Virtually the only way to get to New Zealand is by flying, and all international flights are routed through Auckland because of its large airport. From Australia, it's a four-hour flight, and from Los Angeles it's 12. A growing cruise industry brings tourists to travel around New Zealand by ship.
Many visitors chose to rent a "campervan" as a way to explore New Zealand's lush countryside, save on accommodations, and participate in the country's rich camping tradition. There are plenty of holiday parks and sites in which to park overnight, but free camping isn’t allowed anymore in most of New Zealand. If you are planning to explore the country for more than a month, you might even consider buying a car or campervan. Because of New Zealand's remote location and limited public transportation, there is a large market of used cars being bought and sold by travelers; it’s a relatively easy, cheap, and painless process here. The major cities also have airports, so if you're on a limited schedule, you can fly between destinations. Public buses connect towns and cities (you can buy hop-on, hop-off bus passes), and there are some train routes on both islands, as well as plenty of tour companies.
Before it was colonized by Westerners, New Zealand was settled by seafaring Maori people from the Pacific, and you can visit various Maori sites and have Maori cultural experiences in places like Rotorua. From carving greenstone or jade pendants to witnessing the famous Haka, if you dig around and look hard enough, you’ll see Maori culture and history everywhere in New Zealand.
The two main wine festivals are Toast Martinborough on the North Island in November, and the Marlborough Wine Festival in February on the South Island. New Zealand’s version of Independence Day, when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Maoris and the British Crown, takes place every year on February 6. Also in February, Wellington comes alive with the Sevens, when seven rugby teams compete, creating a massive party in Wellington. If adventurous eating is your thing, then be sure to check out the Hokitika Wild Food Festival in March, where you can try anything and everything.
Liz Carlson is a writer and travel blogger based in New Zealand.