Located in the South Pacific Ocean, around 1,600 kilometres off the East Coast of Australia, New Zealand is made up of two main islands, North and South, and hundreds of smaller islands, most of which are uninhabited. From the rugged coastlines, sandy beaches and ancient forests of the North Island to the snow capped mountains and fjords of the South Island, New Zealand is renowned for its stunning and diverse natural scenery, attracting travellers from all over the world. Its cosmopolitan cities such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch provide families with plenty to see and do, while smaller towns offer an authentically local ‘Kiwi’ experience.
About New Zealand
New Zealand facts
Often referred to as the “City of Sails”, Auckland is a beautiful and lively harbour city, offering a host of excellent hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions. Visit the 328-metre Sky Tower, where you can enjoy lunch or dinner in the city’s only revolving restaurant, enjoy magnificent views from the observation deck, climb to the top of the radio tower, and if you dare, bungy jump off the side.
Animal lovers of all ages will especially enjoy a visit to Auckland Zoo, where they can learn about nature and wildlife through a range of fun experiences, while inquisitive minds satisfy their curiosities at the highly interactive Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT).
Around the North Island
In Auckland, catch a ferry to Waiheke Island for great beaches, cafes and wineries, or to the quaint north shore suburb of Devonport. Visit Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, and walk-through its giant aquarium as giant sea creatures swim over you, before exploring the Antarctic Ice Adventure, home to New Zealand’s only colony of Sub-Antarctic penguins. If you’re really up for an adventure, tackle the Auckland Bridge Climb and Bungy.
Other places to visit on the North Island include Rotorua with its geothermal parks, Tamaki Maori Village, Splash Planet, and Skyline Rotorua, Waitomo for its glow worm caves, Wellington for its famous Te Papa Museum, and the spectacular Bay of Islands region, home to the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula and its iconic Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach.
New Zealand is excellent for snow holidays, skiing and snowboarding, particularly in the South Island, with Queenstown being the perfect place to base yourself. The ski resorts of The Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Mount Hutt are all close by, while Cardrona and Treble Cone are close to Wanaka.
Queenstown also boasts plenty to do off the snow. Visit the historic mining village of Arrowtown and try your hand at gold panning, take the steepest gondola ride in the Southern Hemisphere to the top of Bob’s Peak then luge back down with Skyline Queenstown, and enjoy a scenic cruise on the crystal clear waters of Lake Wakatipu.
Around the South Island
In addition to skiing and snowboarding, the South Island offers plenty of opportunities for getting the heart racing and adrenaline pumping. You can go white water rafting, bungy jumping, jet boating, kayaking, horse riding and so much more – just be sure to check the age, height and weight restrictions before you go.
For something a little less action-packed, go whale watching in Kaikoura, get a taste of rural country life and try sheep shedding in the Southern Alps, and visit the beautiful European-inspired cities of Christchurch and Dunedin. Or, for a truly immersive experience, hire a campervan and explore the stunning scenery of Milford and Doubtful Sounds.
Best time to go to New Zealand
Anytime is a good time to visit New Zealand. The seasons and temperatures are similar to those of southern Australia. The northern islands are subtropical, while the south is temperate. The mountainous regions can get very cold and experience snow in late autumn and winter – great for winter sports. However, the weather can change unexpectedly, so its always best to go fully prepared.
Summer in New Zealand is from December to February. The average temperature is 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, and 235mm of rainfall.
Autumn in New Zealand is from March to May. The average temperature is 17 to 21 degrees Celsius, and 310mm of rainfall.
Winter in New Zealand is from June to August. The average temperature is 12 to 16 degrees Celsius, and 415mm of rainfall.
Spring in New Zealand is from September to November. The average temperature is 16 to 19 degrees Celsius, and 310mm of rainfall.
Australians don’t require a visa to enter New Zealand but must hold a current passport valid for at least three months after the date of departure.
Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch airports
New Zealand is about a three-hour flight from the East Coast of Australia. Several airlines regularly fly from Australian capital cities to New Zealand so you should be able to get a flight any day of the week. Air New Zealand offers flights daily from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Auckland and four times a week from Perth. From Adelaide, you must first stopover in Melbourne or Sydney. Direct flights are also available from Sydney and Melbourne to Wellington and Christchurch.
Several transport options are available from the airport if you haven’t arranged a transfer with your hotel. Regular buses and shuttle services operate from the airports to the city centre, there are always taxis waiting outside the Arrivals hall, and car hire is also available.
One of the most interesting (and most expensive) ways to get out of Auckland Airport is by a helicopter flight to anywhere in the country you choose, which can be booked in advance or at the airport.
Boat, bus, and train
Boat and car ferry services are available between the islands – InterIslander will transport you across the Cook Strait from Wellington at the bottom of the North Island to Picton at the top of the South Island, and vice versa.
Both the North and South Islands have a reliable and extensive public bus system, and there are also smaller, cheaper shuttle buses, some which cater especially to travellers.
Train travel in New Zealand is comfortable and relatively fast, although the rail service isn’t particularly extensive.
Car or campervan
Car or campervan hire is one of the best ways to get around New Zealand. The roads are well maintained and signposted and there are hundreds of scenic drives to explore with the family.
Food and drinks that kids will love
New Zealand fish ‘n’ chips is a Kiwi classic that the whole family will love. When ordering, ask for the local fish or try the ‘Paua’ (abalone) fritter. Wash it down with a cool and refreshing Lemon & Paeroa, also known as ‘L&P’.
Known for their incredible sheep population, its hardly surprising that lamb is many Kiwis’ favourite, in particular, roast lamb. Flavoured with rosemary and plenty of seasonal roast vegetables, kids and adults alike are in for a heart-warming meal.
Be sure to spread some Manuka honey on your toast at your hotel breakfast, and if staying in Queenstown, head to Fergburger to try the famous burgers that have people queuing up for blocks.
For an authentic and cultural dining experience, try a traditional Maori hangi, which sees food such as meat and root vegetables slow cooked over hot stones in the ground.
Normal shopping hours are 9am to 6pm Monday to Wednesday. Late night shopping is on Thursday and Friday when most stores and malls stay open until 9pm. On Saturday, shopping hours are 9am to 5pm, although most major shopping centres stay open until 6pm, while smaller towns close in the early afternoon. Many shops outside of major tourist centres are closed on Sundays.
Good buys in New Zealand include Maori artworks such as wood carvings, woven baskets and beautiful pounamu (greenstone) or bone carving jewellery. High quality woollen goods, such as Merino wool, are also widely available but there’s not much difference in price to what you would pay in Australia.
Keep an eye out for local markets too, where you’ll find unique handcrafted souvenirs. Be aware that products made from wood or plants may have to be treated by Quarantine upon return to Australia, so be sure to declare them.
As in Australia, tipping isn’t required but is common in most hotels and restaurants, particularly in the major cities.
What to wear
New Zealanders are relaxed and casual in their choice of dress, much the same as Australians. During summer, light clothing is fine for most of the time, but pack a few light jackets and jumpers, especially if you plan to visit higher altitudes. You should expect some rain, so bring along light raincoats or rain jackets. Between May and September you will need a good supply of warm winter clothing that you can put on in layers. Sunglasses or visors are a must for a visit to the snow to protect your eyes from glaring sunlight reflecting off the snow.
Electricity mainly operated on 230 / 240 volts, 50 Hz AC, using angled two or three pin plugs, same as in Australia. Therefore, no adaptor is needed for Australian appliances.
No vaccinations are required to enter New Zealand.
Tap water is safe in all developed areas of New Zealand, but bring along bottled water if you plan on heading to more remote areas or camping in places with limited or no facilities.
Severe weather and drought are the most common natural disasters in New Zealand, however they happen rarely and pose little hazard to visitors.
Earthquakes occur frequently in some parts of New Zealand, such as Wellington and Christchurch, as the country sits on a major geological fault line, but most pose no great threat. Volcanic eruptions, fires and flooding are rare and there is usually plenty of warning before disaster strikes.
The number for emergency services in New Zealand is 111.
The official language is English so Australian visitors will have no problem of getting around in New Zealand and interacting with locals. For those wanting to learn a bit of Te Reo Maori, here are some common phrases:
Hello – Kia ora
Goodbye – E noho rā (from person leaving), Haere rā (from person staying)
Thank you – Whakawhetai koe
How are you? – Pehea e koe
I’m fine thanks – Kei te pai
What’s your name? – Ko wai tō ingoa?
My name is… – Ko toku ingoa…
Most photographed places
With its vast and diverse landscapes, there’s no denying New Zealand is a beautiful country. Here are some of the best spots to capture your family holiday snaps.
Lake Tekapo – The stunning turquoise waters, bright and vibrant lupines, and the historic Church of the Good Shepherd make for a prime photo opportunity. Its easy to see why Lake Tekapo was the most Instagrammed destination in New Zealand in 2017.
Takapuna Beach, Auckland – With stunning views across the sea to Rangitoto Island and beyond, taking a picture here is a must. The beach is particularly beautiful in the summertime when the bright red flowers of Pohutukawa trees are in full bloom.
Sky Tower, Auckland – Dominating Auckland’s skyline, this iconic tower can be photographed from so many different angles and still look as magnificent as ever.
Milford Sound, Fiordland – One of New Zealand’s most popular tourist attractions is also one to snap away at. With its towering snow-capped peaks, ancient rainforests and cascading waterfalls, this fiord provides a dramatic backdrop no matter what the weather. Take a boat tour and keep an eye and camera out for fur seals, dolphins and penguins.
Hobbiton, Matamata – You are bound to capture some amazing photos from the set of one of the world’s largest movie franchises Lord of the Rings. Experience the lush fairytale setting of Hobbit homes and flower gardens, set against the majestic Kaimai Ranges in the distance.
Abel Tasman National Park, South Island – Located on the Northern tip of the South Island, this expansive golden-sand beach and its turquoise waters fringed by deep green bushland make for an incredible photo session.
Mount Maunganui, Tauranga – Get the heart pumping and go for a hike to the top of this iconic mountain, referred to as ‘The Mount’ by locals, or Mauo in Maori. There are two scenic tracks to choose from to reach the summit, which is 232 metres above sea level, and while its no easy feat, we promise the highly rewarding views will be well worth it, and you might even see whales.
Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast – Franz Josef is filled with things to do and photos to be taken. Whether you choose to go up on the glacier itself or soar above it on a helicopter, the photo opportunities are endless. This world famous glacier is the steepest in the country, descending from high up in the Southern Alps and deep down below into the native forest, moving faster than an average glacier and therefore creating incredible and ever-changing features such as ice caves, tunnels and crevasses.
Wanaka, Otago – From the famous tree immersed in Lake Wanaka and appearing in many Instagram feeds, to unparalleled views from Roy’s Peak, Wanaka offers exceptional photo capturing opportunities. Mt Aspiring National Park is a must-see, with its soaring mountains, hundreds of glaciers, beech forest, winding rivers and alpine meadows earning it UNESCO World Heritage status.
Cathedral Cove, Coromandel – Accessible only by boat, kayak or foot, this iconic spot is one of the most picturesque and photographed on the Coromandel Peninsula, even making an appearance in several movies. A naturally formed cathedral-like archway passes through a giant rock, joining two sandy coves and giving the place its striking look, while a foreshore of Pohutukawa trees, clear blue waters and rock formations make any viewpoint here well worth capturing.