Top tips for visiting New Zealand

If you are interested to visit New Zealand, then remember it is a very long way, so try if you can make a number of stopovers. Depending on the airline you choose these could include Bangkok, Dubai or Singapore, also maybe Melbourne or Sydney. I travelled recently with Singapore Airlines who were quite exceptional in the service, food and overall quality.

Milford Sound, South Island, New ZealandThe weather in New Zealand can be very changeable and if you intend to travel in both the South and North Island, then be prepared for some differences. There is little shelter at the bottom of South Island so you can often expect temperatures to be much lower than up in Auckland on the North Island. This means you need to bring a variety of clothing. I was there during the summer and the weather ranged from windy and cool to warm and sunny in the north.

If you are going to visit Milford Sound which is an extremely popular destination, do not expect it to be like the Norwegian fjords. The mountains appear much gentler in parts, however, look out for the amazing waterfalls which are quite spectacular after the heavy rain. You may experience low cloud in the Sound but this tends to make it more evocative. If you take to the water you can approach the Sound either by cruise ship or on one of the many organised trips. Cruises often include Doubtful and Dusky Sounds which are also very attractive especially if the sun comes out.

Don’t expect to see thousands of penguins, the best time to spot them is early in the morning or late at night. During the penguin season the adults tend to be at sea during the day, but there should be a chance of seeing the babies depending on where you are. Akoroa shoreline, South Island, New ZealandThere is an excellent tour company in Akoroa close to Christchurch who will take you out to a remote bay and gives you a chance to see first-hand the young ones if they are around. Go to Pohatu Penguins for further details. The tours are spectacular and the trip out to Flea Bay is quite amazing.

Another wonderful wildlife experience is the Royal Albatross Centre a short drive from Dunedin The centre will pick you up from either a cruise ship or in the city. Not only will you have the chance to observe these magnificent birds but also experience red beaked sea gulls which are everywhere. I will say no more! A once in a lifetime experience, I was very impressed. Dunedin also has an intriguing railway station just a few minutes from the central area.

Inside Dunedin Railway Station, South Island, New ZealandIf you are into extreme sports then you might like to take a skyjump off the Sky Tower in Auckland. Not for me, I did watch number of brave souls as they leapt into space wearing their safety harnesses and special equipment. For more information on how to experience the tallest building go to Skyjump New Zealand.

You will find New Zealanders extremely friendly I met a number of people from all over the world including one guy from Buckinghamshire in the UK who had a holiday home close to Christchurch. Impressive!

Sky Tower and the Auckland Skyline, North IslandThe Museum of New Zealand in Wellington is an interactive experience like no other which can be enjoyed by the whole family and it is completely free. You experience what it is like to be caught up in an earthquake and also you can go inside a full-sized Maori building. Ideal for a half day visit, it is on the waterfront. There is also an excellent Botanical Garden in the city which includes a café and some very impressive plants. Hammonds run some great tours around the city. 

If you are staying for any length of time in New Zealand and need to use public transport do your research beforehand. There are plenty of buses in the cities and it has a network of airports on both islands. In Auckland there are plenty of ferries such as Fullers360 which run between the mainland and out to the various islands. Again, local people are very helpful and can provide advice if you get stuck or need assistance.

Albatross with egg - Photo credit: Simone JacksonSome people say that New Zealand is just like the UK, well for me it was very different. It has over the past few years, developed a fresh and exciting identity. With the influx of many people from all parts of the world, the food has become a fusion of different dishes and the art and cultural scene is now very exciting with many new artists, musicians and events. I was also fortunate to be part of a Maori cultural experience which successfully combined old traditions with modern ideas. It has a small population and it is historically a very young country and in my view could be a great place to settle.

A fantastic place, but a long way, so plan accordingly! For more information visit

For holidays to New Zealand Silver Travel Advisor recommends New Zealand Sky.

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Godfrey Hall

Award-winning travel writer

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