Lonely Planet New Zealand by Lonely Planet, Brett Atkinson, and Sarah Bennett - Read Online
Lonely Planet New Zealand
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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet New Zealand is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Experience Maori culture, be wowed by beautiful glaciers or hike through gorgeous scenery; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of New Zealand and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's New Zealand Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - Maori culture, history, cuisine, arts, music, landscape, wildlife Free, convenient pull-out touring map (included in print version), plus over 90 maps Covers Auckland, Bay of Islands, Coromandel Peninsula, Central Plateau, Rotorua, East Coast, Wellington, Marlborough, West Coast, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown, Fiordland, Southland and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience Seamlessly flip between pages Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash Embedded links to recommendations' websites Zoom-in maps and images Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet New Zealand , our most comprehensive guide to New Zealand, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

Looking for a guide focused on just the North or South islands of New Zealand? Check out Lonely Planet's New Zealand's South Island guide or New Zealand's North Island guide for a comprehensive look at what each of these islands to offer. Looking for just the highlights of New Zealand? Check out Discover New Zealand, a photo-rich guide to the country's most popular attractions.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

Important Notice: The digital edition of this book may not contain all of the images found in the physical edition.

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ISBN: 9781786573001
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New Zealand


Plan Your Trip

Welcome to New Zealand

New Zealand's Top 20

Need to Know

What's New

If You Like...

Month by Month


Hiking in New Zealand

Skiing & Snowboarding in New Zealand

Extreme New Zealand

Food & Drink

Travel with Children

Regions at a Glance

On The Road


Auckland Highlights






Festivals & Events



Drinking & Nightlife



Hauraki Gulf Islands

Rangitoto & Motutapu Islands

Motuihe Island

Waiheke Island

Rotoroa Island

Tiritiri Matangi Island

Motuora Island

Kawau Island

Great Barrier Island

West Auckland


Waitakere Ranges



Te Henga (Bethells Beach)

Kumeu & Around

Muriwai Beach


North Auckland

Long Bay Regional Park

Shakespear Regional Park




Mahurangi & Scandrett Regional Parks





Bay of Islands & Northland

Bay of Islands & Northland Highlights

Whangarei District


Waipu & Bream Bay


Whangarei Heads

Tutukaka Coast & the Poor Knights Islands

Coastal Route to Russell

Bay of Islands


Paihia & Waitangi

Urupukapuka Island


The Far North

Matauri & Tauranga Bays

Whangaroa Harbour

Doubtless Bay

Karikari Peninsula

Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach






Horeke & Around


Opononi & Omapere

Waiotemarama & Waimamaku

Kauri Coast

Waipoua Forest

Trounson Kauri Park

Kai Iwi Lakes

Baylys Beach


Poutu Point


Waikato & the Coromandel Peninsula

Waikato & the Coromandel Peninsula Highlights





South of Raglan

Te Awamutu



Te Aroha

The King Country



Waitomo Caves

South from Waitomo to Taranaki

Te Kuiti

Pio Pio, Awakino & Mokau



Coromandel Peninsula



Coastal Route from Thames to Coromandel Town

Coromandel Town

Far North Coromandel

Coromandel Town to Whitianga


Coroglen & Whenuakite


Hot Water Beach


Puketui Valley



Waihi & Waihi Beach

Karangahake Gorge


Taranaki & Whanganui

Taranaki & Whanganui Highlights

New Plymouth

Around New Plymouth

Mt Taranaki (Egmont National Park)

Around Mt Taranaki

Surf Highway 45


Whanganui National Park

Palmerston North

Around Palmerston North

Taupo & the Central Plateau

Taupo & the Ruapehu Region Highlights

Lake Taupo Region


Turangi & Around

Ruapehu Region

Tongariro National Park

Whakapapa Village

National Park Village



Taihape & Around

Rotorua & the Bay of Plenty

Rotorua & the Bay of Plenty Highlights


Around Rotorua

Bay of Plenty


Mt Maunganui




Te Puke


Whakaari (White Island)



The East Coast

East Coast Highlights

East Cape

Pacific Coast Hwy


South of Gisborne

Te Urewera National Park

Hawke's Bay

Wairoa & Around


Hastings & Around

Cape Kidnappers

Central Hawke's Bay

Kaweka & Ruahine Ranges

Wellington Region

Wellington Region Highlights


City Walk

Kapiti Coast

Kapiti Island




The Wairarapa



Masterton & Around

Marlborough & Nelson

Marlborough & Nelson Highlights

Marlborough Region


Marlborough Sounds

Queen Charlotte Track

Kenepuru & Pelorus Sounds



Nelson Region


Ruby Coast & Moutere Hills




Abel Tasman National Park

Golden Bay

Kahurangi National Park

Nelson Lakes National Park

The West Coast

West Coast Highlights

Buller Region

Murchison & Buller Gorge


Westport & Around

Karamea & Around

The Great Coast Road

Westport to Punakaiki

Punakaiki & Paparoa National Park

Punakaiki to Greymouth

Greymouth Region



Lake Brunner




Hokitika to Westland Tai Poutini National Park

Westland Tai Poutini National Park

Franz Josef Glacier

Fox Glacier

Haast Region


Haast Pass Highway

Christchurch & Canterbury

Christchurch & Canterbury Highlights


Around Christchurch


Banks Peninsula

North Canterbury

Lewis Pass

Hanmer Springs

Waipara Valley

Central Canterbury

Selwyn District

Arthur's Pass


Mt Somers

South Canterbury

Peel Forest




Lake Tekapo


AorakiMt Cook National Park

Dunedin & Otago

Dunedin & Otago Highlights

Waitaki District


Waitaki Valley




Around Dunedin

Port Chalmers

Otago Peninsula

Central Otago




St Bathans

Lauder, Omakau & Ophir




Queenstown & Wanaka

Queenstown & Wanaka Highlights


Around Queenstown

Glenorchy & Around



Around Wanaka


Lake Hawea


Fiordland & Southland

Fiordland & Southland Highlights


Te Anau

Around Te Anau

Milford Sound


Doubtful Sound

Central Southland


Te Waewae & Colac Bays




The Catlins

Curio Bay & Around

Waikawa & Around

Papatowai & Around

Owaka & Around

Kaka Point & Around

Stewart Island


Understand New Zealand

New Zealand Today



Maori Culture

Arts & Music


Directory AZ



Customs Regulations

Discount Cards


Embassies & Consulates

Food & Drink

GLBTI Travellers



Internet Access

Legal Matters



Opening Hours


Public Holidays

Safe Travel




Tourist Information

Travellers with Disabilities



Women Travellers



Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Welcome to New Zealand

As the planet heats up environmentally and politically, it’s good to know that New Zealand exists. This uncrowded, green, peaceful and accepting country is the ultimate escape.

Walk on the Wild Side

There are just 4.6 million New Zealanders, scattered across 268,021 sq km: bigger than the UK with one-fourteenth the population. Filling in the gaps are the sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords that have made NZ one of the best hiking (locals call it 'tramping') destinations on earth. Tackle one of nine epic 'Great Walks' – you've probably heard of the Heaphy and Milford Tracks – or just spend a few hours wandering along a beach, paddling a canoe or mountain biking through some easily accessible wilderness.

The Real 'Big Easy'

Forget New Orleans… NZ can rightly claim the 'Big Easy' crown for the sheer ease of travel here. This isn't a place where you encounter many on-the-road frustrations: buses and trains run on time; roads are in good nick; ATMs proliferate; pickpockets, scam merchants and bedbug-ridden hostels are few and far between; and the food is unlikely to send you running for the nearest public toilets (usually clean and stocked with the requisite paper). And there are no snakes, and only one poisonous spider – the rare katipo, sightings of which are considered lucky. This decent nation is a place where you can relax and enjoy (rather than endure) your holiday.

Māori Culture

If you're even remotely interested in rugby, you'll have heard of NZ's all-conquering All Blacks, who would never have become back-to-back world champions without their unstoppable Māori players. But this is just one example of how Māori culture impresses itself on contemporary Kiwi life: across NZ you can hear Māori language, watch Māori TV, see main-street marae (meeting houses), join in a hangi (Māori feast) or catch a cultural performance with traditional Māori song, dance and usually a blood-curdling haka (war dance). You might draw the line at contemplating ta moko, traditional Māori tattooing (often applied to the face).

Food, Wine & Beer

Kiwi food was once a bland echo of a boiled British Sunday roast – but these days NZ chefs find inspiration in new-world culinary oceans, especially the South Pacific with its abundant seafood and encircling cuisines. And don't go home without seeking out some local faves: paua (abalone), kina (sea urchin) and kumara (sweet potato). For picnic fodder, head to NZ's fab farmers markets. Thirsty? NZ's cool-climate wineries have been filling trophy cabinets for decades (sublime pinot noir and sauvignon blanc), and the country's craft-beer scene is exploding. Contemporary coffee culture is also firmly entrenched.


Why I Love New Zealand

By Charles Rawlings-Way, Writer

As an English-born Australian, every trip to New Zealand presents a mix of landscapes and cultures that's at once familiar to me, and yet quirkily different. The rolling hills and hedgerows collude with the irreverent, easygoing locals to disarm, distract and delight. Māori culture is potent, the surf is world class, and the craft beer is awesome. NZ presents the best of old and new worlds with social and environmental sensibility: a template for a new world order, perhaps? I love NZ!

New Zealand's Top 20

Waiheke Island & the Hauraki Gulf

A yachty's paradise, the island-studded Hauraki Gulf is Auckland's aquatic playground, sheltering its harbour and east-coast bays and providing ample excuse for the City of Sails' pleasure fleet to breeze into action. Despite the busy maritime traffic, the gulf has its own resident pods of whales and dolphins. Rangitoto Island is an icon of the city, its near-perfect volcanic cone providing the backdrop for many a tourist snapshot. Yet it's Waiheke, with its beautiful beaches, acclaimed wineries and upmarket eateries, that is Auckland's most popular island escape.

Matiatia wharf, Waiheke Island TROY WEGMAN / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Urban Auckland

Held in the embrace of two harbours and built on the remnants of long-extinct volcanoes, Auckland isn't your average metropolis. It's regularly rated one of the world's most liveable cities, and while it's never going to challenge NYC or London in the excitement stakes, it's blessed with good beaches, is flanked by wine regions and has a large enough population to support a thriving dining, drinking and live-music scene. Cultural festivals are celebrated with gusto in this ethnically diverse city, which has the distinction of having the world's largest Pacific Islander population.


Top Experiences


One of the coolest little capitals in the world, windy Wellington lives up to the hype by keeping things hip, diverse and rootsy. It's long famed for a vibrant arts-and-music scene, fuelled by excellent espresso and more restaurants per head than New York…but a host of craft-beer bars have now elbowed in on the action. Edgy yet sociable, colourful yet often dressed in black, Wellington is big on the unexpected and unconventional. Erratic weather only adds zest to the experience.

The Albatross sculpture by Tanya Ashken on Wellington’s waterfront TRAVEL INK/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Bay of Islands

Turquoise waters lapping pretty bays, dolphins frolicking at the bows of boats, pods of orcas gliding gracefully by: chances are these are the kinds of images that drew you to NZ in the first place, and these are exactly the kinds of experiences that the Bay of Islands delivers so well. Whether you're a hardened sea dog or a confirmed landlubber, there are myriad options to tempt you out on the water to explore the 150-odd islands that dot this beautiful bay.


Top Experiences


First settled by Māori with their taste for seafood, Kaikoura (meaning ‘to eat crayfish’) is now NZ’s best spot for both consuming and communing with marine life. Crayfish is still king, but on fishing tours you can hook into other edible wonders of the deep. Whales, dolphins and seals are definitely off the menu – but it's big business here to take a boat tour or flight to see them. Such tours attract controversy around the globe, but NZ's operators adhere to strict guidelines developed and monitored by the country's Department of Conservation.

Dolphin off the Kaikoura coast DARRYL TORCKLER/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

The West Coast

Hemmed in by the wild Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps, the West Coast is like nowhere else in New Zealand. The far extremities of the coast have a remote, end-of-the-road vibe, from sleepy Karamea butting up against Kahurangi National Park, to the southern end of SH6, gateway to New Zealand’s World Heritage Areas. In between is an alluring combination of wild coastline, rich wilderness, ‘must see’ sights like Punakaiki Rocks and Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, and history in spades.


Top Experiences

Geothermal Rotorua

The first thing you'll notice about Rotorua is the sulphur smell – this geothermal hot-spot whiffs like old socks. But as the locals point out, volcanic by-products are what everyone is here to see: gushing geysers, bubbling mud, steaming cracks in the ground, boiling pools of mineral-rich water… Rotorua is unique: a fact exploited by some fairly commercial local businesses. But you don't have to spend a fortune – there are plenty of affordable (and free) volcanic encounters to be had in parks, Māori villages or just along the roadside.


Top Experiences

Waitomo Caves

Waitomo is a must-see: an astonishing maze of subterranean caves, canyons and rivers perforating the northern King Country limestone. Black-water rafting is the big lure here (like white-water rafting but through a dark cave), plus glowworm grottoes, underground abseiling and more stalactites and stalagmites than you'll ever see in one place again. Above ground, Waitomo township is a quaint collaboration of businesses: a craft brewery, a cafe, a holiday park and some decent B&Bs. But don't linger in the sunlight – it's party time downstairs!


Top Experiences

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

At the centre of the North Island, Tongariro National Park presents an alien landscape of alpine desert punctuated by three smoking and smouldering volcanoes. This track offers the perfect taste of what the park has to offer, skirting the base of two of the mountains and providing views of craters, brightly coloured lakes and the vast Central Plateau stretching out beyond. It's for these reasons that it's often rated as one of the world's best single-day wilderness walks.

Emerald Lakes, Tongariro National Park 23PICTURES/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences


Rugby Union is NZ’s national game and governing preoccupation. If your timing’s good you might catch the revered national team (and reigning back-to-back world champions), the All Blacks, in action. The 'ABs' are resident gods: drop any of their names into a conversation and you'll win friends for life. Visit the New Zealand Rugby Museum in Palmerston North, watch some kids running around a suburban field on a Saturday morning, or yell along with the locals in a small-town pub as the big men collide on the big screen.

All Blacks celebrating their 2015 World Cup win GLYN KIRK/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Abel Tasman National Park

Here’s nature at its most seductive: lush green hills fringed with golden sandy coves, slipping gently into warm shallows before meeting a crystal-clear cerulean sea. Abel Tasman National Park is the quintessential postcard paradise, where you can put yourself in the picture assuming an endless number of poses: tramping, kayaking, swimming, sunbathing, or even makin’ whoopee in the woods. This sweet-as corner of NZ raises the bar and keeps it there.


Top Experiences

Māori Culture

NZ's indigenous Māori culture is accessible and engaging: join in a haka (war dance); chow down at a traditional hangi (Māori feast cooked in the ground); carve a pendant from bone or pounamu (jade); learn some Māori language; or check out an authentic cultural performance with song, dance, legends, arts and crafts. Big-city and regional museums around NZ are crammed with Māori artefacts and historical items, but this is truly a living culture: vibrant, potent and contemporary.

Māori woman and man greet with a traditional hongi BLAINE HARRINGTON III/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO ©

Top Experiences

Otago Peninsula

The Otago Peninsula is proof that there’s more to the South Island’s natural thrills than heart-stopping alpine and lake scenery. Along with a constant backdrop of coastal vistas, the peninsula offers some of the best opportunities for wildlife spotting in the country. Dozens of little penguins achieve peak cuteness in their nightly beachside waddle, while their much rarer yellow-eyed cousin, the hoiho, can be glimpsed standing sentinel on deserted coves. Sea lions and seals laze around on the rocks while albatross from the world’s only mainland colony swoop and soar above.

Hangglider above the Otago Peninsula DAVID WALL PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Heaphy Track

Beloved of NZ trampers, and now mountain bikers in winter, the four- to six-day Heaphy Track is the jewel of Kahurangi National Park, the great wilderness spanning the South Island’s northwest corner. Highlights include the mystical Gouland Downs and surreal nikau palm coast, while the townships at either end – at Golden Bay and Karamea – will bring you back down to earth with the most laid-back of landings.


Top Experiences

Central Otago

Here’s your chance to balance virtue and vice. Take to two wheels to negotiate the easygoing Otago Central Rail Trail, cycling through some of NZ’s most starkly beautiful landscapes and the heritage streetscapes of former gold-mining towns. All the while, snack on the summer stone-fruit for which the region is famous. Balance the ledger with well-earned beers at one of the numerous historic pubs. Alternatively, taste your way to viticultural ecstasy in the vineyards of one of the country’s most acclaimed wine regions.

Otago Central Rail Trail, near Omakau ANDREW BAIN/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Skiing & Snowboarding

New Zealand is studded with some massive mountains, and you're guaranteed to find decent snow right through the winter season (June to October). Most of the famous slopes are on the South Island: hip Queenstown and hippie Wanaka are where you want to be, with iconic ski runs like Coronet Peak, the Remarkables and Treble Cone close at hand. There are also dedicated snowboarding and cross-country (Nordic) snow parks here. And on the North Island, Mt Ruapehu offers the chance to ski down a volcano.

Snowboarder, Coronet Peak KYLE SPARKS/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Milford Sound

Fingers crossed you’ll be lucky enough to see Milford Sound on a clear, sunny day. That’s definitely when the world-beating collage of waterfalls, verdant cliffs and peaks, and dark cobalt waters is at its best. More likely, though, is the classic Fiordland combination of mist and drizzle, with the iconic profile of Mitre Peak revealed slowly through shimmering sheets of precipitation. Either way, keep your eyes peeled for seals and dolphins, especially if you’re exploring NZ’s most famous fiord by kayak.


Top Experiences


Queenstown may be world-renowned as the birthplace of bungy jumping, but there’s more to NZ’s adventure hub than leaping off a bridge attached to a giant rubber band. Against the utterly scenic backdrop of the jagged indigo profile of the Remarkables mountain range, travellers can spend days skiing, hiking or mountain biking, before dining in cosmopolitan restaurants or partying in some of NZ’s best bars. Next-day options include hang gliding, kayaking or river rafting, or easing into your NZ holiday with sleepier detours to Arrowtown or Glenorchy.


Top Experiences

TranzAlpine Railway

One of the world’s most scenic train journeys, the TranzAlpine cuts clear across the country from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea in less than five hours. Yes, there’s a dirty great mountain range in the way – that’s where the scenic part comes in. Leaving the Canterbury Plains, a cavalcade of tunnels and viaducts takes you up through the Southern Alps to Arthur’s Pass, where the 8.5km Otira tunnel burrows right through the bedrock of NZ’s alpine spine. Then it’s all downhill (but only literally) to sleepy Greymouth.


Top Experiences

Akaroa & Banks Peninsula

Infused with Gallic ambience, French-themed Akaroa bends languidly around one of the prettiest harbours on Banks Peninsula. The world’s rarest dolphin inhabits clear waters perfect for kayaking and sailing. Elsewhere on the peninsula, the Summit Rd snakes around the rim of an ancient volcano while winding side roads descend to hidden bays and coves. Spend your days discovering the peninsula's many surprises on land and sea, then relax at night in some of the country’s most atmospheric accommodation.

Lighthouse, Akaroa WILLCAO911/GETTY IMAGES ©

Need to Know


New Zealand dollar ($)


English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language


Citizens of Australia, the UK and 58 other countries don't need visas for New Zealand (length-of-stay allowances vary). See www.immigration.govt.nz.


ATMs are widely available in cities and larger towns. Credit cards accepted in most hotels and restaurants.

Mobile Phones

European phones will work on NZ’s network, but most American or Japanese phones will not. Use global roaming or a local SIM card and pre-paid account.


New Zealand time is GMT/UTC plus 12 hours (two hours ahead of Australian Eastern Standard Time).

When to Go

High Season (Dec–Feb)

A Summer: busy beaches, outdoor explorations, festivals and sporting events.

A Big-city accommodation prices rise.

A High season in the ski towns is winter (Jun–Aug).

Shoulder Season (Mar–Apr)

A Prime travelling time: fine weather, short queues, kids in school and warm(ish) ocean.

A Long evenings sipping Kiwi wines and craft beers.

A Spring (Sep–Nov) is shoulder season, too.

Low Season (May–Aug)

A Head for the slopes of the Southern Alps for some brilliant southern-hemisphere skiing.

A No crowds, good accommodation deals and a seat in any restaurant.

A Warm-weather beach towns may be half asleep.

Useful Websites

100% Pure New Zealand (www.newzealand.com) Official tourism site.

Department of Conservation (www.doc.govt.nz) DOC parks and camping info.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/new-zealand) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Destination New Zealand (www.destination-nz.com) Resource-packed tourism site.

DineOut (www.dineout.co.nz) Restaurant reviews.

Te Ara (www.teara.govt.nz) Online encyclopedia of NZ.

Important Numbers

Regular NZ phone numbers have a two-digit area code followed by a seven-digit number. When dialling within a region, the area code is still required. Drop the initial 0 if dialling from abroad.

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than $150

A Dorm beds or campsites: $25−38 per night

A Main course in a budget eatery: less than $15

A Explore NZ with a Naked Bus or InterCity bus pass: five trips from $151

Midrange: $150–250

A Double room in a midrange hotel/motel: $120–200

A Main course in a midrange restaurant: $15–32

A Hire a car and explore further: from $30 per day

Top End: More than $250

A Double room in a top-end hotel: from $200

A Three-course meal in a classy restaurant: $80

A Domestic flight Auckland to Christchurch: from $100

Opening Hours

Opening hours vary seasonally (eg Dunedin is quiet during winter), but use the following as a general guide. Note that most places close on Christmas Day and Good Friday.

Banks 9.30am–4.30pm Monday to Friday, some also 9am–noon Saturday

Cafes 7am–4pm

Post Offices 8.30am–5pm Monday to Friday; larger branches also 9.30am–1pm Saturday

Pubs & Bars noon–late ('late' varies by region, and by day)

Restaurants noon–2.30pm and 6.30–9pm

Shops & Businesses 9am–5.30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to noon or 5pm Saturday

Supermarkets 8am–7pm, often 9pm or later in cities

Arriving in New Zealand

Auckland Airport Airbus Express buses run into the city every 10 to 30 minutes, 24 hours. Door-to-door shuttle buses run 24 hours. A taxi into the city costs $75 to $90 (45 minutes).

Wellington Airport Airport Flyer buses run into the city every 10 to 20 minutes from 6.30am to 9.30pm. Door-to-door shuttle buses run 24 hours. A taxi into the city costs around $30 (20 minutes).

Christchurch Airport Christchurch Metro Purple Line runs into the city regularly from 6.45am to 11pm. Door-to-door shuttles run 24 hours. A taxi into the city costs around $50 (20 minutes).

Getting Around

New Zealand is long and skinny, and many roads are two-lane country byways: getting from A to B requires some thought.

Car Travel at your own tempo, explore remote areas and visit regions with no public transport. Hire cars in major towns. Drive on the left; the steering wheel is on the right (…in case you can't find it).

Bus Reliable, frequent services around the country (usually cheaper than flying).

Plane Fast-track your holiday with affordable, frequent, fast internal flights. Carbon-offset your flights if you’re feeling guilty.

Train Reliable, regular services (if not fast or cheap) along specific routes on both islands.

What's New

Old Ghost Road

One of the most ambitious of New Zealand’s new cycle trails, the 85km Old Ghost Road is a true backcountry experience retracing two historic gold-mining routes through untouched mountain landscapes.

Christchurch Art Gallery

The city’s premier art institution, closed since the 2011 earthquake, has finally reopened better and brighter, and displays some of NZ’s finest works.

Auckland City Limits

A replacement for the long-running Big Day Out rock festival and loosely based on the famous Austin City Limits, ACL brings big-name international artists to Western Springs Park in March.

Christchurch CBD

In the midst of its major rebuild, downtown Christchurch is cranking out new bars, restaurants and accommodation at a rapid rate of knots.

Hydro Attack

What’s that leaping out of the waters of placid Lake Wakatipu? Yep, it’s a giant shark. Or at least a jet-propelled, torpedo-like vessel painted to look like one.

Bill Richardson Transport World

This vast new automotive museum in Invercargill is home to an astonishing collection of beautifully restored historic trucks.

Museum of Waitangi

The heritage and ongoing impact in contemporary times of modern NZ's founding document, the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, is showcased in this spectacular new museum in the Bay of Islands.

Skyline MTB Gravity Park

Rotorua's ongoing development into one of the planet's best places to ride a mountain bike is further enhanced by more than 10km of exciting downhill trails, all accessed by a gondola.

My Kiwi Adventure

This new outfit at Tongariro National Park can take you on NZ’s highest-altitude guided stand-up-paddleboard adventure, or send you careening along the central North Island's finest mountain-bike tracks.

Len Lye Centre

Esteemed NZ artist Len Lye (1901–80) sure knew how to arouse people’s curiosity with his challenging artworks. Check some of them out at New Plymouth’s superb new gallery.

Sunshine Brewery

Gisborne’s own craft-beer brewery has a fab new tasting room down near Waikanae Beach. Swing by for a tasting paddle, some takeaways or something to eat.

Pukeahu National War Memorial Park

Wellington’s newest park is a poignant place – a wide, sensitively designed space below the old art-deco National War Memorial tower (1932), honouring NZ's servicemen and women.

If You Like…


Auckland Sydney for beginners? We prefer 'Seattle minus the rain', infused with vibrant Pacific Islander culture.

Wellington All the lures you’d expect in a capital city, packed into a compact CBD and hillsides dotted with Victorian architecture.

Christchurch Re-emerging post-earthquakes with energy and verve, largely due to the determination and resilience of proud locals.

Dunedin Exuding artsy, boozy ambience (so many students!) and close to superb wildlife-viewing opportunities on the Otago Peninsula.

Hamilton It doesn't raise much of a blip on the radar, but Hamilton's bars, restaurants, museum and river deserve a second look.

New Plymouth The perfect urban hub, with fab galleries, cool cafes and bars, and accessible wilderness.

Extreme Activities

Queenstown bungy Strap yourself into the astonishing Shotover Canyon Swing or Nevis Bungy, and propel yourself into the void.

Abel Tasman Canyons Swim, slide, abseil and leap down the Torrent River torrents.

Waitomo black-water rafting Don a wetsuit, a life vest and a helmet with a torch attached and rampage along an underground river – wild times!

Extreme Auckland Check out SkyWalk and SkyJump at the Sky Tower, and EcoZip Adventures – adventurous thrills with views.

Canyonz Negotiate cliffs, waterfalls and streams as you climb and abseil through pristine NZ bush near Thames.

Rafting the Buller River Widely regarded as NZ's classic rafting experience. There are two excellent operators based in Murchison.

Skydive Franz Get an eyeful of glacier from way up above one (you'll see Aoraki/Mt Cook, too).


Waitangi Treaty Grounds In the Bay of Islands, where Māori chiefs and the British Crown signed the contentious Treaty of Waitangi.

Arrowtown This gold-rush era town is crammed with heritage buildings and the remains of one of NZ’s earliest Chinese settlements.

Oamaru Victorian Precinct Beautifully restored whitestone buildings and warehouses, now housing eclectic galleries, restaurants and artisan workshops.

Denniston Plateau Explore the ghostly former coal-mining town of Denniston near Westport, once home to 1500 sooty locals.

Te Papa Wellington's vibrant treasure-trove museum, where history – both Māori and Pākehā (European New Zealanders) – speaks, sparkles and shakes.

Dunedin Railway Station More than 100 years old, with mosaic tiles and stained-glass windows; one of NZ's most photographed buildings.

Shantytown South of Greymouth, on the West Coast, is this authentic recreation of an 1860s gold-mining town.

Māori Culture

Rotorua Catch a cultural performance featuring a haka (war dance) and a hangi (Māori feast), with traditional song, dance and storytelling.

Footprints Waipoua Explore the staggeringly beautiful Waipoua Kauri Forest on Northland's west coast with a Māori guide.

Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre Learn about traditional Māori rock art in Timaru before exploring remote sites around South Canterbury.

Hokitika The primary source of NZ pounamu; home to master carvers of stone, bone and paua in traditional Māori designs.

Toi Hauāuru Studio Visit this Raglan studio for contemporary Māori carving, visual arts and Ta Moko (tattooing).

Pacific Coast Hwy Life rolls along at a traditional pace in this long-lost corner of NZ.

Off-The-Beaten-Track Experiences

Stewart Island The end of the line! Catch the ferry to Oban and get lost for a few days.

Northern West Coast Some of the best spectacles on the coast are in the northwest, including the eye-popping Oparara Basin.

East Cape Take a few days to detour around this very un-touristy corner of NZ.

Whanganui River Road Drive alongside the Whanganui River past Māori towns and stands of trees, remnants of failed Pākehā farms.

Forgotten World Highway A lonesome, forested 155km between Taumaranui and Stratford (or the other way around).

Northwest North Island coast This part of NZ is seriously understaffed – just how we like it.

Molesworth NZ's largest cattle farm traverses some seriously remote terrain – take a Molesworth tour.


Milford Track A justifiably famous 'Great Walk', Milford features 53.5km of gorgeous fiords, sounds, peaks and raindrops.

Routeburn Track Those with plenty of 'Great Walk' kilometres in their boots rate the Routeburn as the best of the bunch.

Banks Peninsula Track The rolling hills and picturesque bays might not look like the eroded remains of twin volcanoes. Geology lesson, anyone?

Mt Taranaki short walks You can loop around the mountain or bag the summit, but strolling its photogenic flanks is equally rewarding.

Lake Angelus Track Yes, the zigzag up Pinchgut Track is a bit of a rude awakening, but the views along Mt Robert Ridge last all day.

Whanganui Journey This ‘Great Walk’ is actually a 145km paddle down NZ’s longest navigable river, through Whanganui National Park.

Queen Charlotte Track The joys of camping (sea breezes, lapping waves, starry nights) or luxurious lodges. Either way, you win.

Old Ghost Road Bike it or hike it, this engaging West Coast trail oozes history.

Hiker on the Routeburn Track above Lake Mackenzie PHILIP LEE HARVEY/LONELY PLANET ©

Pubs, Bars & Beer

Wellington craft beer Garage Project and Golding's Free Dive, just two of 20-something craft-beer dens in the capital (thirsty politicians?).

Queenstown The only place in NZ where you can head out for a big Monday or Tuesday night and not be the only one there.

Auckland The country’s biggest city is developing as a hoppy hub: head to Galbraith’s Alehouse, Hallertau or Brothers Beer.

Nelson craft beer Home of NZ hops, Nelson boasts its own craft-beer trail featuring a host of breweries and legendary inns.

Invercargill Brewery Not only produces its own range but also brews on behalf of some of NZ’s best small producers.

Dunedin There are plenty of great bars to keep you off the streets in NZ’s best university town.

Mike's Taranaki's finest craft brews are wobbling distance from New Plymouth.

Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn The best pub in Christchurch.

Foodie Experiences

Eating in Auckland New restaurants, ethnic culinary enclaves and a growing food-truck scene all make Auckland New Zealand’s eating capital.

Central Otago vineyard restaurants Eye-popping scenery combined with the best of NZ food and wine.

Bay of Plenty kiwifruit Pick up a dozen fuzzy, ripe and delicious kiwifruit from roadside stalls for as little as $1 per dozen.

Christchurch city scene The big southern CBD restaurant and bar scene is burgeoning (again).

Stewart Island Good cod! Is everyone on this island a fisherman? (Answer: yes. Bring lemons).

Wellington Night Market Foodie fun after work on Friday, then again after your lazy Saturday.

Wine Regions

Marlborough The country’s biggest wine region just keeps on turning out superb sauvignon blanc (and other varieties): drink some.

Martinborough A small-but-sweet wine region a day trip from Wellington: easy cycling and easy-drinking pinot noir.

Waiheke Island Auckland's favourite weekend playground has a hot, dry microclimate: perfect for Bordeaux-style reds and rosés.

Central Otago Central Otago is responsible for much of the country’s best pinot noir and riesling.

Waipara Valley A short hop north of Christchurch are some spectacular vineyards producing equally spectacular riesling.

Hawke's Bay Warm days shift into chardonnay nights on the sunstroked East Coast.

Wither Hills winery, Marlborough PETE SEAWARD/LONELY PLANET ©


Otago Farmers Market Organic fruit and veg, robust coffee and homemade pies in Dunedin; stock up for life on the road.

Nelson Market A big, busy weekly market featuring everything from Doris’ traditional bratwursts to new-age clothing.

River Traders Market Whanganui's riverside market is a Saturday-morning fixture: up to 100 stalls, with a particularly good farmers market section.

Harbourside Market The ulterior motive for visiting this weekly fruit-and-veg market is the multi-ethnic food stalls and adjacent artisan City Market.

Otara Flea Market A taste of the South Pacific in Auckland.

Rotorua Night Market Thursday night hoedown in downtown Rotorua. Food, drink, buskers…it's all good.

Hasting Farmers Market One of the original, and still one of the best, farmers markets in NZ.


Karekare Classic black-sand beach west of Auckland, with wild surf (Eddie Vedder nearly drowned here!).

Hahei Iconic Kiwi beach experience on the Coromandel Peninsula, with mandatory side trip to Cathedral Cove.

Wainui On the North Island's East Coast: surfing, sandcastles, sunshine… The quintessential beach-bum beach.

Wharariki Beach No car park, no ice-cream vans… This isolated stretch near Farewell Spit is for wanderers and ponderers.

Hillary Trail For sheer drama you can’t beat a wild West Coast beach. Unless you tag on another, and another…

Manu Bay NZ's most famous surf break (seen Endless Summer?); there's not much sand, but the point break is what you're here for.

Abel Tasman Coast Track No need to Photoshop this postcard paradise – these golden beaches, blue bays and verdant hills are for real.


Month by Month

Top Events

Fringe NZ, February

Wellington Sevens, February

Beervana, August

Marlborough Wine & Food Festival, February

NZ Tattoo & Art Festival, November


New Zealand peels its eyes open after New Year's Eve, gathers its wits and gets set for another year. Great weather, cricket season in full swing and happy holidays for the locals.

z Festival of Lights

New Plymouth's Pukekura Park is regularly plastered with adjectives like 'jewel' and 'gem', but the gardens really sparkle during this festival (www.festivaloflights.co.nz). It's a magical scene: pathways glow and trees shine with thousands of lights. Live music, dance and kids' performances, too.

3 World Buskers Festival

Christchurch hosts a gaggle of jugglers, musos, tricksters, puppeteers, mime artists and dancers throughout this 10-day summertime festival (www.worldbuskersfestival.com). Shoulder into the crowd, see who's making a scene in the middle and maybe leave a few dollars. Avoid this if you're scared of audience participation…


The sun is shining, the kids are back at school, and the sav blanc is chillin' in the fridge: this is prime party time across NZ. Book your festival tickets (and beds) in advance.

3 Wellington Sevens

It's not rugby season, but early February/late January sees the world’s seven-a-side rugby teams crack heads in Wellington as part of the HSBC Sevens World Series (www.sevens.co.nz): everyone from stalwarts Australia, NZ and South Africa to minnows like the Cook Islands, Kenya and Canada. A great excuse for a party.

z Waitangi Day

On 6 February 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi (www.nzhistory.net.nz) was first signed between Māori and the British Crown. The day remains a public holiday across NZ, but in Waitangi itself (the Bay of Islands) there's a lot happening: guided tours, concerts, market stalls and family entertainment.

6 Marlborough Wine & Food Festival

NZ's biggest and best wine festival (www.wine-marlborough-festival.co.nz) features tastings from around 50 Marlborough wineries, plus fine food and entertainment. The mandatory over-indulgence usually happens on a Saturday early in the month. Keep quiet if you don't like sauvignon blanc…

3 New Zealand Festival

Feeling artsy? This month-long spectacular (www.festival.co.nz) happens in Wellington in February to March every even-numbered year, and is sure to spark your imagination. NZ's cultural capital exudes artistic enthusiasm with theatre, dance, music, writing and visual arts. International acts aplenty.

3 Fringe NZ

Wellington simmers with music, theatre, comedy, dance, visual arts…but not the mainstream stuff that makes it into the New Zealand Festival. These are the fringe-dwelling, unusual, emerging, controversial, low-budget and/or downright weird acts that don't seem to fit in anywhere else (www.fringe.co.nz). Great stuff!

z Art Deco Weekend

In the third week of February, Napier, levelled by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt in high art-deco style, celebrates its architectural heritage with this high-steppin' fiesta (www.artdeconapier.com), featuring music, food, wine, vintage cars and costumes.

z Splore

Explore Splore (www.splore.net), a cutting-edge, three-day outdoor summer fest in Tapapakanga Regional Park on the coast east of Auckland. Contemporary live music, performance, visual arts, safe swimming, pohutukawa trees… If we were feeling parental, we'd tell you to take sunscreen, a hat and a water bottle.


March brings a hint of autumn, harvest time in the vineyards and orchards (great if you're looking for work), long dusky evenings and plenty of festivals plumping out the calendar. Locals unwind post–tourist season.

z Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival

This engrossing Māori haka (war dance) competition (www.tematatini.co.nz) happens in early March (or late February) in odd-numbered years: much gesticulation, eye-bulging and tongue extension. Venues vary: 2017 will be at Kahungunu in Hawke's Bay. And it's not just the haka: expect traditional song, dance, storytelling and other performing arts.

5 Wildfoods Festival

Eat some worms, hare testicles or crabs at Hokitika's comfort-zone-challenging food fest (www.wildfoods.co.nz). Not for the mild-mannered or weak-stomached… But even if you are, it's still fun to watch! There are usually plenty of quality NZ brews available, too, which help subdue any difficult tastes.


Local and international music, arts and dance performances fill New Plymouth's Bowl of Brooklands to overflowing (www.womad.co.nz). An evolution of the original world-music festival dreamed up by Peter Gabriel, who launched the inaugural UK concert in 1990. Perfect for families (usually not too loud).

z Pasifika Festival

With upwards of 140,000 Māori and notable communities of Tongans, Samoans, Cook Islanders, Niueans, Fijians and other South Pacific Islanders, Auckland has the largest Polynesian community in the world. These vibrant island cultures come together at this annual fiesta (www.aucklandnz.com/pasifika) in the city's Western Springs Park.

3 Auckland City Limits

Time to get yer rocks off! Auckland City Limits (www.aucklandcitylimits.com) is a new international indie-rock festival loosely modelled on Austin City Limits in the US – the NZ version occupying four stages at Western Springs Stadium for a day in March.


April is when canny travellers hit NZ: the ocean is still swimmable and the weather still mild, with nary a tourist or queue in sight (…other than during Easter, when there's pricey accommodation everywhere).

3 National Jazz Festival

Every Easter, Tauranga hosts the longest-running jazz fest (www.jazz.org.nz) in the southern hemisphere. The line up is invariably impressive (Kurt Elling, Keb Mo), and there's plenty of fine NZ food and wine to accompany the finger-snappin' za-bah-de-dah sonics.

5 Clyde Wine & Food Festival

Easter is harvest time around Clyde in Central Otago, where the historic main street fills with tables and trestles hocking the best of regional food and wine (www.promotedunstan.org.nz).


The nostalgia of autumn runs deep: party nights are long gone and another chilly Kiwi winter beckons. Thank goodness for the Comedy Festival! Last chance to explore Fiordland and Southland in reasonable weather. Farmers markets overflow.

5 Bluff Oyster & Food Festival

Bluff and oysters go together like, well, like a bivalve. Truck down to the deep south for some slippery, salty specimens (www.bluffoysterfest.co.nz). It's chilly down here in May, but the live music and oyster eating/opening competitions warm everybody up.

3 New Zealand International Comedy Festival

Three-week laugh-fest (www.comedyfestival.co.nz) with venues across Auckland, Wellington and various regional centres: Whangarei to Invercargill with all the mid-sized cities in between. International gag-merchants (Arj Barker, Danny Bhoy) line up next to home-grown talent (anyone seen that Rhys Darby guy lately?).


Time to head south: it's ski season! Queenstown and Wanaka hit their stride. For everyone else, head north: the Bay of Plenty is always sunny, and is it just us, or is Northland underrated?

z Matariki

Māori New Year is heralded by the rise of Matariki (aka Pleiades star cluster) in May and the sighting of the new moon in June. Three days of remembrance, education, music, film, community days and tree planting take place, mainly around Auckland and Northland (www.teara.govt.nz/en/matariki-maori-new-year).

3 New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards

We like both kinds of music: country and western! These awards (www.goldguitars.co.nz) in chilly Gore cap off a week of ever-lovin' country twang and boot-scootin' good times, with plenty of concerts and buskers.


Wellington's good citizens clutch collars, shiver and hang out in bookshops: Auckland doesn't seem so bad now, eh? Ski season slides on: hit Mt Ruapehu on the North Island if Queenstown is overcrowded.

z Queenstown Winter Festival

This southern snow-fest (www.winterfestival.co.nz) has been running since 1975, and now attracts around 45,000 snowbunnies. It's a 10-day party, studded with fireworks, jazz, street parades, comedy, a Mardi Gras, a masquerade ball and lots of snow-centric activities on the mountain slopes. Sometimes starts in late June.

3 New Zealand International Film Festival

After separate film festivals (www.nzff.co.nz) in Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch, a selection of flicks hits the road for screenings in regional towns from July to November (film buffs in Gore and Masterton get positively orgasmic at the prospect).

2 Russell Birdman

Birdman rallies are just so ’80s…but they sure are funny! This one in Russell (www.russellbirdman.co.nz) features the usual cast of costumed contenders propelling themselves off a jetty in pursuit of weightlessness. Bonus points if your name is Russell.


Land a good deal on accommodation pretty much anywhere except the ski towns. Winter is almost spent, but there's still not much happening outside: music and art are your saviours…or watch some rugby!

6 Beervana

Attain beery nirvana at this annual craft-beef guzzle fest in Wellington (it's freezing outside – what else is there to do?). But seriously, the NZ craft-beer scene is booming – here's your chance to sample the best of it (www.beervana.co.nz).

z Taranaki International Arts Festival

Beneath the snowy slopes of Mt Taranaki, August used to be a time of quiet repose and reconstitution. Not anymore: this whizz-bang arts festival (www.taft.co.nz) now shakes the winter from the city (New Plymouth) with music, theatre, dance, visual arts and parades.

3 Bay of Islands Jazz & Blues Festival

You might think that the Bay of Islands is all about sunning yourself on a yacht while dolphins splash saltwater on your stomach. And you'd be right. But in the depths of winter, this jazzy little festival (www.jazz-blues.co.nz) will give you something else to do.


Spring is sprung. The amazing and surprising World of WearableArt Award Show is always a hit. And will someone please beat Canterbury in the annual ITM rugby cup final?

z Artists Open Studios & Festival of Glass

Whanganui has earned its artistic stripes as a centre for gorgeous glass, myriad local artists and workshops gearing up for this classy glassy fest in September (www.openstudios.co.nz, www.wanganuiglass.co.nz). Expect lots of 'how-to' demonstrations, exhibitions and open studios.

z World of WearableArt Award Show

A bizarre (in the best possible way) two-week Wellington event (www.worldofwearableart.com) featuring amazing hand-crafted garments. Entries from the show are displayed at the World of WearableArt & Classic Cars Museum in Nelson after the event (Cadillacs and corsetry?). Sometimes spills over into October.


Post-rugby and pre-cricket, sports fans twiddle their thumbs: a trip to Kaikoura, perhaps? Around the rest of NZ October is 'shoulder season' – reasonable accommodation rates, minimal crowds and no competition for the good campsites.

z Nelson Arts Festival

Sure, Nelson is distractingly sunny, but that doesn't mean the artsy good stuff isn't happening inside and out. Get a taste of the local output over two weeks in October (www.nelsonartsfestival.co.nz).

5 Kaikoura Seafest

Kaikoura is a town built on crayfish. Well, not literally, but there sure are plenty of crustaceans in the sea here, many of which find themselves on plates during Seafest (www.seafest.co.nz). Also a great excuse to drink a lot and dance around.


Across Northland, the Coromandel Peninsula, the Bay of Plenty and the East Coast, NZ's iconic pohutukawa trees erupt with brilliant crimson blooms. The weather is picking up, and a few tourists are starting to arrive.

z NZ Tattoo & Art Festival

The biggest tattoo culture festival in Australasia (www.nztattooart.com) attracts thousands of tatt-fans to New Plymouth every November. It's quirky, edgy, sexy and hugely popular (not necessarily family viewing...).

6 Toast Martinborough

Bound for a day of boozy indulgence, wine-swilling Wellingtonians head over Rimutaka Hill and roll into upmarket Martinborough (www.toastmartinborough.co.nz). The Wairarapa region produces some seriously good pinot noir: don't go home without trying some (…as if you'd be so silly).

z Oamaru Victorian Heritage Week

Ahhh, the good old days… When Queen Vic sat dourly on the throne, when hems were low, collars were high, and civic decency was a matter of course. Old Oamaru thoroughly enjoys this tongue-in-cheek historic homage in November (www.historicoamaru.co.nz): dress-ups, penny-farthing races, choirs, guided tours etc.


Summertime! The crack of leather on willow resounds across the nation's cricket pitches, and office workers surge towards the finish line. Everyone gears up for Christmas: avoid shopping centres like the plague.

z Rhythm & Vines

Wine, music and song (all the good things) in sunny east-coast Gisborne on New Year’s Eve (www.rhythmandvines.co.nz). Top DJs, hip-hop acts, bands and singer-songwriters compete for your attention. Or maybe you'd rather just drink some chardonnay and kiss someone on the beach.


North & South

2 Weeks

From the top of the north to halfway down the south, here's a quick-fire taste of New Zealand's best.

Kick things off in Auckland: it's NZ's biggest city, with awesome restaurants and bars, galleries and boutiques, beaches and bays. Not an urbanite? Hoof it a few hours north to the salt-licked Bay of Islands for a couple of days of R&R.

Set your bearings southwards to Rotorua, a unique geothermal hot spot: geysers, mud pools, volcanic vents and Māori culture make for an engaging experience. Further south, progressive Taupo has the staggeringly beautiful Tongariro National Park nearby. Get into some tramping, mountain biking or skydiving, then boot it down to Wellington, a hip little city with an irrepressible arts scene.

Across Cook Strait, see what all the fuss is about in the Marlborough Wine Region. If you're not a wine fan, the hypnotically hushed inlets, ranges and waterways of the Marlborough Sounds are nearby. Swinging further south, cruise into Christchurch for some southern culture and hospitality.


Kiwi Classics

4 Weeks

Classy cities, geothermal eruptions, fantastic wine, Māori culture, glaciers, extreme activities, isolated beaches and forests: just a few of our favourite NZ things.

Aka the 'City of Sails', Auckland is a South Pacific melting pot. Spend a few days shopping, eating and drinking: this is NZ at its most cosmopolitan. Make sure you get out onto the harbour on a ferry or a yacht, and find a day to explore the beaches and wineries on Waiheke Island. Truck north to the Bay of Islands for a dose of aquatic adventure (dolphins, sailing, sunning yourself on deck), then scoot back southeast to check out the forests and holiday beaches on the Coromandel Peninsula. Further south in Rotorua, get a nose full of egg gas, confront a 30ft geyser, giggle at volcanic mud bubbles and experience a Māori cultural performance (work your haka into shape).

Cruise down to Napier on the East Coast, NZ’s archetypal art-deco sun city. While you’re here, don’t miss the bottled offerings of the Hawke’s Bay Wine Country (…ohh, the chardonnay). Down in Wellington, the coffee’s hot, the beer’s cold and wind from the politicians generates its own low-pressure system. This is NZ's arts capital: catch a live band, some buskers, a gallery opening or some theatre.

Swan over to the South Island for a couple of weeks to experience the best the south has to offer. Start with a tour through the sauvignon blanc heartland of the Marlborough Wine Region, then chill for a few days between the mountains and the whales offshore in laid-back Kaikoura. Next stop is the southern capital Christchurch, rapidly finding its feet again after the earthquakes. Follow the coast road south to the wildlife-rich Otago Peninsula, jutting abstractly away from the Victorian facades of Scottish-flavoured and student-filled Dunedin. Catch some live music while you’re in town.

Head inland via SH8 to bungy- and ski-obsessed Queenstown. If you have time, detour over to Fiordland for an unforgettable encounter with Milford Sound, before returning to Queenstown for your flight back to Auckland.

Kaikoura and the snowcapped Seaward Kaikoura Range DOUG PEARSON/GETTY IMAGES ©



Auckland Encounter

10 Days

Is there another 1.4-million-strong city with access to two oceans and vibrant Polynesian culture?

Auckland also offers stellar bars and restaurants, museums, islands and beaches. Check out the Māori and South Pacific Islander exhibits at Auckland Museum, then wander across the Domain to K Rd for lunch. Pay a visit to the grand Auckland Art Gallery and the iconic Sky Tower, then Ponsonby for dinner and drinks.

Ferry over to Rangitoto Island, then chug into Devonport for a meal. Have a look at the tall timber in Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, or check out the wild surf at Karekare and Piha, then hit the Britomart restaurants. Have breakfast in Mt Eden, climb Maungawhau, then ferry-hop to Waiheke Island for wineries and beaches.

Take your pick of activities within easy reach of the big smoke: snorkelling at Goat Island Marine Reserve, sailing the Bay of Islands, ocean-gazing at Cape Reinga, ogling giant trees at Waipoua Kauri Forest, delving into Waitomo Caves, surfing at Raglan or beaching yourself at Whitianga.


Northern Exposure

2 Weeks

Three-quarters of New Zealanders live on the North Island – time to find out why!

Begin in Auckland, NZ's biggest city. Eat streets abound: try Ponsonby Rd in Ponsonby, K Rd in Newton, and New North Rd in Kingsland. Hike up One Tree Hill (Maungakiekie) to burn off resultant calories, and don't miss the Auckland Art Gallery and Auckland Museum.

Venture south through geothermal Rotorua – home to some truly amazing volcanic sights – then cruise over to the sunny East Coast. By the seaside and encircled by the chardonnay vines of Hawke's Bay Wine Country, art-deco Napier is a hit with architecture buffs. Heading south, follow SH2 into the sheepy/winey region of Wairarapa, before driving over the Rimutaka Range into hip, art-obsessed Wellington.

Looping back northwest to Auckland, pick and choose your pit stops: the New Zealand Rugby Museum in Palmerston North, some crafty glass in Whanganui, or the epic Mt Taranaki, rising like Olympus behind New Plymouth. Go underground at Waitomo Caves, or surf the point breaks near Raglan.


Southern Circuit

3 Weeks

Take a long loop through the best of the South Island.

Winging into Christchurch to launch this three-week escapade, you'll find a vibrant city rebuilding post-earthquakes. Grab a coffee at a cafe (try Addington Coffee Co-op or Supreme Supreme), then check out the excellent Canterbury Museum and the Avon River, cutting lazily through the Botanic Gardens.

City saturated? Visit the geologically/culturally eccentric Banks Peninsula, then head north for a wildlife encounter in Kaikoura. Continue through to the famous Marlborough Wine Region, and lose a day on the whisper-still waterways of the Marlborough Sounds.

Detour west through artsy Nelson to Abel Tasman National Park and ecofriendly Golden Bay (more paintbrushes than people). Southbound, dawdle down the dramatic West Coast with its wilderness and eye-popping Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. From here, track inland through to hip/hippie Wanaka and ski-central Queenstown. From here, desolate Doubtful Sound is mesmerising, while the overgrown deep-south Catlins are perfectly chilled out.

Back up the east coast, wheel through Dunedin to surprisingly hip Oamaru, before rolling back into Christchurch.


Winter Wanderer

10 Days

Yes, we know, a whole bunch of you are here for one thing only: South Island snow!

Fly into Christchurch for a day or two to acclimatise, day-trip to the Banks Peninsula, then drive south to see snowy Aoraki/Mt Cook. Continuing south, internationalist Queenstown offers world-class skiing, great restaurants and a kickin’ nocturnal scene. Coronet Peak is the area’s oldest ski field, with treeless slopes, consistent gradients and excellent skiing for all levels (great for snowboarders, too). The visually remarkable Remarkables are more family-friendly.

Had enough snowy slopes? Take a drive around Lake Wakatipu to gorgeous Glenorchy; or lose an afternoon in the fab wineries of the Gibbston Valley. Alternatively, Queenstown’s extreme activities keep the winter chills at bay: kayaking, bungy jumping, paragliding, jetboating, white-water rafting, skydiving, mountain biking…

As an alternative to Queenstown, head to Wanaka (Queenstown’s little brother – all the benefits but none of the hype). Ski fields near here include Treble Cone, Cardrona and Snow Farm New Zealand, NZ’s only commercial Nordic (cross-country) ski area.

From Wanaka, take an overnight trip to Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast to check out Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. Backtrack to Queenstown for your next flight.


Plan Your Trip

Hiking in New Zealand

Hiking (aka bushwalking, trekking or tramping, as Kiwis call it) is the perfect activity for a close encounter with New Zealand's natural beauty. There are thousands of kilometres of tracks here − some well marked (including the nine 'Great Walks'), some barely a line on a map − plus an excellent network of huts and campgrounds.

Top NZ Hikes

Top Five Multiday Hikes

Lake Waikaremoana Track, Te Urewera National Park

Abel Tasman Coast Track, Abel Tasman National Park

Heaphy Track, Kahurangi National Park

Routeburn Track, Fiordland/Mt Aspiring National Parks

Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

Top Five Day Hikes

Rangitoto Island Loop, Auckland

Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Tongariro National Park

Mt Robert Circuit, Nelson Lakes National Park

Avalanche Peak, Arthur's Park National Park

Key Summit, Fiordland National Park

Top Five Wildlife Encounters

Bird life St Arnaud Range Track, Nelson Lakes National Park

Seals Cape Foulwind Walkway, West Coast

Snails, bats, weta, kiwi Heaphy Track, Kahurangi National Park

Tuatara and bird life Tiritiri Matangi Island, Hauraki Gulf

Kiwi Rakiura Track, Stewart Island

Best Hikes for Beginners

Coromandel Coastal Walkway, Coromandel Peninsula

Mauao Summit Track, Mt Maunganui

Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough Sounds

Abel Tasman Coast Track, Abel Tasman National Park

Rob Roy Glacier Track, Mt Aspiring National Park


When to Go

Mid-December–late January Tramping high season is during the school summer holidays, starting a couple of weeks before Christmas − avoid it if you can.

January–March The summer weather lingers into March: wait until February if possible, when tracks are (marginally) less crowded. Most non-alpine tracks can be walked enjoyably at any time from about October through to April.

June–August Winter is not the time to be out in the wild, especially at altitude − some paths close in winter because of avalanche danger and reduced facilities and services.

What to Bring

Primary considerations: your feet and your back. Make sure your footwear is tough and comfortable, and your pack fits well and isn’t too heavy. Warm clothing and wet-weather gear are essential wherever you hike, as well as a hat to keep you warm and protect you from NZ's harsh sun. If you’re camping or staying in huts without cooking facilities, bring a camping stove. Also pack insect repellent to keep sandflies away (although covering up is best), and don’t forget your scroggin − a mixture of dried fruit and nuts (and sometimes chocolate) for munching en route.

Books & Resources

Before heading into the bush, get up-to-date information from the appropriate authority − usually the DOC (Department of Conservation; www.doc.govt.nz)