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New Zealand landscape
Besides "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy,
New Zealand is also most famous for its Maori
origins, and breathtakingingly beautiful landscapes.

New Zealand consists of two main islands - the North Island and South Island - plus many smaller ones lying in the South Pacific.

Despite its size -- compared to its much larger neighbor Australia 1,000 miles to the southeast -- New Zealand continues to loom large in the heart and minds of travelers, who have consistently placed New Zealand in the Top Ten best travel destinations on the planet.

The North Island

At once naturally beautiful, primal and cosmopolitan, New Zealand effortlessly draws millions of tourists a year most of whom use Auckland as a jumping off point to the rest of the country.

Situated on the North Island (where most of the film locations for the Lord of the Rings trilogy were shot) Auckland's size and 1 million plus population make it the country's largest urban area.

Looming high over the city, Sky Tower is the central landmark wherein the observation deck affords a cinematic 60-mile panorama of the surrounding area and additional points of interest around the city.

Other Auckland must-sees include the all-encompassing (and misnamed) Auckland War Museum, the botanic gardens, and the Stardome Observatory.

Also don't miss a ferry ride to the beach, along with a taste of New Zealand wine on a very mellow tour of Waiheke Island.

Within reach of Auckland are other very notable destinations including Rotorua, Hamilton, Waitomo Cave and Lake Taupo, the most popular holiday vacation spot among New Zealanders.

The South Island

kiwi tree
And for dessert may we
suggest the fresh kiwi...

Christchurch, the largest city and jumping off point to see the rest of the South Island, has been appropriately nicknamed "The Garden City" for it's numerous public parks, botanic gardens, wildlife preserves and residential gardens.

Also don't miss a visit to Christchurch Cathedral, the city's most prominent landmark, with a trip up to the bell tower for a sweeping panorama of the city and surroundings.

Further south, at the center of arguably the most spectacularly beautiful regions in all of the South Island lies Queenstown, offering a sweeping view of Lake Wakatipu, the Southern Alps, and its most remarkable world-class skiing area aptly named the Remarkables.

DID YOU KNOW? New Zealand Travel Fun Facts

New Zealand landscape
The real Middle Earth

• Filming of the "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy resulted in about $200 million boosted into the country’s economy. The government even created a Minister for Lord of the Rings to coordinate promotion efforts. Today, film fans are welcome to see famous Lord of the Rings film locations available on special travel tours.

• In Dunedin, the Beverly Clock has been running since 1864, despite never having been wound since it was made.

• Go figure. It's said that the early explorers simply miscalcuated. Ninety-Mile Beach is actually only 55 miles long.

• Located in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand celebrates Christmas in summer. That's when the country's most iconic flowering tree, the pohutukawa, bursts into bright red December blooms just in time for the holidays.

• Lake Taupo is actually a huge crater from one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the last 5000 years. Roughly the size of Singapore, it is the largest freshwater lake in Australasia.

also see -> Wines of Australia & New Zealand | South Pacific Ocean Beach Guide

More about New Zealand travel & tourist attractions around the Web:

- The official travel and tourism site offering information on hotels and airfare bookings plus in-depth guides to major tourist attractions, event calender, photos, maps, driving routes.

AA New Zealand Travel Guide - Everything you need for a trip to The Land of the Long White Cloud including events and activities, attractions, tours, getting around, touring and regional maps, currency calculator, an online bookshop and more from the New Zealand Automobile Association.

New Zealand travel guide - Wikitravel - Wonderful overview plus insider details on what to see and do, tips & advice on how to get around, weather factoids, historical background, New Zealand slang and idioms, and related resources.

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