Europeans first arrived at New Zealand in 1642 when Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sailed up the island nation's western coastline. But Maori history in the island group began long before. The Maoris are a Polynesian people who were master navigators, using the night sky, flight patterns of sea birds, and more to traverse long distances throughout the many islands of the South Pacific. The first Maori set foot on New Zealand roughly around 950 A.D. More settlers followed in the mid-1300s, arriving in a series of large canoes, able to withstand big seas and heavy winds, to which many modern-day Maoris currently trace their heritage.
Intimidated by the rugged coastline, westerners didn't return until 1769, and the arrival of British explorer James Cook who subsequently claimed the territory for the British crown. Once there, Cook and later settlers interacted with the native Maori population, and throughout the centuries since, the Maoris and Europeans have cohabited in New Zealand. There have been multiple conflicts between the two cultures--the most notable of which resulted from the British settlers' infractions of the Treaty of Waitangi--some escalating to full fledged wars. Today, however, both communities live and work together in harmony, as good race relations have come to be a point of pride for all of New Zealand.
Traveling in New Zealand
New Zealand, known as Aotearoa ("Land of the Long White Cloud") in the language of the native Maori, is a Mecca for travelers seeking fresh air, breathtaking scenery, and numerous outdoor and adventure activities.
New Zealand provides the opportunity to experience all the world's natural attractions in just one country. You can trek on the slopes of active volcanoes; or in remote rugged patches of virgin rainforest; through active geothermal areas, full of geysers and boiling mud; or Kauri forests, with some of the largest and oldest trees on earth. You can swim with dolphins, watch whales, see glaciers descending into rainforests, and fish for the world's largest trout in majestically pristine glacial rivers. Adventure seekers can get their fix by white water rafting, abseiling, sky diving, jet boating, bungee jumping, and heli-skiing. No other country in the world offers such tremendous variety and easy access to outdoor and adventure activities.
When you've come in from the bush, New Zealand's cities are fun and fast-growing; each with their own unique character. They are equipped with fantastic nightlife among the many trendy restaurants, pubs, and nightclubs that will keep you hopping until all hours. For cultural enthusiasts, there's no shortage of activities in New Zealand's cities. They provide a wide range of activities such as museums, art galleries, theaters, and cafes.
Weather in New Zealand
Weather in New Zealand can be extremely variable and unpredictable, depending on your location. Given the maritime climate of this small island nation, one is constantly vulnerable to the rapidly changing weather that is brought by the ever-present oceanic winds that scour New Zealand's landscape. The severity of the weather in New Zealand is equally as dependent upon altitude as it is upon longitude and latitude, but generally speaking, it is a few degrees cooler in the South Island than the North Island. The North Island is relatively warm and temperate at any time of year, while the South Island can experience freezing temperatures and extreme snowfall in the winter. The summer months are typically warm and comfortable everywhere in New Zealand.
New Zealand Information
Population: 3.8 million
Government: Independent member of the British Commonwealth
Area: 269,000 sq km
Capitol: Wellington (pop 345,000)
Official Language: English and Maori
People: 88% European (Pakeha), 12% Maori and Polynesian
Religion: Predominantly Christian (81%)
Major products/industries: Food processing, wood and paper products, wool, textiles, dairy products, iron, and steel