The mountain view from the Key Summit peak on Routeburn track in New Zealand
New Zealand

Useful Tips & Facts New Zealand: Geography and Landscapes

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July 27, 2018
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Kia ora friend, and welcome to New Zealand – home to Kiwis (people, birds and fruits), Hobbits and the legendary All Blacks. If you’re here, my guess is you are about to embark on a journey to New Zealand or you may just be curious about this beautiful land of diversity. In any case, I hope you’ll find plenty of interesting and useful things to know about ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’. After all, there are so much more than ‘just’ ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

useful things to know before visit to New Zealand - travel blog

Hooker Valley, Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park

Useful Tips & Interesting Facts Series

First of all, there are just so many useful, interesting things about New Zealand that I wish to share with you, I simply couldn’t fit it all in one post. Therefore, I’ve decided to start a series and keeping it as short as possible to provide a broad overview of one or two topics in one article. However, I’d really love to hear from you regarding what topics you are most interested in for future blog posts. Or in case you would like me to discuss some topics more in depth. So please leave your comments, questions and requests below in the comment section, send us a message or reach out via Facebook and Instagram as any feedback from you is so rewarding. But enough for now, let’s begin with the introduction to New Zealand’s geography and landscapes!

useful things to know before visit to New Zealand - travel blog - Still got it

During the cruise at Milford Sound, we got so close we even got wet. But I’d prefer kayaking next time instead of a cruise as I like more active adventures.

Geography and Landscapes of New Zealand

New Zealand is an island country located in the south-western Pacific Ocean far from everything else, as its closest neighbor – Australia – lays around 1,700 km (1056 miles) away. New Zealand mainly consists of two big islands – the North Island and the South Island that are separated by the Cook Strait and a third smaller Stewart Island, which is located 30 km south of the South Island.

Demographics

Stewart Island is third by the size, however, has only around 400 inhabitants and mostly remains intact. Therefore, it greatly resembles how most of New Zealand looked like before European settlers came along. There are also plenty of other small and even uninhabited islands scattered all around the three main ones, which all together make up the territory of approx. 267,710 km². Even though it is bigger in territory than the United Kingdom, New Zealand has only ~4,7 million inhabitants in comparison to 66,6 million in the UK (2018 statistics).

Useful things to know before the visit to New Zealand - still got it stories - travel blog

Running on the ‘blade’ of the Onawe Peninsula in Akaroa harbor. It actually is of volcanic origin and peninsula extends to what used to be the center of the volcano crater! By the way, it is an incredible spot to go for a swimming with the dolphins’ tour!

The land of many faces

Being so far away from everything else, it’s not a cheap country to travel to or from for holiday destination. Despite the latter, photographers, videographers, and travelers from all around the world are coming here all year long. After all, it is hard to resist its stunning glaciers, rugged mountain ranges, breathtaking fiords, volcanic plateau, rainforests and miles and miles of incredible coastline New Zealand has to offer. No wonder it has been named the most photogenic country in the world multiple times.

useful things to know before the visit to New Zealand - still got it stories - travel blog

Take a ride on the wild side! Sunrise at Castlepoint beach.

The Origins

New Zealand’s unique landscape is mainly the result of it sitting on top of where two tectonic plates meet. Not only this formed the beautiful mountain ranges (which are still growing by the way) and unique geothermal areas (like Rotorua) but is also a reason for the constant geological activity. It is both – a blessing and a curse. While Kiwis and visitors are happy to enjoy the perks of unique geothermal landscapes, mud pools, geysers and natural hot streams, New Zealand also has to withstand many earthquakes. Even though earthquakes are happening here all the time, the majority of them you won’t even notice. However, they are something to be aware of as you never know when a major one can emerge.

Rotorua, geothermal area, useful things to know before visit to New Zealand

The incredible geothermal Champagne Pool at Wai-o-Tapu thermal park. Just 100 meters from the entrance to the park, there is a Hot’n’Cold stream under the bridge. It is a perfect spot to enjoy the thermal perks and unwind for free!

From peak to beach

I think it may be the only country in the world, where you can go skiing in the mountains and swimming in the ocean on the same day, just 50 km away. In fact, there is no place in New Zealand that would be more than 128 km away from the coast. Speaking of the coast, there are so many different stunning beaches – from moody and rocky such as Wharariki to white and perky Abel Tasman and the glorious 90-mile beach that is so fun to take a wild ride on with your car.

Useful things to know before visit to New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

The iconic Cathedral Cove in Coromandel! You may recognize it from the Narnia movie! You can capture the iconic view only when taking a photo from the rightmost wall of the cave. Many never manage it shooting only from the center of the cave!

The land of first sunshine

If that’s not enough, did you know that New Zealand is the real country of the rising sun? Gisborne – the city on the East Coast of the North Island is actually the first city in the world to see the morning sunlight each day. That makes its ‘Rhythm and Vines’ festival a unique New Year destination for many wishing to be the first ones to see the first light of the year!

Useful things to know before visit to New Zealand - travel blog

Beautiful night skies and the milky way from Punakaiki rocks. Yeah, Nah, New Zealand is one of the best places in the world for those into astrophotography!

Next time we’ll continue with New Zealand’s climate and the best time for visiting to suit your needs!

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3 Comments
  1. Reply

    Karlis

    July 27, 2018

    Great content keep it up, greeting From Latvia, but soon will be in New Zealand 🙂

    • Reply

      Ruta

      July 27, 2018

      Thanks, Karlis! Great to hear from you and so happy to hear you’re coming to NZ! I’m sure you’ll love it here. 🙂 When and where are you planning to arrive by the way?

  2. Reply

    Karlis

    July 27, 2018

    We are arriving at 28 of August in Auckland, and then will go somewhere 🙂

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Ruta & Algirdas
Vietnam

We're Ruta & Algirdas - storytellers, world travelers, photography and filmmaking enthusiasts. Our best days are spent admiring planet Earth - exploring, tasting, breathing in all it has to offer. Now, after a year spent living van life in New Zealand, we're enjoying the hustle and bustle of Vietnam. Packing bags and embarking on an adventure is easier than it may seem - just have the courage.

Instagram
  • Back in November we did the Tongariro Norther Circuit track and it was nothing less than glorious and felt exactly like stepping right into the #MiddleEarth. 
All those dark rocks and wastelands, steaming mountain slopes, the smell of sulfur in the air and just that feel of something bigger than you. 
Even though, we got some rain, cold winds and annoying sandfly attacks (at the first campsite by the stream), the track was mesmerizing and magical every step of the way. As beside the latter, it also offered the most beautiful night sky I've ever witnessed and the most breathtaking views. Though sadly, for all its beauty, the mountain also claimed the sacrifice of @al.got.stories beloved #rayban sunnies. 😎

We did the track anticlockwise and if I had to choose I would do so all over again. Mostly because I prefer the solitude in our hikes and this option allowed us to enjoy it for most of the way during the 3 days on a track. Though this spot at Emerald lakes was exactly the place where we had to pass the crowds of day walkers doing the Tongariro crossing. While I have nothing against it, it is much more enjoyable wandering the mountains all by yourself (well, maybe sharing with few others) rather than walking in a crowd of hundreds  of other people (who are always always somewhere in your shot). Lucky for us, we only shared the track with others for an hour or so while passing through the crowd at the Red Crater. The crowd finally passed and we got back to our solitude of enjoying the view of Emerald Lakes, Red Crater and mountain peaks which were followed by the way down the Devil Stairs and incredible sunset with a stunning view of Taranaki at a distance. 
Anyway, I guess what I wanna say is - if you ever have a chance, go and do the Northern Circuit!
  • When I get the feeling that something's going wrong, I just take a stroll through my photos and they immediatly bring me back to those special moments when everything in the universe lined out just as it was supposed to and nothing could ever ruin it! And that's enough to just grab and hold on to that happiness that will forever be mine.
  • Well here's one more photo of this amazing lady and her heart-warming smile! I sure miss those evening strolls by the river in Hoi An where life never stops.
  • How really relative is time? 
Seems like over the past year and a half of travelling I've lived more than a decade. Yet it has been nearly 3 months since we got back home, settled in new home and started new jobs. Even though time flies by, life seems stuck at one place, like living the same day over and over again. It is hard to get over traveling and facing the steady life reality - like getting over an addiction for new exciting experiences when you itch for a new 'dose'. Yet can't deny that stability has its own perks. 
Still, funny when you think how relative time really is. Sometimes a month can fit experiences of a year and another month can fly by in an instance and you realuze that nothing really happened. Anyway, I've been gone for the past few months but I guess it was part of dealing with my post-travel blues settling in a new steady routine. 
How have you been lately?
  • Wandering those beautiful ancient streets of Hoi An, I couldn't take my eyes away from the beautiful old ladies selling water lanterns. So many stories they could tell, so many people they've met, so many troubles they've endured and yet they greet you with a wide smile from ear to ear offering to buy a wish in a form of a river lantern costing just a few cents. No matter what, every night you'll find them in their usual spot - day after day, year after year just trying to make a living. It amazes me how after all their troubles and worries, and all the rude passers by  encountered, they still manage to smile at you with all their kindness offering to buy that one lantern for a wish which eventually will help their family wishes come true, or at least will let them put a meal on a table. Even if you don't buy, don't forget to treat one another with a kindness and a smile.
  • So this one finalize my series of the camping shots I took back while doing the Tongariro Northern Circuit. 
Funny story: while I spent the night outside shooting stars, a guy came out of a nearby tent. I silently said "isn't the sky just incredible?" He got startled as appearantly didn't notice me before. Then he took a look up and said 'yeah, it really is'. After a few minutes just staring at the sky he went to the outhouse toilet and back to sleep. 
Only in the morning I heard him telling a story to his friends how he woke in the middle of the night wishing to quickly take a piss just outside the tent as was too lazy to go to the toilet. But it was when a girl out of nowhere interrupted him and made him look up at the stars. Eventually he ended up having to go to the toilet in the middle of the night but if it wasn't for me, he said he may have never seen the beauty of that incredible sky.

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