Did you know that Lonely Planet has voted New Zealand as one of its top five countries to visit in 2018? The Land of the Long White Cloud is currently one of the hottest travel destinations in the world, why is New Zealand travel on everyone’s travel bucket list?
There are many reasons why this country proves is such a popular travel spot right now, here's a quick and handy guide to help you answer the question "why travel to New Zealand?"
New Zealand is an island nation made up of the North and the South islands and a collection of smaller ones. It has a dazzling wealth of breathtaking scenery, friendly and fun-loving people, plenty of things to see and do, mouthwatering food and wine and a vibe that is unlike anywhere else in the world.
Plus, it is safe and easy to travel, making it accessible to everyone even if you don’t have a lot of travel experience. New Zealand has everything you could wish for in a destination and it’s delightfully easy to get around.
Reasons to visit New Zealand
We could list hundreds of reasons why you will love visiting New Zealand - there’s just so much to enjoy here. However, let’s take a look at the five main reasons why these tiny islands makes a fantastic travel destination.
- The scenery
- The people
- There's so much to do
- The food and wine are amazing
- Kiwi Magic
New Zealand scenery is unreal
New Zealand is a stunning, clean, green, natural playground.
When you watch the beautiful shots in Tourism New Zealand videos of Milford Sound or Abel Tasman National Park, the vibrant hues of the landscape almost jump off the screen. Or, perhaps you watched Frodo and friends go from the adorable rolling green hills of the Shire to larger-than-life landscapes of majestic mountains and wondered if the vistas were too beautiful to be real.
The good news is that Middle Earth (aka New Zealand) is just as stunning as it looked in the films. There are beautiful places all over this world, but the landscapes in New Zealand are a cut above. Few places in the world can compare with what you will see here.
One of the amazing things about this country is how such a huge diversity of landscapes can be packed into such a small nation. It’s hard to believe that towering snow capped mountains with ancient glaciers can exist on one end of New Zealand, while volcanic sand beaches and tropical rainforests exist on the other.
For example, you could take a drive from Lake Wanaka to Glacier Country and in one journey you will see dry high country, massive lakes, rainforests, glacial valleys, beaches and glaciers again. The landscapes in New Zealand may be unlike anything you have seen before. For example, when you see the bubbling geothermal pools in Rotorua you will be amazed at how this super-hot spring water can come up out of the depths of the earth, creating steaming, sulphurous craters.
New Zealand is also one of the best places in the world for stargazing, due to the lack of light pollution. When you look up at the night sky from Tekapo and Mount Cook you will see a dazzling canopy of sparkling points of light and the dusty sweep of the Milky Way.
All of this spectacular nature is very well maintained. One third of the landmass of New Zealand is protected conservation area, which means that the national parks are pristine and unspoiled. Plus, with a small population of only 4.7 million people, the cities and infrastructure in New Zealand don’t encroach on the environment and there are a lot of wide open, wild spaces to explore.
In fact, did you know that people make up only 5% of the population of New Zealand? The rest are animals. (Don't believe us? Verify that fact and 68 others here)That means that New Zealand is a great place to spot wildlife, including penguins, seals, whales and dolphins. The most famous animal of all is the kiwi, an adorable little flightless bird that has become the national symbol of New Zealand. Plus, the great thing is that the temperatures are always quite mild and enjoyable, so you’ll always enjoy great weather for hiking and exploring.
The Kiwi People
Another one of the amazing aspects of traveling New Zealand is how wonderful the people are. Many travellers say this is what makes New Zealand special.
New Zealanders, or “kiwis” as they are known, are laid back, friendly and always up for an adventure. They will stop for a chat, help you with directions and they will want to know how long you are visiting, where you will be going, where you are from, etc.
They love the outdoors and are passionate about showing visitors the best their beautiful country has to offer. In general, the people in New Zealand are open to meeting new friends, have a great sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously.
New Zealand humour is wonderfully silly and fun. For example, take a look at this hilarious Air New Zealand safety video. When you are spending time with your Kiwi friends, the mood will often be light and the jokes will be free flowing. Kiwis love to laugh and playfully tease each other in a very entertaining way.
Meeting the Maori people is something that you will never forget. They are wonderfully kind and welcoming and hospitality is a huge part of their culture. The spirit of Manaakitanga is a Maori word that translates roughly to hospitality and it is a traditional value that is considered to be incredibly important. The Maori people believe that it is very important to welcome visitors and make them feel at home when they come to visit.
Maori also have the concept Kaitiakitanga which describes a deep kinship between humans and the natural word. They see themselves as guardians of the land they live on and they believe that taking responsibility to preserve the environment is very important. Today Maori are restoring their culture and environment, taking great care to ensure that New Zealand stays green, clean and beautiful for everyone to enjoy.
There's so much to do in New Zealand
When it comes to things to see and do in New Zealand, you will be spoiled for choice. New Zealand isn’t just beautiful to look at - it is an endless playground of fun activities and adventures.
There’s so much choice of cool things to do that you are sure to find something that excites you. If you are into adrenaline-pumping activities, consider taking the Dart River Jetboat from Queenstown to zoom across the water while surrounded by towering peaks. If you really want to go beyond your comfort zone, why not try bungy jumping in Queenstown? New Zealand is also famous for being one of the best destinations in the world for sky-diving. There are jump opportunities all across the country, including at Abel Tasman National Park, Franz Josef Glacier and Queenstown.
Or perhaps you can try zorbing, which is rolling down a hill in an enormous clear inflatable ball. You could sweep overtop of beautiful Milford Sound on a scenic flight. The Glacier Landing on Franz Josef allows you to feel the chill of a real, ancient glacier under your feet.
If you love to hike, you might want to tackle the Tongariro Crossing. It is considered to be the best day hike in all of new Zealand and it played the part of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings films. This surreal, sulphur-smelling, volcanic landscape of colored sand and jagged rock might make you feel like you are walking on another planet.
Another one of the most amazing things you can do in New Zealand is visit the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, which are subterranean caves filled with phosphorescent glow worms that shimmer like stars.
If you want to do something a little more laid back, how about sipping a perfect glass of Sauvignon Blanc at a vineyard in beautiful Marlborough on the South Island? You could even take a cycling tour through the vineyards, stopping off at each winery to enjoy a tasting. Or, you could spend the day enjoying the cultural offerings of New Zealand’s vibrant cities like Wellington and Auckland - packed with art galleries, museums, quirky boutiques, shops, cafes and restaurants.
Here are a few more fantastic things to do New Zealand:
- Go fishing in the Bay of Islands and see if you can make an epic catch.
- Follow the tracks of the historic Otago Rail Trail.
- Soak in the hot pools at the luxurious spas of Rotorua.
- Take a scenic cruise through the waters of Doubtful or Milford Sound and enjoy marveling at their stunning birdlife and marine wildlife.
- Stand in the spot where the treaty of Waitangi was signed and learn about New Zealand’s history.
- Take a tour of the Lord of the Rings filming locations, such as The Shire and learn how the landscape was transformed into Middle Earth.
- Take part in some world class skiing in Canterbury, including Temple Basin, Porters Heights and Mt. Hutt.
- Take the challenging hike to Arthur’s Pass and enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the Southern Alps.
- Go on a thrilling whitewater rafting trip on the mighty Shotover River.
- Sandboarding in Northland, it's like riding a body board down a sand dune.
The food and wine are amazing
Speaking of winery tours, another reason to visit New Zealand is that the food and wine are superb. There are so many yummy things to enjoy during your visit. When you start researching what to know before traveling to New Zealand, the food might not be the first thing that you think of. However, when you discover what a great culinary scene New Zealand has, it will be a pleasant surprise.
One of the most iconic culinary treats in New Zealand are Greenshell Mussels, which are 30% larger than the typical blue mussels you might be used to and are wonderfully flavorful. After all, New Zealand is one of the best destinations in the world for seafood - the coastline is teeming with fresh fish including hapuka, snapper and John Dory.
If you are a seafood lover you will be able to get your fill of oysters from the Hokianga, Snapper from the Bay of Islands, Greenshell Mussels from Marlborough, Crayfish from Kaikoura and much more. Take a look at the best food and wine we love when we travel around New Zealand - guaranteed to make your mouth water.
But New Zealand cuisine isn’t just about delicious treats from the ocean. There’s plenty more to enjoy. The food here is driven by local ingredients and changes with the seasons, as this island nation has a primarily agricultural economy. There are a lot of different influences on the cuisine here, including Pacific Rim, Mediterranean and British. Throughout history other influences have included Southeast Asian, East Asian and Maori culture.
In the summertime you will have the wonderful opportunity to dine outside, as barbeques are a huge part of the Kiwi culture. There’s a lot of variety in what kiwis will throw on the barbeque, including lamb, venison, lobster, shellfish and fresh fish. Another New Zealand culinary classic is Fish n’ Chips, which you should absolutely try during your visit. (Due to the kiwi accent, the locals refer to it as “Fush n’ Chups.”)
You won’t struggle to find a superb wine to pair with your meal - New Zealand produces some high quality bottles. Although winemaking is still relatively new in New Zealand, winemakers are already producing wines that receive praise from international experts. The four main wine-producing areas of the country include Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Auckland.
One of the most quintessential New Zealand culinary experiences you can enjoy during your trip is a traditional Maori hangi. This meal is cooked underground - the food is placed into a deep hole filled with red hot stones and covered in leaves. The meat (usually chicken, pork and lamb) along with potatoes, kumara (sweet potato) and other vegetables is left to cook buried beneath the earth for several hours.
When it is finally removed from the earth, the slow-steamed, smoky flavor is unlike anything else you have ever tasted. A hangi is an important social event that lasts for hours and involves musical performances, dances and lots of fun and conversation.
Here are a few more New Zealand foods that you should try during your visit:
- Cookie Time Original Chocolate Chunk Cookies, a local favorite.
- Lamingtons - a sponge cake coated in chocolate or raspberry and sprinkled with shaved coconut.
- Afghans - chocolate cookies with cornflakes mixed in, coated with chocolate icing with half a walnut on top.
- Marmite - a standard item in any New Zealand pantry, it is a yeast extract that is combined with a few different herbs and spices. Try it spread on toast with a little bit of butter.
- Tuatua - try this New Zealand shellfish, a delicacy that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
- Mince and Cheese Pie - tuck into this juicy, mouthwatering pastry with a flaky crust and a meaty, cheesy filling.
What do we mean by the “Kiwi Magic”? It’s hard to explain but once you're here you'll know what we're talking about, it's the unique atmosphere and vibe in New Zealand that is different than anywhere else in the world.
You might assume that New Zealand is the same as other English speaking countries such as Canada, the UK, the USA and Australia. Yes, it does have some similarities but it’s actually quite distinct. For example, New Zealand feels different than Australia, as the ties to Polynesia are much closer.
Being in New Zealand just feels different. Things move a little slower here, which is a good thing. You’re more likely to end up chatting with the locals, as everyone is laid back and not in a hurry. New Zealanders don’t “live to work” but rather “work to live” and they aren’t workaholics. They are generally passionate about their careers, but they understand the importance of a good work/life balance and they take time to enjoy the great outdoors and spend time with their family as well.
You feel safe here, there’s no need to be constantly on your guard. You’re unlikely to experience crime in New Zealand and safety is not an issue - even for women traveling solo. Plus, when you are walking or hiking in the wilderness it’s nice to know that nothing much can kill you. You don’t have to worry about snakes, spiders, bears, crocodiles or any other wild creatures.
When you relax into this safe, friendly environment you will be able to enjoy a trip that is free from the stressful aspects of travel, allowing you to focus more on the amazing environment around you.
You might even notice the laid back atmosphere as soon as you arrive at the airport. While going through airport security and customs in other countries can be extremely stressful, in New Zealand it’s quite a pleasant experience.
You might even say that, although it is a country of 4.7 million people, New Zealand still has the atmosphere of a small, friendly town. Spending time with others and building a strong community is valued here and when you visit you will feel welcome and accepted.
You're going to love New Zealand
These are just a few of the reasons why New Zealand should absolutely be high on your list of places to travel to. It’s like nowhere else in the world and once you discover what it has to offer, you will fall in love and never want to leave. We're not the only ones who think so, see what Metro UK say are 12 reasons to visit now.
At MoaTrek, we're all proud Kiwis and have been proudly showing guests our favourite holiday spots on our small group tours since the 1970s. You’ll get to meet Kiwis, visit them in their homes and learn about the culture in a fun and casual way. There's plenty of flexibility to do your own thing and explore the aspects of New Zealand that interest you the most. You’ll get to enjoy the best of New Zealand’s scenery and activities while dining on delicious local food and wine along the way, all in the expert care of your Kiwi Guide.