Visiting New Zealand (plus tips from a AAA Member)

Adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts will feel right at home on the other side of the world while visiting New Zealand.

Auckland, New Zealand

Photo: Thinkstock

If your perfect destination offers epic scenery matched by opportunities for adventure, New Zealand—with its in-your-face precipices, waterfalls,sparkling glaciers, forests, sandy beaches and geothermal wonders—fits the bill.

Waterfall in Milford Sound

Photo: Shutterstock

The nation’s rich indigenous culture permeates the North Island. Auckland museums display important artifacts, and visitors can attend tribal gatherings to witness Maori cultural performances firsthand and join in a hangi, a feast of meats and vegetables steam-cooked in an underground oven.

For thrill-seekers, black-water rafting through caves by the light of thousands of glowworms is a magical, subterranean journey. Enjoy breathtaking outdoor scenery on a cruise through Milford Sound, the majestic South Island fjord Rudyard Kipling described as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” For a unique perspective, take an overnight cruise, which includes a kayak tour along the fjord’s deep precipices, where waterfalls plunge over steep rock straight into the water’s depths. Adventurers eager to expend more adrenaline can also tackle Milford Track, a hiking trail that attracts trekkers from around the world.

The oceanfront city of Christchurch, with its large public botanic gardens and parks, serves as a gateway to unique experiences. Think swimming with New Zealand fur seals or taking the TranzAlpine train on a scenic journey. At the end of your vacation, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to visit the land of the Kiwis—a moniker that refers to both the charming national bird and the friendly locals.

Fur seals

Photo: Thinkstock

AAA Member Paul E.’s Travel Tips for Visiting New Zealand

  • Stop by an AA Branch (the New Zealand equivalent of AAA) to pick up an overseas visitor Membership card. They’re free for North American AAA Members and offer even more travel savings.
  • While you’re at the branch, you can also sign up for a gas card, which will save you a few cents per liter of fuel. Check out the website for more details.
  • Most flights from SFO land in New Zealand at 6 a.m. Check with your car rental company to see when they open so you won’t get stuck waiting at the airport for a vehicle. (Hertz in Auckland opens at 6 a.m.)
  • If you’re using a rental car as your main transportation, be aware of the speed limits. There are very few highways in New Zealand, so most roads are windy country back roads with low speed limits. On that note, trust the locals when they tell you it’s going to take a while to drive from point A to point B.
See New Zealand by train on one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys.

Explore Australia and New Zealand on our popular “From the Outback to the Glaciers” tour. Visit or call 877-396-7159 for details.

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Rose Stadt, AAA Travel Counselor, Vallejo, Calif.

More and more people want to customize their escorted trips with longer stays in certain cities or visits to specific sites. I make sure the independent pieces fit seamlessly with the tour.

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