New Zealand is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. With snow-capped mountains, stunning beaches, ancient glaciers, rainforests, fiords, a rich history, copious amounts of wine and cutting-edge cuisine, it doesn’t get much better. In short, everyone should visit New Zealand at least once in their lifetime. Here’s why…
Kiwis – the name derives from the kiwi bird, the native flightless bird that is the national symbol of New Zealand. New Zealanders are known as Kiwis – an endearing name for its people. Kiwis are friendly and down-to-earth people who embrace the spirit of hospitality. With a patchwork history of Māori, European, Pacific Islands and Asian influences, the Kiwis are a melting pot of cultures. Kiwis share in the values of politeness, caring and supporting each other. They love the great outdoors and delight in activities that make the most of their spectacular landscapes. How can you embrace the spirit of the Kiwi people? Strike up a conversation and see what happens!
Indigenous Maori People
There aren’t many places in the world that preserve and respect their indigenous culture as New Zealand. The Māori were the first inhabitants of New Zealand arriving over 1000 years ago. Originating from Polynesia, the Māori culture influences the history, language, arts and traditions of New Zealand’s identity. Learn about their fascinating myths and legends from passionate Māori guides, visit a ‘marae’ (meeting/celebration grounds), watch a cultural performance or observe Māori woodcarvers and weavers at work.
Countless amazing beaches line the coastline of New Zealand. The islands are known for their jaw-dropping stretches of sand and azure waters. From the whitest sand beach (then kick it up a notch) to beautiful golden sand beaches to those that look you are in Thailand, the choices are incredibly scenic and inspiring. They are often framed by hiking trails, lush forests, giant ferns, volcanic rock, vineyards and cityscapes.
World Famous Wines
Much of the fame with New Zealand wines comes from the Malborough region on South Island and one varietal – Sauvignon Blanc. Other regions that produce notable wines are: Hawkes Bay (Bordeaux-style reds, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris), Central Otago (Pinot Noir, Rosé) and Waiheke Island (reds and whites).
There are many glaciers in New Zealand. Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are the largest and located relatively close to each other on the west coast of South Island. They descend down from the Southern Alps and flow almost to sea level. They are the only two glaciers in the world surrounded by rainforest. Visitors can hike to the base of the glaciers, take a scenic helicopter ride, walk on the top or heli-ice climb.
New Zealand is home to some of the most diverse wildlife you’ll ever see. Native birds, marine mammals (whales, dolphins, sea lions, fur seals, yellow-eyed penguins), fish and reptiles – are some of the many unique critters to discover. The iconic kiwi (lower case if talking about birds vs. humans), is flightless, has hair-like feather and strong legs but no tail. New Zealand is known as the seabird capital of the world and is also home to forest birds that live nowhere else on earth. There are no snakes, deadly spiders, killer jellyfish or other venomous creepy crawlies in New Zealand.
New Zealand Lamb
In New Zealand, there are more sheep than people. New Zealand is the main producer of lamb in the world. Lamb from New Zealand is smaller than American lamb. It is grass-fed throughout its life and tends to have a more pronounced flavor. It is slaughtered at a younger age. So, despite a lack of grain feeding and lesser marbling, it is tender and delicious.
Walks and Hikes
Walking and hiking in New Zealand is the best way to see/explore the wilderness and variety of landscapes. With thousands of miles of tracks, there are walking and hiking experiences to suit all levels of fitness. Welcome to a walker’s paradise, where a network of trails wind past rugged coastlines, through farmlands, river valleys, towering forests, around lakes and dramatic mountain ranges. If there is a special place or something remarkable to see, you can be sure there’s a short walk or day hike close by.
Aoraki Mount Cook
Aoraki (Māori for ‘cloud piercer’) Mount Cook National Park is New Zealand’s Mount Everest. At 12,218 feet, It is alpine in the purest sense. The area boasts skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent show fields. Although Mount Cook (in the Southern Alps range) encompasses 23 peaks almost 10,000 feet high, it is very accessible. Mountaineers, heli-skiers and skiers love this region while less skilled adventurers find plenty of satisfaction with the mountain walks that lead to alpine meadows, herb fields and spectacular glacier views. Encounters with the ‘kea’ (mountain parrots) are part of the fun.
Wine & Cheese Tasting
Taste your way around New Zealand and you’ll discover food and wine that’s original, world-class and fresh from the source. Kiwis have developed a discerning palate when it comes to wine reflected in the number of high-quality wineries and vineyards throughout the country. New Zealand is also famous for its cheeses. Hard cheese, soft cheese, blue cheese and everything in between are produced locally and enjoyed with domestic wines.
New Zealand’s crystal blue lakes will astound anyone who sees them. New Zealand has the largest collection of the most beautiful rivers and lakes in the world. From serene waters to hot springs to geothermal pools, the natural beauty is unparalleled. Lakes in New Zealand will make you believe in heaven!
Fresh, diverse and delicious – Kiwis love their food. With over 8600 miles of coastline, New Zealand offers some of the most amazizng seafood. Talented chefs have developed a distinct Pacific Rim cuisine. Expect to indulge in plenty of seafood like fresh fish, Green-Lipped, mussels, Rock lobster, Bluff oysters, scallops and abalone. Crayfish and Mt. Cook Salmon are freshwater options. Enjoy the friendly, laidback atmosphere wherever you eat. Although there are many gourmet restaurants, Kiwis still love to keep things light.
Fiordland is one of the most dramatic and breathtaking regions of New Zealand. Fiordland National Park is the UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. Milford Sound was described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. Situated on the west coast of South Island, hours from the nearest town, is Milford Sound where plunging cliffs and cascading waterfalls meet inky dark waters. Within the steep and narrow glacially-carved valleys is a treasure-trove of ecological delights. Watch dolphins, seals and penguins play in the water or sit under the waterfalls. The waterfalls are especially spectacular on rainy days. Milford Sound is the ‘gem’ of New Zealand!
In the forests of New Zealand, bees collect nectar from the Manuka flower which only blooms a few weeks a year. Manuka honey is becoming increasingly revered by natural health consumers around the world. The Māori have used Manuka honey for its therapeutic and medicinal abilities for centuries. It has been shown to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Nature’s most powerful honey is used for immune support, digestive and gut health, antioxidant protection, for soothing coughs/sore throats and for increased energy. When sterilized, it can be used for healing infections and wounds.
Lush Forests & Waterfalls
New Zealand is a land of rivers, mountains and lakes. So, it naturally has forests and many amazing waterfalls. Some are an easy stop on the road and others require a hike. Some can be swum in while others can only be viewed from a distance. Spilling from high mountain lakes or tumbling over rocky river beds, shrouded by damp native forest or cascading over steep cliffs, New Zealand’s waterfalls offer something for everyone. Forests cover 20% of the total land area. Most of that is indigenous forest which is protected and not harvested. The Kauri forests are a green world of huge ancient towering kauri trees and rare birds.
Geothermal Pools & Geysers
Geothermal pools and geysers are spectacular and rare around the world. There are approximately 58 in New Zealand. Their steaming plumes, bubbling waters, craters and colorful mud pools are concentrated in the Rotorua-Taupo region of North Island. These have been shaped and colored by volcanic and geothermal forces for thousands of years. Orange-lined hot springs, neon green lakes, erupting geysers, trees wearing a coat of orange crystals…see them, hold your nose and grab your camera!
Extreme Adventure Sports
If adventure sports and extreme activities are your thing, there is no end to them in New Zealand. Queenstown is known as the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’. Choose from bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving, zip-lining, off-road driving, white-water rafting, climbing, rappelling, caving, heli-skiing and more. If you can’t do it, you can often watch. Who wants to go home, anyway?