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With almost as many tourists coming to the country each year as the local population, NZ is a big hitter in South Pacific Tourism. It's also on of its most diverse destination: where you can be enjoying the ski slopes and alpine mountain passes in the morning and on the beach in the afternoon.

History & Culture

All About New Zealand

Aotearoa New Zealand is a land of extremes. An island nation of molten volcanic landscapes, ice-capped peaks, fjords and glaciers. These stunning and almost untouched landscapes at the end of the world have achieved worldwide fame as Middle-Earth in the Lord Of The Rings film trilogy. 


It's also a foodies paradise.  Its rich volcanic soil, clean seas and temperate climate is responsible for homegrown produce, and world-class vineyards. And don't forget the more extreme adventures. This is the birthplace of bungy jumping and zorbing. Plus mind blowing mountain biking, snowboarding, awesome alps climbing, white water rafting and anything else the adrenaline junkie seeks.  


There are many options for making your way around New Zealand. Bus tours, boat trips, self-drive camper van road-trips, bike trails, tramping, even heli-flights down a glacial gorge or over a volcano are all popular ways to see the country.


For budget-minded travellers, or those wishing to get OTBT in NZ, NZs national park system offers brilliant options. Thanks to the Department of Conservation, camping and tramping in New Zealand is easily accessible to all.  Trails are free and plentiful and range from easy 1 hour to serious multi-day treks. Most trails offer either huts along the way or campsites near the trailheads. These superb sites have awe-inspiring views and cost next to nothing a night.  Just remember to always check track conditions and pack for extreme weather.


Maori are the "Tangata Whenua", the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand. Maori are thought to have arrived in New Zealand 700-1000 years ago. According to Maori legend, they arrived from the ancient Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki in a fleet of great "waka" (canoes), The waka landed in different parts of the North and South islands and it's to those various waka that each Maori tribe traces its heritage.


The Maori were a warrior people who cultivated the land, had forms of self-government and traded freely with the whalers and European visitors who began arriving in the late 18th century.  Maori leaders, concerned with the rampant sale of Maori lands to foreigners and the unruly nature of whalers, sought British assistance in dealing with the Europeans. This culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 which the British interpreted as, essentially, a transfer of sovereignty in British favour. A fact disputed by the Maori.


Today, New Zealand has a population of approximately 4.5 million, the vast majority of whom are of European with predominately British heritage. 15% of the population are indigenous Maori.  There is also a large proportion of pacific islanders living, working and studying in New Zealand.  New Zealand continues to attract a high number of migrants with a quarter of New Zealand's population born overseas.


Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand, although it is thought that it initially may have only been a reference to the North Island. Today it is used interchangeably, and in conjunction with, its European name highlighting the nation's bi-cultural nature. The word Aotearoa has been given several historic meanings, the most common interpretation being 'land of the long white cloud'. The British kept the dutch explorers name "New Zealand" while neighbouring "New Holland" was later changed to "Australia". 


New Zealand is comprised of two main islands ingeniously named the North Island and the South Island. Running in a ridge down the centre of the islands are the Alps.  The islands are volcanically active, particularly in the North Island around the town of Rotorua, which itself is inside the crater of a volcano, there are ash plains, superheated mud pools, geothermal geysers, colourful mineral waters and the smell of sulphur in the air.  Seismic activity is also a regular occurrence.  The city of Christchurch, on the South Island, is in a state of rebuilding after being completely devastated following two massive earthquakes in 2009 and 2011.  


The rich volcanic soil and regular rainfall create New Zealand's lush temperate rain forests and supports the country's strong agriculture industry. New Zealand's reputation for fine, locally grown produce and stunning natural scenery makes it a top destination for a wilderness adventure that's never that far from a winery, growers market or 5-star restaurant.   


But is NZ as '100% pure' as we're asked to believe? Some don't think so.  The latest OCED Environmental Performance Review of New Zealand found that the country has some of the highest (and increasing) per capita GHG emissions from vehicles and agriculture. The dairy industry is also largely responsible for poor findings on freshwater management issues.


The good news is, New Zealand has largely decarbonised its power generation and has one of the highest shares of renewables in the OCED as well as a high proportion of protected lands.  The Government concurred with the OCED Review and committed to continue to address environmental planning and policy issues such as urban planning, emissions tax and freshwater management.   



While tourism in New Zealand trades, in part, on its indigenous Maori culture, the Maori themselves are a minority and tourism is largely in the hands of European New Zealanders.  Learning about Maori culture and the Maori relationship with the landscape is an enriching experience but one that should be shaped in discussion with and benefit to the Maori community. New Zealand Maori Tourism represents over 200 Maori businesses and 11 Regional Tourism Offices. It works with local and international tourism operators to develop relevant policy, knowledge, capacity and promotion in Maori related tourism. This is part of a broader government-led Action Plan on Maori tourism.


There are a number of Maori owned and run tourism businesses and Maori cultural experiences that go beyond learning the Haka. To find out more visit New Zealand Maori Tourism.



NZ has a distinct tourist season running from Late October to March (spring-summer).  During the peak season prices for accommodation and hire transport can double and be hard to find. Travelling in the shoulder season can result in substantial discounts but limited public transport services. The winter season is predominately for skiing and is the best you'll find in the South Pacific. Trekking (or tramping) in winter can be extremely dangerous while almost all water activities will be closed - even in the more temperate parts of the country.



Auckland and Christchurch are the main international points of entry with some international flights (predominately trans-Tasman) also at Wellington, Queenstown and Dunedin. For most travellers, NZ is about as far as you can travel around the globe so most flights will not be direct.


Once in NZ travel is covered by an extensive coach network and reasonably short distances between major towns. There are a number of tourist and backpacker orientated buses offering travel passes. There are also three scenic passenger railways. But many tourists prefer to self-drive, which allows them to get away from the main towns. NZ roads are uncrowded, in good condition and there is an abundance of hire car and camper companies with a growing number of eco vehicle options out there. Campercar/vans allow access to campsites and, if the vehicle is properly fitted out, 'free camping' along roadsides and car parks in designated council areas. DOC offers campground discounts to hire vehicles that can be as low as $5pp/n.

Sustainable Tourism
When to Go
Getting There & Around

In 1893, New Zealand extended the right to vote to women. In doing it became the first modern-era nation to achieve 'universal suffrage' where all its adult citizens could vote regardless of race or gender.

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