The geography of New Zealand encompasses two main islands (the North and South Islands, Te-Ika-a-Maui and Te Wai Pounamu in Māori) and a number of smaller islands, located near the centre of the water hemisphere. New Zealand varies in climate, from cold and wet to dry and to subtropical in some areas and most of the landscape is mountainous. The dramatic and varied landscape of New Zealand has made it a popular location for the production of television programmes and films, including the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Neighbouring countries include Australia to the northwest and Tonga and Fiji to the north.
New Zealand is in Oceania, in the South Pacific Ocean at 41°S 174°E. It has an area of 267,710 square kilometres (103,738 sq. mi) (including Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands, Bounty Islands, Campbell Islands, Chatham Islands, and Kermadec Islands), making it slightly smaller than Italy and Japan and a little larger than the United Kingdom. These islands are the main areas of land that emerged from the largely submerged continent of Zealandia which came into existence about 83 million years ago before sinking about 20 million years ago.
New Zealand has 15,134 km (9,398 mi) of coastline and extensive marine resources. The country claims the fifth-largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world, covering over four million square kilometres (1.5 million sq mi), more than 15 times its land area. It has no land borders.
The climate is mostly cool temperate to warm temperate. Mean temperatures range from 8 °C (46 °F) in the South Island to 16 °C (61 °F) in the North Island. January and February are the warmest months, July the coldest. New Zealand does not have a large temperature range, apart from central Otago, but the weather can change rapidly and unexpectedly. Subtropical conditions are experienced in Northland. Peak summer temperatures are in the range 24–28 degrees Celsius, although inland Central Otago often experiences 30–34 degrees. Winds are predominantly from the west and south-west in winter, when the climate is dominated by regular depressions. In summer winds are more variable with a northerly predominance associated with the regular large anticyclones which cover all the country.
The UV index can be very high and extreme in the hottest times of the year in the north of the North Island. This is partly due to the country’s relatively little air pollution compared to many other countries and the high sunshine hours. New Zealand has very high sunshine hours with most areas receiving over 2000 hours per year. The sunniest areas are Nelson/Marlborough and the Bay of Plenty with 2400 hours per year. Westland is the region with the lowest hours at 1600, which is the same as the sunniest area (Scilly Isles) in Britain.