New Zealand Travel Planning
New Zealand – Kia ora!
New Zealand is about the size of Japan. It is 3000 miles east of Australia – the Pacific Ocean on the east, the Tasman Sea on the left. Less than half the 4.4 million residents live in large cities, and half of those live in Auckland.
All flights from the USA arrive in Auckland. There are regular flights from Australia into Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
What’s So Special About New Zealand?
Astonishing scenery! Have you ever met anyone who did not want to go to New Zealand? What’s unique is the awesome variety of landscapes in such a small country. From dense tropical rainforest to glaciers, from lush sheep pastures to panoramic alpine meadows, from waterfalls galore to sophisticated cities –there is no such thing as a boring “interstate” drive.
Our favorite drive goes past wind-swept beaches and into glacier country. Then the road threads through lush temperate rainforests and a mountain pass dotted with waterfalls. Suddenly you pass by turquoise lakes in semi-arid country. The entire way you have not passed through a city!
You could do the drive in two days, but the whole point of planning an itinerary in NZ is to stop and experience what you see. You might visit a jade carving factory, pan for gold, go trout fishing, heli-hike on a glacier, kayak a lagoon filled with birds, stop to take one of dozens of public trails, see rare Fiordland penguins nesting on a remote beach, bicycle on what once was a rail line, see rare old airplanes and vintage cars, spend a day with a photography guide, stay on a sheep farm, or visit a handful of vineyards. There are over 400 vineyards in New Zealand, but many do not produce enough wine to market abroad. Here is your chance to taste wines you can talk about back home!
Other activities popular with our clients include garden tours, Maori culture, salt water fishing, golf, and birding – even alpine skiing in the middle of our summer!
With limitless possibilities of what you can do, we plan according to your interests, time frame and budget. We want you to experience New Zealand. We combine self-driving, coaches, trains and flights to maximize your time. Accommodation varies from B&Bs to luxury inns in wilderness settings and cities. Whether you want to backpack – or take day hikes with luxury at the end of the day, we cater to your druthers!
About Maori Culture
One of the great things about traveling to the South Pacific is learning about the indigenous population. The most commonly held belief is that the Maori are Polynesians who came to New Zealand in their “waka” (canoes) almost 800 years ago, bringing with them the delicious kumara (a yam) that is a staple in their diet. But with the arrival of DNA testing it is possible that another story may emerge. For example, some think they came from South America.
The kumara they planted did not grow well on the South Island, so most Maori settled on the North Island. Today they live all across New Zealand. It is easy to learn about Maori culture in two places on the North Island. One is Rotorua, the thermal area; the other is in the Bay of Islands. Enjoy learning about their ceremonies, especially the “hangi” feast. A large hole is dug, a fire laid and after the coals have died down, meats, fish and vegetables are layered and covered so the feast can cook. Witnessing the “haka” – their fearsome greeting ceremony, is truly memorable, and there are many “pakhea” – white New Zealanders – who can do it also. You can see it performed by NZ’s famous All Blacks rugby team before every match! We are happy to include these and other Maori experiences in your itinerary.
For travelers with a serious interest in Maori culture, it is best to travel with a group so you can spend time with them, sleeping on mats on the floor of a “marae” (meeting house), hunting, fishing, participating in village life. We have planned group trips for museum and adult education groups who wanted this remarkable experience.
The ideal time to visit is from mid November through mid April. Note that because of the huge popularity of NZ, we need to book trips many months in advance of the peak season. By late April the South Island becomes chilly and by July, it is ski season. You can comfortably visit the North Island any time of year, but the South Island is far best in the Kiwi summertime.