From the air, New Zealand’s rugged features stand out. The lush greenery mixes beautifully with mountainous terrain and glaciers. The myriad geysers, bubbling mud pots and hot springs were created by volcanic activity. While they seem calming to visitors, Mother Nature also has a mean streak, as evidenced by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. From the water, it’s equally obvious New Zealand is a land of rare beauty. Near Auckland, boat tours set out to see the Waitomo Glow Worm Grotto. Opportunities to watch sailing ships, some perhaps bound for the America’s Cup, abound in Queenstown’s Milford Sound. New Zealand’s high points, and those at sea level, are all quite accessible on a Grand European Travel guided New Zealand Tour.
New Zealand has a largely temperate climate. The North Island is generally warmer than the South. January and February are the warmest months of the year, and July is the coldest. In the summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 70-90°F and in winter between 40-60°F. Like all countries in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand's seasons are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere. Summer is from December to February and is moderate to hot, but you might need a sweater in the evening. Autumn runs March to May. Temperatures tend to be a little cooler than in the summer, but it is still comfortable. Winter is from June to August, bringing cold weather to much of the country, with snow in the south and rain in the north. Spring, September to November, can be cold and frosty or sunny and hot, depending on the whims of Mother Nature.
New Zealand consists of two main islands, the North Island and the South Island, plus several smaller islands. It lies in the southwest Pacific.
The North Island has mountain ranges along its interior, with rolling farmland on both sides of the mountains. The central North Island is home to an active volcanic and geothermal area. The main geothermal activity, around Rotorua, features mud pools, geysers, and hot springs. In the Far North and on most of the East Coast there are long sandy beaches, perfect for swimming, surfing and sunbathing. The Southern Alps dominate the South Island. To the east of the Southern Alps is farmland and the Canterbury Plains. The north end of the South Island has some sandy beaches, while the rest of the coastline is more rugged. At the southern end, there are glaciers, the largest and most well-known being Tasman, Fox and Franz Josef, and spectacular Milford Fjord, in majestic Fiordland National Park. Between the two islands lies the Cook Strait and the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. A ferry journey across the sound takes about 3 hours.
Major Holidays & Events
In addition to the customary holidays, New Zealand traditionally celebrates:
January 1 & 2 - New Year's Day
February 6 - Waitangi Day
late March or April - Good Friday through Easter Monday
April 25 - ANZAC Day
1st Monday in June - the Queen's Birthday
4th Monday in October - Labour Day
December 25 & 26 - Christmas & Boxing Day
Each province also celebrates its own Anniversary Day.