New Zealand lies in the southwestern Pacific Ocean and consists of two main landmasses (the North and South Island) and numerous outlying islands. The total land area is similar in size to the United Kingdom with a population of just 4.7 million.
Famous for its stunning landscapes, impressive topography and crystal clear Pacific Ocean waters, New Zealand offers a vast array of activities for locals and international visitors alike.
A developed nation, New Zealand stands its ground among larger countries in areas such as sport, agriculture, technology and education. English and Maori are both official languages with English being spoken by almost every New Zealander. Agriculture remains a primary industry and NZ wines continue to make their mark on the world; resulting in an excellent and varied cuisine.
New Zealand’s closest neighbour lies 1,000 kms (600 miles) away across the Pacific Ocean. This isolation resulted in New Zealand being one of the last countries to be settled and also allowed a protected habitat for a diverse range of flora and fauna. Visitors will be reminded of the importance of maintaining this barrier to unwanted species when they pass through customs on arrival into New Zealand with strict restrictions on any item that may harbour seeds or insects.
The first human settlers reached New Zealand in circa 1250 from the Polynesian Islands and are the ancestors of the indigenous Maori tribes still prominent in New Zealand today. The Dutch were the first Europeans to reach New Zealand via explorer Abel Tasman but it was the British that eventually colonised the islands, signing the Treaty of Waitangi with Maori Chefs in 1840.
The most populated city is Auckland in the North Island, known locally as the ‘City of Sails’ for its harbours and inlets. Auckland is also home to some 50 dormant volcanos which dot its skyline from almost every viewpoint. The Capital, Wellington, lies at the base of the North Island and is renowned for its culture, restaurants and heritage attractions. A short drive from either city sees you immersed in national parks, rural farms and nature in all its abundance.
The South Island is less populated than the North and contains some of the country’s most stunning landscape features, including the Southern Alps, raising to more than 3,000 meters (12,218 feet) and covering a staggering 500kms (310miles) north to south, and the Milford South Fjords where cliff faces rise straight out of the ocean and waterfalls drop into the crystal clear waters of the Sound where dolphin and whale watching are popular activities.