New Zealand What To Know

What to know before you go

It’s best to think of New Zealand as a mini-continent. In just a couple islands, the country squeezes together grand landscapes that elsewhere are usually hundreds of miles apart. The rainforest brushes up against glaciers, desert, mountains and the beach. Most visitors here see many regions and many types of activities in one trip. It is possible to kayak through placid sounds in the morning, for example, and taste fine wines in a vineyard after lunch.

Locals, including the Maori, are quite friendly, if a bit odd. Even in the “big” cities, people greet you with a small town charm. And though their country is beautiful beyond compare, they are often delighted and curious as to why you decided to visit.

Getting Here
New Zealand is far from home so getting here involves an overnight flight (13.5 hours) direct from Los Angeles or San Francisco, usually on Air New Zealand or Qantas. It is possible to arrange a stopover in Fiji or Tahiti to break up your flights with a bit of tropical island relaxation. Also, you can reach New Zealand via cruise ships from Sydney, Australia.

Getting Around
Driving is the most popular and recommended way of seeing New Zealand. Many of the best places are out of the way and inaccessible without a car.

But road trips here have little in common with those in the United States. There are no super highways. Roads are narrow and lined with epic views of mountains, sea and forest. There are endless opportunities to stop for waterfall swims, scenic views, and lunches in a quiet town. Many DUE clients say that driving was their favorite and most surprising part of their trip. Read our blog about road tripping New Zealand.

New Zealand has many small airports on a hub and spoke system with Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. It is common to drive from one part of the country to another and then fly back. There are also many opportunities for scenic flights and helicopter rides.

The country boasts a selection of train routes, mostly along scenic thoroughfares. Most notably, the TransAlpine route travels from Christchurch to the rugged West Coast and back, passing through the beautiful Arthur’s Pass.

Popular Activities

  • Hiking:
    Nearly everything awesome about New Zealand happens outdoors. Hiking is the best way to see the country. There are simply amazing walks for all fitness levels. From day trips to multi-night with luxury lodges.
  • Scenic Flights:
    New Zealand boasts more helicopters per capita than any other country on earth. Chopper and airplane flights are available over glaciers, mountains, and rainforests. The experience is simply unforgettable.
  • Wine:
    If you haven’t had a New Zealand sauvignon blanc or pinot noir, stop reading right now and go pencil them onto your grocery list. We’ll wait. You don’t have to be an oenophile to savor the famous flavors of the country’s notable wines. The country’s wine regions of Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Otago (near Queenstown) offer tastings, vineyard tours, fine dining and more.
  • Adrenaline Sports:
    Bungy jumping, skydiving, jet boating, mountain biking, zorbing, abseiling (canyon repelling): New Zealand boasts the best of a million kinds of adrenaline activities.
  • Maori Cultural Activities:
    Experience the rich and inviting Maori heritage. Join in a performance and hangi (feast), visit a Maori art gallery, or stay overnight in a Maori village.
  • Golf :
    Play top challenging links courses at Cape Kidnappers, Kauri Cliffs and more.
  • Rafting and Kayaking:
    Dart down white water rivers in rugged mountains, plunge into black water in caves lit by fluorescent glow worms, paddle with wildlife like seals, dolphins, and whales, or cruise through fiords, sounds, streams and more.
  • Horseback riding:
    Ride beaches and hilltops including the track Fodor’s rated the most scenic horseback path in the world.
  • Bird Watching:
    New Zealand is a bird wonderland. Spot kiwi in the dark, visit the royal albatross colony, watch little blue penguins waddle in from the sea, view rare yellow eyed penguins in their natural habitat, or voyage to an isolated bird sanctuary island.

Accommodations
New Zealand is most famous for its luxury lodges in the breathtaking countryside with full cooked breakfasts and multi-course gourmet dinners. The country also boasts unique, destination lodges tucked in some of its most beautiful corners. Rounding out the high-end selection is a wide range of B&Bs, inns, and luxury hotels. For those with more moderate budgets, there are small-chain hotels with simple international standards.

Dining
New Zealand is a western country with numerous dining options for every budget. Choices span the range from multi-course gourmet meals three times a day to cook-your-own with local ingredients. There is also plenty of Polynesian and European fusion cuisine using local vegetables such as kumara (like a sweet potato). There are 4 times more sheep than humans in the country so lamb is on nearly every menu. And as an island nation, seafood is plentiful and delicious.

What to Wear
Casual and comfortable are the rules here. Leave your suits, ties and heels at home. Few restaurants require a jacket. Light layers work well no matter the season including t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, fleece jackets and rain gear. And whenever you go, bring a swimsuit. Who knows what waterfalls or pools might beckon.

Essential Tips Before You Go

 

When To Go
Bungy Jumping in Queenstown. Image: 100% Pure New Zealand
See Trip Details
Starting at $1999

New Zealand and Cook Islands Vacations: Beach and Adventure

Get the best of both worlds with this New Zealand and Cook Islands vacation package! Relax on the beach, then head over to New Zealand for once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

Trip Type: Outdoor Adventure, Islands, Beaches & Reefs

See Trip Details
Starting at $2099

Magical New Zealand Package: Disney’s Pete’s Dragon Movie Locations Tour

Our Magical New Zealand Package was designed for a family of 4 who wanted to see the spectacular locations used for the filming of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon. This package also allowed them to hit the New Zealand highlights and experience plenty of outdoor and city adventure. They started their trip with an overnight in Auckland. The next day, they Read More…

Trip Type: Family Travel

See Trip Details
Starting at $2799

New Zealand South Island Romance + 2nts Cook Islands

This New Zealand South Island and Cook Islands vacation is a perfect romantic getaway for a honeymoon or maybe a babymoon!  We planned this trip for a recently married couple from Washington DC, they were both starting graduate school so they wanted a quick vacation before they started school.  They started their adventure on the Read More…

Trip Type: Romantic Getaways

See Trip Details
Starting at $3999

New Zealand Highlights Tour: South Island

This New Zealand Highlights Tour of the South Island was planned for a couple from Michigan celebrating their 20th anniversary. For this special trip, they wanted to experience New Zealand’s famously beautiful scenery and go on unique outdoor adventures. They began their New Zealand Highlights Tour in Dunedin, a town with a Scottish feel that’s home to New Read More…

Trip Type: Highlights, Outdoor Adventure

See Trip Details
Starting at $4249

New Zealand Fiji Package: New Zealand and Fijian Ancient Cultures

For this New Zealand Fiji Package, we had a very intellectual couple from Washington DC that wanted to get to know the history and culture of 2 of the South Pacific’s most storied peoples, the Fijians and the Kiwis/Maori. We started their New Zealand Fiji Package with some time on Castaway Island Resort, where they were hosted Read More…

Trip Type: Heritage and Culture

Aitutaki, Cook Islands
See Trip Details
Starting at $4250

Honeymoon Adventure: New Zealand and Cook Islands

We designed this Honeymoon Adventure: New Zealand and Cook Islands package for a couple in their 30s from Austin, Texas. They couldn’t decide if they wanted a tropical getaway or an adventurous New Zealand vacation for their honeymoon, so we gave them both! They spent a week and a half exploring New Zealand, then had a relaxing 4 Read More…

Trip Type: Wildlife & Wilderness, Islands, Beaches & Reefs, Romantic Getaways

Exploring the West Coast. Image: Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki
See Trip Details
Starting at $4899

New Zealand Vacation: Off the Beaten Track Adventure

This New Zealand Vacation: Off the Beaten Track Adventure was designed for a honeymoon couple from Los Angeles. They were avid hikers, and they wanted to experience beautiful wilderness and outdoor adventures away from the usual tourist areas. We sent them on a road trip to some of the most breathtaking parts of the South Island Read More…

Trip Type: Wildlife & Wilderness, Outdoor Adventure