New Zealand (NZ) seems so far away if you are from the West as it is located in the southwestern region of the Pacific Ocean. It is known for its incredible scenery that remains unspoilt. The people are warm, friendly and hospitable and the country’s climate suits everyone any time of the year. New Zealand’s culture is likewise unequalled, which adds to the long list of charms of this fascinating island country.
Summer in New Zealand is from December to February. The period is the sunniest and the warmest time of the year, although it is not scorching hot. March to May is fall season. The weather still has enough warmth for visitors to go swimming and do water-related activities. Winter is from June to August and snowboarding and skiing are the top sports activities you can enjoy in both islands. The airfare rates are at their lowest at this time. Rates for accommodation and attractions are likewise low so it is a good time to visit, if you are after winter sports. New Zealand bursts into a soft green wonderland in spring, which is from September to November. You will also see plenty of one of the country’s icons – cute and cuddly newborn lambs.
North Island: Auckland and Waitomo Caves
Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand. It is also the country’s premiere transport hub and a place teeming with natural wonders as well as several options for dining and shopping.It is an urban location where most of the attractions are just less than or a few hours away. Within thirty minutes from the city centre you’ll be seeing several holiday islands, hiking trails and great beaches. The city’s landscape is so diverse. In the east, rows of pohutukawa trees (NZ’s Christmas flowers) line that shores of beaches with golden sand. Country gardens, serene bays and beautiful forests abound in the south. Rolling hills of NZ’s wine country is in the north, their gentle slopes meeting gorgeous coastlines while in the west you’ll be greeted by lush rainforests, hills and glistening black sand beaches.
Auckland has 48 volcanic cones that provide visitors with panoramic views of the harbour and the city, many of which are situated within parks. North Island’s most iconic volcanic island, Rangitoto, is just 25-minutes away from Auckland by ferry. Waiheke Island located at the Hauraki Gulf is blessed with golden beaches and rich farmland. You’ll find olive groves and charming vineyards here, enjoy a variety of wines, fine dining and explore works by local artists. You can also join a harbour cruise, go surfing or kayaking and spend some time to spot dolphins and whales.
With all the exciting destinations already mentioned, there still more to be found in Auckland. One is the world-famous Waitomo Caves. As you abseil, go on a zip line into the darkness or float on the very cold river on a rubber tube, you’ll see plenty of amazing stalagmites and stalactites from the cave floor and ceiling. But pay close attention to the walls of the caverns, which are lit by tiny pin lights, created by the caves’ glow worms, which are native to New Zealand. You’ll be amazed at this natural wonder, because not only do they light up the magnificent rock formations, you also feel like you are floating in space and have gone closer to millions of stars.
South Island and New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’
Equally fascinating and chock-full of natural wonders is South Island, where six of the country’s “Great Walks” are located. Stewart Island is the best place to spot the very rare Kiwi bird while you can see a Jurassic Petrified Forest and rare species of flora and fauna at the Catlins Coast. Experience the grandeur, serenity and the awesome landscape surrounding the deepest fiord in New Zealand, Doubtful Sound. Or you can also go on a tour of Milford Sound, the only fiord that could be accessed by road. The scenery above the water is stunning and breathtaking, but wait until you see what’s underwater, which presents a different perspective. It’s something you ought to see so visit the Milford Deep Underwater Observatory as well.
South Island Great Walks:
As mentioned there are six Great Walks in the South Island, with one of the six located in Stewart Island. If you are planning to venture into any of these, be sure you allocate at least a week, to fully take advantage of the scenery and things in between. Here are our three top picks:
Milford Track is located in Fiordland, which is the largest national park in New Zealand. It is the most famous among all the Great Walks and it will not disappoint because you will be having a close encounter with the island’s spectacular landscape. It is a guided 5-day and 4-night walk through Queenstown’s Fiordland National Park and Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound, so be prepared to see native birdlife, silent fiords, thick forests, steep canyons and deep lakes. You’ll be spending almost a week through a magical and enchanting environment.
Another famous walk is on the Routeburn Track, where you will also experience some of New Zealand’s diverse scenery within the 3-day, 2-night guided walk. The walk takes you into the areas of Te Wahipounamu, passing through Mount Aspiring and Fiordland, two national parks in southwest New Zealand. You’re likely to see more native birds here including Routeburn Falls’ resident Kea. You’ll be enchanted by the deep blue-green rivers, thick, verdant forests, beautiful waterfalls, calm and enchanting lakes, alpine basins, steep rock faces and numerous mountains.
Kepler Track is a 3-5 day walk along a custom-built pathway to showcase the beauty of the Fiordland National Park. It follows a loop pattern that begins and ends at the park. You’ll be passing through some of the best features of the park, including valleys carved by glaciers, native birdlife, several waterfalls, beautiful mountains, limestone formations and a forest by the lake. You’ll see grand panoramic views as you spend one day walking on mountain tops.
Below are some travel tips for a solo traveler:
1. Get to know New Zealand before you fly
As you will be going solo to New Zealand, it is best to know that country before you arrive so you already have an idea of what to expect, where to go and what you need to take with you. Check out the airport websites, which also provide helpful maps, which will greatly aid you in navigating your way around the airport, including where to get airport transportation. By getting as much information as you can about the country and the places you plan to visit, you will be more familiar with destinations you have in mind and will not feel so out of place that you have to ask for directions all the time.
2. Be safe
While there is very low crime rate in New Zealand, it is still always prudent to be alert and mindful of your personal safety all the time. It could be a disadvantage if you travel alone, especially if you are a female but going with other tourists or joining groups of people will ensure your safety. Likewise, select popular walking tracks instead of walking on deserted and remote places. Know the walking tracks beforehand, have some food and water with you at all times and carry important phone numbers.
3. Take advantage of the freedom
New Zealand gives you plenty of options to be free, roam and discover yourself and the country. While your safety should always be uppermost in your mind, it should not stop you from relishing the idea of being carefree to savor all the wonderful experiences you’re going to have in NZ.
4. Meet the locals – Get off the beaten track
Maoris are very sociable people and will come to your aid any time. While caution is necessary whenever you are in a foreign place, you should also learn as much as you can about the local culture and the people. There are cultural tours and tribe visits you can join, ask for directions or get them to have a photo taken with you.
5. Trust your instinct
People have the instinct for self-preservation. Some people call it gut-feel, and somehow when you are in a situation that you feel could be life-threatening, somehow you know that it is true. Hone your instinct to get you out of dangerous situations. Learn how to assess so you can get out of there as quickly as you can. Otherwise, scream.