Find adventure, relaxation and top food and wine in the great outdoors wherever you go in New Zealand, writes Sue Wallace.
Whether you fancy sitting in a bubbly hot tub while gazing up at spectacular snow-capped mountains or buckling up in a jetboat for a white-knuckle ride of your life, New Zealand has it all.
It’s time to put yourself in those dreamy Insta-worthy pics and book to head across the ditch to New Zealand to enjoy its wide-open spaces, eclectic cities, quirky towns, fabulous food and wine and pristine views.
There are so many destinations that are perfect for creating those holiday memories whether you are after adventure, hiking and cycling, food and wine experiences or just time to chill.
Travellers will be warmly greeted by New Zealanders, who believe in the Tiaki Promise that includes a commitment to care for the country by protecting the land, sea and culture for future generations.
FOR HIKERS, CYCLISTS AND KAYAKERS
Have it all: hike, kayak, e-bike…
There are lots of walks, tracks and trails around Auckland, a likely starting point for any trip to New Zealand. For spectacular city views over the city and Waitemata Harbour, head up Maungawhau/Mount Eden – it’s quite a climb but well worth it. There are cycling tracks around the city and kayaking is a favourite pastime of the locals.
A day trip to Waiheke, the second-largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, is a must-do. It’s a short ferry ride from Auckland. The Waiheke self-guided e-bike tour is a fun way to explore the island’s wineries, art galleries and spectacular scenery.
Canyon kayaking (with glow worms!)
From the pretty harbourside town of Tauranga, about 200 kilometres south-east of Auckland, sign up for the unforgettable evening experience of a kayaking tour to a canyon lined with shimmering glow worms. They’re best seen in pitch dark with a guide.
The Tauranga area entices you to lace up your walking shoes and head off along its many stunning tracks. New Zealand’s most scenic walk, the Mount Maunganui base track, is a beautiful 40-minute stroll especially when the ancient pohutukawa (New Zealand Christmas trees) clinging to the hillsides are in flower.
Fish, surf, dive
Head north from Tauranga to the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula, where the town of Pauanui is known for its fabulous beaches, game fishing, surfing and diving. Families will enjoy the Cathedral Cove Kayak Tour from Hahei Beach, near Pauanui.
Ancient kauri forest hikes
Discover nature at its best at Puketi Forest, an ancient subtropical kauri rainforest that’s spread over 15,000 hectares on North Island. A Puketi Eco Walk meanders through the more than 360 indigenous plant species and the towering kauri trees are a sight to behold.
Stay at one of the nearby towns on the magnificent Bay of Islands, home to some 144 small islands, some of which resemble pincushions dotted around the bay’s blue waters. It’s a great place for fishing, swimming and walking plus there are scenic golf courses.
FOR ADVENTURE HUNTERS
The vibrant, action-packed lakeside city of Queenstown on South Island lives up to all expectations with everything from jetboating at hair-raising speeds on shallow rivers to bungy jumping, sky-diving and canyoning. KJet offers one-hour jetboat rides on the Kawarau and Shotover rivers, or head to Lake Wakatipu for more fast-boat action.
Really game? Then try the world’s highest cliff jump, the Shotover Canyon Swing – it’s a 60-metre adrenaline-pumping freefall.
Ziptrek Kea ziplining offers the chance to soar over lofty forests, high above Queenstown, while powderhounds will enjoy a Tasman Glacier heli-hiking adventure on the country’s second largest glacier. After so much action, relax at the Queenstown Mercure or Novotel hotels.
FOR RELAXATION SEEKERS
Breathe in lakeside views
Stunning Lake Tekapo, a three-hour drive south-west of Christchurch, offers one of the most beautiful vistas in all the South Island. The town looks out across the striking turquoise body of water to the dramatic snow-capped Southern Alps. The lake’s colour is caused by flecks of ground glacier sand.
Get the feel of the city
Christchurch has lots of new buildings which sit well with its traditional heritage. You can go for a traditional punt on the Avon River in the middle of the city, stroll the beautiful gardens and take a bike ride on the cycle tracks. There are some fabulous galleries and street art that command attention. Peppers Clearwater Resort is a great place to base yourself.
Soak in mineral springs
The picturesque South Island alpine village of Hanmer Springs is known for its healing and soothing mineral waters. Soak in warm rock pools of sulphur-infused waters or indulge in a range of water activities. You can also up the pace and breathe in the fresh air on forest hikes, mountain-bike rides, horse treks and skiing.
Be awed by marine life
East of Hanmer Springs, the striking coastal town of Kaikoura is backdropped by the rugged Seaward Kaikoura Range. It’s popular for whale-watching, dolphin swims and walks, and its waters are home to the most delicious crayfish. Marine life abounds with whales, sea birds, fur seals and dolphins. Kaikoura Whale Watching offers expeditions via boat, plane or helicopter. Hapuka Lodge and Tree Houses has great accommodation in a spectacular setting.
FOR FOOD AND WINE LOVERS
The perfect place for a winery hop is the Marlborough region with its stunning cellar doors and fine drops to match. There are more than 20 wineries within five kilometres of each other. It has a unique microclimate that produces some of the country’s best wines. World famous for its award-winning sauvignon blancs, New Zealand’s largest wine region also produces pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling and gewurztraminer. Dining is also an adventure with top cellar doors showcasing edgy restaurants and innovative menus showcasing fresh produce of the area.
On a Taste Marlborough Winery Tour spend a full-day behind the scenes and talking with winemakers. Cycling Marlborough’s wine trails is always a fun way to get around.
Jump aboard the Seafood Odyssea Cruise through South Island’s Marlborough Sounds and dine on Regal salmon, Cloudy Bay clams and greenshell mussels with Marlborough sauvignon blanc for the definitive wine and food match.
The pretty seaside town of Picton on the Marlborough Sounds is a haven for outdoor activities, fishing, water sports and nature spotting. You can charter your own boat, kayak or join a guided tour such as a
world-famous mail boat cruise or a nature cruise, and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, has a buoyant food scene ranging from fresh produce markets to quirky cafes and slick eateries. It is a seafood haven with fresh seafood virtually at its back door and dozens of seafood restaurants and cafes showing the excellent variety.
It’s also located between two of New Zealand’s best winery areas, Martinborough and Marlborough, so good wine is assured. Many of Wellington’s best cocktail bars are hidden down lanes and staircases and half the fun is finding them and rewarding yourself with the best cocktails ever.
Take me there
Fly: From Australia, Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Air New Zealand fly to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.
Drive: Hiring a car or motorhome to self-drive New Zealand is very popular. Plan to hire at urban centres such as Auckland, Queenstown or Christchurch.
Explore more: vivaholidays.com.au