New Zealand is unlike anywhere else and has somehow managed to retain its own special charm, almost as if you had stepped back in time. It will take you awhile to get there, but settle down in your airplane seat and plan your trip – it will be worth it. Or why not make a stopover en route and add even more to this adventure, as you´re travelling that far anyway. If you want to travel to the end of the world (and home again), and want to see one of the world´s most beautiful countries, New Zealand is the place to head for. From Europe, you can´t actually go any further away on this planet – you´ve reached the end of the line! Two very different islands, each with their own unique nature, will be waiting for you.
The North Island is full of volcanoes and geysers and enjoys a mild climate. This is where the capital and political centre, Wellington, is located. Since 1865 it has been the political centre of the country, despite its modest size (167,000 inhabitants out of the country´s total of 14 million).The largest city is Auckland (1.5 million inhabitants) which is situated at the northern tip of the North Island, out to the coast as all of New Zealand´s major cities are.
Here on the North Island, you´ll finds just as many jaw-dropping experiences as in the South. It´s almost impossible to list them all, but when it comes to all the ingredients you need for ”the best active holiday ever”, New Zealand is always in the Top 10. Did you know that it´s also one of the world´s best diving locations? The place to head for is the Bay of Islands– 144 of them – that attract divers from all over the planet. (Read more later when we publish our post).
And let us not forget that this is ”Lord of the Rings” territory. After scouring the earth for the some of the most “breathtaking “ nature on the planet, the filmmakers settled on New Zealand: the Gladden Highlands and Misty Mountains. Other fascinating places to visit include the Waitamo Caves – limestone caves where you can walk, boat or even white water raft through the subterranean maze of stalagmites and stalactites, illuminated by thousands of glow worms. Geothermal Rotorua with its unique volcanic landscape, bubbling mud geysers and white terraces and Champagne Pool (we´ll leave you to find out why they call it this) is also a stop you mustn´t miss on your tour through the North Island. This is also where you can enjoy the cultural performances and traditional foods of the islands’ original settlers – the Maoris. You can even get a Maori tattoo.
The South Island is dramatically different with its towering peaks and mountain ranges. It has also a sub-tropical climate however. Here is where you´ll find ”Arthur´s Pass National Park” and the Great Alpine Highway that winds its way through some of the most dramatic scenery in the country, from the Alps one side of the island to the rugged West Coast on the other. It´s viaducts, bridges, chutes and rock sheds are a spectacular piece of civil engineering that has made the deep gorges, glaciers and vast beech forests accessible by either car or train. You can also sit back and enjoy the trip on the TranZAlpine Railway. And this is only one of the 13 national parks you can visit. This is also where the charming, quirky and “more English than the English” city of Christchurch (372,600 inhabitants) lies. The second largest city in the country after Wellington, it, too, was named after a historic British landmark – Christ Church College at Oxford University. Other names such as The Canterbury River Plains or the Avon River remind us that this country, too, was colonized by the British, although prior to 1840 it was mainly whalers, fishermen and missionaries who lived there. You can go bird-watching for albatrosses, penguins and kiwis on Stewart Island or, if you fancy something a little more lively, walk, cycle, cruise or kayak through Fiordland National Park in the majestic Milford or Doubtful Sounds, where the scenery will take your breath away, as it does virtually everywhere in New Zealand. Queenstown is known as the “Adventure Capital” of New Zealand – so let loose and try all those things you´ve always wanted to do – everything from bungee jumping (New Zealand´s own invention) to jet skiing, quad biking, white water rafting or sky-diving. For daredevils, there is windsurfing when the storms sweep in from the South Pole. But be careful out there. This “extreme sport” is only for the experienced.
A good tip on making the most of your trip to New Zealand, is to hire a motorhome and tour from North to South. Distances are manageable and you can really take in all of the best sights to see without rushing. Less adrenaline-generating perhaps, but equally as awesome are the national parks, an integral part of New Zealand´s culture, and a ”must” to visit .You might even spot the national bird, the Kiwi, or hear its call at sunrise and sunset. Often called a ”mammal bird” it cannot fly, has feathers like hair and nostrils at the end of its beak – this bird is truly a ”one-off”, but is rather endearing nonetheless. You will also see many different species of animals and unique vegetation which has thrived in New Zealand for several million years, due to the country´s isolated location over the centuries.
Stay tuned. We´ll bring more about New Zealand soon.
New Zealand dollar