Due to its amazing natural landscapes, New Zealand is often called the most beautiful country in the world. There are spectacular scenes with mountains, lakes, glaciers and fjords, even outside the numerous national parks. Travellers who want to discover the land of the Kiwis and the Maoris should do some preparation before departure, such as mapping out the route across the North and South Island and applying for a New Zealand visa (NZeTA).
Preparing for a tour of New Zealand
Many travellers don't realise it, but New Zealand, with its surface area of 268,021 km², is a fairly large country. From Auckland on the North Island to Queenstown on the South Island, you can easily travel for close to a full day (about 22 hours). To explore the whole country properly, you therefore need several months. As many travellers have limited time and will only be in New Zealand for a few weeks, we have laid out a route that passes by the highlights of the country, which should not be missed during a tour. For travellers who are not time-strapped, there are of course many other beautiful places to admire. In addition to determining the route, it is important to apply for a New Zealand visa before departure.
Highlights of the North Island
Lively metropolis Auckland
Most travellers arrive in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, which is located on the North Island. This city is perfect for spending a few days to acclimatise or recover from jet lag. The city's landmark is the iconic Skytower. From the observation platform of this tower, you have a beautiful view of the city. In addition, Auckland is home to several museums that are worth a visit.
Hot springs and volcanic landscapes
Most travellers, however, do not go to New Zealand for the cities, but for the beautiful nature that the country is known for. To start with Coromandel National Park, located on a peninsula in the north about a 2 hours' drive from Auckland. This national park is characterised by forests and coastlines with beautiful bays. On the east coast, you will find Hot Water Beach, a beach with hot springs where you can create your own spa by simply digging a hole. Another highlight of Coromandel is Cathedral Cove, a natural rock arch on the beach that was created by waves.
Another tourist attraction on the North Island is Rotorua, a thermal area with impressive geysers and hot springs. The city is also known as Sulphur City because of the sulphur smell. An hour's drive from Rotorua is Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake, created by the eruption of the Taupo volcano. South of the lake is Tongariro National Park, where you can hike through volcanic landscapes.
Capital city Wellington
The route continues towards Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, which lies at the southern tip of the North Island and forms the link between the North and South Islands. The city has a vibrant centre with restaurants, bars and shopping streets. Take a ride on the cable car or visit Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum. From Wellington, you can take the ferry to the South Island.
South Island travel route
Rugged nature, mountains and glaciers
We continue the route on the northern part of the South Island at Abel Tasman National Par. Although this is the smallest national park in New Zealand, it is also known as one of the most beautiful in the country. It offers kayaking and long-distance hiking, such as the Abel Tasman Coast Track, an approximately 50-kilometre hike along the coast and through the forests, or the Inland Track, which is more wilderness.
The next stops on the route are Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier, two impressive glaciers in Westland National Park. Due to the high rainfall in the area, there are around 60 glaciers in the national park, of which Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier are the best known. These two glaciers are only 23 kilometres apart and can therefore be visited together. On a clear day, Fox Glacier offers a view of Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain, which is named after the English explorer James Cook.
Lakes, fjords and outdoor activities
To the south-west of Westland National Park lies Wanaka, a town on Lake Wanaka that is an absolute must for outdoor enthusiasts. You can hike to Roys Peak, but also cycle or walk along the lake. Moreover, Lake Wanaka is home to one of the most photographed trees in the world: Wanaka tree, a willow that stands in the lake. Not far from Wanaka is Queenstown, the city that is also called the most adventurous city in the world. Adrenaline junkies can bungee jump, skydive and raft here.
One of the most beautiful places on the South Island is Milford Sound, a fjord in Fiordland National Park, located in the south-west of New Zealand. Milford Sound is often called the eighth wonder of the world and therefore sits high on the bucket list of many travellers. Although the fjord is only about 70 kilometres as the crow flies from Queenstown, the route by car is almost 300 kilometres. However, the scenery through the mountains and valleys makes up for this.
End of the route: Christchurch
The route ends in Christchurch, the second-largest city in New Zealand, located in the east of the South Island. The city was hit by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 during which many people died and the city was badly damaged, such as the cathedral, which was demolished. Although the damage is still visible, the city is flourishing again and Christchurch is generally considered a colourful and lively city. From Christchurch, you can fly back to Europe.
Applying for a New Zealand visa
Until recently, British and Irish tourists could travel to New Zealand without a visa, but since October 2019 it is mandatory to apply for a New Zealand visa (NZeTA) before departure. The NZeTA can easily be applied for online and is granted on average within 5 working days. The cost of the NZeTA of £49.95 also includes the cost of the mandatory tourist tax, the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL). This tourist levy is used for projects that aim to make tourism in New Zealand more sustainable. This ensures that in the future tourists will still be able to enjoy all the natural beauty that New Zealand has to offer.
The New Zealand Visa (NZeTA) is valid for two years and can be used for an unlimited number of trips during these two years. Each stay in New Zealand cannot exceed 3 months. An NZeTA can therefore also be used to make a longer tour of New Zealand and explore both the North and South Island.