New Zealand: Land Of Fields And Fjords

by Cynthia Banks

Despite its relatively small size – approximately the same area as the state of Colorado – New Zealand packs quite a punch! Whether you are into relaxing on sun scoured beaches, or climbing massive mountains, New Zealand can offer both, and even in the same day.

Female students kayaking
Enjoy kayaking in Pahia, NZ. Photo by Ashley Houston

The geography of the island nation lets interns see everything from glaciers and fjords to active volcanoes. An internship can be supplemented by bungee jumping, sea kayaking, surfing, or hiking, all while working in a country that has been called the most business-friendly country in the world. With such a diverse variety in its geography, it is a good idea to get a little knowledge of New Zealand’s landscape before your trip.

Islands

Made up of two main islands, the North Island and South Island, New Zealand offers tons of exciting adventures for everyone. These two islands are referred to as the mainland and are home to the vast majority of the population. There are also many smaller islands to explore such as Chatham Islands and Stewart Island. The latter is the third largest island of the group and lies less than 19 miles off the southern shores of South Island. It is home to only around 400 inhabitants.

Climate

It is also a good idea to learn a little about the land because the climate and topography of the North Island and South Island differ so greatly. The North Island has a much more temperate climate with black sand beaches lining the west coast, white sand beaches in the east, and gold sand beaches defining the tropical, northernmost points of the island.

Tongariro National Park in the center of the island is a giant volcanic region and is largely responsible for the black sands. The park provides some incredible vistas, extreme hikes, and even skiing and snowboarding in the winter. It is the first national park to be established in New Zealand and holds great cultural significance for the ancient Maori people, the original inhabitants of New Zealand. They called the string of islands, “The Land of the Long White Cloud.”

The landscape has offered up what is known as the “Nine Great Walks of New Zealand.” The world famous tracks offer up some of the best paths and are spread across the islands. One is located in Tongariro National Park. All of the walks can be done independently or with a guided tour. Hikers can stay in huts or cabin style lodges and depending on which you choose, enjoy up close views of sparkling blue lakes, valleys carved by glaciers, beaches, and historic sites.

The South Island, houses five of the great walks, and is perhaps the most diverse of all the islands. It consists of large metropolitan areas like Christchurch and Dunedin with their surrounding farmland on the east coast and the picturesque Southern Alps towering above the west coast. Interns should expect to see more variation in the weather on the South Island, including more snow in the winter. Make sure to bring some warm clothes for the South Island because the allure of the mountains beckons year round exploration.

Metropolitan Areas

Overall, there are five main metropolitan areas throughout New Zealand, three on the North Island and two on the South Island. Auckland, located on the North Island is the largest city in New Zealand with nearly one quarter of the country’s population living within the city limits. The population is diverse and visitors will hear many languages spoken. It is a great locations for interns looking to be exposed to a vast array of different cultures in a single trip.

About two hours south of Auckland is Hamilton, New Zealand. Hamilton is known for its gardens and music festivals, but when internship hours are over and curiosity leads you away from downtown, be sure to take a quick bus ride to check out the Shire. Home of the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Moreover, Hamilton is located in the Waikato Region where a large percentage of the population is Maori.

In the southwestern part of the North Island, the nation’s capital, Wellington, offers interns an incredibly well-rounded experience. As the country’s second-largest city, Wellington has great cafes, shops, and nightlife. This city also hosts numerous music, art, and film festivals.  

The largest city on the South Island is Christchurch. Christchurch is known as one of only a handful of cities where you can ski and surf in the same day. Though, if you are looking for a more low-key adventure, Christchurch’s downtown promises not to disappoint with dozens of restaurants and an aquarium.

Just down the coast in Dunedin, take advantage of New Zealand’s “ultimate college town.” Although it is hard to leave, Dunedin is the gateway to Fiordland National Park, Queenstown, and the large ski resorts of the South Island.

An internship in New Zealand can provide many things including insight into another culture, the unique thrills of attending an All Blacks game (the national rugby team), adrenaline pumping adventures, and quiet beaches all as part of a great segway to a successful career.