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

Useful Tips & Facts New Zealand: Geography and Landscapes

July 27, 2018

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.


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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  1. Reply


    July 27, 2018

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

    • Reply


      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


    July 27, 2018

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


Ruta & Algirdas

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.

  • Few days ago I found my teenage years' online diaries and had some fun reading together with . Felt so weird reading those texts and hardly remembering I ever wrote them. Weirdest thing, even though thoughts are funny in they way I presented, I realize the core of questioning one's purpose and existence haven't changed that much since then. I laughed and cried while reading and trying to remember what was it like to be myself as a teenager. 
Have you ever kept a diary? If so, do you ever read those old entries and how does it make you feel?
  • When I sit down to look back on 2018, it was quite a year... the best year ever in our lives to be exact! Let's see about it:
Last year was the year we lived in our van roaming all around New Zealand; it was the year we got engaged at Arthur's Pass, the year we went caving through the enclosed cave river and saw enourmus caves full of glowworms, camped out in secluded beaches and enjoyed many nights under vast sky full of stars; it was the year we jumped butt-naked into waterfalls, hiked through mountains and bushes and it was the year we almost died in the mountains after an unpredicted weather shift but survived to tell an incredible story of the Holdsworth - Jumbo Pass; it was the year we shifted from our office jobs to taking on a challenge of picking kiwifruit for 3 months and so, it was the year I lost 10kg. It definitely was the year we learnt saving money and living on a tight budget but been happiest we've ever been. It was the year we went oyster picking on the beach and fishing for snappers with a boat with most incredible kiwi people (thank you Fran, Bill and Doug). It was the year we missed our families and friends incredibly but found unexpected friendships for life away from home! It was the year we fell in love with all those cute doggies while housesitting and taking care of them - 💚Annie, Dash, Yuki and Bonnie💚 and became obsessed with dogs. It was the year we had to say goodbye to our beloved NZ, visited Sydney (and it was love at first sight) and moved to Vietnam for a few months. Well it sure was a perfect year to say the least. 
Let's see what 2019 has in store for us!

By the way, and I got engaged exactly one year ago!

P.S. stay tuned as Algirdas has finally started putting together our videos from the past year and we'll be launching a YouTube channel soon!
  • I feel a bit burnt out today and all on my mind is just food - as in what can I still eat on our last day in Dalat 🤣 
Anyways, with 2019 approaching, what are your plans for NYE?
  • So it has already been a month since we landed in Vietnam, though I haven't been taking that many photos as I'm still a bit cautious about pulling my camera out in a public as well as taking photos of poeple without asking them (with language barrier it can be quite tricky). This one though was actually one of our first mornings when we got out into district 10 in Saigon for some delicious Bo Ne breakfast. Not only the food was super yummy and cheap but the surrounding streets were really lovely to wander around and get lost. It really is so cool getting out of touristy center and discovering the real life of Saigon.
Do you ever do that in new locations - purposefully getting lost in a city and just wandering without looking at any maps? 
I think it is hands down the best way to feel and see the place. What's your favorite way for discovering new places?

P.S. if you want the name of the place for Bo Ne, DM me and I'll share it with you!
  • Merry Christmas everyone! This year we celebrate Christmas with flowers and colours of Dalat instead of white snow back at home. And as beautiful and lovely as it is here, I can't help but especially miss home today with our families and friends enjoying white Christmas and those delicious deep-fried mushroom pies we call 'ausytes' (little ears) that my mom and sisters made. I think Christmas is pretty much the only day in a year I actually want to have snow and the only day I feel guilty for travelling. Anyway, two Christmas spent away from home is hard enough and for the next one I promise I'll be back home! As for all of you guys, first, I really want to thank you for following our journeys wherever they take us, reading all of my posts (or not), as well as thank you for all the nice wishes you've sent us! Secondly, I wish you all to find some peace in your mind and in your heart and share the happiness with others! Merry holidays 🎅🤶 P.s. Even though it is not a religious celebration in Vietnam, Vietnamese love celebrating Christmas and do so on 24th - Christmas Eve 🤗
  • Who could have thought one can find such beautiful Italian gardens  not just in Italy but in New Zealand as well! Have you visited Hamilton's gardens already?

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