New Zealand Information
New Zealand, also known in the native Maori language as Aotearoa, is a temperate to sub-tropical island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. A former British colony, it has a population mainly of European descent, with a sizeable indigenous Maori minority and smaller minorities of various Polynesian and other groups.
A modern but sparsely populated country, it boasts natural beauty and a wide range of outdoor and adventure activities.
New Zealand consists of the two main islands, North and South, and a number of smaller ones:
* North Island - Warm, with scenery ranging from sandy beaches, through rolling farmland and forests to active volcanic peaks with bubbling mud pools.
* South Island - Spectacular mountains and fjords, large beech forests, beautiful beaches, large glaciers.
* Stewart Island - Heavily forested, a wilderness paradise for trampers with wonderful bird song and the only place to a see a sun-bathing (feathered) kiwi on Masons Beach!
* Chatham Islands - One of the most remote parts of the world. Some of the worlds most Rare and endangered birds, plants and insects. Unique Tree carvings done by the peaceful Moriori people hundreds of years ago.
* Sub-Antarctic Islands - Now wildlife preserves, these islands are very difficult to get to unless you're on a scientific expedition or deep sea fishing vessel.
It's the country that's magnificent in New Zealand and we only list nine of the most prominent settlements. Here they are from north to south:
* Auckland - "The City of Sails" - largest and most populated conurbation, with over a million in the metropolitan area, making it the largest in Polynesia by far
* Hamilton - 128km south of Auckland, capital of the Waikato, home to the Chiefs (super 14 rugby) and the Magic ( ANZ cup netball). Leafy. Recently voted the world's fourteenth least cycle-friendly city (above Mexico City but below Jakarta).
* Tauranga - known for its great weather, sun and beach Tauranga is a great holiday spot.
* Rotorua - famous for Maori culture, geysers, hot pools and that funny "rotten egg" (sulphur dioxide) smell
* Wellington - the national capital, also known as "The Windy City" - Parliament and the Beehive and the wonderful, free Te Papa museum
* Nelson - safe and friendly, with New Zealand's highest sunshine hours. Nelson is the geographic centre of the country and surrounded by three stunning national parks, vineyards and orchards
* Christchurch - The Garden City and the Air Gateway to Antarctica
* Queenstown - adrenalin and adventure capital of the world, where you can skydive, bungy jump, jet-boat, thrill yourself to your hearts content
* Dunedin - the Edinburgh of the South, proud of its Scots heritage, chocolate factory, Southern Albatross colony and its wonderful tramping tracks within a short drive from the CBD
* Invercargill - the southernmost city and one of the very few places to see a living Tuatara
* Taranaki - Mountain to Sea! The stand alone near perfect cone of the majestic Mount Taranaki guards over this province of rugged black sand coast line with world class surf beaches.
* Taupo - Very popular tourist destination, largest lake in the Southern Hemisphere and a centre for adventure sports, sailing and fishing.
* Havelock North - a great base for exploring the Hawkes Bay wineries, and home to Te Mata peak
* Hokianga - Pristine, unspoilt, untouched and untamed, this rural region features many cultural and natural attractions.
* Blenheim - Grape vines to the horizon with sauvignon blanc to die for
* Kaikoura - Great for whale watching, Kaikoura also attracts the largest concentration and variety of seabirds on mainland New Zealand including 13 species of Albatross, 14 varieties of Petrels and 7 types of Shearwater.
* Southern Alps - stretching the length of the South Island, these imposing mountains are great for mountain climbing, sightseeing and skiing.
* Aoraki/Mount Cook - New Zealand's highest mountain. Walking, kayaking, skiing, scenic flights and mountaineering are on offer.
* Omarama - World famous gliding destination.
* Milford Sound and Fiordland - New Zealand's largest National Park and one of the largest in the world. The park, together with the adjoining Mount Aspiring National Park, occupies the south west corner of the South Island and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
New Zealand Standard Time is 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). New Zealand utilises daylight saving in summer. From 30 September 2007, daylight saving hours will be changed to extend the period to 27 weeks. It commences at 2am on the last Sunday in September (clocks go forward an hour) and ends at 2am on the first Sunday in April (clocks go back