiwi and Little Blue Penguin. If you enjoy spending time on the water, try and spot the world's smallest dolphin species, Hector's dolphin, on your boat tours.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit New Zealand
New Zealand’s summer (December to February) is its high season for travel. This is the time schools are on holiday and office workers take their Christmas and summer breaks; it also means that in addition to international visitors, you'll mix and mingle with New Zealanders taking their own vacations and trips. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, try the shoulder seasons in October to November and March to April.
What to Look for in a Tour to New Zealand
When touring New Zealand, you'll want to pay attention to whether tours include three things: meals, accommodation, and transportation. Most tours will include these things, but it's important to read through itinerary lists and inclusions closely to make sure you know what you'll have included.
Additionally, it's important to consider whether you would like any free time in New Zealand in addition to your tour. Most companies cover the highlights of New Zealand, but many travelers prefer to have free time built into the tour, or take a day or two afterward to explore more on their own.
Typical Tour Cost
The big trade-off in tours to New Zealand is between cost and duration. Because New Zealand is so far away from other destinations and countries, most travelers prefer to take longer tours (one week or longer), but this comes at a cost – the total cost of your tour will likely be much higher. Expect to pay anywhere from $175-$350 per day for multi-day tours, which include most meals and accommodations.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
New Zealand style is notoriously casual, but you'll want to be sure to pack for the season. Flip flops (known as jandals) and shorts are typical summer wear, with jeans and hooded sweatshirts thrown on against the evening chill.
If your tour includes activities that require special gear, this is likely included. Be sure to double check though, in case you need to bring your own! Additionally, read reviews of past guests to get a sense for the quality of gear you'll be expected to use.
Other Tips for travel in New Zealand
Like Australia, New Zealand has strict biosecurity laws, which will impact what you are allowed to bring into the country. This includes foods and agricultural products, so be sure to declare any foods or souvenirs made of natural products on arrival.
New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road. If you do hire a car, don’t jump in the driver seat directly after a long haul international flight. New Zealand roads can be narrow and windy, so stay alert.
Health & Safety
New Zealand is a safe destination for travelers. There are close to no poisonous insects or dangerous animals in New Zealand, and crime levels are generally low. However, it is still important to look after your possessions and yourself. Get travel insurance before you go, and ensure your policy covers you for adventure or extreme sports activities.
No vaccinations are required to enter New Zealand. However, you should be up-to-date with routine vaccinations as recommended in the USA (or your country of origin). Consult with your doctor if the Hepatitis B vaccine, or any other vaccines, are appropriate for your trip.
Bring any medication with you, including asthma inhalers. Asthma and hay fever sufferers may notice an increase in symptoms in New Zealand.
New Zealand has high levels of UV rays, particularly during the summer but also in autumn and winter. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and use a high-factor sunscreen. On sunny summer days, spend some time indoors or in the shade between 10 am and 4 pm.
Never underestimate the weather in New Zealand, which can change unpredictably. Always check the forecast, follow official advice and bring gear for sudden drops or changes in the temperature.
New Zealand is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire and it gets its fair share of earthquakes. Christchurch, one of New Zealand’s major cities, was severely damaged by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. In an earthquake, the New Zealand Earthquake Commission recommends you drop, cover and hold. This means fall to the ground, shelter under a heavy piece of furniture such as a table or doorway, and hold on to the furniture while protecting your head and neck. Stay indoors until the shaking has stopped.