New Zealand

© Julian Apse

Why New Zealand should be on your travel bucket list

The picture-perfect landscapes and rich cultural heritage of this Pacific country make it a destination you’ll remember forever

May 2024

By Ashleigh Arnott

No matter where you’re travelling from, a holiday to New Zealand (also referred to by its Māori name, Aotearoa) takes some planning. Its capital, Wellington, is more than 1,300 miles away from Sydney, and over 11,000 miles from London. Rest assured, though, the breath-taking scenery, ancient culture and welcoming locals will more than make up for your travel time.

As it’s an island nation – the country consists of more than 700 small islands as well as its two main land masses, North Island and South Island – a cruise is an excellent way to see parts of New Zealand that other means of transport simply can’t reach.

And while you’re sailing with Princess, across the South Pacific Ocean or Tasman Sea (depending on your itinerary), you can familiarise yourself with Māori culture with our Across the Ditch onboard programme. As part of Across the Ditch, our guests can feast their way through a Matariki festival (a celebration that marks the start of the Māori New Year), try Kiwi wines and beers, and learn more about the islands’ indigenous people, before even setting foot on Aotearoa itself.

Along with plenty of fun and discovery to be had onboard, you can look forward to unmissable experiences like these once on land…

Geothermal springs and mud pools of Rotorua, New Zealand

Feel the warmth of Rotorua's many geothermal springs and mud pools © Graeme Murray

Admire natural wonders

The mountains and shorelines that give New Zealand such character also create unique and jaw-dropping vistas, and there are so many ways to enjoy them. If you’re feeling active, your opportunities for bungee jumps, parasailing and even skiing are plentiful, especially in Queenstown, part of the Fiordland National Park. Photographers will be in seventh heaven, too – the glassy lakes and misty peaks here have a beauty all their own.

For an outing that’s slightly less active, but immersive in the truest sense, visit the spectacular mud pools and geothermal springs in Rotorua. The city is known for its Māori cultural experiences, so you can soak up some traditional folklore before taking a dip in its natural hot pools.

Waitomo Glow Worm Grotto in New Zealand

Visit the luminous Waitomo Glow Worm Grotto, accessible from Auckland © Corin Walker Bain

See weird and wonderful wildlife

Thanks to 80 million years of geographic isolation, New Zealand has a truly unique collection of flora, fauna and fungi. Zealandia: Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, which you can visit with Princess from Wellington, has a 500-year plan to return the nature reserve to its pre-human state; for now, however, visitors can see some of the country’s most exotic animals here, including the little spotted kiwi and the tuatara lizard.

Off-shore, be on the lookout for sea lions, fur seals and blue penguins when travelling along New Zealand’s coastline. And to see some of the country’s most magical minibeasts, join Princess for a boat ride through Waitomo Glow Worm Grotto, where thousands of twinkling bioluminescent insects light up a labyrinth of caves. The largest of the caves, known as the Cathedral, has hosted musical performances by the likes of opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, thanks to its perfect acoustics.

Red wine in New Zealand

From Pinot Noir to Chardonnay, be sure to sample some of New Zealand's wine © Kelsey Knight

Wine and dine on local produce

What a delight to visit a country where even the everyday wine is something special. Many Kiwi vineyards will be familiar from wine lists the world over, but a visit to the newer, more boutique producers is where you’ll find some really special drops. A tour of the Waipara Valley near Christchurch will include tastings of light, fruity Pinot Noirs and zingy Chardonnays at three different wineries.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s restaurants offer some of the world’s best seafood – expect oysters, crayfish, sea urchins and huge, green-lipped mussels to feature on menus. In addition, you’ll find (perhaps more surprisingly) good old-fashioned meat pies. Meat and gravy pies are hugely popular in both Australia and New Zealand, and are often consumed as an on-the-go snack.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tours near Matamata, New Zealand

Visit Hobbiton near Matamata, less than an hour's drive from Tauranga © Matt Crawford

Embrace some movie magic

There’s no shame in admitting that your holiday to New Zealand was partly driven by your love of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies – the trilogy showcased the country in ways a tourist board can only dream of! Wētā Workshop is the special effects company behind much of the jaw-dropping action in everything from The Hobbit to District 9, and a tour of their studios in Wellington is a thrill for any cinema fan. Those whose minds are firmly fixed in Middle Earth will also want to book a Hobbiton tour in Matamata (less than an hour's drive from Tauranga) and join a Princess excursion to Lord of the Rings locations near Christchurch – the journey through ‘high country’ includes a stop at Edoras (Earth name: Mount Sunday) for photos with replica LOTR swords.

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About the Author

Ashleigh Arnott

Ashleigh Arnott

Ashleigh is a freelance writer who plans her travels around delicious dinners, elegant bakeries and rowdy taprooms. She'd always choose verdant hills over sandy beaches and lives in the UK's greenest city, Sheffield, where you are very likely to find her in a good pub with a pint of stout, even in summer.