New Zealand is reputed for its vineyards. Why not organise a wine trail including the Te Kauwhata and Hawkes Bay domains on North Island, and Marlborough and Canterbury on South Island? You will drive across splendid regions whilst sampling some of the world's finest wines. Fans of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are bound to find internationally acclaimed classics on whichever route they choose to take. For more information and to see all wine trails, visit New Zealand tourism guide's website.A chocoholic's heaven
If you happen to be in New Zealand during July, there is an entire week dedicated to celebrating chocolate. Some of the events include: chocolate tours, chocolate decorating, chocolate painting, chocolate facials and even a Cadbury Crunchie Train. At the end of the week New Zealand hold their annual Cadbury Jaffa Race, where giant orange sugar coated chocolate balls race to the bottom of Baldwin Street in Dundelin.Black abyss
For all you thrill seekers out there, black water abyss provides a caving tour in complete darkness. Enjoy 5 hours of delving deep into bottomless caves where the only light provided is from the tiny glow warms that reside inside. The expedition lasts for 5 hours but don't panic every step of the way you are accompanied by a guide. During this time you are able to abseil, climb and get involved with some cave tubing or white water rafting.Lord of the Rings comes to life
The stunning landscape of New Zealand is well known to many people after featuring in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. More than 150 different settings were used in the films and avid fans have the opportunity to visit nearly every location over the course of their stay. Tours vary in length and price and you can choose whether or not to be accompanied by a guide whilst navigating the various shoot destinations.'Lord of the Forest'
Tane Mahuta, otherwise known as ?Lord of the Forest', is the largest kauri tree that lives in New Zealand. The tree is thought to be around 2,000 years old and is situated in the Waipoura Forest of Northland Region. At the moment it's 45m tall and 4.4m wide and not even fully grown! An afternoon stroll around this forest is definitely something not to be missed, more ancient kauri trees soar high and rare, beautiful birds glide above freely. According to forest mythology, Tane is the son of Ranginui,the sky father,and Papatuanuku,the earth mother. Tane acts as a barrier between his parents so that his father can rise high up into the sky and he can protect his mother by sheltering her with foliage and vegetation. All the nature around him, for example the other trees, birds and flowers, are regarded as his children.
Surface area : 270534.0 km2
Population : 4331600 inhabitants
Hand-knitted jumpers, woollen jackets and sheepskin rugs all make for good presents for those back home. Suede clothing and leather items are also of very high quality. Anything made by Maori artisans also makes for a nice souvenir to bring home as you will not find originals like these anywhere else in the world. Such items include surprising wood carvings and greenstone jewels (local jade). If you want to see a wide range of traditional Maori artefacts , go to the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua. Shops are open from 9 am to 5 pm on week days.
New Zealand lamb is famous world-wide, and here is the best place to test it as it is cooked fresh (rather than being shipped thousands of miles across the world) and prepared in the traditional New Zealand style - that is, grilled with herbs. In certain restaurants lamb is normally served well-done and sometimes with bizarre combinations for example kiwi or camembert. Do not be surprised by its strong taste, that's because it is hogget (one year old lamb).
Maori specialities are also worth a taste. They include hangi - meat stew and sweet potatoes traditionally cooked in an oven dug out of the ground, and muttonbird, a variety of smoked and roasted shearwater. There is an abundance of fish and seafood such as blue cod, grouper and salmon. Mussels from New Zealand are also said to be some of the best in the world. As for drinks, try some beer or one of the excellent wines of New Zealand.
New Zealand produces excellent cheeses. Amongst these local delights are Kikrangi (blue cheese), Kapiti (goats cheese), Linkwater (cheddar), Saragota (fresh goats cheese) and Hipi iti, made from sheeps milk.
Culture plays a major role in all aspects of life in New Zealand. The Maori follow strong cultural and spiritual traditions and use singing and dance shows as a way of expressing the force of their tribal ancestors. Rugby is an institution and the whole country religiously gets behind the All Blacks. Before each match the team carries out the 'Haka', a famous dance given to intimidate opponents.
Arts and crafts lovers, prepare to be amazed by the work of the Maoris, especially the wooden sculptures, basketwork and weaving. Martial arts are also very developed in the Maori culture.
Not all restaurants have a license for serving alcohol. In that case, they have a board on the door saying "Bring your own". Don't hesitate to do so, but don't forget that off license shops are shut on Sundays and bank holidays. So get yourself organized!
New Zealand is made up of two main islands, one in the North and one in the South, as well as various other smaller, more remote islands. A considerable length of time should be dedicated to a holiday here as there's a lot of ground to cover if you want to explore thoroughly. If you want to be out and about for most of the time that you're there the weather and the season that you are travelling in are two important things to consider. Tourist season starts in November until April but this is also the hottest period and when most tourists are around. If you can, leave just before or after the busy period when the tourists have fled, don't panic you'll still have the nice sunny weather. From October until November and March until April, prices are low.
Unfortunately Europe doesn't offer flights to New Zealand without a stopover. The journey will be around 25 to 30 hours minimum from any European country. Although internal flights are available to travel from one end of the island to the other they can be expensive. If you are looking to economise and don't mind a long journey, the bus service is very reliable and will allow you to get to some of the most remote places on the two main islands. The best way to get around New Zealand is to have your own car and explore the island at your own pace. It's very easy to find car rentals and if you are travelling as a family, you could even opt for a campervan.