Updated: September 8, 2022
Embrace the extremes of the natural world in New Zealand and the relaxed ambiance of the North and South Islands with these answers to common travel questions.
From exploring the wilderness of ancient forests, towering mountains, and stoic glaciers to learning about Maori culture, British influence, and local wildlife, New Zealand vacations offer a glimpse into what makes the country tick.
Learn more about the best time to visit, the top things to do, where to go, and more with the following guide.
The best time to visit New Zealand is between December and February, the Southern Hemisphere’s summer season, when the weather is warm, and there are bright, sunny days for outdoor activities.
Most travelers plan trips for December through February to escape the Northern Hemisphere’s cold winters, so you may have to navigate crowds on the North and South Islands. Fortunately, New Zealand is quieter than neighboring Australia.
Despite summer’s popularity, New Zealand is a year-round destination and other months are great for specific experiences. March and April offer brisk weather for more comfortable hiking, while July and August bring winter weather for excellent skiing, geothermal explorations, and whale watching. September and October mark the end of the snow season, and the countryside is breathtaking at this time.
Learn more: Best Time to Visit New Zealand
We recommend you spend 14 days in New Zealand. There are vibrant cities, Maori villages, seaside resorts, and national parks to explore in the North and South Islands, and two weeks is plenty of time to experience it all.
With this amount of time, you could spend the first half of your vacation in the North Island’s bustling heart of Auckland, at the geothermal wonderlands of Rotorua, or in the shire of Waikato. You can then head for the South Island’s cosmopolitan neighborhoods, among them Christchurch, taste wines in Central Otago, and visit the fiords of Milford Sound.
With fewer days to explore, you can visit the highlights on seven- to 10-day trips. And should you have more time, trips of up to three weeks and beyond are excellent for immersive adventures.
New Zealand is famous for its diversity of destinations, from Fiordland towns to geothermal parks and cosmopolitan cities. Below is a list of the most popular destinations:
Which you choose depends on the type of experience you would like to have. Queenstown is an adventure hub and gateway to Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountains, while Auckland is an atmospheric city with a unique history and culture. You can explore our best places to visit in New Zealand to learn more about these destinations.
From hiking Mount Cook to cruising Fiordland and discovering Maori traditions, there is a diverse list of things to do in New Zealand, depending on your vacation design. Below, we share some top experiences to help you plan a trip of a lifetime:
The list of things to do in New Zealand does not stop there. You can also explore the Hobbiton film set for The Lord of the Rings, cruise across lakes with lunch onboard, and visit museums tracing Maori heritage. To learn more about the best things to do in New Zealand and where to experience them, explore our top things to do in New Zealand.
If possible, explore both. Each island offers unique experiences, from the vibrant cities and Maori culture of the North Island to the untamed landscapes and Fiordland of the South Island. Exploring both in a single trip lets you experience the best of both worlds.
If you only have time to explore one or wish to minimize transfers during your trip, then your choice comes down to the experiences you prefer. On the North Island, you can visit the vibrant city of Auckland, explore the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua, and experience Maori culture in traditional villages. On the South Island, you can take adventures through Fiordland or trek to viewpoints on Mount Cook.
The beauty of traveling to the South Pacific is that you can visit multiple countries easily and trips to New Zealand often feature days in Australia or Fiji.
Our Australia & New Zealand tours and Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji vacation packages provide examples of how to visit more of the South Pacific from New Zealand. These sample trips range from brief highlight tours with stops in Melbourne and Uluru in Australia or longer trips that include Fijian islands like Kadavu or Laucala.
Stunning beaches are yours to explore on vacations along New Zealand’s coastline. There are long stretches of pearl-white sand, windswept cliffs towering over pebbled shores, and forest-flanked bays to discover on a beach vacation. Below, we share a list of the most popular beaches to visit:
Outdoor activities like hiking feature on most New Zealand tours as the country’s untamed landscapes share some of the best trails in the world. From challenging alpine treks up Mount Cook to casual walks to waterfalls in Abel Tasman National Park, our New Zealand hiking tours can take you to the following trails:
Learn more: Great Walks of New Zealand
Wildlife viewing is exceptional in New Zealand as national parks, rural wilderness, and unique environments teem with endemic animals, birds, and marine life. Here are some of the most popular places to see the wildlife of New Zealand and some noteworthy animals to keep your eyes peeled for:
There is a wide variety of transportation options, from private transfers to rental cars, planes, national coaches, hop-on and off buses, trains, boats, and bicycles.
Transportation in New Zealand is reliable and efficient, enabling travelers to navigate the wilderness, transfer from city to city, and enjoy tours comfortably. Planes are the easiest way to travel between the North and South islands, while trains may offer a cinematic alternative. Private transfers are ideal for city tours, while rental cars are excellent for road trips.
Bus tours are also accessible and comfortable, while hiring bicycles is a fantastic option for active travelers exploring the cities or wilderness trails. Finally, you can cruise in yachts or catamarans and take speedboats on coastline tours.
Learn more: The Best Way to Travel Around New Zealand
From landscapes famously featured in epic fantasy films to adventure destinations with thrilling outdoor activities, New Zealand is a beautiful and inspiring place to travel to as a family.
You can explore the Hobbits' homes at The Lord of the Rings Hobbiton film set with your young ones, trek the mountain tracks of Mount Cook with your teens, or marvel at the glowworms clinging to the Waitomo Caves.
New Zealand family itineraries can reveal the cuddly-looking flightless kiwi birds on wildlife trips, showcase the bubbling geysers of Rotorua, and highlight the natural beauty of Matamata. Enjoy the thrill of adventure or time to connect on trips with family at heart.
Learn more: Top Things to Do in New Zealand with Family
New Zealand is a welcoming country, with intrepid senior travel or relaxing vacations cornerstones of the tourism industry. Seniors of all ages adore opportunities to explore New Zealand’s outdoors and cities on private tours with knowledgeable guides.
You can hike or cycle through New Zealand’s national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, be they the snowy slopes of Mount Cook or the Fiordland of Queenstown. You can cruise to Waiheke Island's beaches, wander Wellington's waterfront promenade, or learn Maori customs at traditional villages.
Our New Zealand tours for seniors offer vacation ideas for every type of traveler and senior travel style, from active wildlife trips to beach vacations.
Couples adore the seclusion and privacy of New Zealand vacations, the cinematic backdrops of alpine mountains and icy fiords, and picturesque coastlines with glamorous resorts.
You can embrace your time together on luxury New Zealand tours, sharing moments on private shores with fine wines or experiencing the romance of New Zealand honeymoon packages, with sailing, hiking, and hot-air balloon rides showcasing the outdoors.
You can also design New Zealand tours for couples for any occasion, taking your time to enjoy the simple pleasures of Maori culture on the North Island or cruising past the sea-drowned valleys of the Marlborough Sounds.
New Zealand’s culinary culture is influenced by global cuisine, while Maori dishes are popular on tours of villages and outlying areas. Gourmet restaurants and family-run eateries offer travelers exquisite renditions of international cuisine and Maori meals, respectively. The following list highlights some of the best foods to try on your trip:
Best known for its Marlborough sauvignon blancs, New Zealand is an excellent place for wine, with white and red varieties increasing in popularity worldwide. There are more than seven exceptional wine-growing regions between the North and South islands to consider visiting during your vacation. Below, we highlight some of the most notable wine regions:
Our New Zealand wine tours focus on showcasing the best of New Zealand wines, taking you to estates in both islands to explore light pinot noirs, full-bodied syrahs, and fruity sauvignon blancs.
New Zealand is a very safe destination. Regarded as one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world and with low crime rates, you can feel confident about your security when exploring the country.
Petty crime, like bag-snatching, is possible in busy public areas. However, occurrences among tourists are very rare. Public transportation is also very safe and reliable. With low natural disaster risks and an incredibly safe environment for solo and senior travelers, New Zealand remains one of the best destinations to visit with safety in mind.
The official languages of New Zealand are Māori and New Zealand Sign Language, though the main national language spoken by most locals is English.
You will have absolutely no problem communicating with locals at accommodations and during tours. You may hear villagers speaking Māori if you visit ethnic settlements, though your guide will be able to translate for you and teach you several Māori words and phrases. You may also notice that New Zealanders use local slang when speaking English. Below, we list some of the most common slang terms:
Vaccinations are not mandatory to enter New Zealand, but you can review a list of those that are recommended in CDC New Zealand Vaccination Information.
Depending on where you go, you may wish to speak with your travel nurse or doctor, as they can provide you with further information or recommendations.
For most travelers, the most convenient airport for international arrivals and departures is Auckland (AKL), followed by Christchurch’s International Airport (CHC). Below, we share a list of the main airports to consider for international arrivals and departures, as well as domestic travel within New Zealand:
The official currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar ($).
New Zealand does not accept the American dollar, so you must exchange it for foreign currency before your trip. You should always carry cash as it is the most accessible payment method across the country. However, some establishments accept Visa, Mastercard, and American Express should you wish to pay electronically. ATMs are widely available across New Zealand’s main tourist cities, including Auckland, Christchurch, and Queenstown.
You can plan your trip design, secure your accommodations, and book your tours for New Zealand with the help of a Zicasso travel specialist. Inspired by our New Zealand tours and vacations, you can start building an idea of how you would like to experience the South Pacific country.
When you are ready, complete a trip request in which you can share additional details and information, set a rough trip budget, and outline the duration of your vacation. Once submitted, a member of our Travel Care team will be in touch to discuss your vacation ideas in more detail. They use their insight and wealth of experience to match you with a New Zealand travel specialist capable of fulfilling your requests.
Your top New Zealand travel specialist will work with you to create a custom trip or plan for one you have found in our collection. They will handle accommodation and tour bookings on your behalf and be available for the duration of your vacation should you need to contact them with questions, suggestions, or emergencies.
New Zealand embodies natural wonder, immersing you in the grandeur of geothermal activity, sparkling coves, whitewater rafting adventures, and remarkable hiking excursions included in several of our New Zealand tours and vacations. These sample trips can help you plan your itinerary, with recommendations for where to go and what to do.
As you look forward to your New Zealand trip, you can learn more about the country and find additional information and insights in our New Zealand travel guide.