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New Zealand

New Zealand has river fjords to rival Norway, glacier-fed azure lakes encircled by fields of purple and pink lupins, dark moody mountains enveloped in cloud where the kiwi bird can be encountered and burbling thermal rivers to warm the coldest of toes.

You’ll embrace our whānau (family) across the pond, absorbing the centuries-old Māori culture that is ingrained into everyday life in New Zealand. Along the way, you can dine on local delicacies, sip world-class wine and beer, and fill your belly with tasty road-trip snacks.

Aotearoa, known as the land of the long white cloud because of the cloud formations that helped early Polynesian navigators find the country, is one of the most popular overseas destinations for Australian travellers. Now it’s time to find out for yourself. Take the scenic route, or as the Kiwis say, take a tiki tour and uncover New Zealand’s natural beauty.

Explore The Great Outdoors

In New Zealand, drive for an hour and you’ll pass snowcapped mountains one minute and volcanic rocky regions the next. The great outdoors beckons and Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, is no exception.

Here you’ll find adrenaline-laced activities to thrill even the most hardened daredevil. Feet tied together, hurl yourself headfirst from the 43m-high Kawarau Bridge into the canyon below. Strap yourself into the world’s largest swing, which takes a 300m arc across the Nevis River Valley, or be pushed safely off the world’s highest cliff jump. If you can keep your eyes open, you’ll whiz past stunning scenery on your way down… and back up again.

With the striking Southern Alps on the South Island (Te Waipounamu) and the majestic mountains on the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui), you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to a winter getaway. Adrenaline-seeking advanced skiers and snowboarders can try heli-skiing which, as the name suggests, will have you jumping from a helicopter and hitting the slopes. More serene options include glacier climbing, snowshoeing and chasing the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis). This natural light show is best viewed the further south you travel, so try Stewart Island, Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in the heart of the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, or New Zealand’s southernmost city, Invercargill.

There is a plethora of other activities where you can experience New Zealand’s unique flora, fauna and geology. Head underground and witness a cave filled with tiny iridescent glowworms. The Waitomo Glowworm Caves, located near the centre of the North Island, offer one of nature’s most beautiful spectacles. If you’re a thrill seeker, try black water rafting where you’ll negotiate underground rapids, jump off waterfalls and float underneath a cave ceiling of blue stars. If you don’t want to get your feet wet, try the Waitomo Caves combo, where you’ll visit several sites and end the tour with a magical canoe journey under the silent glowing canopy.

Is spotting a kiwi bird on your bucket list? With all species of kiwi now endangered, seeing one in the wild means trying your luck tramping (Kiwi for bushwalking or camping), and following strict guidelines near the formidable but beautiful Arthur’s Pass National Park near Christchurch. Even if you don’t see any kiwis, you may encounter the brazen kea parrot. Watch out for your car’s rubber seals and your wallet – these hilarious, cheeky birds love getting involved in everybody’s business.

Head to the North Island for more chances to see the elusive kiwi bird, with a night tour at Wellington’s Zealandia a must-do. While you’re not guaranteed to see the bird, this enormous sanctuary is designed to emulate the pre-human environment of the area, so sightings are common. Visit during the day, and you’ll also see the prehistoric tuatara, enormous native wētā insect and, if you’re lucky, the intoxicated kererū giant wood pigeon. The giant wood pigeon gorges itself on berries that ferment in its gut, which can cause it to tumble out of trees.

New Zealand

If all this talk of snow and underground rapids is too cold for you, New Zealand is full of geothermal experiences to warm you right up. Visit steamy warm rivers you can bathe in or witness boiling volcanic-fed pools so hot you definitely can’t go for a swim.

Take a day trip and visit both the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Orakei Korako Cave Thermal Park. Discover the famous Champagne Pool, wander along boardwalks surrounded by rainbow-coloured rock formations, bubbling water and mud pools.

Occasionally a geyser will shoot water high into the sky, leaving you in awe. Soak away the activities of the day at one of the region’s many hot – but thankfully not boiling – pools and spas.

Savour culinary delights

With many experiences in New Zealand within driving distance, road trip snacks are a must. Before you head off, grab a bottle of delicious lemon fizzy drink, L&P and a bag of dangerously moreish Cookie Time biscuits. 

Wine lovers must visit New Zealand’s Marlborough region. Located at the top of the South Island, the region is home to world-renowned sauvignon blancs and other varietals nestled among cool-climate vineyards. Hire a bike visit some of the 100 cellar doors along the 380km cycle trail. Pick a couple of cellar doors and leave the rest for a future visit.

Wellington is the craft beer capital of the country, with a diverse and world-class boutique beer culture. Grab a map and complete the Craft Beer Trail, learn about different varieties and collect stamps and fun souvenirs.

Everywhere you look in New Zealand you’ll see the brilliant blues of the pāua shell. This genus of abalone is collected not only for its stunning shell, which is inlaid in items like beautiful jewellery, it’s also a local delicacy.

You’ll find amazing seafood along most of New Zealand’s coast, including the famously beautiful Kaikōura region. Visit any of the local fish and chip shops in the area for freshly caught crayfish and pāua fritters.

A cultural and culinary must-do while in New Zealand is to try traditional hāngī. Hāngī, or earth oven, is the process of slow cooking and steaming ingredients such as fish, kumara (sweet potato) and other meats and vegetables in a pit in the ground. The process, which takes about four hours, allows the kai (food) to become extremely tender and infuse with delicious smoky, earthy flavours. You can try hāngī at many places, including the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Rotorua and the Māori Kitchen in Auckland.

New Zealand

Experience the culture

Māori culture is an integral part of New Zealand life, with history and language taught in school. As you travel throughout the country, you’ll notice signage featuring traditional place names and Māori words being used in everyday language.

The Treaty of Waitangi is of great importance in New Zealand’s history. The Treaty is an agreement, in Māori and English, that was made between the British Crown and about 540 Māori rangatira (chiefs), and you can learn all about it during a guided tour at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds near Auckland on the North Island. While you’re there, explore the two museums – Te Rau Aroha Museum of the Price of Citizenship and Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi. Here you’ll discover the stories of people, places and events that changed the course of Aotearoa’s history.

Meanwhile, if you like a hands-on experience, paddle down the Ōtākaro Avon River in Christchurch in a hand-crafted waka – a traditional Māori canoe with Waka on Avon. Work together as a team to master the technique, and learn about the history of the river while seeing the city from a new angle.

Visit New Zealand in June or July to partake in the newest public holiday on the Kiwi calendar. Matariki, the Māori New Year, was first held in June 2022 and is an occasion to mourn the deceased, celebrate the present and prepare for the coming year. The holiday changes date each year based on the lunar cycle, so check before you travel. In 2024, Matariki will be on Friday 28 June. You can experience cultural performances and concerts, art and craft workshops, topped off with fantastic firework displays in many locations across the country.

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Further information and limitations are listed in the PDS