Travel Guide: Pro Tips for Traveling Kiwi-Style

By Xavier Vale Buisson

Author's Note: This post was co-authored by Alexandra McGowan and Ben Clarke.

New Zealand’s evergreen pastures are sure to enchant. Being known for its relaxed atmosphere and welcoming vibe, New Zealand is the perfect place to explore the Great Outdoors. Whether you’re a travel expert or have a newfound sense of wanderlust, our knowledgeable travel guide—complete with a dusting of glamping magic—will supply all you need for a fabulous trip to New Zealand!

Mitre Peak on the South Island of New Zealand.

Good to know before you go

Guide to New Zealand customs and tourist season
Guide to New Zealand currency and slang

Getting there and around

Air New Zealand

New Zealand consists of two large islands. Both are easily accessible via airplane and have excellent infrastructure, so guests can easily travel to their unique glamping accommodation. The main international airports are Auckland, Hamilton, and Rotorua on the North Island, and Christchurch, Dunedin, and Queenstown on the South Island.

All of the main rental companies are represented at major airports, so you can get straight on the road after your flight. Younger visitors need to be wary that the rental age in New Zealand is commonly 21 and older. We strongly recommend renting a car, as it is the easiest way to explore this magnificent country and the best way to access our glorious glamping sites. You should also note that in New Zealand you drive on the left!

  • Rail travel in New Zealand tends to be more scenic than efficient, but guests will be able to get a unique perspective of the New Zealand countryside that is not available from the roads. The country’s cities are well-connected by rail, especially when compared to the U.S.
  • For a cheap and easy way of getting around, visitors can find bus fares from as cheap as $1NZD. The main companies are InterCity and StrayBus.
  • The quickest way to visit New Zealand's major cities is via plane. It takes under two hours to fly from Auckland in the North Island to Queenstown in the South.

Train Travel in Wellington.

Useful facts

Guide to population and climate of New Zealand

Culture

Food and Drink

Dairy cows grazing in the countryside.

Dairy production is extremely important to New Zealand's economy. Here are some quick facts:

  • New Zealand is the world's eighth largest dairy producer, and accounts for 3% of total world production.
  • New Zealand exports 95% of its dairy.
  • New Zealand exported $8.5bn worth of dairy products between June 2015 and June 2016.
  • There are over 5 million dairy cattle in New Zealand.

Many consider New Zealand’s lamb to be the best in the world. It is produced so efficiently that it is often cheaper after shipping than U.S. lamb, so it’s likely that you already have a taste for it. Lamb from New Zealand is grass-fed throughout its life and tends to have a more pronounced, richer flavor. In New Zealand, only animals under 12 months old can be labeled as "lamb." There are no such regulations in the U.S.

Wine in New Zealand is a young industry. In the 1960s and 1970s, many young New Zealanders traveled, lived, and worked in Europe, due to the rise of commercial airlines. This was the first time that many New Zealanders came into contact with the well-established wine cultures of Europe. For many years, New Zealand has produced what many consider to be some of the world’s best Sauvignon blanc. More recently, the country has began to develop many other types, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet/Merlot blends, Pinot noir, Pinot gris, and Syrah. Visitors can find wineries all over.

Mānuka honey is produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native mānuka bush. It is commonly sold as an alternative medicine. Its advocates cite the natural antibacterial properties of honey. Although it is four times more antibacterial than standard antiseptic, there is little scientific backing for its medicinal use. Nevertheless, the Māori have used its honey and oils for centuries, and honey producers have developed a scale for rating the potency of mānuka honey called UMF, which stands for Unique Manuka Factor. Therapeutic honey starts at 10 UMF.

Mānuka honey being poured.

History and Heritage

Māori traditions.

New Zealand is a relatively new country. It was the last habitable part of the world to be discovered and settled. The first inhabitants were the Māori, who arrived from Polynesia in the 13th century. According to legend, New Zealand was discovered by captain Kupe. The first European to visit was Abel Tasman in 1642. He gave it its Dutch-sounding name, Nieuw Zeeland. It was later colonized by the British in the early 19th century. At Waitangi in 1840, over 500 Māori chiefs signed a treaty with the British Crown.

War broke out on the North Island in the 1860s and swathes of Māori land was either bought or confiscated over 20 years. The South Islands prospered, chiefly from gold. The British continued to invest in New Zealand, and railways and new towns sprang up. In 1882, the first shipment of frozen meat arrived in England, and paved the way for New Zealand as an exporter of meat and dairy products.

In 1893, New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote. State pensions and housing were also first offered in New Zealand. New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907. It contributed many troops to the ANZAC in both World Wars, as part of the British Empire, most famously at Gallipoli. New Zealand became independent in 1947. When Britain joined the EEC in 1973, New Zealand began to accelerate its export diversification, and today exports farm goods and other exports to many other countries.

Events

A music festival.

New Zealand's music festivals take place during the peak of summer, from November to February. The two biggest music festivals happen in late December. Rhythm and Vines is situated amongst the sunny vineyards of Gisborne, the first city to see 2018, thanks to its location on the international dateline, and Rhythm and Alps is set among the picturesque peaks surrounding Wanaka on the South Island.

Rugby Sevens has been a big festival for several years in New Zealand and it's taking place in Hamilton on February 3rd-4th. The competition will involve 16 of the world's greatest sevens teams, and attendees will also be treated to live performances and competitions.

Rugby

The Marlborough Wine Festival on February 10 involves 40 wineries and an evening of great music, delicious food, and excellent wine!

For those with an adventurous palate, the Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika on March 10 is well worth visiting! There's a whole range of exotic food, including huhu grubs and bats. Enjoy cooking demonstrations, wear fancy dress, and party all night.

Matariki (Māori New Year) has had a revival in recent years and is celebrated nationwide on June 15. It is a time for remembering the dead and celebrating new life and is marked by kites, fireworks, and hot air balloons.

Fireworks

Māori religion

Traditional Māori religion has changed very little from the beliefs of their Polynesian homeland. The believe that everything, including natural elements and all living things, are connected by common descent through whakapapa. All things are thought to possess a life force (mauri). Tangaroa was the god of the ocean and ancestor of all fish, Tāne the forest and all birds, and Rongo peaceful activities, agriculture, and the ancestor of cultivated plants.

The Māori have traditionally believed that people and objects contain mana, spiritual power or essence. Society was stratified according to this belief. Tapu implies rules and prohibitions. There are two types: public and private. A person, an object, or a place that is tapu may not be touched or in some cases not even approached. Nowadays, tapu is mostly observed in matters relating to sickness, death, and burial.

Since the early 19th century, Christianity has become increasingly important amongst the Māori. Large numbers became affiliated with the Church of England and the Catholic Church. Nowadays, Christian prayer (karakia) is often the expected way to begin and end Māori public gatherings.

Māori Temple

Safety and essentials

Documentation and Customs Regulations

Let us clue you up before you set off. Our low-down on the ins and outs of documentation is sure to save you a headache at the departure gate. Be aware that documentation and visa checks are carried out before boarding the plane and make sure you have them ready to be checked.

  • For duty-free allowances, check out the New Zealand customs website here.
  • It is advisable to declare any unusual medicines. Have the medication clearly labeled with a signed and dated letter from your doctor explaining your condition.
  • Plant and animal products must be declared. Any type of food or wood product must also be declared.
  • The United States is a visa waiver country of New Zealand and therefore a visa is not required to visit for three months or less. Consult the US government's state department link for passports and visas here.

Health

  • Be sure to take out comprehensive health insurance before your trip.
  • New Zealand has no essential vaccinations; however, as always, the World Health Organization recommends that all travelers should be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, polio, and hepatitis B.
  • Do not drink untreated water from streams or lakes. Giardiasis can be passed through untreated water. That said, tap water in New Zealand is normally safe to drink.
  • Insect repellent is advisable to ward off sand flies in coastal regions.

Dangers

  • Hypothermia can be a big risk during the winter. Be sure to keep warm at high altitudes or when exposed to high winds.
  • Be aware of the ocean! Rip tides and undertows are common.
  • Occasional earthquakes do occur in New Zealand so be sure to know the protocol in such an occurrence.

For comprehensive travel advice please refer to the US Department of State website.

Places to visit

Auckland

Auckland's Skyline

As you’re most likely to end up here after your international flight, it’s well worth staying for a couple of days to explore New Zealand’s largest city. The Auckland Art Gallery is the country’s largest and is great for a cultural fix. It features over 15,000 works of art from a variety of styles and eras.

The Auckland Domain Park is the city’s oldest park, and at 185 acres, it has a bit of everything. The park has been developed around the cone of an extinct volcano, and features exquisite Winter Gardens, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Formal Gardens, and several duck ponds. The city is also home to a wide range of international restaurants and has an excellent nightlife.

For those who are more adventurous, there is a Auckland Bridge climb, and even a bungee jump.

Luxury Tent Resort and Tree House Paradise above Karioitahi Beach, New Zealand

How about renting a luxury tent or treehouse within easy reach of Auckland?

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

Located in the northeast of the North Island, about a three hour drive from Auckland, this archipelago consists of over 140 subtropical islands. It’s famed for its beautiful undeveloped beaches and big-game fishing. It is also an important historical site, hosting both Māori artifacts and the whaling town of Russell, the nation’s first colonial capital. It is the perfect place to go sailing, boating or fishing. You can also take up a new hobby; Paihia Dive offers an introduction to scuba diving course which ferries you out far into the bay. There are also opportunities for both dolphin watching and even swimming with dolphins. Don’t forget to check out the Hole in the Rock, an opening in a rock formation that you can sail through, tide permitting.

Deluxe Private Suite with a Hot Tub at a Bed and Breakfast in Kerikeri, New Zealand

Look over the stunning bay from this deluxe private suite with a hot tub.

Rotorua

Rotorua Hot Springs

A geothermal town in northern New Zealand centered around Lake Rotorua, Rotorua is renowned for its effervescent mud pools, impressive geysers, and natural hot springs. The surrounding nature is also stunning. There are crystal-clear streams, encapsulating redwood forests, whitewater rivers for rafting, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute at Te Puia, the Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park, a Polynesian spa, and the Skyline Gravity Mountain Biking Park, which takes visitors to the top via gondola and allows them to cycle back down.

Peaceful and Romantic Bell Tent for Rent near Tauranga, New Zealand

Get back to nature and kick back in this peaceful, romantic bell tent.

Waiheke Island

Vineyard on Waiheke Island

Situated to the east of Auckland, the island is easily accessible by ferry. The island is home to many excellent vineyards, so you’ll definitely want someone else to transport you around. Waiheke Island Wine Tours will shuttle you to three different vineyards to sample 14 varieties of wine. Waiheke is also home to a popular arts community, beaches, forests, and olive groves. It’s also a great place to go hiking. The Headland Sculpture on the Gulf hiking trail is particularly worth seeing. We also recommend the Connells Bay Sculpture Park, which hosts nature-inspired sculptures by New Zealand artists.

Romantic Studio Rental for Two for Wine Tasting Getaway near Auckland, New Zealand

Why not treat yourself and your partner to this romantic studio rental in Waiheke Island wine country?

Queenstown

Queenstown

Queenstown has long had the reputation as the adventure capital of New Zealand, and with good reason. During the winter and spring (June to October) it is a premium skiing destination, with the Remarkables Ski Area of particular note. Other adventure activities such as bungee jumping, skydiving, jet boating, and river rafting attract adrenaline junkies year-round. At 182 meters, the Shotover Canyon Swing is the world’s highest cliff jump. Queenstown also has some of New Zealand’s best dining, including burger joints, steak houses, and fine dining options.

Sunny Farm Cabin Rental with Wood-Burning Stove near Lumsden, New Zealand

Escape to the picturesque South Island countryside in this cabin rental on a farm.


Get your suitcase ready and check out more of our New Zealand glamping accommodations here!