If you want to be far from the crowds, New Zealand — where sheep outnumber humans by a ratio of seven to one — can’t be beat. The best part of this country is the view. Made up of two main islands about 1,000 miles east of Australia, New Zealand is a country of many landscapes. If you’re an ocean-lover, you’ll find a variety of sandy, golden beaches and miles of gorgeous coastline. If hiking and forests are calling your name, take some time to walk in the country’s pristine forests while exploring the fauna, like the kea parrot, known as one of the world’s most intelligent birds, or the weka, a flightless bird with a love for shiny objects.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Entry requirements: Passport
Currency: New Zealand dollars
Flight time (to Auckland): 13 hours from LA
When to Go: New Zealand at its best
Best weather: New Zealand’s seasons are the opposite of the United States. So the warmest months for New Zealand are in December, January and February, and the coldest are in June, July and August. The best times to visit are between October and April during New Zealand’s fall, summer and spring.
What to Do
Take a ride: Arrange for a helicopter tour (try GlacierSouthernLakes.co.nz) through New Zealand’s snowcapped Southern Alps, making your way to Milford Sound, one of the most stunning fjords in the world. You’ll get a dramatic, up-close view of the remote waterside canyons, and on your way back to Queenstown, you’ll stop off on a remote glacier, the perfect spot for a champagne toast for two.
Island-hop: Take a ferry to one of New Zealand’s many smaller offshore islands. Go from Auckland to Waiheke Island, which is known for its vineyards and olive groves, to sample the wine, or jet over to Great Barrier Island, a much more rugged, adventurous escape, known for its rare wildlife sightings and secluded hot springs.
See the maritime life: One of New Zealand’s most famous marine reserves is on Poor Knights Island, where you’ll find amazing natural caves and archways, and a wide range of sea life in all colors of the rainbow. Poor Knights has been even been called one of the world’s top dive sites.