"I think every person dreams of finding an enchanted place with beautiful mountains and breathtaking coastlines, clear lakes and amazing wildlife, but most people give up on it because they've never been to New Zealand."
- US President, Bill Clinton, Queenstown, 1999
You may have heard of the many natural wonders of New Zealand: the active volcanoes, deep fiords, high snowy mountains, ancient native forests, glaciers close to the beach, active geothermal areas, deep glowworm caves, and spectacular sandy beaches (black, white, and golden). In fact, there is nearly no other country on earth with such diverse and contrasting geological and ecological features, all within a relatively small area. No wonder it’s such a great place for stunning film locations, as nearly any landscape can be found.
New Zealand itself has been on a long journey. Since its landmass parted from the ancient Gondwana continent 80 million years ago, many climate changes and tectonic movements have created today’s scenery. New Zealand lies not only above a collision zone of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates, but these plates also subdue each other in opposite ways under the North and South Islands (the Pacific plate climbs over the Australian one in the south and gets pushed under in the north). These dynamics led to the formation of dozens of volcanoes in the north and a high alpine range in the south, and a generally hilly landscape with only a few plains created from rivers. The movement of glaciers generated fiords and the sinking of whole mountain regions generated sounds and coasts dotted with peninsulas or offshore islands.
New Zealand is a country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprised of two large islands (the North Island and the South Island) as well as numerous smaller islands, most notably Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Chatham Islands. In Māori, New Zealand has come to be known as Aotearoa, which is usually translated into English as The Land of the Long White Cloud. The Realm of New Zealand also includes the Cook Islands and Niue, which are self-governing but in free association, Tokelau, and the Ross Dependency (New Zealand's territorial claim in Antarctica).
- New Zealand is notable for its geographic isolation, being separated from Australia to the northwest by the Tasman Sea, approximately 2000 kilometres (1250 miles) across. Its closest neighbours to the north are New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga
- New Zealand is a world in miniature; in half a day it is possible to travel from coast to coast, from the surging surf of the Tasman Sea to the gilded crescent beaches of the Pacific Ocean
- A third of New Zealand's land area is protected by the Department of Conservation (DOC), in 14 National Parks (the first one, Tongariro, having been established in 1887 - the last one, Rakiura on Stewart Island, dates from 2002), 20 Forest Parks (13 in the North Island and 7 in the South Island), 3 World Heritage sites (Tongariro National Park, „Te Wāhipounamu“ - South West New Zealand and the Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand), over 30 marine reserves (7.6% of New Zealand’s territorial sea) and over 3,500 other scenic, scientific, recreational, historic or cultural reserves
- It is split into two main islands, the winterless, tropical North and the colder alpine South
- New Zealand has the 9th longest coastline in the world, with a total length of over 15,000 kilometres; the Marlborough Sounds alone constitute 15% of this total length
- There are also over 1,000 rivers and around 40 lakes with a surface of over 10km2
- Because the mountains and rivers are comparably young, waterfalls are very common (the highest at 580m is the Sutherland Falls near Milford Sound, rated 7th most scenic waterfall in the world by www.world-waterfalls.com)
- Also, many caves are accessible to visitors; 30 cave systems are longer than 3.5km (the longest with over 50km Bulmer Cavern in Mt Owen) and 30 are deeper than 200 metres!
- Do you want to know why the beaches and walking tracks are so empty? Over 203 countries have a higher population density than New Zealand. There are only 15 people per km2, compared with over 240 in the UK; over 60% of the population lives in the 10 biggest cities!
- No inland point is more than 120 km from the sea and you are always close to a crystal clear lake, rapid river, or snow-capped mountain. Over 15,000 km of coastline surrounds the land; varying from long, easily accessible sandy beaches, to spectacular fiords
- In geopolitical terms, it is a young land and lies on the Pacific fault line, and the North Island was formed by volcanic activity. The largest volcano, Mt Ruapehu, erupted in 1996 and 1997 and lies in the centre of the North Island near Taupo, an area full of geysers and geothermal activity
- Mountains dominate the scenery in the South Island with the highest mountain, Mt Cook, having a peak of 3,754 meters, surrounded by magnificent glaciers