About New Zealand

quick facts

About New Zealand

Location

New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere – it consists of two large islands (which vie for the title of ‘mainland’!) called North Island and South Island plus numerous smaller islands. NZ sits in the South Pacific ocean between 34 and 46 degrees of latitude. This means we’re about the same distance from the equator as Spain or California, and about 3,800 km from Antarctica.

Population

4.5 million New Zealanders - otherwise known as Kiwis, after the shy, flightless bird that is endemic to NZ and a protected species.  

Islands

NZ's main islands are the North Island and South Island, but there are over 40 others.  Some of them are: Stewart, Chatham, Waiheke, Great Barrier, Muttonbird, Codfish, D’Urville, Goat, Green, Mana, Pearl, Rangitoto, Secretary, Slipper, Whale, Wanganui, Hen and Chicken.

History

80 million years ago – the Rangitata landmass separates from the ancient super continent known as Gondwana, evolving over time to become modern New Zealand. Seven thousand years ago most of New Zealand's land area was covered by rainforest. The surrounding seas protected New Zealand's unique fauna and flora from marauding mammals, and because of this there were many species of flightless birds evolving in safety at ground level.

950 - 1130 AD - New Zealand is thought to have been settled by Polynesians arriving in a number of twin hulled or outrigger canoes.

1642 - the first of the European explorers, Abel Tasman sailed into NZ waters. The first encounter between Mâori and European is violent, leading to bloodshed.

1769 - James Cook arrived in New Zealand waters. From the late 1790's on, whalers, traders and missionaries arrived, establishing settlements mainly along the far northern coast of New Zealand.
Wars and conflicts between Mâori (indigenous people of New Zealand) tribes were constant. Rumours of French plans for the colonisation of the South Island helped hasten British action to annexe, and then colonise New Zealand. A number of Mâori chiefs signed a Treaty with the British on 6th February 1840, to be known as the Treaty of Waitangi. The subsequent influx of European settlers leads to the turbulent period of the New Zealand Wars, also known as the Land Wars, which lasted for over twenty years. The Mâori, although inferior in number, proved a formidable foe.

Today - New Zealand today is an independent nation within the British Commonwealth. The British Monarch, although constitutional head of state, plays no active role in the administration of New Zealand's government.

The Silver Fern

This is a type of fern endemic to New Zealand, that has grown to represent our sports and culture. It’s the name of our netball team and it’s logo is famously used by the All Blacks (rugby) and the Black Caps (cricket). Political parties and businesses use it as an emblem and the fern is even on the NZ coat of arms. No surprise then, that the Silver Fern is seen by many as the unofficial flag of New Zealand, and it distinguishes the Kiwi nation far more than our official flag, particularly in international sporting events.

Climate

The seasons are opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere. The warmer months are November to April while the ski season runs from mid June to October.
Overall, the climate is fairly mild. The average temperature ranges from 15°C (60°F) in the upper regions of the North Island to 10°C (50°F) near the bottom of the South Island. Temperatures are a few degrees cooler in the South Island, and both islands receive snow in winter. It is also important to remember that New Zealand's climate is maritime, rather than continental, which means the weather can change with amazing rapidity and consequence.

Favourite Kiwi Activities

You’ll never be stuck for stuff to do in NZ, whatever your age! Here are some of our favourite past times – walking (we’ve got hundreds of well maintained tracks throughout the country, from 20 minutes to several days), mountain biking, swimming and surfing (we’re generally an outdoor lot!), bungy jumping (minimum age 10), skiing or snowboarding (both islands have great ski fields with family facilities), jetboating (well it was invented by a Kiwi!), wine tasting, glacier exploring, horse riding, soaking in natural hot pools or tucking into a good ol’ Kiwi barbeque.

Favourite Kiwi Food

Kiwi cuisine is as varied as anywhere in the world – we’re a cosmopolitan bunch with an unbeatable range of restaurant styles. Some kiwi favourites are Pacific Rim cuisine (don’t forget to try out our delicious seafood, Bluff oysters and green lipped mussels), amazing cheeses, venison, lamb, salmon, the good ol’ Kiwi pie and probably the best café scene in the world.  If you've a sweet tooth try the traditional Kiwi Pavlova, Hokey Pokey ice cream and chocolate Tim Tams (ask your nearest friendly kiwi how to do a 'Tim Tam explosion'!)

Travelling with Children

New Zealand is a family-friendly country and we try to make it easy for you to get around as a family. Starting with our national airline. Air New Zealand offers the following for the kids: early boarding, kids’ packs, children’s meals, childcare, bassinets, strollers, child restraints and child/young person travelling alone service.   Car hire companies generally have child seats available, some at no extra charge.  There are hundreds of family-friendly accommodation options on this site, plus you can visit our sister site, www.familyaccommodationnz.com for more on holidaying in New Zealand with children.

Map of New Zealand
  • Central Otago
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Coromandel
  • Dunedin
  • Gisborne
  • Fiordland
  • Hawkes Bay
  • North Canterbury
  • Manawatu
  • Nelson & Golden Bay
  • Northland
  • Marlborough Sounds
  • Rotorua
  • Queenstown
  • Taranaki
  • South Canterbury
  • Taupo
  • Southland
  • Waikato
  • Wanaka
  • West Coast
  • Whangarei
  • Bay of Islands
  • Tauranga
  • Gisborne
  • Hamilton
  • Napier
  • Kapiti
  • Palmerston North
  • Whanganui
  • New Plymouth
  • Arrowtown
  • Te Anau
  • Akaroa
  • Ashburton
  • Hanmer
  • Kaikoura
  • Methven
  • Mt Cook
  • Oamaru
  • Tekapo
  • Timaru
  • Abel Tasman
  • Motueka
  • Nelson Lakes
  • Blenheim
  • Picton
  • Catlins
  • Gore
  • Stewart Island
  • Central Plateau
  • Invercargill
  • Cromwell
  • Greymouth
  • Hokitika
  • Westport
  • Glenorchy

Our favourite destinations…

Auckland destination2

Auckland

New Zealand’s economic heart and biggest city is also an exciting family visitor destination, situated on a sunny harbour with city beaches just minutes away from the CBD. Orientate yourself by heading down to Viaduct Harbour, wandering the waterfront, checking out the super yachts or enjoying the waterfront restaurants. Nearby is the must-visit Sky Tower along with excellent and kid-friendly museums and tons of exciting activities!

Wellington

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital. Here you will find New Zealand's parliament buildings, including the 'Executive Wing', more well-known as 'The Beehive' due to its distinctive shape. Another icon to look out for is the Wellington Tram, which was the main means of public transport between 1878 and 1964.

Christchurch

With a population of around 400,000 Christchurch, in Canterbury, is the South Island ’s largest city, yet much of it has the feel of a small town. Perhaps that’s why it’s known as the Garden City but with the expansive Hagley Park, Botanic Gardens, Port Hills, River Avon and numerous beaches the city certainly has an open, relaxed feel that’s hard to beat.

Queenstown

With its well-deserved reputation as New Zealand’s activity adventure capital you’ll never run out of activities and things to do in Queenstown, but you may run out of time! With breathtaking scenery, activities and festivals, cafes and restaurants, skiing and snowboarding, shopping and wineries, this lakeside alpine resort rates as one of the world’s top vacation destinations for all ages and seasons.

Rotorua

Rotorua sits on the shore of Lake Rotorua, one of sixteen lakes in the area formed by hundreds of thousands of years of eruptions from the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The area is renowned for its geothermal activity and top of any activity list is to see the bubbling mud pools that are around the region for yourself. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley offers a first hand insight into the devastation caused by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera and is a great place to discover steaming volcanic craters and bubbling, spitting  pools of mud!

Nelson and Golden Bay

The Nelson and Golden Bay regions, at the top of the South Island, boast enviable sunshine hours, glorious sandy beaches, safe swimming spots, lots of wildlife to look out for, and Abel Tasman National Park - an absolute must to explore, on foot, by kayak, your own craft or watertaxi.  Nelson is home to a vibrant arts and crafts community with a fabulous Saturday market, and is close to award-winning wineries and family-friendly bike tracks to take you around the coast.

Hawkes Bay

Napier was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake and is now known as NZ's Art Deco City.  The Art Deco influence has created a unique city – nowhere else can you see such a varied concentration of art deco style. With over 2,200 sunshine hours a year, Napier is a year-round holiday destination with countless activities to entertain the kids – there's days of entertainment on Marine Parade alone, plus numerous other family-friendly trips and activities.  Add to that the beaches, walks and flat cycle paths, outdoor cafes and entertainment, and you have a perfect holiday destination!

Northland

Beautiful, unspoiled beaches, fishing, historic gum fields, kauri forests – the Far North has it all. With subtropical temperatures, it's often known as ‘the Winterless north', with warm, humid summers and mild winters.
Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a pretty, lively beachside town and a perfect base for your family holiday. It’s your start point for Bay of Island adventures including day cruises, sailing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and reef or wreck diving.