New Zealand, our closest neighbour is one of our most popular short haul international holiday destinations. It’s luscious landscape is an adventurer’s paradise – from hiking, cycling and skiing in the cooler months.
Highlights include sailing the Queen Charlotte Sound towards Picton. But all are surpassed by Milford Sound and its fellow fjords on the South Island’s east coast, some of the most dramatic landscapes, which is best done by a day cruise.
Waterfalls, wild cliffs backed by snowy peaks and, more often than not, moody mists make for great photo opportunities.
New Zealand’s also offer plenty of culture and history. You can learn about Maori traditions on shore excursions to Rotorua, or early contact with the Europeans at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the beautiful Bay of Islands region. Akaroa has unusual French colonial influences, Dunedin boasts a castle and whisky distillery straight out of Scotland, and Napier’s 1930s architecture recalls the American jazz age.
You’ll also find innovative, interactive museums and attractions – and of course some of the latest in adrenaline sports, as befits the nation that gave the world bungee jumping.
Wellington combines old-fashioned cosiness with avant-garde flair and a terrific, contemporary dining scene, and its Te Papa Museum is outstanding. Auckland has big-city attractions embedded in wild landscapes that create one of the world’s loveliest harbours.
The region was settled by French explorers in 1840, which explains French street names and the patisseries that tempt with éclairs and macarons. There are 40-odd colonial-era cottages with well-kept gardens, a lighthouse, a history museum and an old French cemetery, plus craft shops and art galleries. The eccentric, mosaic-studded gardens of The Giant’s House are a delight.
Best for: Romantics, couples and cafe lovers.
With a magnificent harbour setting and landscape of ancient volcanoes, few major cities offer such wild beauty when arriving by ship. A visitor highlight is the ferry ride to the seaside suburb of Devonport, or a harbour walk along scenic Tamaki Drive to Saint Heliers, with splendid island views. The city also has great museums, shopping and dining. As evening falls, Ponsonby Road or the redeveloped waterfront at Viaduct Basin are favourite choices for a drink or casual meal.
Best for: Families, walkers, culture fans – and everyone else.
Christchurch is an innovative and forward-looking city striving to overcome its 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. View some of the earthquake-affected zones and learn how the city centre is being restored, but don’t imagine Christchurch has nothing else to offer. Wander along the Avon River through the lovely botanic gardens and visit the fascinating International Antarctic Centre near the airport. The city centre is alive with small shops and eateries.
Best for: Outdoor types and couples.
New Zealand’s fourth-largest city has great restaurants and shopping and a fascinating Scottish heritage – it even boasts a whisky distillery and kilt maker. Victorian-era architecture ranges from a landmark railway station to fancy Olveston Historic Home and imposing Larnach Castle. The city also has two excellent contemporary attractions: see how chocolate or ale is made at Cadbury World or Speight’s Brewery Heritage Centre. Otago Peninsula albatross colonies.
Best for: Architecture enthusiasts, history lovers, shoppers.
Napier is especially noted for its magnificent 1930s art deco architecture. The town is centred on fertile farmland, orchards and river valleys and sits in the middle of the Hawke’s Bay wine region. Nearby Cape Kidnappers is renowned both for golf and gannet colonies.
Best for: Golfers and history buffs.
Nelson is a delightful arts-and-crafts town full of galleries, glass-blowers and fashion designers. The surrounding region is noted for sunny weather, rolling vineyards, beer production and mountain scenery. Several national parks such as Abel Tasman lure adventurous visitors for hiking, kayaking and caving. Kahurangi National Park features prominently as a backdrop in The Lord of the Rings movies.
Best for: Shoppers, nature enthusiasts and hikers.
town has an interesting little maritime museum and plenty of craft shops. Shore excursions head inland to the wineries of the Marlborough region and the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre.
Best for: Scenery and wildlife lovers, wine enthusiasts and walkers.
This charming town boasts beaches, headland walks, saltwater pools and village-style shopping. It’s also the jumping-off point to visit Rotorua’s geysers, mud pools, hot springs and Maori cultural attractions.
Best for: Anyone who likes scenery, walking and beaches.
Waitangi, Bay of Islands
Waitangi is surrounded by indented coastline, offshore islands and shimmering bays, and was the first part of New Zealand to be settled by Europeans. It combines spectacular scenery and water sports such as sailing, kayaking and dolphin spotting with Maori culture and history, including New Zealand’s first capital Russell and the Treaty of Waitangi museum.
Best for: Nature and ocean lovers, history buffs.
Though a modest capital, Wellington has plenty of energy and a surprisingly avant-garde attitude. Take the famous red cable car from downtown to admire views, then walk down through the Botanic Gardens. The city’s highlight is the superlative Te Papa Museum, with interactive, high-tech exhibits tracing New Zealand geology, history and wildlife. Surrounding excursions take you to wineries and The Lord of the Rings movie locations.
Best for: Food and coffee lovers, museum goers, shoppers and families.
Stewart Island lies off the south coast of South Island and features wild beaches, rainforest and windswept hills. It has few facilities and passengers must tender from ships. Hiking, fishing, kayaking and exploring Rakiura National Park and its unusual flora and wildlife (including abundant kiwis) are the reasons to visit.
Best for: Nature and wildlife lovers.