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Introducing New Zealand

About New Zealand, One of the World's Great Travel Destinations


Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, South Island, New Zealand

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, South Island, New Zealand

Image Courtesy of Tourism New Zealand/Gareth Eyres

New Zealand is one of the most unique and interesting countries in the world and is ranked amongst the leading travel destinations. Despite (and perhaps because of) its remoteness and isolation, it is a land that touches the hearts of everyone who comes here.

Where is New Zealand?

New Zealand is located in the south west Pacific ocean. It is 900 miles (1500 kilometers) east of Australia and 600 miles (1000 kilometers) south of such Pacific nations as Fiji, Tonga and New Caledonia.

New Zealand Geography

The total land area of New Zealand is 103,483 square miles (268,021 square kilometers), about the same size as the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan or the state of Colorado. It is made up of two main islands, the North Island and the South Island (reflecting their relative positions) and a number of smaller ones. The two main islands have quite distinctively different geographical features and give New Zealand its wonderfully diverse scenery and landscapes. Mountains, rivers, lakes, glaciers, islands, forests, beaches, volcanos, sulphur springs - New Zealand has all this and more.

The North and South Islands are long (total length of 990 miles/1600 kilometers) and relatively narrow (maximum width of 250 miles/400 kilometers). This, along with its many other islands, gives New Zealand the ninth longest coastline of any country in the world (9.404 miles/15,135 kilometers). Nowhere is far from the sea in New Zealand, and the ocean plays an important role in New Zealand's culture and economy.

The North Island

The North Island was once largely covered in dense forest and many tracts of forest remain. The terrain is generally hilly, formed mainly by ancient volcanic activity. It is warmer and more populated than the South Island.

The South Island

The South Island is the larger of the two islands and dominated by the magnificent Southern Alps which traverse most of its length from north to south.

Other Islands of New Zealand

There are a large number of smaller land masses surrounding the two main islands. The largest of these (which are all inhabited) are Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands, Great Barrier Island, d'Urville Island and Waiheke Island.

New Zealand Climate

New Zealand has a somewhat mild climate, without extremes of hot and cold. The sea is a strong influence - the prevailing westerly wind from the Tasman Sea means that the west coast of both islands is generally wetter and cloudier, with the eastern regions being drier and sunnier.

New Zealand Plants and Animals

New Zealand was one of the oldest land masses to break away from the Gondwanan supercontinent some 80 million years ago. As a result of this and its isolation it has developed a highly unique plant and animal life and is free from snakes and other dangerous creatures.

There are many species of native birds in New Zealand, including the flightless bird which has become the country's national symbol, the kiwi.

As much of the country was covered in forest before being removed by European settlers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, New Zealand has an incredibly diverse array of plants and trees. Some trees, such as the kauri in the North Island and the beech in the South Island grow to an enormous size and age. There are many areas of magnificent forest throughout the country, many of which are part of New Zealand's National Parks.

Such is the significance of New Zealand's landscape that three areas have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.

New Zealand People

New Zealand people are also called 'kiwis', and a we're a friendly and happy bunch who love to welcome visitors! The population is around 4.4 million, making the country sparsely populated by world standards. There is a wide variety of ethnic groups. The original inhabitants were the native Maori people who now make up about 15% of the population. The largest ethnic group in the country is of European descent (70%) and the rest is made up largely of Asian and other Pacific Island peoples.

New Zealand Language and Culture

English and Maori are the official languages. With its diversity of peoples, blending Maori, European and South Pacific and many others, New Zealand has developed a unique and exciting culture. Combined with the natural beauty, it makes New Zealand one of the places in the world to visit.

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