New Zealand was once a British colony and you can visit without a visa but getting in can be complicated because of the strict bio-security laws.
Everything you bring in is x-rayed and often checked by dogs. You fill in a form detailing all foodstuffs and medicines. You are not even allowed to bring in an apple but our tea and coffee supplies were inspected and allowed in. There’s a $400 fine for non-disclosure. Even wooden souvenirs have to be fumigated or sterilised.
Once you leave the airport you can see what they are protecting. The country, often called “Gods own country”, is stunningly beautiful everywhere but you also seem to step back in time. In some of the shops you could be back in the fifties.
We landed in Aukland so of course, we had to visit the sky tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere. We also took a ferry trip to Devonport where we climbed Mount Victoria for great views of the city.
Bay Of Islands
The Bay of Island tour is a long day trip by coach. There are one hundred and forty-four island on the far north of North Island. Captain Cook was the first European to visit and the first settlement was in the town of Russell. You take a cruise to see the beauty of the islands but the highlight was a visit to the Waitangi treaty grounds. This is New Zealand’s most significant historical site. In 1840 five hundred Maori leaders signed a treaty making their country a British colony. February 6th is Waitangi day – a national holiday.
There is a carved Maori meeting house to visit and a very impressive war canoe. Then you are treated to a hapa haka, traditional singing and dancing by costumed Maoris. This was a great and informative day out and we went back to Aukland ready to leave early in the morning for our next destination- the famous Rotorua.