Situated almost one thousand miles from its nearest neighbor, New Zealand is one of the world's most isolated countries. A full three-hour flight from Australia and close to an entire day from the United States or Europe, it's a destination that requires quite some effort to reach, and as such, it's one that deserves a great deal of attention and commitment from would-be travelers.
Known around the world for its stunning natural beauty, vast geographic variety, and friendly 'small town' charm, New Zealand is a very different experience for most travelers. Offering the same level of variety as many countries tens, even hundreds of times its size, New Zealand packs winter sports, gorgeous beaches and cosmopolitan shopping into a country smaller than many states.
Thanks to its exposure in recent film, New Zealand's tourism industry is truly taking off. Attractions that were once well-known only to locals are picking up exposure around the world, and events like the Rugby World Cup and the country's many yachting races are attracting sports fans from around the world. What was once a 'could see' country is quickly turning into a 'must see' destination.
Despite this, New Zealand retains its 'small town' charm, even in the center of its major cities. Split over two main islands, with hundreds of smaller islands nearby, New Zealand is divided yet easy for most travelers to navigate. The country's largest city, Auckland, is the point of entry for the majority of visitors, and offers its own collection of attractions, both natural and decidedly manmade.
These include the Northland region – the country's far northern tip, which is home to New Zealand's best beaches and subtropical islands. A popular summer destination, it's famous amongst divers and surfers for its combination of deep water diving sites and slow, comfortable surf breaks. Thousands of New Zealanders spend their holidays in second homes and apartments in this region.
Auckland itself has a lot to offer potential visitors. From its beautiful harbor to the city's best shops and fashionable boutiques, it's New Zealand's most cosmopolitan destination, and the first stop for many shoppers. To the south are towns like Rotorua, known for its hot springs and mud pools, and Lake Taupo, the country's largest lake and a popular adventure tourism destination.
If New Zealand is known internationally for anything, however, it's definitely adventure tourism. A world capital for adventure sports, and home of bungee jumping, New Zealanders are known for an excitable, adrenaline-loving attitude. In the country's South Island, adventure sports like white water rafting, jet boating, bungee jumping, and skydiving are available in almost all major centers.
From June until September every year, New Zealand's South Island transforms from a quiet place of natural beauty into one of the world's best skiing destinations. Queenstown, one of the most popular destinations in the country, is surrounded by world class ski resorts, many of which allow visitors to purchase all-inclusive tours, covering accommodation, food, and several days on the ski slopes.
In summer, the same regions that are famed for their skiing turn into summer sports getaways. With some of the world's most scenic lakes and rivers, New Zealand is a hot destination for sports such as wakeboarding and water skiing. Although most of the country's sports lakes are found in the South Island, many destinations in the North Island are becoming hotspots for summer adventure sports.
Culture buffs and shoppers alike will be interested in New Zealand's native gemstones, wool goods, and produce. Known around the world for its jade and pāua jewelry, New Zealand Maori jewelry is a unique combination of ancient styles and stunning materials. Available in major centers including Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington, many visitors take a piece of New Zealand jewelry back home with them.
New Zealand's biggest industry, agriculture, also produces some other items that are of interest to fashionistas and shopping fans. Merino wool, a unique wool that combines serious comfort and a care-free attitude to wear and tear, is used to make sweaters, socks, shirts, and even underwear. It's known throughout the world for its comfort, and it's one of the country's top apparel exports.
With a small population and extremely low population density, New Zealand isn't a place to visit for the crowded, rushed experience of giant cities. Because of this, New Zealanders are known as fairly friendly and welcoming to guests. In the country's many small towns, people will frequently go out of their way to ensure you have a great stay, offering personalized travel and local advice.
Despite its geographic isolation, or perhaps because of it, New Zealand is rapidly transforming into one of the world's most popular destinations. Blessed with immense natural beauty, charming small cities, and an assortment of interesting native wildlife for visitors to encounter, it's an ideal place to escape noise and stress, enjoy nature's finest sights and views, and truly unwind on your vacation.