New Zealand Overview

New Zealand may be renowned as the adventure capital of the world, but it probably wouldn’t garner nearly as many accolades if these outlandish extreme sports weren’t set against such stunning natural backdrops. From snow-tipped mountains to lush Fjordland, ancient rainforest to beaches, volcanoes, glaciers and vast open plains, New Zealand is a feast for the eyes. And forget the Hobbits, the other big draws here are the chance to tackle some of the world’s great long distance walks, explore Maori culture, and encounter some of the country’s amazing wildlife such as dolphins and whales. Learn more in our New Zealand travel guide.

Our top New Zealand holidays

New Zealand small group tour, 23 days

From £5290 to £6750
23 days ex flights
Small Group Tour - North and South Island of New Zealand
Small group2020: 14 Oct, 18 Nov, 2021: 18 Jan, 7 Feb, 10 Mar, 14 Apr, 19 May, 13 Oct, 24 Nov

New Zealands Subantarctic Islands cruise

From US $7500 to US $7750
13 days ex flights
Wildlife voyage to the Subantarctic inc Macquarie Island
Small group2020: 12 Nov, 30 Nov, 11 Dec

Best time to go to New Zealand

New Zealand’s climate is pleasantly mild, with the west coast of the South Island, Milford Sound especially, getting maximum moisture. The east coasts are alive with colour in spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May); both seasons are the best time to visit New Zealand. June to August is great for winter sports, and travelling outside peak season offers more affordable accommodation albeit with colder temperatures. December to February is all about orcas off Kaikoura (dolphins can be seen almost year-round), with Kiwis on holiday or enjoying days out at the beach.
New Zealand temperature and rainfall chart

Map & highlights

It would be quicker to list the places in New Zealand you wouldn’t want to visit. Queenstown is ground zero for adventure sports, while Christchurch, with its relaxed Olde-England charm framed by the Southern Alps, is ‘Garden City’. Rotorua, enveloped in a perpetual sulphur-stench, is a good place to explore Maori culture, and soak in thermal hot springs. You’ll enjoy a mix of New Zealand’s natural landscapes across Abel Tasman National Park at one end of the South Island, and Milford Sound in Fjordland at the other, as well as the idyllic Bay of Islands right at the top of the North Island.
Abel Tasman National Park

1. Abel Tasman National Park

Although the smallest of New Zealand’s national parks, Abel Tasman, doesn’t pack any less of a punch with forest covered hillsides and the Takaka and Riwaka rivers leading to the sublime shallows of Golden Bay. The Coast Track, which can be walked and partially kayaked, is considered one of the world’s best with beaches, such as Onetahuti, Kaiteriteri and Bark, totally deserve the leg and paddle work.
Bay of Islands

2. Bay of Islands

Head north of Auckland, about three hours, and you’ll reach the historic towns of Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri all of which provide an ideal base from where to explore the Bay of Islands. Thanks to sub-tropical sea temperatures this area is heaven for divers with groupers, rays, kingfish and shipwrecks, including the Rainbow Warrior, providing some of New Zealand’s best underwater experiences.
Christchurch

3. Christchurch

Browsing at the Re-Start, strolling through Hagley Park or punting on the River Avon, Christchurch will kind of remind you of England but then kind of not. Maybe it’s due to the memories of the 2011 earthquake or just the distant backdrop of the Southern Alps, but whatever it is, forget about the old country - this is Christchurch so get out there and enjoy Garden City.
Fiordland National Park

4. Fiordland National Park

New Zealand’s largest national park is the result of some glorious glacial grinding with fjords, such as Milford Sound, providing perfect panoramas to accompany hiking tracks, like Routeburn and Milford. The carving process has created offshore islands, glacial lakes and waterfalls – the tallest of which are Sutherland and Browne – and the chance to view via helicopter is just out of this world.
Queenstown

5. Queenstown

3, 2, 1... Queenstown! Boasting well over 200 adventure activities, including white water rafting, mountain biking and paragliding, Queenstown is New Zealand’s undeniable extreme sports capital. Aside from jet-boating on the Dart River or bungee jumping off Kawarau Bridge, Lake Wakatipu and Bob’s Peak also make perfect settings to take your breath away.
Rotorua

6. Rotorua

Throw aside the prescribed clothes peg on nose and embrace the eggy whiff of Rotorua as this is geothermal central and definitely worth investigating if you’re into hiking around lakes and mountain biking through forests. The Whakarewarewa area, especially, is packed full of hot springs and geysers with Pohutu, aka ‘Big Splash’, erupting almost hourly to heights of 30 metres.

Adventure capital of the world

Fancy a bungee jump over a river canyon? Or a skydive above a volcanic lake? Perhaps skimming within centimetres of rock walls aboard a jet boat is more your thing, or going over the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. Nowhere else in the world does adventure quite so well as New Zealand, or with (most of the time) such respect for the environment. The great thing about outdoor activities in New Zealand, of course, is that they’re spread around the whole country, and there is natural beauty everywhere, so you’ve no need to join the queues at the hotspots.

Maori culture

New Zealand’s indigenous people canoed over from Polynesia around 1250AD, long before European settlers arrived. The haka, actually a welcome rather than a war dance, may be the best-known trait of Maori culture but most parts of the country have their own iwi (tribes) happy to share with visitors tales drawn from oral folklore, and traditions including ta moko (facial tattoos), wakas (intricately carved canoes) and kaitiaki, the concept of being stewards of the land rather than owners. Key Maori cultural sites on the North Island include Hokianga harbour, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, and the ‘living village’ of Ohinemutu near Rotorua.

Fjordland

Carving into the southwest corner of the South Island, and dubbed by Rudyard Kipling as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’, New Zealand’s Fjordland region is wet, wild and wonderful. Only four of the 15 glacier-carved fjords can be explored on foot, with peak tramping season being summer, between December and February. Cruises are the most popular way to tour Fjordland and the best way to truly appreciate the magnificent Milford Sound. Winter sees dolphins, seals and even whales appearing, while the spring snowmelts result in torrential waterfalls. Old Rudders knew what he was talking about.

More holiday ideas

New Zealand small group tour, 16 days

From NZ $9190
16 days ex flights
Kakariki 16 Day Small Group Tour of New Zealand
Small group2020: 22 Oct, 29 Oct, 5 Nov, 10 Dec, 2021: 3 Jan, 10 Jan, 14 Jan, 21 Jan, 31 Jan, 4 Feb, 11 Feb, 14 Feb, 21 Feb, 28 Feb, 11 Mar, 18 Mar, 25 Mar, 21 Oct, 18 Nov, 9 Dec, 2022: 6 Jan, 20 Jan, 3 Feb, 10 Feb, 17 Feb, 10 Mar, 17 Mar

New Zealand holiday, small group

From £5634 to £6638
22 days inc UK flights
Combining the best of New Zealand's North and South Islands.
Small group2021: 30 Jan, 13 Mar, 13 Nov, 18 Dec

New Zealand self drive holidays

From £7367
19 days inc UK flights
Spectacular scenery and dynamic culture

New Zealand holiday, land and sea tour

From £6425
19 days inc UK flights
Visit towering volcanic cones to broad sandy beaches

New Zealand 17 day small group tour

From NZ $11690
17 days ex flights
Kaka 17 Day Small Group Tour of New Zealand
Small group2020: 12 Oct, 26 Oct, 2 Nov, 9 Nov, 16 Nov, 23 Nov, 14 Dec, 2021: 4 Jan, 7 Jan, 14 Jan, 18 Jan, 25 Jan, 4 Feb, 8 Feb, 15 Feb, 18 Feb, 25 Feb, 4 Mar, 15 Mar, 22 Mar, 29 Mar, 25 Oct, 22 Nov, 13 Dec, 2022: 10 Jan, 24 Jan, 7 Feb, 14 Feb, 21 Feb, 14 Mar, 21 Mar

New Zealand 12 day small group tour

From NZ $9390
12 days ex flights
Kiwi 12 Day Small Group Tour of New Zealand
Small group2020: 26 Oct, 2 Nov, 9 Nov, 23 Nov, 14 Dec, 2021: 4 Jan, 7 Jan, 14 Jan, 18 Jan, 25 Jan, 4 Feb, 8 Feb, 15 Feb, 18 Feb, 25 Feb, 4 Mar, 15 Mar, 22 Mar, 29 Mar, 25 Oct, 22 Nov, 13 Dec, 2022: 10 Jan, 24 Jan, 7 Feb, 14 Feb, 21 Feb, 14 Mar, 21 Mar
Quote. The secret to a great holiday is that it's great for everyone - you, local communities and nature.
Tourist and Masai

More about New Zealand

Walking

It’s no exaggeration to say that New Zealand boasts some of the greatest walking terrain on Earth. From multi-day epics such as the famous Milford Track in Fjordland and the Karamea Track, to full-day tramps including the Tongariro Crossing, there’s no better way to experience New Zealand than by strapping on your boots and hitting the trail. Not that you need to be a super-fit, super-experienced trekker to enjoy walking here – there are many easygoing short routes that are no less attractive, and walking in New Zealand can often be combined with other activities, from catamaran cruises to kayaking or wine tasting.

Wildlife

Kiwis – the endangered little birds that give New Zealanders their affectionate nickname – are rarely seen, but if you want cute birds, there are three native species of penguins here, including the little blues often seen around Abel Tasman National Park. You’ll encounter marine wildlife all around, but Kaikoura, on the northeast coast of the South Island, is justly famous. The resident sperm whales are joined by humpbacks and several other species in winter, the area has a healthy population of fur seals, and it’s the best place in New Zealand for anyone wanting the unique experience of swimming with dolphins.

Types of holiday

Holidays in New Zealand are a mix of sociable and guided small group tours, and tailor made trips that offer greater flexibility on dates, accommodations and itineraries. Naturally, this is a bucket list destination for anyone in search of adrenaline-charged activities, and adventure holidays here will allow you to try everything from bungee jumps and kayaking to glacier-walking and black water rafting. As for walking holidays, the terrain in New Zealand is surreally beautiful, and there are some classic long-distance ‘tramps’ among many less-challenging day walks. The Milford Track in Fjordland is among the best-known of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about New Zealand or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
[Adventure capital of the world : UI International Programs] [Maori culture : Moatrek] [Fjordland : Ed Maughan] [Walking : Tyler Lastovich] [Wildlife : Sandra Vallaure] [Types of holiday : Moatrek]
Photo credits: [Page banner: Curioso] [Adventure capital of the world : UI International Programs] [Maori culture : Moatrek] [Fjordland : Ed Maughan] [Walking : Tyler Lastovich] [Wildlife : Sandra Vallaure] [Types of holiday : Moatrek]
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