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New Zealand is called Aotearoa in Maori, which roughly translates to “Land of the Long White Cloud.” In a country where no land mass is more than 79 miles from the sea, one third is protected by national parks, and lakes have the clearest water in the world, it’s easy to not be smitten by the clouds that hang above every kind of landscape in the magic of these two islands which together form one of the most beautiful countries on earth.
New Zealand is all about nature. Hike through the Abel Tasman National Park and enjoy its turquoise waters, take a snapshot of the Milford Sound at sunset, or feel the steaming geysers as you walk by them. But don’t forget: the land of the Kiwis is also about the way nature has shaped its cities, too. A stroll-down Wellington’s harbor reveals why New Zealand is beautiful in more ways than one.
Sheer cliffs and rocky valleys, ink black waters that lead to glacier landscapes—Milford Sound is a fjord of wonderment. Gushing waterfalls spill from the green-faced rockfaces of unearthly appearing glaciers. Marine species include: fur seals, penguins, and dolphins swim the pitch-black waters of this unofficial "eighth wonder of the world." They say nothing lasts forever, but surely the memory of this special place will.
A perfectly formed natural wonderland, Abel Tasman National Park offers relaxing activities that bring you up close to nature delights. A kayak here is highly recommended and presents a chance to see some of the wilder life that seems readily available in this northern New Zealand retreat. A hike along the Coast Track (37 miles) followed by a boat ride through Tasman Bay are highlights, as is the opportunity to enjoy the beach.
This lakeside city located in the Bay of Plenty region is filled with popping hot springs, epic woodlands, and mud pools. Known to locals as The Red Forest, trees stand very tall and become a perfect playground for horse riders and rope-bridge crossers alike. Naturally, 18 lakes surround the city, providing plenty of on water activities. Kick up some dirt and take a mountain bike through this scenic landscape or kick back with a beer and admire the might of Volcanic Air.
144 Islands make up an enclave at the tip of the North Island known today as the Bay of Islands. These untamed lands offer you a rural countryside feel and plenty of adrenaline rush adventure. Famed for fishing and sailing excursions, the adrenaline junky in you is presented with 16,000 feet skydives, a kayak across Haruru Falls, and scuba diving explorations underwater in the Pacific Ocean.
On the west coast of South Island is The Franz Josef Glacier. It flows almost at sea level (just 985 feet below), and the temperate climates make for easy access into this striking ice glacier wonderland. Step between these glaciers and take a hike through ice caves. Under expert guided tuition, there’s an opportunity to ice climb—not for the faint hearted.
In terms of climate, New Zealand is a country where you can experience four seasons in one day. For that reason, it’s best to visit New Zealand from December to February, during the country’s warmer summer months. While the two main islands that make up New Zealand don’t have wildly different climates, there are some differences to keep in mind. The North Island has a subtropical climate and while offering better beach weather in the summer you also get more rain in spring and winter. The South Island offers a much milder, temperate climate with more seasonal changes than the north. An insider’s tip: the best travel time for those who want to discover the country in peace—and at a lesser expense—is typically November, March and April.
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