The islands that make up New Zealand were inhabited before the European settlers first arrived. Polynesians only arrived to the islands after 1250 AD, but they quickly developed their own culture and customs. These people are who we today identify as the Maori. First European contact with New Zealand occurred in 1642, but only in 1769 was the country’s scope really measured by famous Captain Cook. Eventually Europeans were making regular stops on the island to trade weapons for food while on their whaling outings. After steps taken by missionaries, colonisation began, but England only really sought power over the islands when France attempted to take hold of portions of the islands in the 19th century. By 1841 New Zealand was its own colony under the flag of the British Empire. The spread of immigrants within the New Zealand was the cause of the New Zealand wars which resulted in many Maori deaths, but fortunately, by 1907, New Zealand became self-governing and the influx of immigrants lulled.
Nowadays New Zealand is a modern country that is deeply connected to its natural surroundings. A perfect example of this marriage between city and nature is Queenstown. The town is wedged between the shores of the beautiful Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps mountain-range. Mountains like The Remarkables are beautifully laced with snow, which has led to Queenstown becoming known as a premiere ski-resort town. Visitors can take to the skies for local air-tours of the gorgeous surrounds too. Besides being a lovely location for skiing, Queenstown makes the perfect base for mountain hikes or wine tasting.
For a full and fun-packed day of adventure, visitors to Queenstown can kayak their way across the Wakatipu to the village of Glenorchy. The quaint village, filled with cafes and pubs, also caters for families with magnificent horse trails. Another cute town in the centre of New Zealand’s cold and mountainous South Island is Twizel. Twizel offers Lord of the Rings tours to those who are fans of the story and movies, as much of the movie saga was set in the area. But if you are a little less fond of hobbits, then why not fish for some salmon in Lake Ohau. Lake Tekapo is another idyllic South Island lake where visitors can relax in local hot springs or row across the glassy waters.
Close to the South Island’s lake region is Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain and a challenging hike for even experienced mountaneers. The mountain is called Aoraki by the Maori, and the story goes that three sons of the Sky Father god were helping their mother overturn her stranded kayak when a south wind blew and froze the boys in place, creating the mountain range, with the tallest son forming Mt Cook. Almost as awe-inspiring as Mt Cook is the Milford Sound on the South-West coast. The ‘fjord’ formed by glacial recession is the perfect location for boating and kayaking, while those who can stand the cold often go scuba-diving in the sound at the bottom of this beautiful valley.
New Zealand is a wonderful country, but it is when exploring the beautiful South Island and its amazing countryside that the visitor truly gets to experience the most magnificent natural landscape in the world.