A New Zealand travel guide for the over 60’s
New Zealand is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque and beautiful places on the planet. With a population of just 4.5 million covering an area that’s roughly the same size as the UK, New Zealand is well known for its sprawling open spaces, steaming volcanoes and breath-taking mountainscapes. Most of the population live on one of the country’s two predominant islands, the North Island and the South Island, which are separated by a stretch of water known as the Cook Strait. Of the other islands that form the archipelago, Stewart Island is perhaps the most popular.
New Zealand is often heralded as the ‘God’s own country’ with good reason too, but if climbing and skiing aren’t for you, you’ll still find plenty to write home about, from wineries that span acres and restaurants that specialise in Pacific cuisine, to all-inclusive tours that show you the very best of what the islands have to offer. It’s a country that really does cater to all walks of life, and seniors, in particular, will find a lot to like about New Zealand.
What about the climate? Being slightly more southern than Australia, New Zealand’s climate is less harsh but just as ambient and pleasant, and the Islands play host to some of the lushest green landscapes and the bluest skies you’re ever likely to see. You’ll find snow in the mountain peaks if you’re partial to skiing and glorious sunshine around the coastline if you’d rather kick back, relax and soak up the beautiful scenery. Due to this variety, bespoke holidays to New Zealand are more popular for would-be travellers than package ones, due to the sheer scope of options available.
Getting to New Zealand takes a little bit of planning, but it’s extremely easy and definitely worthwhile. With regular flights from London (23 hours 17 minutes flight time, excluding stopovers), Berlin (22 hours 33 minutes), New York (18 hours 8 minutes), Sydney (3 hours 11 minutes) and Tokyo (11 hours 27 minutes), there’s a flightpath that will get you there from just about anywhere. The currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar and Visa and Mastercard, along with most other major credit cards, are widely accepted. At the time of writing, one British pound is equivalent to $2.10 New Zealand Dollars.
Perhaps due its unique and carefully preserved environment, New Zealand has relatively strict immigration rules. If you have a British passport you may enter New Zealand as a visitor for up to 6 months without a travel visa providing you pass the security checks and have an onward or return ticket.
Things to do in the North Island
When it comes to planning a trip to New Zealand, the first choice you are likely to face is which island you visit. If your visit is to be a short one, then most locals would recommend picking one island and sticking to it as there’s so much to see. If you were to visit both the North Island and the South Island you would need around 25 days to see everything and do both islands justice. Whichever island you choose, you’ll find a range of tours, walks, hikes, beaches and more to keep you occupied and make your trip a memorable one.
Relaxing by the sea
If you’re hoping to soak up the sun and enjoy some of the pristine beaches that New Zealand has to offer, the North Island is usually slightly warmer than the South Island and you may even wish to venture up the Bay of Islands for a sub-tropical experience that’s pleasant even in the winter months.
Mountains, volcanoes and geothermal activity
New Zealand is famous for its geothermal activity. Millions of years ago, the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates collided and created a glorious natural landscape that’s full of character, charm and intrigue. The North Island is really the best choice if you’re interested in seeing active volcanoes and springs, but the South Island is no slouch in this department either, boasting the famous mountainous spine that you’ll no doubt have seen on countless postcards.
Experiencing native Maori culture
The North Island is the place to go if you’re looking for the real Maori experience. Most of the Maori population in New Zealand live in the North Island and you’ll be able to attend cultural performances and learn more about the history of the Maori. You may also wish to visit a Marae and eat a hangi (Maori feast cooked in the ground). If you want to learn more about Maori culture, New Zealand’s National Museum, Te Papa is located in Wellington and is a great place to go.
Exploring New Zealand by bike
North Island should be your destination if you’re looking to explore some of New Zealand’s beauty on your bike. There are cycle trails for a more relaxing experience and mountain bike trails for the more adventurous traveller. Here you’ll find the New Zealand Cycle Trail network has a series of planned rides that you can take part in - from the ‘Mountains to Sea’ trail which will give you some wonderful views, to the ‘Timber Trail’ which will give you a chance to see some of the lush woodland and wildlife.
Things to do in the South Island
Mountain Spotting and Climbing
You don’t have to climb a mountain to a appreciate it, but some of the smaller trails offer seniors the chance to do just that - and South Island is the perfect place for it. The Southern Alps almost split the island in half and are home to some beautiful snowy peaks. If you can make it high enough you’re sure to find loads of excellent photo opportunities to share with friends and relatives on your return.
Walking is good for everyone, particularly with views as stunning as this. The South Island is home to some of the best hiking trails in New Zealand and no matter what your fitness level you’ll be able to find something that fits perfectly. If walking is a pastime, you may want to book some of the great multi-day walking expeditions that are on offer so you’ve got plenty to look forward to. The Routeburn Track, the Milford Track and the Abel Tasman Coastal Track are all popular choices.
These are scattered throughout New Zealand but those in the know would tell you to make your way to the South Island if you had to choose. Queenstown is often hailed as the ‘the adventure capital of the world’, and there’s lots of fun to be had. From skydiving and bungy jumping to paragliding and white water rafting, you’ll never get bored if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush. Looking for an interesting way to spend an afternoon? Why not rent out a jetboat and explore some of New Zealand’s rivers?
Like to Ski?
If you’re into skiing then you’ll be right at home in New Zealand. The South Island is home to more ski resorts than anywhere else in the country, and if you make Queenstown your destination you’ll only be a stone’s throw from some irresistible peaks. The South Island is arguably a lot more peaceful too - only a third of the country’s population resides here which leaves plenty of room for a quiet day on the slopes.
Seeing New Zealand by Coach
Regardless of which Island you choose to visit, one of the best ways to experience New Zealand if you’re over 60 is via coach. The independent coach tours are generally very well organised and will give you the opportunity to see everything New Zealand has to offer. From short mountain and glacier tours to the 27 day ‘Magic of New Zealand’ tour, it’s easy to build an entire holiday around coach trips that will ensure you don’t miss out on anything that’s on offer. Most coach tours tend to be 1 to 2 weeks in length but there are shorter ones for more specific interests, like the 3 day Glacier explorer tour that will see you passing through the rainforests of West National Park to learn more about the natural landscape formations.
Relaxation and meditation
Once you’ve had your fill of hiking, biking, rafting and general adventure, sometimes it’s nice to unwind with a spot of meditation and nowhere caters for that quite like New Zealand. For a country that’s renowned for its adventurous nature with so much to see and do, New Zealanders really know how to relax in style. From health resorts and spas to Yoga retreats and meditation centres, there’s enough relaxation for everybody. Usually these resorts are situated in the most beautiful parts of the country so if the need to jump back into your hiking boots ever strikes you’re likely to have some stunning landscape on your doorstep.
Preparing for New Zealand
If you’ve made your decision to visit New Zealand you’re probably wondering what you should bring and how you should prepare. The country’s climate is one of its main attractions - mainly because it can vary so hugely depending on where you go. It’s slightly more southern than Australia but both islands can be very warm in the summer months. With extremely clear air the heat of the sun can be intense and care should be taken. Of course, any time you’re up a peak the temperature can drop dramatically so it’s important to pack for cold conditions too. Layers and comfortable footwear are essential for visiting New Zealand, especially if you’re planning on taking in the landscape and doing some walking or light cycling.
New Zealand is an uncrowded, green, peaceful and accepting place that is home to some of the most breathtaking natural formations in the world. It’s full of fun, adrenaline and adventure for those who seek it, but it’s also the perfect place to unwind, connect with nature and experience life at your own pace. If you’re over 60 and are looking for a place to experience something truly unique, in your own way and in your own style, New Zealand is a perfect choice.