North Island? South Island? Or both? Each island is packed with fantastic sights. We round up some of the best places to visit...
The South Island is the largest island and contains the Southern Alps with 18 peaks more than 3,000 metres tall. Skiing and snowboarding are popular from the middle of June to early October, with runs for both beginners and advanced skiers. The best areas for skiing are Queenstown, Lake Wanaka, Mount Ruapehu and Christchurch. Most people visit the South Island for mountain glaciers, lakes and scenic drives. It is famous as the location for the Lord of the Rings films and the recent Hobbit films.
If you visit Dunedin you can take a ride on the Taieri Gorge Railway through the stunning and rugged gorge, visit the Otago Museum's Tropical Forest or entertain the children at the St Kilda Dinosaur Park. With car hire in New Zealand you can drive to Queenstown to do Break One Clay Target shooting, the Shotover Canyon Swing or a helicopter trip in Fiordland. The Fiordland National Park in Te Anau is stunning and the Milford Hiking Track is one of the most beautiful in the world.
The North Island has many active volcanoes that constantly change the appearance of the landscape, such as the Taupo volcanic zone. It is the site of the highest mountain on the North Island, Mount Ruapehu in the Tongariro National Park. The largest lake in the country, Lake Taupo, lies in a large caldera of a constantly active super-volcano. As a result, this area has many natural hot thermal springs, such as those at Rotorua. This city is very popular with tourists because of the healing properties of the hot mud baths and thermal springs. The numerous lakes abound with anglers, water skiers and swimmers in summer.
For an exciting time, you can go quad biking, river rafting or hiking in the Tongariro Forest. Cathedral Cove is another beautiful place to walk or picnic. The city of Napier is situated on Hawke's Bay and is popular with tourists. A famous and much-photographed feature is the Pania of the Reef statue of a woman on Marine Parade, which is reminiscent of the Little Mermaid. Napier Airport (NPE) is situated there.
Nature lovers will appreciate the untamed island of Rakiura, also called Stewart Island. It is a haven for wildlife, most of which is unique to this country. The geographic isolation of the islands has resulted in the evolution of unusual animals such as the flightless kiwi. The first humans, Maori of Polynesian descent, reached these shores as late as the thirteenth century.
New Zealand offers travellers an experience like no other and travelling by car enables you to visit every corner of these fascinating islands.