New Zealand is a treasure trove of breathtaking sights. In fact, viewing the country's scenic wonders up close and personal should be on top of every traveler's to-do list. Covering a total area of 268,021 sq. km (103,483 sq mi), New Zealand is comprised of two large islands that can be observed on the physical map of the country above - the North Island and South Island (which are separated by the Cook Strait), as well as Stewart Island, hundreds of coastal islands and about 600 small regional islands.
From north to south, New Zealand is a country of snow-capped mountains and scenic landscapes. Positioned along the Ring of Fire, the Southern Alps (and its many ranges) extend through the western portions of South Island. As marked on the map by an upright yellow triangle, the country's highest point, Mount Cook (Aoraki) is in the Southern Alps, as well as over 350 glaciers and a wide assortment of national parks. Mount Cook rises to an elevation of 12,316ft (3,754 m). Throughout the Southern Alps, an additional 19 mountains rise above 10,000 ft (3,000 m). Along the western side of these massive peaks, there is a narrow strip of coastline. Along their eastern flank, the mountains slope into a region of rolling hills and plains, drained by glacier-fed rivers.
In the far south, within the confines of Fiordland National Park, a jagged coastline of fjords, inlets, and bays front the Tasman Sea. Milford Sound – located within the park, is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise to 3,937 ft (1,200 meters) or more on either side. It is widely considered New Zealand's top travel destination.
BEST TIME TO GO
September - April
ET +17 hours
Auckland (AKL); Christchurch (CHC); Queenstown (ZQN)
Full of the world’s most stunning scenery, New Zealand is a treasure trove of natural wonders that are worthy of being at the top any traveler’s bucket list. The country’s natural beauty is its biggest attraction, where you can spend your vacation marveling at the jaw-dropping landscapes, including brooding volcanoes, majestic peaks deep fjords or stunning beaches.
EXPLORING THE NORTH ISLAND
New Zealand is much more than striking natural landscapes, it has a striking cosmopolitan side as well. Indulge in New Zealand's award-winning restaurants and wineries and take in the best of Auckland. New Zealand’s largest city; Auckland has it all: wineries, walking tracks, beaches, hiking trails, and volcanoes are some of the memorable sights you will experience. Art galleries and a diverse restaurant and café scene are other strong assets of this dynamic city. Auckland is also a great departure point for various day trip destinations, from local islands to nearby tourist gems.
The beautiful Coromandel peninsula is popular among local and international visitors. Cathedral Cove is among the breathtaking sights that impress the region’s visitors – it’s great for walking, kayaking, or scenic cruises. The nearby Hot Water Beach, with its bubbling springs and golden sands, is another must-see Coromandel destination.
Rotorua is renowned for its geothermal springs, heritage landmarks and all-round beautiful landscapes. There are regular cruises running along the glistening Lake Rotorua, and you can go kayaking and paddle boarding at the nearby Lake Rotoiti. Adrenalin-inducing activities are ample and include the iconic Zorb adventures and white-water rafting.
Home to New Zealand’s largest lake, Taupo is a popular spot for bungee jumping, mountaineering, white-water rafting, and sightseeing. Ski bunnies visiting in winter can reach the snowy Mount Ruapehu from the main township. The wonderful Huka Falls are also worth the visit – you will be engulfed in a dramatic, foamy waterfall that ends in a gorgeous blue-green pool.
Budget-conscious and high-end travelers alike are bound to relish the Wellington experience. Not only is the Kiwi capital renowned for its cultural, gastronomical, and panoramic wonders, but it is also the gateway for visitors heading south. If you want to spend a day exploring the upper South Island, Interisland Ferry makes regular journeys from Wellington to Picton.
VENTURING INTO THE SOUTH ISLAND
Dubbed as the “8th wonder of the world”, Milford Sound is a natural wonder known for its immense beauty. Carved out by glacial action thousands of years ago, here you will be surrounded by vast mountains and cascading waterfalls. Take a scenic boat ride and keep your eyes peeled for penguins and dolphins or hop on a scuba diving tour to see some unique wildlife underwater.
Not too far away from Milford Sound is the lovely city of Nelson. This artsy stopover is also renowned for its eclectic food culture. Like many places you will pass through, Nelson 7) is beautifully adorned with stunning natural attractions – including the Abel Tasman National Park, the Farewell Spit, and the Grove Scenic Reserve.
Queenstown is the most popular tourist spot in the entire country, and for good reason. Snowy mountains, majestic vistas, and crystal lakes are some of the gorgeous sights that await. Adventurous travelers are well placed to get involved in some extreme sporting activities, and the city is also a gateway to some of the South Island’s best vineyards.
Franz Josef glacier
If you have the chance to see the Franz Josef glacier from up close, you will be welcomed by more than just an icy paradise. Solo travelers can opt for a guided tour of the glacier, which usually takes 2-3 hours to complete. Once you have finished admiring the ice floes, you can always cozy up to the hot pools at the nearby township.
If you are looking for a postcard-perfect image during your time in New Zealand, look no further than Lake Tekapo. Nestled in the heart of the Mackenzie Country, Lake Tekapo is 9) one of the most scenic landscapes in the country. This glacial highland lake is surrounded by grounds covered in golden tussock, with vistas of snowy mountains including the Southern Alps and the Two Thumb Range. The remarkable turquoise color of the lake is a product of the finely ground rock in the melted waters from the successive Ice Age glaciers.
Boasting of some of New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours, as well as being recognized as part of an International Dark Sky Reserve, the clear and vast night sky of Lake Tekapo is perfect for stargazing.
The Catlins is located on the lower southeast coast of the island, between the towns of Balclutha and Invercargill. Coastal cliffs, remarkable wildlife, long, sweeping coastlines and rugged forested plains surround it. True to off-grid conventions, the nearest town from the Catlins, Owaka, has a population of approximately 400 people. While this destination is best suited for self-driving, there are some tour operators that will take you to it.
PLANNING AND PACKING BEFORE YOUR TRIP
Before you travel to New Zealand, pay a visit to Apex Physicians and to have our specialists determine whether you need to be vaccinated or not. In some instances, those traveling from overseas to New Zealand will require vaccinations, alongside routine vaccinations if you have not already received them.
Getting vaccinated is crucial so that you do not put yourself at risk of ruining your trip, and you also do not run the risk of bringing anything home. Although New Zealand is generally a very safe and healthy country, vaccinations are crucial not just for your own sake, but for the sake of those around you.
As you plan your trip, research your destination(s) - local laws, customs, and culture. Furthermore, stay abreast of travel advisories, alerts and review all travel tips from the US Department of State. It is also highly recommended that you enroll in STEP – Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Finally, pack as light as possible, and do not bring anything irreplaceable on the trip.
Should the need arise, plan on how to get medical care during your trip:
Make a list of local hospitals and doctors at each of your travel destinations.
After reviewing your health insurance plan to determine what medical services it would cover during your trip, purchasing travel health and medical evacuation insurance for things your regular insurance will not cover.
Bring copies of your prescriptions for medicine and for eyeglasses and contact lenses.
In the local language, bring along a card that identifies your blood type, allergies, chronic conditions, and generic names of medications you may be taking.
Call New Zealand’s embassy for verification that all medicines (including over-the-counter medicines) you bring with you are legal in New Zealand.
During your consultation with our specialists, request the necessary prescription refills you may need for your trip.
Many foreign hospitals and clinics are accredited by the Joint Commission International. A list of accredited facilities is available at their website (www.jointcommissioninternational.org). https://www.worldhospitalsearch.org/
HEALTH AND SAFETY ABROAD
Vaccines cannot protect you from many diseases in New Zealand, so talk at length with our Physicians specialized in travel medicine regarding specific actions you can take to stay healthy and safe on your trip.
Food and Water Safety
Food and water standards in New Zealand are like those in the United States. Most travelers do not need to take special food or water precautions beyond what they normally do at home. nonetheless, if you are in rural or remote areas that are served by unregulated water sources such as private wells, bring along bottled water, drink water that is served steaming hot, avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice as it was likely made with tap water or another unregulated water source.
Bug Bite Prevention
New Zealand is an industrialized country; however, bugs are still prevalent and bug bites here can still spread diseases, just as they would in the United States.
Wear clothing that covers exposed skin.
Use insect repellent with higher percentages of active ingredients i.e. 20% or more DEET, Picaridin- for protection against mosquitoes and ticks.
Consider wearing clothing that has been treated with permethrin.
Always use insect repellent as directed.
Reduce Germ Exposure
Wash your hands often with soap and use hand sanitizer, especially before; eating, touching your face, and avoiding contact with people who are sick.
Maintain Personal Safety
Always use common sense when traveling overseas by always stay alert and aware of your surroundings.
Do not walk around with expensive clothing or jewelry – store all valuables including your passport and entry stamp in your locked hotel room.
Carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp.
Follow all local laws and social customs.
If possible, choose hotel rooms between the 2nd and 6th floors.
AFTER YOUR TRIP
Apex Physicians recommends a post-travel consultation immediately after your trip. Our specialists will perform an overall health/wellness and prescription evaluation. Be sure to tell our specialists about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. In addition, tell our specialists if you had any adverse interaction with bugs and/or animals; were bitten or scratched by an animal while traveling.
US EMBASSY & CONSULATE IN NEW ZEALAND
Citigroup Centre, 3rd Floor,
23 Customs Street East
Auckland, New Zealand
Telephone: +(64)(9) 303-2724
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: (64)(9) 303-2724 ext. 2900
Fax: +(64)(9) 366-0870