New Zealand incorporates the natural beauty of several countries. The southern Alps in the South Island resemble the European Alps, but most of the New Zealand mountains are neither as precipitous nor as high as the European Alps. Rather the New Zealand mountains form high gradual valleys. Sheep can be raised at the higher levels and as they age are moved to the plains where their productive life is extended a year or so.
The three most touristic areas in New Zealand are The Bay of Islands at the northeastern end of North Island, Marlborough Sound lying at the northern end of the South Island, and The Queenstown area in the south central area, the point of departure for sightseeing and hiking in the southern Alps and viewing Milford Sound. The whole area is reminiscent of Norwegian fjords.
For the tourist, New Zealand offers a composite of Polynesian images (it has the Maoris and the North Island, the waving palms and sandy beaches). It also has mountain scenery, gorgeous lakes, glaciers, fjords, and modern cities. North Island is subtropical. The south of South Island is temperate. Snow is usually confined to the mountains and high country. When discovered by Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator, in 1642, the native Maoris were living well on a diet of moa and other flightless birds, fish, and a type of sweet potato (and each other).