Name: New Zealand
Population: 4.4 million
Language: English and Māori
Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
Time Zone: UTC +12
New Zealand is a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty: jagged mountains, rolling pasture land, steep fiords, pristine trout-filled lakes, raging rivers, scenic beaches, and active volcanic zones. These islands are one of Earth’s most peculiar bioregions, inhabited by flightless birds seen nowhere else such as a nocturnal, burrowing parrot called the kakapo and kiwi. Kiwi are not only one of the national symbols, but also the name New Zealanders usually call themselves.
These islands are sparsely populated, particularly away from the North Island, but easily accessible. There are sparklingly modern visitor facilities, and transport networks are well developed with airports throughout the country and well maintained highways. New Zealand often adds an adventure twist to nature: it’s the original home of jet-boating through shallow gorges, and bungy jumping off anything high enough to give a thrill.
New Zealand has a temperate climate, winters are fairly cold in the south of the South Island but mild in the north of the North Island. The nature of the terrain, the prevailing winds and the length of the country lead to sharp regional contrasts. Maximum daytime temperatures sometimes exceed 30°C (86°F)and only fall below 0°C (32°F) in the elevated inland regions. Generally speaking, rainfall and humidity is higher in the west than the east of the country due to the north-south orientation of the mountain ranges and the prevailing westerly/north westerly winds.
New Zealand is one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to forecast the weather. Although the weather is changeable, there is certainly more sunshine and warm temperate temperatures to enjoy in summer. It is not uncommon, especially on the South Island, to experience four seasons in one day.
With a patchwork history of Māori, European, Pacific Island and Asian cultures, New Zealand has become a melting-pot population. Today, of the 4.4 million New Zealanders (informally known as Kiwis), approximately 69% are of European descent, 14.6% are indigenous Māori, 9.2% Asian and 6.9% non-Māori Pacific Islanders.
New Zealand cuisine is largely driven by local ingredients and seasonal variations. Similar to the cuisine of Australia, the cuisine of New Zealand is a diverse British-based cuisine, with Mediterranean and Pacific Rim influences as the country becomes more cosmopolitan. Fish and chips are a local speciality. The fish is often extremely good quality, often supplied by local fishermen.
Traditional Māori cuisine is cooked in the hangi or earth oven, which is the traditional way food is prepared for large gatherings. Meat, vegetables and sometimes puddings are slowly steam-cooked for several hours in a covered pit that has previously been lined with stones and had a hot wood fire burn down in it.
Domestic flights in New Zealand are often cheaper than driving or taking the train, especially if a crossing between the North and South Islands is required.
Nelson has both the most daily cyclists and some of the best recreational cycle trails such as the Dun Mountain Cycle Trail. Nelson certainly enjoys some of the best weather in New Zealand
Buses are a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly way to get around New Zealand; however, services even between major towns are usually only once per day. Most roads in New Zealand are quite narrow and winding (when compared to the highways of the USA), and travelling a long distance in a bus can be a safe and relaxing way to travel. Booking in advance on some lines can get you great bargains.
Self drive holidays are a great way to travel around New Zealand as they offer independence, flexibility and opportunities to interact with the locals. A number of rental companies offer inclusive self drive holidays with rental car & accommodation, pre-set itineraries or customised to suit your interests.
Rideshare and carpooling is increasing in New Zealand as petrol prices rise and people recognise the social and environmental benefit of sharing vehicles and travelling with others. While some systems are quite informal, others have trust systems which give greater security when choosing a ride. RoadMate is a free carpooling app connecting drivers with empty seats to people travelling the same way for a one-off journey or a daily commute.
New Zealand is a motorbike rider’s dream country! Motorcycle rentals of many makes are available throughout New Zealand.
Trains run at low speed, sometimes dropping to 50 km/h in the summer due to the lack of track maintenance following privatisation in the 1990s. Most New Zealanders prefer to drive or fly, as train fares are comparatively expensive. However, trains are suited to tourists as they can experience the breathtaking scenery in a comfortable mode of travel.
For more information on New Zealand check out the New Zealand Tourism Board website here.