The Maori people were the first to arrive in New Zealand, making the journey in canoes from Hawaiki about 1,000 years ago where they set up a thriving tribal society that thrived for hundreds of years. A Dutchman, Abel Tasman, was the first European to sight the country but it was the British who were the backbone of colonization.
In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, an agreement between the British Crown and Maori. It established British law in New Zealand, while at the same time guaranteeing Maori authority over their land and culture. The Treaty is considered New Zealand’s founding document. The grounds and the building where the treaty was signed have been preserved and, today, the Waitangi Historic Reserve is a popular tourist attraction. The original Treaty itself can be seen at the New Zealand Archives in Wellington.
New Zealand has a rich and fascinating history, reflecting both the Maori and European heritage. Amazing Maori historic sites and taonga (treasures are a contrast to many beautiful colonial buildings. A walk around any New Zealand city today shows what a culturally diverse and fascinating country they have become.
Before man arrived New Zealand was a land of birds that evolved with no natural predators. The only mammal was a tiny native bat. And it was the very last country on earth to be settled by humans.
In New Zealand you will find a bird population that is different to any you will find elsewhere in the world. Take a tour of the predator-free open sanctuaries and you will see close at hand the rare and unique birds. But many native birds – the tui, kereru (native wood pigeon) and the flittering piwakawaka (fantail) are all around you, in the bush and in the gardens. The most well known bird in New Zealand is the kiwi.
You’ll find fur seal colonies dotted around the coast of the South Island and lower North Island. There are penguins and dolphins and, if you go to Kaikoura, boats will take you to meet those magnificent of mammals, the whales. New Zealand’s rich fish life can be seen in the haven of the many Marine Reserves and in a number of aquariums.
New Zealand is a land of immense and diverse landscape. You’ll see things there that you will not see –in the same country – anywhere else in the world. Within a day or two’s drive you can see spectacular glaciers, picturesque fiords, rugged mountains, vast plains, rolling hillsides, subtropical forest, volcanic plateau, miles of coastline with gorgeous sandy beaches. Much of these landscapes are protected by National Parks with thousands of kilometers of walks and trails opening their beauty to the public.
Straddling two tectonic plates and sitting on the Pacific Rim of Fire has resulted in some spectacular geothermal areas and volcanoes, some of which are still active. Lake Taupo is the result of one of the largest and most destructive volcanic eruptions in the world. Visit Rotorua and you will see this geothermal activity close up with spouting geysers, hot water pools, and bubbling mud pools.
New Zealand has a long over 9,300 miles of coastline which has its own unique diversity. The West Coast is rugged and untamed while the coastal highlights of the East Coast are its gentle sandy beaches and harbors dotted with islands.