Home»Discoveries»Your New Zealand Trip: Three Don’ts, Three Do’s (and a bunch of Must-do’s)

Your New Zealand Trip: Three Don’ts, Three Do’s (and a bunch of Must-do’s)

Gibbs Farm
Gibbs Farm. Photo Effin Older

By Jules Older

I’m a YanKiwi, a dual American-New Zealand citizen. Born and raised in Baltimore, I’ve lived in Vermont, New York and California. Oh, and in Dunedin and Auckland; Dunedin’s near the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island; Auckland’s high on the North Island.

I tell you this because I know visiting New Zealand’s already on your bucket list; I want to help move it to the top. And I want to maximize your pleasures while you’re here.

So: Three Don’ts, Three Do’s and a bunch of Must-do’s. Let’s start with the Don’ts

  1. Don’t make the mistake many American visitors make before they board the plane. Unless you have a month or more, don’t visit New Zealand and Australia on the same trip.

Wanting to do that is understandable — they’re a lonnng way from home, and visiting both knocks off two birds with one flight.

But they’re two separate countries, and they’re more than 1,000 miles apart. They’re also bigger than you think. Australia is roughly the size of the USA, and while New Zealand’s much smaller, like Italy and California, it’s long and skinny. In the south, fjords, glaciers, snow-capped peaks. Head north to endless beaches, swaying palms, sub-tropical clime.

Sky Tower jumper Auckland
Sky Tower jumper Auckland. Photo Effin Older
  1. While you’re here, don’t ignore official warnings.

Storm warnings, fire warnings, wave warnings, earthquake and flood warnings — take them seriously. New Zealanders are civilized; the land we inhabit is wild. Treat it with respect.

  1. Don’t confuse North America’s calendar and geography with New Zealand’s.

July and August are mid-winter. January through March is summer. Heat sweeps down from the equator; cold blows up from the South Pole. Our South Island is chillier than the North.

Tiritiri Island
Tiritiri Island. Photo Effin Older

That’s it for Don’ts. Time for the Do’s.

  1. First one’s easy: Since you’re only visiting one country, should it be Australia or New Zealand?

For natural beauty, high adventure and the most welcoming indigenous people on the planet — choose New Zealand.

  1. While in New Zealand, go to a rugby match.

Ideally, make that a women’s rugby match. Even more ideally, rugby women’s sevens. What you’ll see: Seven players on a side, skillfully pounding each other up during two seven-minute halves. For viewers, it’s the best contact sport on Earth.

Maori fire Rotorua
Maori fire Rotorua. Photo Effin Older
  1. Learn a little Maori.

You’ll hear it on the news, read it in magazines, overhear it dropped into casual conversation. A few key words and phrases:

Kia ora: Hello

Haere mai: Welcome

Kia kaha: Be brave

Kai: Food

Koha: gift

Iwi: tribe

Marae: the iwi’s gathering place

Hui: gatherings

Whanau: family

Aroha: love

The nation itself has two names: New Zealand (after a flat Dutch province) and Aotearoa; feel free to use both.

Ruakaka tattoo New Zealand
Ruakaka tattoo New Zealand. Photo Effin Older

While you’re here, acquaint yourself with Maoridom. Rotorua is the tourism centre for Maori history, exhibits and experiences (along with hot pools, geysers and thermal baths). Waitangi is where the treaty was signed between iwi and the English crown. And the marae is where hui are held. If you’re lucky enough to be invited, dress for a sacred ceremony, and bring a koha, usually a cash gift to help pay for the kai you’ll be served. Don’t smoke, do take off your shoes, and be prepared to introduce yourself, starting with where you’re from.

What else to see and do? Depending on what you like, here’s my Must-do list.

OK, my final piece of advice. If you can, fly Air New Zealand. It’s just been named the world’s best airline — and not for the first time. If you can afford it, bounce yourself up to Premium Economy or Business Class. New Zealand’s a multi-hour flight from North America; your body will thank you for the upgrade.



Jules Older is a travel & ski writer, clinical psychologist, medical educator, and maker of minimovies.


Previous post

A Gourmet Roman Holiday

Next post

Savoring San Juan: Cuisine and Culture in Puerto Rico’s Capital


  1. June 24, 2023 at 3:53 pm — Reply

    Do come to the Heritage City in New Zealand – Dunedin. You will encounter the UNESCO City of Literature too. The Hocken Collection and Library a treasure trove of archives, art and more. It’s also the Wild Life capital of New Zealand. Visit the Albatross colony and Orokonui bird sanctuary where there is a living fossil called the tuatara.
    Look them up as you plan. Happy travels

  2. jules older
    June 24, 2023 at 7:55 pm — Reply

    Dunedin is one of our favorite cities — in New Zealand and everywhere.

  3. Jules Older
    June 24, 2023 at 7:56 pm — Reply

    We completely agree. Dunedin is one of our favorite cities anywhere.

  4. Leila Sen
    June 24, 2023 at 8:37 pm — Reply

    Lovely intro to your homeland. Thank you, Jules.

  5. Jules Older
    June 25, 2023 at 2:06 am — Reply

    Thank you. It’s a pleasure to live there and to share it with you.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *