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In a country where gorgeous mountain landscapes and glaciers, contrast with rolling vineyards and hot springs, New Zealand offers impressive vistas no matter where you are in the country. A special treat is to visit a marae - a tribal meeting ground for the local indigenous people, the Maori. The Maori culture is integral to life in New Zealand and experiencing a bit of their culture is an electric and vital experience for visitors.
Much of the wildlife that you will discover on your travels across New Zealand is exclusive to the island nation. With several species of penguin, dolphins and naturally, the peculiar looking Kiwi, New Zealand is a wildlife oasis at the end of the world.
The country consists of two main islands - often referred to as simply, north and south. On the North Island. You’ll find the capital, Wellington, as well as the lively city of Auckland, New Zealand's largest city. Beyond these cities, you’ll also find geysers and volcanoes as well as world-class vineyards and long sandy coastlines.
For the landscape of your Lord of the Rings inspired dreams, you’ll want to visit the South Island. While both islands have scenery featured in the films, the south island's landscapes really stand out. Also on tap for intrepid travellers on the South Island, you’ll find New Zealand’s spectacular fjords at Milford Sound and the massive Franz Josef glacier among other spectacular scenery unmatched on earth - except maybe Middle Earth!
Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fans can get a guided tour through the original film set of the Shire. A guide will take you through the 10-acre film set and expound on the fascinating details of Hobbiton - you can even grab a beer at the Green Dragon Inn!
For a truly unique nature experience, be sure to take a tour at Abel Tasman National Park. A tour here is a great way to experience a little of everything in the huge Abel Tasman National Park for those with limited time. Explore secluded beaches and see the resident Blue Penguin colonies along the southern coast by kayak. In the afternoon, sunbathe or take a leisurely walk at Anchorage beach to explore the Manuka groves and take in the stunning scenery across Tasman Bay.
Milford Sound is a fjord created by a succession of glaciers during the last ice age. This unique, geographic jewel is home to a number of different marine species, including fur seals, penguins, and dolphins. Take in this “eighth wonder of the world’s” magnificent waterfalls by boat and see the exciting marine life at the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory.
A coastal paradise, Abel Tasman National Park is a terrific wilderness and marine reserve. Popular for its golden-sand beaches and wonderful wildlife, such as fur seals and penguins, the park is located on the north coast of the South Island. For those travellers with the time, one can hike the nearly 40 mile long “Coast Track”, ensuring you see all the highlights of this amazing park.
Located in one of the most active geothermal regions in the world, Rotorua is filled with geysers, hot springs and mud pools. Surrounding the village of Rotorua are also lakes, mountains and forests, offering visitors the opportunity to choose between luxuriating in a geothermal pool or river rafting over a waterfall! For those looking for a more educational experience, there is also the Mitai Maori village where you will be immersed in the indigenous, Maori culture.
The Bay of Islands features over 140 islands located on the north end of the North Island. People from all over the world travel here to spend time in this wild, untamed nature. This is New Zealand at its purest. Known as for its amazing sport fishing opportunities, as well as kayak tours and sailing excursions, the Bay of Islands is perfect for exploring the marine world of the southern Pacific ocean.
The Franz Josef Glacier, on the west coast of New Zealand’s south island, offers travellers a rare opportunity to experience a spectacular, glacier environment. While most glaciers around the world are located at high elevations, making travel to them cumbersome or dangerous, the Franz Josef glacier flows almost to sea level. The temperate climate at this lower elevation means it is one of the easiest glaciers to visit in the world.
The most popular time for many travellers is from December to February; the summer months for New Zealand. The weather is nice in the summer, offering plenty of warm sunny days to enjoy. While the two main islands that make up New Zealand don’t have wildly different climates, there are some differences to keep in mind. North Island has a subtropical climate and while offering better beach weather in the summer you also get more rain in spring and winter. The South Island offers a much milder, temperate climate with more seasonal changes than the north. The best travel time for those who want to discover the country in peace, and at a lesser expense, is typically November, March and April.
If you find yourself in New Zealand in late May or early June, be sure to check out the Maori New Year celebrations, called “Matariki”. It is named for a cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. These stars typically rise in late May or early June and for many Māori, it means the start of a new year. Matariki celebrations officially begin on the first new moon after the “Matariki” first appear. The celebrations focus around music, song, dance, food and family, and can last up to 3 days.
Every March in Auckland, the city puts on the Auckland Arts Festival over 19 days. Here you can experience theatre, music, cabaret, dance and visual arts as the city celebrates local artists and the culture and diversity of New Zealand.
Over 5 days in late April be sure to enjoy the Akarua Arrowtown Autumn Festival. Arrowtown is located just a stone’s throw from Queenstown. Here you can enjoy historic walks, art exhibitions, children's workshops, a parade and much more.
Wellington plays host to New Zealand’s International Arts Festival, aiming to bring the world’s best live arts experiences to New Zealand. Held over 3 weeks starting in late February, this festival is now held every 2 years.
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