We feel blessed to have 2 very special countries that we call home. We love and have an ongoing connection to them both. New Zealand was our first home, we grew up here, got married and lived there for most of our lives. It’s has a special place in our hearts tied to many wonderful memories, emotions, people. We are so excited to share our New Zealand travel guide with you in these pages.
Geography of New Zealand
New Zealand, called Aotearoa in the indigenous Maori language, is diverse and naturally beautiful. It’s made up of two main islands, conveniently called the North Island and the South Island. Stewart Island off the bottom of the South Island is the third largest but there are 100’s of beautiful islands of all sizes scattered off its coastline, many of them are incredibly beautiful and worth your time of visit.
With a population of just over 5 million people, they are heavily concentrated around Wellington, the Capital city and Auckland, the largest city. Outside of that, it is very easy to find the small town welcome synonymous with New Zealand.
New Zealand’s natural landscape and wildlife are quite unique. Unlike Australia that split apart from Gondwana during the Jurassic Period, New Zealand rose up out of the ocean. The tectonic plates and volcanic activity that brought it to life continue to shape it today. As a result, its native wildlife is mainly unique birds, a prehistoric lizard and sealife.
We’d strongly suggest including some of New Zealand’s best beaches, spectacular lakes, mountains, temperate rainforest and geothermal areas into your itinerary.
Getting around in New Zealand
Public transport in the major cities in New Zealand works reasonably well, outside of the cities getting around gets more difficult. Taxis are expensive by world standards and only recommended for short distances.
The scenic railway lines operated by Kiwi Rail such as the train from Auckland to Wellington can be interesting but there are only a handful of long-distance rail routes. Domestic flights in New Zealand aren’t cheap but if you have limited time and going longer distances they can be your best option.
Unless you plan to join an organised tour, we recommend self-drive as the ideal way to experience New Zealand because so many of the best spots are off the beaten track. We drive on the left and you will need an international drivers licence unless you hold an Australian licence with entitles you to drive over here for up to 12 months.
The currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar. There are 100 cents to the dollar and coins are issued for amounts $2 and under down to a 10c coin.
To work out a current exchange rate to your home currency you can use this free tool.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted and can be used for payments in most locations, whether that’s accommodation or a cup of coffee. You’ll find Visa or Mastercard affiliated cards are the most widely accepted, minor cards like American Express and Diners will often attract a surcharge on the price or not be accepted by some shops and other outlets.
New Zealand is a safe country but it’s rarely required or recommended to carry very large amounts of cash. It’s better to get cash as you need it from an ATM machine with your bank card than carry large amounts of foreign currency to convert which also attracts a worse exchange rate.
There is no established tipping practice in New Zealand and wage rates are set accordingly. While many, including locals, will tip a small amount for good service in a restaurant or cafe it is not expected or necessary.
Other New Zealand Travel resources
When travelling in New Zealand we make our accommodation bookings through Booking.com, they have a good selection of properties, covering rural and remote areas in addition to the cities and we have had a good experience with them over many years. We particularly appreciate that many of the properties have free cancellation up to a few days before your stay, we’ve only ever used it once but the peace of mind it gives especially in uncertain times is well worth it.
We rent our cars through AVIS in both Australia and New Zealand. There is a full range of providers available and if you have loyalty with another brand you’ll likely find it here. Again we’ve used AVIS for many years and had consistently good experience with them which is why we stick with them.
For activities and tour bookings in New Zealand we use Klook and Get Your Guide, between them they have a good selection. We find pricing is sometimes a little more competitive with Klook but New Zealand doesn’t tend to negotiate down prices very much so they are fairly consistent.