How to Plan a Luxury Holiday to New Zealand
Escape to Aotearoa, “the land of the long white cloud”, as it is known to the indigenous Maori. Most know it, however, as New Zealand. The country in the South Pacific is a compilation of the North Island and the South Island. It’s a place to connect with nature and leave the stresses of modern-day life behind in this land that favours play and simple pleasures.
Does it sound like your kind of vacation? Whether you’re planning for a special occasion or “just because”, this luxury travel guide to New Zealand is the ideal starting point for making your New Zealand dreams a reality.
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About New Zealand
Location: New Zealand is a country on the Oceania continent in the South Pacific Ocean. Its position is approximately 1,500km (930 miles) east of Australia and around 1,000km (620 miles) south of the South Pacific Islands. Learn more about where New Zealand is in this guide.
Climate: New Zealand has a diverse climate determined by the ocean, mountains and prevailing winds. The mean average temperatures are 10°C (50°F) in the South Island and 16°C (61°F) in the North Island. See our New Zealand climate guide or check out the “When to Visit” section of this luxury travel guide to New Zealand.
Size: 268,021km2 (103483 mi2) in total. It is approximately 1,600km (990mi) long and around 400km (250mi) at its widest point.
Time zone: UTC/GMT+12
Population: 5 million. Learn more about New Zealand’s population here.
Languages: English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language.
How to Get There
Before considering travel to New Zealand, you’ll need to see if you are actually able to travel due to restrictions put in place at the borders after the COVID-19 outbreak. Visit covid19.govt.nz for the latest travel information. If you’re able to visit New Zealand, here are your options for travelling to the country.
Due to New Zealand’s isolated location, getting to the islands involves lengthy flights or cruise sailings. While cruise liners include New Zealand in the itinerary for many South Pacific voyages, flights to the country are highly recommended in order to explore Aotearoa for longer.
Direct flights are available from the US, Canada, South America, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific Islands. Coming further afield from destinations such as in Europe and you’ll need to catch at least one connecting flight.
Immerse into the subject with our complete guide on how to get to New Zealand. Otherwise, here’s a quick overview.
Flight Times to New Zealand
Below are the flight times between countries and New Zealand, based on the most direct routes.
Argentina – 12h30min, Brazil – 15h30min, Canada – 16h30min, China – 13h30min, Denmark – 22h, Finland – 20h, France – 23h30min, Germany – 22h30min, Hong Kong – 11h, Israel – 32h, Italy – 22h30min, Japan – 11h, Korea – 12h, Malaysia – 11h, Netherlands – 22h30min, Philippines – 10h30min, Singapore – 10h30min, Sweden – 21h, Taiwan – 11h, United Kingdom – 22h30min, USA – 12h, Vietnam – 12h30min
Which Airport to Arrive
Most international travellers arrive in New Zealand at Auckland International Airport (AKL) on the North Island. For beginning your travels on the South Island, there are many connections to Christchurch International Airport (CHC) and from Australia to Queenstown International Airport (ZQN).
Note that limited flights also arrive from overseas at Wellington Airport (WLG) and Dunedin (DUD).
Find out which airport makes the most sense for your holiday using our guide, Which Airport to Arrive in New Zealand.
New Zealand’s Biosecurity
New Zealand has strict biosecurity measures at the border to protect the country’s vulnerable ecosystem. This requires you to declare any “risk items” you have packed in your luggage, which includes common items like food and sports gear. Be prepared by reading our New Zealand airport arrival guide
When to Visit
There is hardly a bad time to visit New Zealand. Each season brings its own charms. Furthermore, there’s a famous saying that New Zealand has “four seasons in a day”. In other words, the weather is highly changeable even in summer. For the above reasons, we recommend choosing a time to visit New Zealand when it is right for you, rather than trying to plan around the weather.
Regardless, here is a quick overview of the climate and seasons experienced in New Zealand.
Summer (December to February)
Summer is the warmest time of year reaching highs of 25ºC (77ºF). Expect finer days than during the rest of the year.
Autumn (March to May)
Autumn has milder temperatures; anywhere between 6ºC (43ºF) and 20ºC (68ºF). Weather patterns start to become more changeable with a few more rainy days than in summer.
Winter (June to August)
Temperatures can be anywhere between -3ºC (27ºF) and 15ºC (59ºF) depending on which parts of the country you are in. Snow falls in alpine regions.
Spring (September to November)
Temperatures rise again during this shoulder season, where lows are 2ºC (36ºF) and highs are 17ºC (63ºF). Expect to experience both fine weather and rainy days.
Of course, packing is a very personal thing. We all have different needs and attire. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that New Zealand is a country best explored by going from destination to destination, meaning that the lighter you pack, the easier you’ll find it to move around. This can be achieved by packing versatile outfits. There are laundry services and/or machines at most accommodations, so there’s no need to pack anything more than what you will need for a week. A suitcase or large backpack, as well as a day pack, should be all you need per person.
It’s important to note that New Zealand is a developed country with an abundance of shops and services should you need anything while you’re travelling.
Be sure to browse our complete New Zealand packing list. But in short, key items to remember include:
- 1 pair of leggings/hiking pants
- 1 pair of shorts (summer)
- 2 mid-layers (sweater, fleece, etc.)
- 1 pair of hiking shoes
- 1 pair of day shoes (sandals, sneakers, etc.)
- 1 thermal underlayer (top and/or bottoms)
- 1 waterproof and windproof jacket
- A selection of woollen socks
- 1 warm jacket (winter/spring/autumn)
- A selection of light tops
- A selection of underwear
- 1 swimwear
- Toiletries including a mini first aid kit, sunscreen and insect repellent
- New Zealand travel adapter
- Electronic device chargers (and batteries)
- Reusable water bottle
Visas, the NZeTA and IVL
A tourist/visitor visa for New Zealand activates automatically upon entry to New Zealand for most countries, usually allowing visitors to stay for up to three months. Note that visitors also need an NZeTA and IVL before arrival in New Zealand.
Although the ACC in New Zealand partly covers accidental injury medical bills, travel insurance offers added peace of mind. Our recommended insurance is New Zealand-based Orbit Protect. Be sure to check that travel insurance is not included in your credit card.
The currency of New Zealand is New Zealand Dollars (NZD). There are plenty of ATMs in towns and cities where you’ll be able to withdraw cash. Credit cards are also widely accepted, which you will hear referred to as “EFTPOS“. Learn more about the best ways to pay in New Zealand in our guide.
How Long to Visit New Zealand For
As already touched upon, New Zealand is a country best experienced by travelling from place to place. Allow around three weeks to comfortably see both the North Island and South Islands. Otherwise, planning to visit just one island is a smart option for one or two weeks’ holiday.
One to Two Weeks in New Zealand
Within this time, you should explore just one of the main islands. Take a look at the itineraries: North Island Luxury Itinerary: One Week and South Island Luxury Itinerary: One Week. And North Island Luxury Itinerary: Two Weeks and North Island Luxury Itinerary: Two Weeks.
It is possible to see both islands in two weeks, of course, by skipping some of the highlights along the way. See our New Zealand Luxury Itinerary: Two Weeks for details.
Three to Four Weeks in New Zealand
Three weeks to a month is a preferable time to visit both islands in New Zealand at a comfortable pace. Get inspiration from the New Zealand Luxury Itinerary: Three Weeks and New Zealand Luxury Itinerary: One Month.
Perhaps one of the most important decisions when planning a luxury trip to New Zealand is transport. After all, travelling in New Zealand is about the journey. We highly recommend doing as much research into New Zealand transport as possible to ensure the way you decide to get around meets your expectations.
These impressive vehicles are everywhere in New Zealand, enabling you to camp among breathtaking scenery while providing the freedom of independent travel. Like the sound of that? Head to our guide to renting your first motorhome and compare top rental brands in our New Zealand luxury motorhome listings.
New Zealand has a select few premium coach tours allowing you to explore the country hassle-free. Tours include all accommodation, some meals and activity add-ons. Browse our listings for New Zealand escorted coach tours.
Fully customise your New Zealand trip with one of the private tours. You and your group will have a personal guide to show you the country and sort out all of the bookings. Discover more in our guide to bespoke tours in New Zealand.
When on limited time, domestic flights in New Zealand can get you across the country or between the North and South islands in no time.
A popular ferry journey for many is between the North Island and the South Island where premium lounges are available. There are also many ferry services in New Zealand to off-shore islands.
Rail journeys are a scenic experience, with premium carriages available on the country’s three main national railway journeys. Note, however, that the train network in New Zealand is extremely limited.
Everyone has a helicopter in New Zealand… Well… Let’s just say that you will not struggle to find helicopter charters in New Zealand to take you to the country’s remote regions with speed and scenery in mind.
Where to Go
New Zealand is packed with diverse landscapes and experiences to go along with them. First, you may want to decide whether to travel the North Island or the South Island, if you have limited time in New Zealand. Then, take a look at the links to luxurious travel destinations below to plan your destinations further.
- Bay of Islands Luxury Travel Guide – islands and beaches
- Auckland Luxury Travel Guide – volcanoes and city life
- Rotorua Luxury Travel Guide – geothermal activity and Maori culture
- Taupo Luxury Travel Guide – the largest lake
- Napier Luxury Travel Guide – caves and glowworms
- Wellington Luxury Travel Guide – capital city vibes
- Picton Luxury Travel Guide – water activities
- Franz Josef Luxury Travel Guide – glaciers
- Hanmer Springs Luxury Travel Guide – hot pools
- Aoraki Mt Cook Luxury Travel Guide – mountains and glaciers
- Queenstown Luxury Travel Guide – adventure activities
- Milford Sound Luxury Travel Guide – remote wilderness
We encourage you to explore other destinations that are more off the tourist trail in our New Zealand Luxury Destinations guides.
This is where you truly treat yourself in the land of Aotearoa. Nothing compliments the sublime vistas quite like a glass of wine in hand at a vineyard or soaring over mountains in a scenic helicopter flight. Premium golf courses, indulgent hot pools, sailing charters, private hiking trails, exhilarating ski fields and fine dining can all be enjoyed in New Zealand.
It’s often the things that you haven’t heard that are the most memorable, which you’ll likely find in our list of 101 Things to Do in New Zealand.
And if there’s an experience you can’t find, then no worries. The hospitable locals can provide on their custom tours and experiences.
And don’t forget to browse our New Zealand Activities category listing everything there is to offer in Aotearoa.
Embrace the views of dramatic landscapes from a boutique lodge or the cityscape from a hotel during your time in New Zealand. There is an exclusive selection of luxury accommodations in New Zealand that offer exquisite meals and often their own Kiwi experiences.
New Zealand has a number of boutique lodges scattered across the country in both small towns and pristine wilderness. Discover our recommendations in our New Zealand boutique lodges category.
Hotels are found in New Zealand’s larger cities and top tourist destinations, following the usual international standard with star ratings. See hotel listings in our New Zealand Hotels category.
Enjoy entire holiday homes, locally known as “baches” all to yourselves with plenty listed on booking websites like Booking.com, Expedia and Airbnb. See our guide on Everything You Need to Know About Airbnb in New Zealand, as well as listings in our New Zealand Holiday Homes category.
Experiencing the local cuisine is all part of the delights of travelling and it’s no different in New Zealand.
Be part of New Zealand’s prominent cafe culture where a “flat white” is how many Kiwis start their day. While fine dining is virtually exclusive to New Zealand’s largest cities and luxury accommodations, the rest of the country enjoys a more casual affair with staples being fresh “fish and chips” and “savoury pies”. That’s not to say that you won’t find variety, as New Zealand’s proximity to Asia means that Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine is prominent and done well.
One must-try experience native to New Zealand is the Maori “hangi”. This is a more down-to-earth style of dining, literally, as meat and vegetables are slow-cooked to perfection in an underground oven.