New Zealand Gap Year Backpackers Factfinder Guide

So much goodness packed into such a small country. New Zealand’s north island offers geothermal wonderment, sub-tropical rainforests and an incredibly friendly, cosmopolitan capital city in Wellington. Cross the Cook Strait into the south island and you’ll hit the Marlborough sounds with vineyards stocked producing award winning whites. To the east Kaikoura’s marine wildlife can bring a tears of awe and in the west, the impressive Abel Tasman National Park will bring out the inner kayaker in you. Venture further south and the alpine spine rises to Mt Cook culminating in Fiordland in the far south with Milford Sound, the Routeburn Track amongst the highlights, not forgetting the adrenalin capital of Queenstown just a short drive away. The people, the scenery, the healthy lifestyle, the great outdoors. Just go New Zealand ‘ayyh’, it rocks ‘bro.

  • Area: 268,676km or 103,736 sq miles (UK is 94k sq miles)
  • Population: 4,693 million in 2016
  • Capital: Wellington (North Island – the windy city)
  • Other Cities: Auckland (North Island) and Christchurch (South Island)
  • Highest Point: Mt Cook 3,764m
  • Official Languages: English & Māori
  • Religion: Christianity
  • Currency: New Zealand Dollar £1 = $1.91 March 2018 (
  • Main Exports: Dairy, Wool, Lamb, Fishing
  • Main Sports: Rugby Union, Cricket
  • Time Difference to UK: +13 GMT (or +12 GMT in British Summer Time)
  • Flight Time from London: 23h 50 mins with one refuelling stop

When to Visit:
New Zealand is down under, very down under actually, making November to March the best times to visit, unless you’re a skier or snowboarder when it’s the reverse. The Northland, north of Auckland is sub tropical year round so visit anytime but wintertime south of Christchurch will be bitter.

New Zealand in 5 words:
Lush, Sweet, Friendly, Compact, Pristine

What does the New Zealand Flag look like?
The New Zealand flag features the British ensign, it’s part of the Commonwealth. It also features the Southern Cross, the constellation prominent in the southern hemisphere. There was a referendum to change the flag in 2015 but the New Zealand people decided to keep the current flag pictured here:

10 Things New Zealand is Famous For

  • Lord of the Rings & Hobbits
  • The All Blacks Rugby Union Team and the Haka war dance
  • Sheep
  • Nuclear Free
  • A unique vowel flattening accent and ending sentences with ‘ayyh’
  • Geothermal Activity
  • Bungee and adventure adrenaline pumping activities
  • The kiwi fruit and the flightless kiwi bird
  • White Wine
  • Incredible Scenery

10 Random Facts About New Zealand

  • There are no snakes anywhere in New Zealand (native or introduced), though there are quite a few in neighbouring Australia, to say the least.
  • Sheep outnumber people in New Zealand. There are 4.6m humans and 27 million sheep, that’s a ratio of 6 sheep per person.
  • New Zealand is home to the world’s steepest street in Dunedin (South Island). It boasts a gradient of 38. Bonus fact: the name Dunedin is derived from the Scottish Gaelic Dùn Èideann or Edinburgh in plain English. Folks in Dunedin roll their ‘r’s too and have a slight Scottish twang to their kiwi accent.
  • Over 30% of New Zealand is National Park, maintained and protected by the Department of Conservation. Look out for the DOC Campsites throughout New Zealand, they are basic but incredibly beautiful.
  • A Chinese gooseberry was the original name for a Kiwi fruit.
  • New Zealand has hobbits and wizards from Middle Earth featured on its currency. It’s legal tender in NZ too.
  • 33% of people living in Auckland own a boat.
  • You are never more than 80 miles from the sea in New Zealand.
  • The Māori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which translates into English as the Land of the Long White Cloud.
  • Kiwi’s call flip flops “jandals”. And occasionally “thongs”, just to warn you.