New Zealand Cities Travel Guide
New Zealand is a South Pacific nation made up of a number of islands located about 1500 km east of Australia. With two main islands and many smaller outlying islands, the realm of New Zealand ranges from sub-tropical to sub-Antarctic. There is also a huge variety of altitudes ranging at sea level to nearly 4000 metres. New Zealand also sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, giving the country its high mountain ranges and rich volcanic attractions. All this gives rise to a nation with an incredible diversity of landscapes and climates, perhaps more than any other place on Earth of similar size.
The North Island is home to most of the population including the biggest city Auckland and the capital Wellington. This island has a rich variety of volcanic features from live volcanoes to thermal pools and geysers. There are also many nice beaches that are popular destinations during the summer months. The Bay of Islands in the north of the island has over 150 islands with many fine beaches and the Coromandel Peninsula near Auckland has some best beaches in the country.
There is one main spine of mountains that that run down the centre of the southern half of the North Island. It is here where some of the island's best wilderness areas are located. The island is also dotted with many lakes. In Rotorua there are lakes with areas of thermal heat rising from the lake floor. Lake Taupo in the centre of the island is the biggest lake in New Zealand and hides the most destructive super-volcano on Earth, at least in the last 70,000 years. Today Taupo has a booming tourist economy with most activites based around the lake and associated rivers. Read more →
The South Island is distinctly different. Rather than colliding plates in a subduction process like the North Island, techtonic plates are crashing into each other giving rise to New Zealand's most spectacular natural feature, the 450 kilometre (280 mile) Southern Alps. This is the New Zealand you see in brochures and on TV. One of the most scenic parts of this range is Mt Cook National Park which contains the highest peaks in the country with Mt Cook being the highest at 3,754 metres (12,316 feet). Further to the south-west and still in the alps is perhaps the most scenic of all areas in New Zealand, Fiordland. Being one of the biggest national parks in the world, Fiordland is a pristine wildeness containing fiords, steep mountains, countless waterfalls, and lush temperate rainforest. On the very tip of the South Island lies sunny Abel Tasman National Park, and area of exquisite beaches surrounded by the sea and lush temperate rainforests.
The biggest city in the South Island is Christchurch, a city that was considered the most English of city's outside of England. However, after suffering from devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, the city is now in rebuild mode and will rise again as a different city. Much of the city's heritage may be destroyed but the city still has some of the best heritage buildings which are under restoration, while other areas a blank canvas with a view to low-rise modern constructions and plenty of green spaces. The Red Zone is the name given to the CBD that was destroyed. It is now open to the public and tours are available that show the destruction first hand. The next biggest city in the South Island is Dunedin. This city has Scottish roots and many historic buildings sitting on a hilly New Zealand landscape. The world's steepest street is located here. Just outside the city nature abounds with places to view penguins and the largest sea bird in the world. Read more →
Further south is the third largest island named Stewart Island. Almost all the island is a protected wilderness consisting of temperate rainforest and rare birds. Oban is the only settlement on the island. Other island groups belonging to New Zeland include the Chathams, Kermedecs, Auckland Island, Campbell Island, and about 100 significant islands in close proximity to the two main islands. Further north in tropical Polynesia lie Niue and the Cook Islands which are free states of New Zealand. A free state is a separate area that is in free association with a country. Both these island groups use New Zealand currency and are popular holiday destinations for New Zealanders.