custom school group & youth adventure travel specialists

New Zealand

Cycling the Tekapo Canals |  <i>Daniel Thour</i> Student feeling alive in New Zealand |  <i>Matt Cherubino</i> Stamping the passport on the Otago Rail Trail |  <i>Gesine Cheung</i> View on the terminal Hooker Glacier lake
  • The safety of our young travellers is our number one priority.

    Our commitment to provide a proper duty of care guides everything we do.

    World Youth Adventures has an unblemished record in the operation of school & youth adventures.

    We will only operate tours in accordance with strict operational standards that have built our reputation as leaders in the student travel industry.

    Every tour is underpinned by an industry leading risk assessment plan that exceeds the benchmark standard in Australia, New Zealand, the UK as well as the USA and Canada.

    Three decades of tailoring successful student expeditions adds another dimension to the overall student experience.

    Our Price & Value Guarantee

    Thanks to careful management and thorough consultation with local partners our track record is exemplary.

    Our industry leading risk management procedures have become a skill that we continue to refine.

    All of our school group experts are highly trained and experienced consultants who have safety as their number one priority.

    Expert leaders, risk assessments, quality inclusions and your financial security all come standard when travelling with World Youth Adventures.

    Learn more about our safety practices on our Safety page.

    World Youth Adventures is committed to responsible travel and true sustainability.

    Well-defined environmental plans exist on every trip within this country.

    Learn more about our commitment, and view our free Responsible Travel Guidebook, on our Responsible Travel Page

  • New Zealand is an incredible destination blessed with many attractions for the visitor: dramatic landscapes, untouched and uncrowded wilderness, world-class trekking trails, excellent local wines and craft beers, a year-round calendar of adrenalin-pumping outdoor activities and a rich human history reaching back more than 700 years.

    The first humans to inhabit New Zealand were Polynesian seafarers from eastern Polynesia in the central Pacific. There is much speculation and little precise archaeological evidence of the arrival of New Zealand’s first peoples and the specifics of their long and dangerous ocean voyage, but it is generally agreed that eastern Polynesians, being skilled in seafaring and navigation, voyaged to New Zealand in the 13th century in large canoes well-provisioned with supplies, including live animals (dogs and rats) and edible plants for cultivation (sweet potatoes, yams and taro).

    It was between this time and the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century that the unique Maori (spelled Maori) culture developed over many generations among New Zealand’s Polynesian inhabitants. Initially, the Polynesian settlers established communities along the coast and primarily hunted the large flightless moa bird, until the moa became extinct in the mid-15th century as a result of overhunting. A transitional period followed, with a shift towards fishing and crop cultivation to support the growing population, and a later traditional phase marked by the building of inland villages and crop gardens, the use of more sophisticated tools and the continued development of the arts. The warmer climate and more hospitable conditions of the North Island led to a much higher density of Maori in the north, a trend that is still apparent in Maori population distribution. As the Maori grew in number, they retained the strengths of their Polynesian culture, with a complex social order and great prowess in warfare, canoe making, house building, farming, weaving and carving.

    The first European to visit New Zealand was Dutch merchant-explorer Abel Tasman, who also mapped the north, south and west coasts of Australia, Tasmania, and some of the Pacific Islands. In December 1642, Tasman sighted the northwest coast of New Zealand’s South Island, but his attempt to drop anchor was met with violence from the Maori. The Dutch East India Company considered Tasman’s voyage a failure, and it wasn’t until 1769 that British explorer James Cook would become the first to circumnavigate and map the full coastline of New Zealand, and to document observations of the Maori and their culture. Colonists and merchants soon followed Captain Cook to New Zealand in search of profits from whaling, sealskins and timber, offering the Maori trade of muskets, rum and tools in return. European traders established colonies in the regions unsettled by the Maori, and Christian missionaries soon began arriving by the shipload. The effects of European arrival on Maori life were profound. The introduction of guns and European diseases wiped out many, but the more insidious weakening of the Maori population came through the introduction of Western goods and practices, European cultural values and Christian beliefs.

    By 1838 the British Crown had decided to annex New Zealand, undertaking the steps that would lead to the 1940 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, considered to be New Zealand’s founding document. The Treaty of Waitangi, jointly signed by representatives of the British Crown and Maori tribes of the North Island, established three major provisions: the acceptance of the British Queen’s sovereignty over Maori lands; the British Crown’s protection of Maori lands (with only the Crown able to purchase Maori land); and full rights of British subjects to be extended to the Maori signatories. It was, in theory, a document designed to protect the rights and interests of both parties, but in reality it had some serious shortcomings, and conflict over Maori land led to rising tensions and a series of wars during the 1840s and 1860s. From the 1940s, the British set about rapidly establishing colonial settlements—including Auckland, Wellington, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Nelson, Otago and Canterbury. The crown bought land from the Maori and built settlements, schools, roads and bridges, and regulated the steady flow of European immigration. Land became scarce as the growing settler population demanded increasing amounts of pastoral land, and the Maori grew reluctant to part with any more of their precious land; their future.

    Years of warfare inhibited the economic growth of the North Island, but the South Island experienced rapid growth thanks to the discovery of gold and expansion of pastoral farming. The European population of the South Island boomed, and investment dollars poured in. The North Island would not regain its financial lead over the South Island until the 20th century, when dairy and meat production became well established. Maori men entered New Zealand’s political life from 1867, joining Europeans in the right to vote and to run for seats in the national parliament, and in 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world to afford women the right to vote in national elections. A growing sense of New Zealand nationalism had begun to rise in the late 19th century. By now most New Zealanders of European ancestry had been born in New Zealand and felt strong ties to the land, as opposed to Britain. International successes in rugby and other sports, and involvement in World War I greatly stirred national pride.

    With Britain declaring war against Nazi Germany, New Zealand once again found itself at war. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and swept Southeast Asia in 1941, Britain announced it could not spare any resources to defend the Pacific, and New Zealand, like neighbouring Australia, found itself a new defensive ally: the USA. An economic slump hit New Zealand during the 1970s and early 1980s, and the Lange Labour government began a controversial program of liberal economic and social reforms in the mid-1980s, compounding unemployment but also bringing New Zealand into the global economy. Since World War II, New Zealand has taken an increasingly independent role in international affairs, becoming especially involved in foreign policy concerning the Pacific and South East Asia. In recent decades, New Zealand has continued to shape itself as a nation with increasingly independent action in foreign policy, including enforcing the country as a nuclear-free zone since 1984. While still heavily influenced by its colonial heritage and maintaining close ties to the Commonwealth, New Zealand has grown into a modern nation with a distinct culture and strong national identity. Maori history, arts, language and culture are integral to New Zealand’s cultural identity, sitting alongside the country’s European influences and traditions.

  • Although New Zealand has no official religion, 49% of New Zealanders identify as being a Christian of some variety, with the most common denominations being Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian.

    New Zealand is among the world’s least-religious countries, with 42% of the population claiming no religion, a trend that is on the rise.

    The remaining balance of the population is made up of a huge number of different faiths, with the largest groups being Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Ratana (2013 Census).

    New Zealand is largely an urban industrialised nation, with 86.2% of the population living in urban centres and 77% of the population having access to the internet (this figure is much higher in some regions, such as Auckland and Queenstown).

    Kiwis, as New Zealanders are called (and call each other) with affection, share a strong sense of national identity that places high value on cultural diversity, friendliness, good humour, an easy-going nature and a strong connection to the outdoors.

    Paheka is the Maori word used to describe New Zealanders of European (or other non-Maori) ancestry. Some people may prefer to be referred to as New Zealander European or another term, but Paheka is technically a descriptive term for non-Maori, and not a derogatory term.

    New Zealand is a tolerant, multicultural society. Like anywhere, there are always a few bad apples, but for the most part Kiwis are friendly, respectful, helpful and easy-going.

    As always, permission before taking photographs of people.

    Many New Zealanders smoke cigarettes, but there are laws about where you can and cannot smoke in public places. If in doubt, ask before lighting up. The same goes for drinking alcohol in public. Spitting on the footpath and littering rubbish are also both illegal and carry fines.

    New Zealand does not have a tipping culture, but it’s always appreciated if you leave a tip for excellent service in a bar or restaurant.

    Fortunately for those traveling in a campervan, you can ‘free camp’ (aka ‘freedom camp’) on public conservation land for free in most places that aren’t signed otherwise (usually prohibited on roads, near towns and bridges etc). This applies to self-contained campervans only, as there are no camping facilities (drinking water, cooking facilities, toilets etc) provided.

    New Year’s Eve (31 December) is marked with big celebrations and fireworks just about everywhere. Chinese New Year is celebrated by the country’s sizeable Chinese community and New Zealand’s Muslim communities observe the holy month of Ramadan.

    Easter and Christmas are celebrated by the majority of the population, along with Lent and other important religious dates in the Catholic/Christian calendar.

    Waitangi Day (6 Feb) commemorates the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document. Waitangi Day is celebrated as New Zealand’s national day with cultural performances, concerts, special ceremonies and speeches by both Maori and Paheka (European) dignitaries.

    Auckland hosts the annual Pasifika Festival (Mar), the world’s largest celebration of the Maori and other indigenous cultures of the Pacific Islands.

    Te Matatini is a biennial festival celebrating Maori arts and culture, culminating in the country’s biggest competition for groups performing Kapa haka, traditional Maori cultural performance combining song, music and dance.

    The beginning of winter, when the Matariki (the Pleiades star cluster) first rises into the night sky, is celebrated as Matariki, the Maori New Year.

    Every second year, Wellington hosts the New Zealand International Arts Festival, the country’s largest multi-arts festival.

    Each April, scores of colourful hot-air balloons float over Hamilton and the Waikato region for the annual Balloons Over Waikato Festival.

    Dunedin hosts the annual week-long Cadbury Chocolate Carnival, culminating in the Jaffa Race, in which thousands of Jaffas (small chocolate balls in a hard candy coating) are rolled down Dunedin’s Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest residential street.

    The ski town of Queenstown hosts the annual 10-day Queenstown Winter Festival in late June. The town comes alive with winter sporting events, ice-skating, parties and performance, markets and food stalls.

    Some of the country’s most popular music festivals include Homegrown, BW Summer Festival, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Northern Bass, Splore, Rhythm & Vines, Rhythm & Alps, Chronophonium and WOMAD New Zealand.

    Cities and larger towns plays host to additional events and festivals throughout the year showcasing sports, music, dance, theatre, visual arts, literature, fashion, culture, food, wine and livestock/agriculture.

    New Zealand’s biggest sporting events include the Sevens Rugby, the Bledisloe Cup, Auckland Marathon, Wings Over Wairarapa, Warbirds Over Wanaka, New Zealand Surf Festival, NZ PGA Championship, Rotorua Bike Festival and the Queenstown Winter Festival.

    Secular public holidays include New Year’s Day (1 Jan), Anzac Day (25 Apr), Queen’s Birthday (Jun), Labour Day (Oct) and Boxing Day (26 Dec).

    Total population is 4,353,198 (2013 Census), making it the 127th most populous country in the world, growing at an annual rate of 0.83%. Of this total population, 3,294,546 live in the North Island and 1,058,052 in the South Island (2013 Census).

    The median age is 37.6 years, with 20% aged 0-14 and 14% aged 65+.

    Sex ratio is 0.99 males to 1 female.

    86.2% of the total population lives in urban areas, with an average annual rate of urbanization at 1.09% (as of 2011).

    Between 65-70% of New Zealand’s population has European ancestry; around 15% of the population has Maori ancestry; and the balance is divided between a broad diversity of different ethnic groups After New Zealander European and Maori, the biggest ethnic groups are Chinese, Indian, Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands Maori, Filipino, Korean, Australian and South African.

  • Lake Harris, Routeburn Track&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Julianne Ly</i>

    As a general rule, November to April are the most ideal months for travelling in New Zealand’s stunning outdoors. One of the most important things travellers need to know about the New Zealand climate is that it’s a maritime climate, as opposed to the continental climate typical of larger landmasses.

    Thanks to its position in the path of the ‘Roaring 40s’ and mountainous terrain, New Zealand’s weather can frequently change with amazing rapidity. Because the weather can change so unexpectedly you should be prepared for sudden changes in temperature and weather conditions. This basically means having a good waterproof jacket and some warm clothing. You don’t need to bring your winter wardrobe but a good fleece/jumper and good thermals are a must.

    The temperature during the South Island summers range from 10-30 ºC, with a pleasant 40- 50% humidity. Higher altitudes are always considerably cooler and snowfall is not uncommon even in summer. The Southern Alps act as a barrier to the moisture laden winds coming west across the Tasman Sea, creating a wet climate on the west side of the mountains and a drier climate on the east side. The geography also creates a wind pattern, which can in summer be very hot, dry and fierce. Maximum temperatures we may encounter range up to 30°C. Minimum temperatures expected in the Southern Alps in Summer time are around -5°C. Weather is an integral facet of any mountain range and getting to understand and work with this major environmental factor is what will make you more prepared for your tour – any questions about what to expect on your tour talk to one of our sales team.

    Island continent with no land borders. Surrounded by the South Pacific Ocean to the north, east and south; Australia and the Tasman Sea to the west.

    267,710 sq km, making it the 76th largest country in the world.

    New Zealand is ranked #16 out of 178 countries (with an improving trend) on the Environmental Performance Index (2014), which quantifies and benchmarks performance of government environmental policies and outcomes.

    Environmental issues include deforestation and soil erosion.

    Natural hazards include destructive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

    New Zealand is a signatory to various international environmental and conservation agreements.

    New Zealand’s prolonged geographic isolation from the rest of the world has resulted in a very high level of endemism, with many animal and plant species being unique to New Zealand.

    Prior to the arrival of the Maori in the 13th century, there were few animals in New Zealand: only three reptiles (skinks, geckos and tuataras), two native bats, a few frog species, insects and birds, including the large flightless moa bird that soon became extinct due to hunting by the Maori. The Maori brought dogs and rats with them from Polynesia, and then with the arrival of Europeans came cats, deer, sheep, cows, horses, goats, possums, hedgehogs, rabbits, rats, mice and other animals.

    Native wildlife includes giant snails, the kea (the world’s only alpine parrot) and flightless birds such the kiwi, kakapo, weka and takahe. In contrast to neighbouring Australia, New Zealand has no poisonous snakes, scorpions or venomous insects, and only one poisonous native spider: the rare katipo.

    New Zealand’s coastlines provide habitat to huge range of marine life, including migratory birds, whales, dolphins, seals, sharks, turtles, sea snakes, fish—including snapper, trevally, kahawai (salmon), tuna, marlin, cod, hake, flounder, sole and whitebait—crayfish, oysters, scallops, abalone and green-lip mussels.

    Although once covered in heavy native forest over the bulk of its landmass, New Zealand has been extensively cleared and altered by human intervention over the past 700 years. Today, bush and forest remains only in national parks and areas unsuitable for settlement. Several species have been introduced over the years to repopulate forests and to help counteract erosion caused by over clearing, including radiata pine, poplars and willows. The yellow-flowering gorse has adapted extremely well to local conditions and can be seen over large tracts of land. Notable native plants include beech, kauri, harakeke (flax), cabbage tree and many different ferns.

    The kiwifruit, although actually native to China, was first brought to New Zealand in the early 20th century where it was grown commercially for the first time. Originally known as “Chinese gooseberry”, the crop came to be called ‘kiwifruit’ due to the resemblance of its furry brown skin to New Zealand’s native kiwi bird. New Zealand has now been overtaken by Italy as the world’s largest producer of the sweet, tart fruit.

    New Zealand is a country of stunning natural beauty and great geographic diversity—lush verdant rainforests and forest-clad slopes, sunny white sand beaches and blustery black sand beaches, rugged snow-capped peaks and volcanic cones, dramatic glaciers, ice-blue alpine lakes and majestic fjords. New Zealand’s spectacular, pristine wilderness is undoubtedly the country’s tourist trump card.

    New Zealand is comprised of two major landmasses—the North Island and South Island—as well as hundreds of much smaller islands. It’s a geologically complex land formation that straddles the fault line between the Indian-Australian and the Pacific tectonic plates, making it part of the Pacific’s volatile ‘Ring of Fire’ seismic belt. New Zealand’s rugged landscape has been largely defined by the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that have resulted from this precarious position along the Indian-Australian/Pacific fault line.

    The South Island is roughly bisected by the rugged spine of the Southern Alps, the highest mountain range in Australasia. The Southern Alps contain 19 peaks over 3,000 m (9,843 ft), including New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki/Mount Cook (3,754 m / 12,316 ft). Also within the system are hundreds of glaciers, of which the largest are the Tasman, Fox, Franz Josef, Murchison, Mueller and Godley glaciers, as well as glacial lakes and fjords such as Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.

    To the east of the Southern Alps lies the fertile alluvial Canterbury Plains, and the west of the range lies the bulk of New Zealand’s glaciers and fjords, and a narrow coastal strip leading to the rough coastlines of the West Coast.

    The North Island is less mountainous but dotted with volcanoes, including the active volcanic cone of the North Island’s highest peak, Mount Ruapehu 2,797 m (9,177 ft). It is also here in Tongariro National Park that the North Island’s only glaciers and its major ski fields are found.

    The majority of the North Island’s lakes have formed in volcanic craters, and those in the South Island have been mostly carved by glaciers. The North Island’s Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake, and the South Island’s Lake Hauroko is its deepest. The North Island’s Waikato River is the country’s longest river, rising on the eastern slopes of Mount Ruapehu and emptying into Lake Taupo.

    Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand (1990)

    New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands (1998)

    Tongariro National Park (1990)

  • World Youth Adventures can tailor make a school expedition to New Zealand to your school’s budget and curriculum requirements.

    Talk to us about your next school expedition, or if you need some ideas check out the trips below.


  • Capital City:  Wellington
    Time zone:  New Zealand is +12 hours ahead of UTC/GMT
    Language:  New Zealand has 3 official languages: English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language.
    Currency:  New Zealand Dollar
    Highest Mountain:  Aoraki / Mount Cook
    Highest Mountain Elevation:  3724 mts / 12,218 ft
    Solid blue with red and white Union Jack emblem in top left corner. To the right sits four five-pointed red stars with white borders; a stylised depiction of the Southern Cross, a distinctive constellation visible from the southern hemisphere.