Tourism is one of New Zealand's largest forms of income. The spectacular scenery and relative cleanliness of the environment are big drawcards, as are the opportunities for action and extreme sports such as bungy jumping, mountain biking, caving and snowboarding.
Given its geographic isolation the majority of visitors arrive via aeroplane into Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch. Cruise liners also visit major ports.
The official New Zealand tourism site is here.
Getting around Edit
Travel between the major cities is fairly cheap and effective by air. There are bus services throughout New Zealand, but the roads are winding and the distances can be long. Train services are limited. Public transport in the cities is variable.
Ferries are available to many islands, particularly those in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour, as well as between downtown Auckland and a number of North Shore locations such as Devonport, and eastern locations such as Pine Harbour and Farm Cove. Harbour cruises are available, too.
Many people choose to rent a motorhome or car and see New Zealand on a self-drive tour. Most rental vehicle companies insist on either accompanying foreign drivers on a short familiarisation drive, that they take a free Road Code test aimed at tourists, or that they go through NZTA's booklet What's different about driving in New Zealand
A number of fatalities and serious injuries caused by tourist drivers has seen the police crack down on errant driving behaviour, particularly in the Queenstown and Southland regions of the South Island.
Auckland is New Zealand's biggest city. It is built across a narrow isthmus between two harbours: the Manukau Harbour and the Waitemata Harbour. There are a range of activities available in Auckland from the black sand beaches of the West Coast to the casino and nightlife of the city centre.
Auckland is also a gateway for those wishing to travel north to the Bay of Islands, but does have its own islands in the Waitemata Harbour. The main islands for visiting are:
Waiheke - this is around 35 minutes by ferry and is like a suburb of Auckland with the population of a small town and plenty of amenities such as vineyards, restaurants and shops.
Rangitoto - this extinct volcano is prominent in the harbour and is a 20-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. While there are remnant baches (holiday homes) on the island, no more are allowed to be built. The summit of the volcano provides spectacular views across the harbour.
Tiritiri Matangi - this outcrop 4km east of the Whangaparaoa peninsula, and about 1:15 ferry ride from Auckland is one of the New Zealand's most successful native bird conservation stories and is one of the few places you can see kokako, stitchbirds and saddlebacks in their native environment.
Auckland spreads to the north over the Harbour Bridge and south to the Bombay Hills. Out to the east it is bordered by the Hunua Ranges and to the west the bush-clad Waitakere Ranges give way to the black sand of the coast.
Main attractions in Auckland Edit
Auckland War Memorial Museum and Auckland Domain
Auckland Civic Theatre
Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium
Devonport and North Head
Wellington is the national capital. It is renowned for its windy weather; many an exciting landing can be made on a flight there.
As a city it has more of an arts foundation than Auckland, with plenty of live music and theatre happening at all times of the year. A short car or trainride can also take you to the satellite cities, notably Porirua, site of Pataka, one of the country's premier museums and galleries for local art of all kinds.
Main attractions in Wellington Edit
Wellington Cable Car
New Zealand Cricket Museum
Wellington City Art Gallery