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New Zealand Introduction
New Zealand has notched up a record year in tourism, welcoming more than two million visitors a year for the first time, despite international upheavals like terrorist attacks and SARS. Visitors contributed more than NZ$5 billion to the country’s economy, making tourism one of New Zealand’s biggest overseas income earners. And we’re better equipped for tourists. Efficient visitor centers abound, and accommodations range from budget to exclusive. You can shop 7 days a week, whoop it up at clubs and bars 24 hours a day, or savor a glass of internationally recognized New Zealand wine in an inexpensive cafe. You can get real coffee in as many variations as you can imagine, and New Zealand’s fresh, innovative cuisine will leave you breathless and begging for more.
Even provincial New Zealand has pulled up its socks without losing its heart. Small-town pride is beaming, and farmers are turning their hands to boutique tour operations and gorgeous restored B&Bs to supplement farm incomes, changing the whole nature of many backwater rural districts. Yet you’ll still find, at its core, the very Kiwi hospitality that has made this country famous.
You may have heard that New Zealanders are born wearing wet suits and carrying paddles, such is their appetite for the outdoors and adventure. No part of the country is more than 128km (79 miles) from the sea, and a coastline spread with splendid beaches dishes up thousands of beautiful coastal walks and chances to surf and soak in the sun.
New Zealand is also a winter magnet for international skiers and is the white-knuckle capital of the world. This is where you can push it to the limits, pit yourself against your fears and limitations, take risk by the throat, and go for it — leaping off bridges into surging river gorges attached to a giant rubber band, or taking a stab at luging, zorbing, sky diving, paragliding, kayaking, white-water rafting, and jet-boating. There’s no lack of invention when it comes to adrenaline-pumping activities in this country.
But you don’t have to be an extreme athlete to enjoy New Zealand. There are just as many ways to be laid-back and indulgent — tour wineries that have stampeded their way to the top of world ratings in record time; take in the wealth of Polynesian and Maori culture that forms the backbone of an increasingly multicultural society; or check out the strong historic and architectural reminders of a colonial past. There are lush gardens, art galleries, museums, and plenty of one-off reminders that New Zealand is like no other place.
New Zealand Best Dining Bets
New Zealand The Best Offbeat Travel Experiences
New Zealand The Best Active Vacations
New Zealand The Best Beaches
New Zealand The Best Hikes
New Zealand The Best Views
New Zealand The Best Natural Attractions
New Zealand The Best Maori Experiences
New Zealand The Best Scenic Drives
New Zealand The Best Museums
New Zealand Regions in Brief
The North Island
Auckland — Far too often overlooked as little more than a landing port, Auckland has first-rate attractions, quality accommodations, and diverse leisure opportunities. It is without doubt the most cosmopolitan of the cities, and its balmy climate has a special appeal. Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf offer some of the world’s finest sailing, boating, and fishing, and in the aftermath of the 2002-2003 America’s Cup yachting challenge, many quality hotels, bars, and restaurants are thriving. Cultural offerings abound in museums, galleries, and performing arts centers; and shopping is the most diverse in the country. There are more than 1,000 restaurants and a wild nightlife scene, and if you’re into a beach lifestyle, there are numerous choices within easy reach. You may think it’s just another big city, but Auckland has a Polynesian backbone that makes it quite unique. If you’re touring only the North Island, Auckland is a perfect base.
Northland & Coromandel — Both are within easy reach of Auckland and can be tackled as a day trip if you’re short on time. However, each warrants at least a couple of days’ exploration; if you have to choose between the two, I’d definitely swing up to the far north.
Northland is served by a far better infrastructure in terms of transportation, hotels, and restaurants, and its beach attractions (on the east coast) are too numerous to itemize. That said, you’ll find far more tourists here, too, at least in the Bay of Islands area. Head north, though, and a whole world of unpopulated beaches awaits. Fishing, diving, boating, and camping are all big draws. The area’s rich Maori culture is also an excellent introduction to New Zealand’s history.
The Coromandel Peninsula is a slightly more rugged version of Northland, to the south of Auckland. It has a craggier coastline, a more remote landscape, and sections with very poor roads. Accommodations are middling to say the least (with a few exceptions). Still, there’s color and character here, and it’s long been a favorite with New Zealand campers and beach bunnies — especially the eastern side of the peninsula, where you’ll find some top surf beaches.
Waikato & Bay of Plenty — I spent my childhood in the Waikato region, but I find little to recommend for the visitor. Hamilton is trying its hardest, and it would be fair to say that it suffers from being in Auckland’s shadow. The Waitomo Caves have traditionally been the area’s biggest attraction, and although their natural splendor is undeniable, I find Waitomo a rather depressing place — a strange hive of tourist buses, darting in and out of otherwise undisturbed farmland.
The Bay of Plenty, on the other hand, has come of age. Tauranga and Mount Maunganui have always been hot spots. Again, the emphasis is on a beach lifestyle — boating, fishing, surfing, sunbathing, and golf are the main attractions — and some stunning accommodations are available. If you’ve been to Australia’s Gold Coast, you’ll sense a hint of that style here.
Rotorua, Taupo & Tongariro National Park — Rotorua is on almost every visitor’s hit list. Some would say that makes the area objectionably touristy. I don’t agree. Rotorua has spent millions refining its attractions and accommodations, of which there are many, and it offers a unique geographic and Maori cultural slice of New Zealand life. In terms of adventure tourism, it is biting at the heels of Queenstown.
Taupo and Tongariro National Park, in combination with Rotorua, make the whole central region an unbeatable value in terms of volcanic landscape and adventure variety. And the area is plenty big enough to avoid being bothered by others. (It’s away from key attractions.) Come here for volcanic and Maori attractions, the world’s best trout fishing, mountaineering, skiing (water and snow), mountain biking, and tramping.
Gisborne & Hawkes Bay — This is one of the most underrated areas of the country. East Cape and Gisborne offer a rare insight into Maori culture, free of tourist hype. The area has amazing beaches and world-class surfing conditions, and, in combination with Hawkes Bay, is probably the country’s most important wine-producing region. In terms of accommodations, Gisborne is definitely lacking, and its laid-back rural approach doesn’t always find favor with visitors. Hawkes Bay, on the other hand, has the best range of boutique B&Bs and cottages in the country. Napier’s Art Deco charms are legendary and definitely worthy of inspection.
Taranaki & Wanganui — Let’s put it this way — if you want the best of small-town, provincial New Zealand, this is it. I’m most drawn to Taranaki. New Plymouth is surprisingly vibrant in its own right, and you can’t help but feel that, stuck out here on its own western limb, it couldn’t care less about the rest of the country. Mount Egmont and the sea are big attractions for trampers and surfers, and the region’s gardens are stunning. And Tom Cruise seemed to like the area when he was filming The Last Samurai. Wanganui has a major asset in its river, but it needs to spruce up accommodations.
Wellington — The capital has come alive in almost every aspect. The Museum of New Zealand-Te Papa Tongarewa is, of course, a major attraction and has been built with style and flair. Once you have explored it, you will understand more clearly much of what you have seen, or are about to see, throughout the country. Wellington is also home to several national cultural companies, so you’ll find a rich performing arts program. In addition, its restaurant, nightlife, and shopping opportunities are many and varied.
And don’t overlook the vineyard and craft delights of the Wairarapa, where you’ll find the biggest selection of stunning rural cottages in New Zealand.
The South Island
Nelson & Marlboroguh — The best year-round climate in New Zealand can be found here. Characterized by three stunning national parks and gorgeous beaches, Nelson is often talked about with a mix of derision and envy for its alternative, slightly hippie/artsy communities. A top region to visit if you’re into arts and crafts and outdoor pursuits. And for oenophiles, there’s a growing pocket of wineries that, in combination with the Marlborough wine region, make it a must-see destination. Both areas have some superb B&Bs, homestays, and backpacker accommodations.
Christchurch & Canterbury — After Auckland, Christchurch is the second major destination for overseas tourists. Quite apart from the fact that it’s the primary starting point for South Island exploration, Christchurch is loved for its fine Victorian-Gothic architecture, its hints of old England, and its increasingly vibrant city lifestyle. It has several ski fields within a 2-hour drive, good surfing beaches, and over 40 wineries. Day trips to Hanmer, Kaikoura, Akaroa, and Methven are all popular, but each of them warrants a longer stay.
West Coast & The Glaciers — The top of the West Coast, from Westport north to Karamea, and the south, from Haast to the glaciers, are quite remarkable. It’s just a pity about the middle bit. Apart from greenstone shopping and the crazy Hokitika Wildfoods Festival, I can never find much to recommend in the central part of the West Coast. But I will concede that it has played a vigorous and important role in shaping New Zealand’s history and economy, and you certainly won’t find anything quite like it elsewhere.
Queenstown & Environs — For sheer physical impact, this southwestern portion of New Zealand is utterly unbeatable. It’s easy to understand why everyone flocks here at least once. Don’t be put off by this nonsense about Queenstown being “too touristy.” It’s a recognized international tourist resort, for goodness sake, so of course there will be lots of tourists! It has a long-standing reputation for being a work-hard, play-hard, party-hard sort of a place, and as far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier.
Milford Sound is another matter entirely. It is simply stunning, but the excessive number of buses (over 50 a day) is quite disgusting and should be reduced to make it a better experience for everyone. It is a remote wilderness area, but it’s hard to sense that with 3,000 other people standing around looking at the same mountain peak!
Wanaka has a much more low-key personality than Queenstown. It makes a beautiful stopover between Queenstown and the West Coast. You’ll find some stunning lodges and B&Bs here.
Dunedin, Southland & Stewart Island — Invercargill and Southland are sleepy, slow, incredibly friendly, and very, very green, but not that well prepared for the visitor. Dunedin is simply gorgeous, very Gothic, and in winter, very grim. But as a summer destination, it’s lovely and has lots to offer the wildlife lover. Get out onto Otago Peninsula and be prepared to have your breath taken away. It also has some handsome B&B and lodge-style accommodations in the most amazing old houses.
Farther south, the Catlins Coast and Stewart Island are remarkably unspoiled by anything — especially tourism. I’m almost loath to mention either for fear of instigating a mass influx of visitors, but good old Kiwi pride gets in the way, and I can’t help boasting about these two truly magical destinations.
New Zealand Fast Facts
American Express — The office is at 105 Queen St., Auckland (tel. 09/367-4422). Other offices are located in Christchurch, Hamilton, Nelson, Porirua, Pukekohe, Queenstown, Rotorua, Wellington, and Whangarei. They accept mail for clients, forward mail for a small fee, issue and change traveler’s checks, and replace lost or stolen traveler’s checks and American Express cards.
Business Hours — Banks are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 4:30pm. Shops are usually open Monday through Thursday from 9am (sometimes 8am) to 5:30pm, and until 9pm on either Thursday or Friday. Increasingly, shops are open all day Saturday; many shops are also open all day Sunday, with others closing between noon and 4pm.
Drugstores — Pharmacies observe regular shop hours, but most localities have an Urgent Pharmacy, which remains open until about 11pm every day except Sunday, when there are two periods during the day when it’s open, usually one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Electricity — The voltage is 230 volts in New Zealand, and plugs are the three-prong type. If you bring a hair dryer, it should be a dual-voltage one, and you’ll need an adapter plug. Most motels and some B&Bs have built-in wall transformers for 110-volt, two-prong razors, but if you’re going to be staying in hostels, cabins, homestays, or guesthouses, bring dual-voltage appliances.
Embassies & Consulates — In Wellington, the capital city, you’ll find the United States Embassy, the Canadian High Commission, and the British High Commission. In Auckland, you’ll find consulates for the United States, Canada, and Ireland.
Emergencies — Dial tel. 111 to contact the police, call an ambulance, or report a fire.
Film — Film is expensive in New Zealand, so if you’re not using a digital camera, carry a lot of it from home. Most brands are available in larger cities.
Internet Access — Internet facilities are available in all major cities and in many smaller towns. Consult visitor centers for specifics, or go to www.cybercafes.com. Many establishments now offer broadband and wireless connections.
Language — English is spoken by all New Zealanders. You’ll hear Maori spoken on some TV and radio programs and in some Maori settlements.
Liquor Laws — The minimum drinking age is 18 in pubs. Children are allowed in pubs with their parents.
Lost & Found — Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen and file a report at the nearest police precinct. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. Visa’s emergency number is tel. 0508/600-300 in NZ. American Express cardholders and traveler’s check holders should call collect to the U.S. at tel. 715/343-7977 715/343-7977. MasterCard holders should call tel. 0800/44-9140 in NZ.
If you need emergency cash over the weekend when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you via Western Union (tel. 0800/005-253 in NZ; www.westernunion.com).
Identity theft and fraud are potential complications of losing your wallet, especially if you’ve lost your driver’s license along with your cash and credit cards. Notify the major credit-reporting bureaus immediately; placing a fraud alert on your records may protect you against liability for criminal activity. The three major U.S. credit-reporting agencies are Equifax (tel. 800/766-0008 800/766-0008; www.equifax.com), Experian (tel. 888/397-3742 888/397-3742; www.experian.com), and TransUnion (tel. 800/680-7289 800/680-7289; www.transunion.com). Finally, if you’ve lost all forms of photo ID, call your airline and explain the situation; they might allow you to board the plane if you have a copy of your passport or birth certificate and a copy of the police report you’ve filed.
Mail — New Zealand post offices will receive mail and hold it for you for 1 month. Have the parcel addressed to you c/o Poste Restante at the Chief Post Office of the town you’ll be visiting. It costs NZ$2.50 (US$1.80/90p) to send an airmail letter to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, or Europe. Overseas postcards cost NZ$2 (US$1.40/70p).
Maps — Get free maps from Automobile Association offices around the country by showing your home-country membership card. Rental-car firms also furnish maps with rentals.
Passports — For Residents of the United States: Whether you’re applying in person or by mail, you can download passport applications from the U.S. State Department website at http://travel.state.gov. For general information, call the National Passport Agency (tel. 202/647-0518 202/647-0518). To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. State Department website or call the National Passport Information Center (tel. 900/225-5674); the fee is 55¢ per minute for automated information and $1.50 per minute for operator-assisted calls.
Restrooms — There are “public conveniences” strategically located in all cities and many towns. Local Plunket Rooms come with a “Mother’s Room,” where you can change your child’s diapers. The Plunket Society is a state-subsidized organization that provides free baby care to all New Zealand families.
Taxes — There is a national 12.5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) that’s applicable to everything. A departure tax of NZ$25 (US$18/£9) is assessed and can be paid by credit card or in cash in New Zealand currency.
Telephone — The country code for New Zealand is 64. When calling New Zealand from outside the country, you must first dial the country code, then the city code (for example, 03, 09, or 06), but without the zero. The telephone area code in New Zealand is known as the STD (subscriber toll dialing). To call long distance within New Zealand, dial the STD — 09 for Auckland and Northland, 07 for the Thames Valley, 06 for the east coast and Wanganui, 04 for Wellington, or 03 for the South Island — and then the local number. (If you’re calling from outside New Zealand, omit the zero.) For operator assistance within New Zealand, dial 010; for directory assistance, 018. There are three main kinds of public telephones in New Zealand: card phones, credit card phones, and coin phones. Magnetic strip phone cards for public phones can be purchased from supermarkets, post offices, dairies, and service stations.
The most economical way to make international phone calls from New Zealand is to charge them to an international calling card (available free from your long-distance company at home). All calls, even international ones, can be made from public phone booths. (Long-distance calls made from your hotel or motel often have hefty surcharges added.) To reach an international operator, dial tel. 0170; for directory assistance for an international call, dial tel. 0172. You can also call home using Country Direct numbers. They are 000-911 for the U.S.; 000-944 for British Telecom (operator); 000-912 for British Telecom (automatic); 000-940 for UK Mercury; 000-919 for Canada; 000-996 for Australia-Optus; and 000-961 for Australia-Telstra.
Time Zone — New Zealand is located just west of the international dateline, and its standard time is 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Thus, when it’s noon in New Zealand, it’s 7:30am in Singapore, 9am in Tokyo, 10am in Sydney; and — all the previous day — 4pm in San Francisco, 7pm in New York, and midnight in London. In New Zealand, daylight saving time starts the first weekend in October and ends in mid-March.
Tipping — Most New Zealanders don’t tip waitstaff unless they’ve received extraordinary service — and then only 5% to 10%. Taxi drivers and porters are rarely tipped in this country.
Water — New Zealand tap water is pollution free and safe to drink. In the bush, you should boil, filter, or chemically treat water from rivers and lakes to avoid contracting Giardia (a waterborne parasite that causes diarrhea).
New Zealand When to Go
New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere; therefore, all seasons are the opposite of those in North America, Europe, and other Northern Hemisphere locations.
There really isn’t a bad time to travel to New Zealand. Keep in mind, though, that most Kiwi families take their main annual holidays between mid-December and the end of January, which puts enormous pressure on accommodations in major summer beach destinations. During the Easter break and school holidays in April, June to July, and September to October, it also pays to reserve well in advance.
Remember, too, that accommodations at ski destinations, especially Queenstown, fill up quickly — reserve early and be prepared to pay higher winter rates. In most other areas, though, you’ll be paying lower rates during the winter months (Apr-Aug). In some summer-peak areas, the winter also means that tour, lodge, and adventure operators may take advantage of lower tourist numbers and take their own holiday breaks, closing their businesses for 1- to 3-month periods.
New Zealand’s climate, especially by Northern Hemisphere standards, is pretty mellow for much of the year. You’ll find a far greater seasonal difference in the South Island than in the subtropical North, and don’t believe anyone who says it never gets cold here or that there are no extremes. In Central Otago, winter temperatures are often 14°F (-10°C) and sometimes as low as -4°F (-20°C), with summers up to 100°F to 104°F (38°C-40°C). By comparison, the northern part of the North Island is subtropical. That means lots of winter/spring rain, often daily light showers.
The west coast of the South Island can get up to 100 inches or more of rain a year on its side of the Southern Alps, while just over the mountains to the east, rainfall is a moderate 20 to 30 inches annually. Rain is also heavier on the west coast of the North Island, averaging 40 to 70 inches annually. Milford Sound, though, beats the lot; it’s the wettest place in the country, with a phenomenal 365 inches of rain a year.
Dialing the Weather — In New Zealand, call Metfax at tel. 0900/77-999 to hear the current and expected weather conditions in all major towns and cities. Calls cost around NZ$5.50 (US$3.90/£2) for the first minute and NZ$1 (US70¢/35p) per minute thereafter. For further information, call Metservice toll-free at tel. 0800/932-843.
Spring (Sept, Oct, Nov) — This is a beautiful time to visit — the countryside is flush with new green grass, baby lambs, and blooming trees. Christchurch in the spring means blossoms, bluebells, and daffodils in abundance; Dunedin is a splurge of rhododendron color. The weather can still be very changeable right up to mid-October, so come prepared with light rain gear. In the South Island, it’s still perfectly normal to get late snowfalls in September.
Summer (Dec, Jan, Feb) — This is peak tourist season, so you’ll pay top dollar for accommodations and airfares. Book early to avoid disappointment — this also applies to the major walking tracks, such as Milford, for which you should make bookings 6 months ahead. Beaches all over the country come alive, and boaties flock to the water. Fresh fruits are falling off the trees. (You must try Central Otago cherries and apricots; the apple district is Hawkes Bay.) And everyone should see Central Otago when the lupines are flowering, with brilliant colors etched against blue skies and golden tussock.
Autumn (Mar, Apr, May) — Personally, I think the best time to visit is February through April. The temperatures are pleasant (still hot in Feb in most parts), and even in April you’ll be wearing summer clothes in the upper North Island. The most spectacular autumn colors are found in Queenstown, Central Otago, and Christchurch. Keep Easter and April school holidays in mind, though, when accommodations may be tight in some areas.
Winter (June, July, Aug) — If you’re a skier, you’ll be heading to Queenstown, Mount Hutt, Canterbury, or the Central Plateau in the North Island — and paying top dollar for the privilege. Otherwise, if you travel elsewhere during this period, you won’t need to prebook much at all (except during the July school holidays). You’ll find some excellent rates — just don’t expect great things from the weather.
National public holidays include New Year’s Day (Jan 1), New Year’s Holiday (Jan 2), Waitangi Day (Feb 6), Good Friday (varies), Easter and Easter Monday (varies), ANZAC Day (Apr 25), Queen’s Birthday (first Mon in June), Labour Day (last Mon in Oct), Christmas Day (Dec 25), and Boxing Day (Dec 26).
Regional holidays include Wellington (Jan 22), Auckland (Jan 29), Northland (Jan 29), Nelson Region (Feb 1), Otago (Mar 23), Southland (Mar 23), Taranaki (Mar 31), Hawkes Bay (Nov 1), Marlborough (Nov 1), Westland (Dec 1), and Canterbury (Dec 16). Regional holidays are always observed on a Monday. If the date lands on a Friday or weekend, the holiday is observed on the following Monday. If it falls earlier in the week, it is observed on the preceding Monday.
School holidays consist of three midterm breaks — in April, June to July, and September to October — that last for 2 weeks each, plus 6 weeks for the December holidays. Kiwi families do much of their traveling during these periods, so be sure to reserve early.
New Zealand Entry Requirements & Customs
A passport is required for all entering visitors, and it must be valid for at least 3 months beyond your departure date from New Zealand. If you lose yours, visit the nearest consulate of your native country as soon as possible for a replacement.
Visas are not required for stays shorter than 3 months (as long as you don’t plan to study, work, or undergo medical treatment) if you’re a citizen of one of the following countries: Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong (if you’re traveling with a Special Administrative passport or if you hold a British national passport), Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Nauru, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Portugal (Portuguese passport holders must have the right to live permanently in Portugal), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United States, and Uruguay. British citizens are allowed a 6-month stay without a visa.
If you’re planning to visit for longer than is stated above, or if your country of origin is not listed, contact the nearest New Zealand embassy, consulate, or High Commission for information on the appropriate visa and an application. If you’d like to work or live in New Zealand, you can inquire at an embassy or consulate, or write to the New Zealand Immigration Service, P.O. Box 27-149, Wellington, NZ (www.immigration.govt.nz).
You must also have the following items before entering New Zealand: a confirmed round-trip or outward-bound ticket; enough money for your designated stay (NZ$1,000/US$710/£360 per person per month; credit cards are accepted); and the necessary documents to enter the country from which you came or the next country on your itinerary.
What You Can Bring into New Zealand — Do not bring any fruit or plants into New Zealand. Because of the importance of agriculture and horticulture to the economy, animal products, fruit, plant material, and foodstuffs that may contain plant or animal pests and diseases will not be allowed into the country. Heavy fines may be imposed on people caught carrying these prohibited materials. If in doubt, place all questionable items, especially fruit, into the marked bins before approaching the immigration area upon arrival at a New Zealand airport.
Firearms and weapons, unless a permit is obtained from the New Zealand police upon arrival at the airport, are not allowed. Note: This includes firearms intended for sporting purposes. Other prohibited items include ivory, in any form; tortoise- or turtle-shell jewelry and ornaments; medicines that incorporate musk, rhinoceros, or tiger derivatives; carvings or anything made from whale bone or bone from any other marine animal; and cat skins or coats. Certain drugs (diuretics, tranquilizers, depressants, stimulants, cardiac drugs, and sleeping pills) may not be allowed unless they are covered by a doctor’s prescription.
Customs duties are not assessed on personal items you bring into the country and plan to take with you. New Zealand’s duty-free allowances are 200 cigarettes or 250 grams (about 8 oz.) of tobacco or 50 cigars; 4.5 liters of wine or beer (equivalent to six 750ml bottles); one bottle of spirits or liqueur (up to 1,125ml/about 2 1/2 pints); and goods totaling NZ$700 (US$496/£253) that were purchased for your own use or for a gift. If you plan to take in anything beyond those limits, contact the embassy or consulate office nearest you before you arrive or check www.customs.govt.nz.
What You Can Bring Home — Returning United States citizens who have been away for 48 hours or more are allowed to bring back, once every 30 days, $800 worth of merchandise duty-free. You’ll be charged a flat rate of 4% duty on the next $1,000 worth of purchases. Be sure to have your receipts handy. On mailed gifts, the duty-free limit is $200. You cannot bring fresh foodstuffs into the United States; tinned foods, however, are allowed. For more information, contact the U.S. Customs Service, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229 (tel. 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 877/287-8867 ), and request the free pamphlet Know Before You Go. It’s also available online at www.customs.gov.
New Zealand Suggested Itineraries
Making your way around New Zealand is simple, and many tourists find renting a car the cheapest and most flexible option. But if you’re short on time, fly between major destinations and pick up a rental car for short journeys.
Many of you will find the roads “virtually empty” compared to those in your own countries. That said, don’t be mislead by the seemingly short distances between places. Most roads are only two lanes — except near bigger cities, where they become four-lane highways — and in some places they’re steep, winding, and narrow as they negotiate river gorges and mountain tracts. Allow much more time than you would for a similar length journey at home.
New Zealand For Food and Wine Lovers
New Zealand has come of age as a producer of internationally acclaimed wines and the great thing about the country’s six major grape-growing regions is that they’re packed into some of the most stunning landscapes. They’re often close to gourmet food producers, many have terrific restaurants, some offer boutique lodgings, and impressive architecture is to the fore. In an ideal world, you could easily spend 2 to 3 weeks “soaking” in a New Zealand wine tour because it offers so much more than just wine and vineyards, but the following itinerary outlines a more realistic (for most travelers) 10-day tour of highlights.
Day 1: Arrive in Auckland
The greater Auckland region (including Waiheke Island) has over 100 vineyards and wineries. In the interests of early research, head for the New Zealand Winemakers Centre in Central City to sample your first New Zealand wines and to pick up information on New Zealand wine tourism. Have dinner at Vinnies Restaurant.
Day 2: Henderson Valley
Drive 30 minutes from the city to New Zealand’s oldest grape-growing region, where there are a bundle of wineries along Henderson Valley Road and Lincoln Road. Seek out Soljans Estate’s winery and cafe for lunch and then drive on to Kumeu River and Nobilo. If you don’t want to drive yourself, contact Phil Parker’s Fine Wine Tours to get a comprehensive overview in a short time. Stay at Vineyard Cottages, which are surrounded by Matua Valley Wines vineyards. If you return to the city, dine at The French Café.
Day 3: Waiheke Island
Catch the ferry to Waiheke Island. Pick up a rental and visit some of the 45 vineyards on the island. Fullers and Ananda Tours both offer wine tours. If you’d rather be independent, make sure you visit Te Whau Vineyard, which has more than 500 cellared wines. It’s highly rated by Wine Spectator and has an impressive menu. You can’t really get lost on this little paradise, and if you did, would you care? Splurge on a stay at Te Whau Lodge, where you’ll wine and dine in style overlooking vineyards.
Day 4: Fly to Hawke’s Bay
Head back to the mainland (reluctantly, I’d guess) and fly to Napier — a twin heaven of endless grapes and oh-so-pretty Art Deco architecture, not to mention gorgeous boutique vineyard accommodations, a dazzling array of restaurants, and some of the best wines in the country. Spend the afternoon at The National Aquarium of New Zealand for a change of pace and drink afternoon champagne at The County Hotel’s bar.
Day 5: The Wine Trail
Do a fun bicycle tour of a handful of vineyards with On Yer Bike Winery Tours, passing olive groves, orchards, wineries, and ostrich farms. Take your camera, as well as bottled water, a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses to protect against the hot sun. Switch back to your car in the evening and splash out on dinner at the unforgettable Terroir at Craggy Range Winery in the Havelock North area. Get there in daylight so you can look through the fabulous winery and tasting gallery. Try their classy vineyard stay, or plant yourself at nearby Mangapapa Lodge.
Day 6: More Tasting at Maraekakaho Road
If you haven’t been there yet, head for the vineyards in the Maraekakaho Road area, finishing up at Sileni Estates Winery & Epicurean Centre in time for a drawn-out lunch at their classy restaurant. Head back into Napier for a 2-hour, self-guided afternoon Art Deco Walk (tel. 06/835-0022; www.artdeconapier.com). Make sure you stop at Ujazi for coffee and cake, and right next door, loosen your purse strings on fabulous New Zealand arts and crafts at Statements Gallery.
Day 7: The Marlborough Wine Region
Rise early and drive the 4 hours to Wellington, where you’ll catch the Interislander to Picton. You’ll find world-class vineyards here as far as the eye can see. Take plenty of film and stamina, along with a wine map from the visitor center, which lists all the wineries open for meals and tastings, plus the wines they produce. There are over 50 cellar doors open to you, so make a day of it. Splurge on dinner at Herzog, an Epicurean and wine lovers’ heaven with top European chefs, and stay in the heart of the Renwick wine area at Vintners Retreat Resort Villas.
Day 8: Waipara Valley
Hire a car and drive the 4 hours south to Waipara Valley. Look out for Omihi School on your left, just north of Waipara (about 1 hr. south of Kaikoura) and turn there for Daniel Schuster Wines. Danny is an internationally recognized wine consultant with a boundless knowledge and one of the prettiest vineyards and tasting rooms around. Call in at Waipara Springs Winery for coffee and save yourself for lunch at award-winning Pegasus Bay just down the road. Visit other local wineries and call in at Athena Olive Groves for a different taste sensation. Drive 45 minutes south to Christchurch and catch a flight to Queenstown.
Day 9: Queenstown
Hire a car and call first on Johann Small-Smith at Wine Deli for all the advice you’ll need on local wines — and to send some wine home via his international packing service. Pick up a wine map from the visitor center and head out to Amisfield Winery overlooking Lake Hayes. Be impressed by Peregrine Wines‘s unique architecture and make an extended stop at Gibbston Valley Wines. Explore their wine tunnel, the great gift shop, and the cheesery. When you get back, hunt down The Bunker for perfectly matched wine and gourmet food.
Day 10: Cromwell & Bannockburn
Take a scenic drive through Kawarau Gorge. Near Cromwell stop at fruit stalls and The Big Picture for an excellent film, a tasting auditorium, a selection of wines and gourmet foods, and a cafe. Set your sights on Felton Road, the Mt. Difficulty Wines cafe, and Olssen’s Garden Vineyard. If you’d rather take a tour of this area, contact Queenstown Wine Trail or Appellation Central Wine Tours. Try the degustation menu at The Spire dining room for dinner if you have time, or catch a late flight to Christchurch to meet your international connection.
New Zealand In One Week
I hear it all the time: “This is such a small country, but we never realized there would be so much to see; we wish we’d allowed more time.” Seeing New Zealand in 1 week is possible, but it will require early starts and long days. Personally, I’d ditch the car idea and fly between four major stops — Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown — to save time. There are regular internal flights between all major towns and cities, and if you shop around some of the smaller airlines, you can get good deals. Otherwise, you’ll spend 90% of your time in a vehicle suffering from jet lag, with little left over for the sights.
Day 1: Arrive in Auckland
Try to arrive early and focus your attention on Viaduct Basin, a great introduction to New Zealand’s passion for boats. Go for a sail on NZL 40, which is moored here. The New Zealand National Maritime Museum is also here and gives a great overview of our maritime history and short cruises on the historic scow Ted Ashby. In between, join the crowds lazing about over good coffee and fine food. There are at least a dozen restaurants to choose from. Stay at Hilton Auckland, perched on the end of the wharf.
Day 2: Waiheke Island
Catch a ferry across to Waiheke Island for a day of laid-back wine tasting and beach walking. Factor in lunch at Te Whau Vineyard, where you can gaze over staggering views and one of the best wine cellars in the country. Visit Connells Bay Waiheke Sculpture Park with work by leading New Zealand artists and swim in the clear warm waters of Onetangi Bay. Return to Auckland late afternoon, visit Auckland Museum, and eat at The French Café.
Day 3: Wellington
Get up early and fly to Wellington. For the definitive overview of New Zealand, go straight to Te Papa. Don’t miss the Passports and Manu Whenua displays. Walk along the waterfront, down the Lambton Quay shopping precinct, and catch the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens. Go down the other side to Tinakori Village for lunch. Walk back down Bowen Street, past the Beehive and Parliament. After unwinding at Caffe Astoria, enjoy dinner at Café Bastille.
Day 4: Christchurch
Take an early flight to Christchurch, hire a car at the airport, skip the city, and drive 1 hour to pretty Akaroa, admiring rural landscapes along the way. For interesting art and great coffee, stop at Little River Gallery. Take another break at the hilltop for great camera shots. Over the hills, try tasty Barry’s Bay Cheese. In Akaroa, take a nature cruise with dolphin-watching, or saunter along the promenade taking in quaint architecture and dinky shops. When you return to Christchurch, stay at Clearwater Resort, which is close to the airport.
Day 5: Arrive in Queenstown
Sleep in and wake up to ducks floating on the lake outside your window. Ease yourself into a late breakfast before flying to Queenstown. Once there, at the airport, take a memorable helicopter ride with Over The Top and land high on a mountain peak for lunch in total solitude. You’ll remember this forever. Back on the ground, spoil yourself at the Sofitel.
Day 6: Queenstown Adventures
Rise early, meet the locals for breakfast at Joe’s Garage, and then have the quintessential adventure experience on Shotover Jet. Move on to Arrowtown, explore the quaint old Chinese gold mining area, and have lunch at Saffron. If you’re ready for more action, do the Kawarau Bungy (or watch others) and then visit Gibbston Valley Wines. Alternatively, use this day to enjoy a scenic flight to Milford Sound, a cruise, and return flight.
Day 7: Back to Christchurch
Fly back to Christchurch to connect with your international flight. If you have time between flights, visit the nearby International Antarctic Centre, Orana Park, or Willowbank Wildlife Reserve — where you’re sure to see a kiwi. Alternatively, unwind with a round of golf at Clearwater Resort.
New Zealand In Two Weeks
Two weeks in New Zealand gives you more opportunities to drive between destinations and take in the color of the provinces. Still, don’t underestimate the time your journey will take. New Zealand has good roads, but 20km (12 miles) in some parts of the country could be narrow, steep, and winding — which means it might take you twice as long to negotiate them as it would back home. In general, roads are well maintained and all major roads are paved. Drive with care on narrow, unpaved roads if you venture in to more remote areas. What I’ve suggested here gives you a taste of both main islands, sticking to main centers with the greatest concentration of activities.
Day 1: Arrive in Auckland
Arrive in Auckland and rest for a whole day, doing nothing more taxing than eating and drinking at Viaduct Basin. At night, go to the top of Sky Tower for the big daddy of views and a meal in the revolving restaurant.
Day 2: Auckland’s Major Sights
Prepare to sightsee until you drop. Get on the Explorer Bus — the cheapest and easiest way to see as much as possible in 1 day. You’ll set eyes on Mission Bay’s pretty beach promenade, visit Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World, and get a taste of Maori culture at Auckland Museum. The bus drives through the leafy Botanic Gardens and through Parnell village. It stops at the SKYCITY complex, the Victoria Park Market, and much more.
Day 3: Waiheke Island
Rise early and catch a ferry to Waiheke Island. Hire a car and drive around the island, visiting wineries, olive groves, artists’ studios, and unspoilt beaches. Some of the best surprises are in the little bays away from Oneroa township. Following visits to Whittakers Musical Museum and Te Whau Garden, have lunch at Mudbrick Vineyard. Later in the day, sit in Onetangi Beach and watch the sunset. Stay at The Boatshed.
Day 4: Rotorua
Arrive back in Auckland by midday and fly to Rotorua. Hire a car. If you want a day of complete rest and solitude in unabashed luxury, head for Treetops Lodge. If you want to see the sights, go straight to Rotorua Museum for an excellent overview of geothermal and volcanic history. Spend the rest of the afternoon at Te Puia to see bubbling mud and Maori cultural performances. Watch the sun set over the lake and relax in a hot rock pool at Polynesian Spa.
Day 5: The Thermal Attractions
Drive 30 minutes south to see the wonders of Waimangu and Waiotapu. Waimangu has more spectacular sights in a shorter walk. If you’re back in town by early afternoon you could take a guided tour of Ohinemutu, the original Maori village on the lakefront, followed by a walk among the Whakarewarewa Forest redwoods. Finish the night with a tour and cultural performance at Tamaki Maori Village.
Day 6: Drive to Wellington
Rise early for a day of driving, but be careful, as roads in the Rotorua region are busy with huge logging trucks. A 5-hour journey will take you around Lake Taupo, where there are plenty of lake-edge stops for photographs, through the stark beauty of Tongariro National Park, and through heartland farming provinces. You could stop off for a night in the Wairarapa — or at least stop to eat in one of Greytown’s cute cafes — or drive the last taxing, winding, uphill leg over the Rimutaka Hills to Wellington. Alternatively, go the coastal route along the Kapiti Coast.
Day 7: Wellington
Te Papa is a must-visit. Spend 2 to 3 hours there and don’t miss the gift shop for top-quality crafts. And you can’t visit the capital without a ride up the cable car, a wander through the Botanic Gardens at the top, and a sit-in at a session of Parliament. Art lovers should see City Gallery Wellington and if you like the funky side of life, wander up Cuba Street. Late afternoon, amble around the waterfront to Oriental Parade. Have dinner at Logan Brown or Café Bastille.
Day 8: A Ferry Crossing
Rise early and catch one of the first ferries to Picton on the Interislander. The 3-hour trip is an experience in its own right and if the weather’s good you’ll have a picturesque passage through Queen Charlotte Sound. Catch the 1:40pm TranzCoastal. This rail journey is a scenic feast through vineyards and along a rugged coastline hugged by steep mountains. You might want to get out at Kaikoura and go whale-watching, or continue on to Christchurch, arriving around 7pm.
Day 9: Christchurch
Get up early and head up Dyers Pass Road (in a hired car) to the top of the Port Hills. My favorite drive is along the top, heading east, stopping for the fabulous views down into Lyttelton Harbour on your right. Drop down into the trendy seaside village of Sumner, have coffee at Coffee Culture, and walk along the white sands of Sumner Beach. Back in town, the swanky new architectural wonder that is Christchurch Art Gallery is bound to impress — don’t leave without visiting their shop and Form Gallery. Wander down the boulevard to Canterbury Museum, the Arts Centre, and the Botanic Gardens.
Day 10: Drive to Queenstown
Prepare to be impressed by the landscapes on this 5- to 6-hour journey. You’ll pass by the unbelievably turquoise Lake Tekapo — look out for the stop at the south end of the lake, which affords picture-perfect views of Mount Cook — and through the grand beauty of Lindis Pass. The lupins will be flowering along the summer roadsides of the Mackenzie Country and you won’t be able to resist pulling out your camera. Stop on the Queenstown side of Cromwell at The Big Picture for refreshments, wine tastings, and an overview of the region’s vineyards and wineries. Don’t miss stops at the fresh summer fruit stalls along the way. Apricots are near perfect here.
Day 11: Queenstown
Sleep in and breakfast late at Joe’s Garage before taking an early cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw. You’ll be back in plenty of time to take the gondola up to Bob’s Peak for breathtaking views over Queenstown. Leap off the bungy if you dare, or descend on the gondola and wander into the Kiwi & Birdlife Park. Dine on seafood at Boardwalk.
Day 12: The Wineries
Hire a car (or take a guided tour) and drive yourself around the best of Central Otago’s wineries. The top four closest to Queenstown are Gibbston Valley Wines, Peregrine, Amisfield, and Chard Farm. Don’t miss Gibbston’s wine cave, its cheesery, and its excellent lunches under a canopy of vines. Alternatively, wander around central Queenstown stores for excellent duty-free shopping and have lunch at Eichardt’s, or take in a round of golf at Millbrook Resort and eat in one of its restaurants, finishing off with a soothing massage in the splendid spa. Have dinner at The Bunker.
Day 13: Fly to Milford Sound
Be up early for a memorable scenic flight or helicopter ride to Milford Sound. Take a boat cruise and make sure you include the Underwater Observatory. Flying is by far the best option if you’re short on time, although it is weather dependent. Bus trips can take around 12 hours — including the return. When you’re back in Queenstown at the end of the day, take a drive through Deer Park Heights and watch the sun set over the lake. Dine at Saffron in Arrowtown.
Day 14: Back to Christchurch
Enjoy a lazy morning in Queenstown before flying to Christchurch to connect with your international flight. If you have time between the two flights, go to the International Antarctic Centre near the airport, or, if you’ve yet to see a live kiwi, check out the nearby Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. If you fancy big cats, visit the cheetahs at Orana Park.