Geography of New Zealand

New Zealand comprises the North and South Islands, as well as numerous smaller islands.
New Zealand comprises the North and South Islands, as well as numerous smaller islands.

Despite its relatively small size, New Zealand is one of the world's most geographically diverse countries. Boasting incredible subtropical beaches, large expanses of temperate rainforest, vast mountain ranges, and wide open plains, it's known around the world for its stunning natural beauty and mix of different environments.

Located in the South Pacific, New Zealand is one of the world's isolated countries – a characteristic that's chiefly responsible for its natural diversity. Unlike neighboring Australia, New Zealand's land is fairly mountainous, particularly in the South Island. Most city life is focused around the coast – a few towns are built inland, but no major settlements are found without their own coastline.

New Zealand's northern tip, known as Northland, extends from Cape Reinga down past the Bay of Islands, a popular vacation spot known for its comfortable climate and excellent beaches. Auckland, located further south, has a temperate climate, and is known for its occasional storms. With one of the world's best harbors, it's a popular destination for hobby sailors and international sailing events.

Known internationally as a winter sports destination, New Zealand's major mountain ranges are spread throughout both the North and South islands, with the greatest concentration found on the South Island's Southern Alps. Skiers and snowboarders in the North Island can choose from a range of world class ski fields, including Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand's largest open skiing area.

However, most of the country's winter sports, and the stunning mountain ranges that New Zealand is known for, are found further south. Extending from the northern reaches of the South Island all the way down to popular resort towns like Queenstown and Wanaka, the Southern Alps form the backbone of New Zealand's South Island.

A key shooting area for the Lord of the Rings movies, this dramatic scenery is what many visitors are familiar with when they think of New Zealand. Due to the South Island's relatively thin width, accessing its key mountain ranges is relatively simple. Visitors based in Christchurch can reach the mountains by private car or bus in as little as ninety minutes, with vehicles leaving regularly.

Aside from New Zealand's mountain ranges, one of its key attractions is its many fresh water lakes. The country's largest, Lake Taupo, covers an area of over six hundred kilometers, and is one of the country's largest tourism spots. Adventure tourism and Maori historical attractions bring in over one million visitors annually to the lake, which is renowned as one of the country's most beautiful spots.

The other key lakeside destination is Queenstown, a well-known resort town in the South Island known for its focus on adventure tourism. With a tourism industry very much built around its own natural surroundings, Queenstown offers visitors the chance to experience New Zealand's unique geography head on by bungy jumping from high bridges and exploring massive rivers via jet boat.

While New Zealand's rough, mountainous geography has made it a place of great natural beauty, it's also a potential annoyance for travelers wishing to get around the country by road. Short journeys of one hundred miles or less can often take hours due to the winding, curvy roads, particularly in the South Island. On the plus side, every journey is bound to be interesting and packed with fantastic views.

With its mountainous terrain, subtropical northern beaches, and rugged southern coastline, New Zealand is a country with immense geographical diversity and a great deal to offer travelers with an interest in the outdoors. This, along with the country's interesting history and modern charm, makes it an ideal vacation destination for travelers wishing to escape the city and unwind.