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Authored by Daniel Moore

New Zealand (NZ) is in quite a unique position in the world. It is one of the most Southernmost countries that is fully inhabited, yet is almost completely isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, some 2,500 miles from it’s nearest neighbor (Australia).

Despite these odds, New Zealand is one of the most popular destinations for tourists the world over, with its enchanted landscapes, breathtaking beaches, incredible glaciers, and a rich and fascinating indigenous culture.

Whether it’s worthwhile to visit New Zealand isn’t a question. It is.


The main question is how to get there.

Given its unusual location and distance from more populous regions, arriving in the country seems trickier than it actually is. But this guide will show you that getting to New Zealand and is easier than many would imagine.

How to Get to New Zealand

Flying into New Zealand

Air NZ Plane Flight

Most travelers to New Zealand will arrive by air. This is the quickest, simplest and most common way to reach the country, and flying to New Zealand is a very similar experience in flying to any other world destination.

There are a couple of things to know though. Since October 2019, passengers arriving to the country via its airports have been obliged to obtain a New Zealand eTA Visa Waiver (check here) if they don’t already hold a full visa.

This can be obtained easily online and must be in your possession when you arrive to an airport in New Zealand, either to enter the country or whilst in transit for a further flight.

Image: XPinger (Chris Sutton) (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

Which Cities Can You Arrive In?

The country boasts a good number of international airports on both the North and the South Island. These make it easy for intrepid travelers to arrive in the big cities and at some of the most popular tourist spots directly.

The busiest airports found across New Zealand include the capital of Auckland, Rotorua, and Wellington on the North Island (Wellington is notably known as the gateway between the North and South islands).

On the South Island, the cities of Christchurch, Dunedin, and Queenstown have the busiest airports.

Busiest airports in New Zealand:

North Island:

➤ Auckland

➤ Wellington

➤ Rotorua

South Island:

➤ Christchurch

➤ Dunedin

➤ Queenstown

Airlines That Fly to New Zealand

The nation’s official flag-carrying airline is Air New Zealand, though the country is served by a mix of other well-known international air travel brands.

Prices can vary quite significantly between companies and based on where in the world you’ll be flying from, so it’s wise to shop around for the best deals in your location for when you set off.

The biggest air carriers that fly to New Zealand include the following:

Airlines that fly to New Zealand

➤ Aerolineas Argentinas

➤ Air China

➤ Aircalin

➤ Air Canada

➤ Air New Zealand

➤ Air Tahiti Nui


➤ Asiana

➤ American Airlines

➤ British Airways

➤ Cathay Pacific

➤ China Airlines

➤ China Eastern

➤ China Southern

➤ Emirates

➤ Etihad

➤ Fiji Airways

➤ Hawaiian Airlines

➤ Japan Airlines

➤ Jetstar


➤ Korean Air


➤ Lufthansa

➤ Malaysia Airlines

➤ Philippine Airlines

➤ Qantas

➤ Qatar Airways

➤ Singapore Airlines

➤ South African Airways

➤ Thai Airways

➤ United

➤ Virgin Australia

How Long Does it take to Fly to New Zealand?

Apps that work with inflight wifi phone plane

Because of its great distance from other countries, journey times tend to be longer than most with the shortest direct flight from Australia taking around 3 hours and the longest taking a full day of journey time.

Of course, the duration of your flight will ultimately rest on where you’re setting out from.

Depending on where you embark from, travel can last anywhere between 11 hours from Southern Asia, 12 hours from North or South America, or 24 hours from Europe.

Arriving in New Zealand by Boat

For those who prefer a more leisurely pace or who just hate air travel (we don’t blame you!), arriving in New Zealand by boat is your next best option.

It’s hard to believe that until around 1960 the country was ONLY accessible by sea, with voyages taking months at a time. Luckily today, that isn’t the case.

The majority of cruises to New Zealand embark from Australia, however, many round-the-world tour ships also stop-off here as well. Like with air travel, a New Zealand eTA for cruise ships is necessary for foreigners arriving or disembarking from passenger ships without a full visa.

Re when cruise season is in New Zealand, the busiest time for cruises in NZ is around October – April. This falls in the Southern summer and autumn months.

There is however also a shorter winter cruise period between April and July, allowing people to enjoy the country’s marvels almost all year round by boat.

Ports and Docking Sites in NZ

Cruise liners are among the largest and most impressive vessels at sea.

The North Island boasts the impressive Bay of Islands as well as two of the country’s principal cities in Wellington and Auckland. As a result, there are numerous North Island stops for passenger liners, which include Wellington, Auckland, Bay of Islands, Tauranga, and Napier.

The South Island boasts the striking Fiordland National Park and the Southern Alps, providing big draws to the country as a whole. So it’s no surprise that the South Island has even more anchorage points than the North.

The key disembarkment points for cruise and passenger ships on the South Island are Christchurch – Lyttelton, Dunedin – Port Chalmers, Picton, Marlborough Sounds, Banks Peninsula – Akaroa, and Fiordland.

Getting to New Zealand is only the first step to starting your wild and exhilarating adventure in this breathtaking land. If you decide to make the journey remember that the best part of the experience is just around the corner, being there!

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.



  1. Have always wanted to visit New Zealand. This is a great article for someone planning a trip :) Interesting how it was accessible only by sea till the 1960s. Which are the best places in NZ to travel to if you’re on a budget?

    • So glad the article was helpful for you Meera – I found the no flights until the 1960’s pretty fascinating too!

      Best way to travel NZ on a budget would be to rent a car and opt for camping. Once you get out of the cities and into exploring the landscapes, spending time among nature etc, you can travel very cheaply, for the cost of pretty much your transport, food, and then any activities you do choose to pay for.

      Hope that helps! Have an amazing time in NZ :)

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