Sparsely populated, with some of the friendliest people in the world and some of nature’s grandest vistas, this country is a traveller’s delight
New Zealand takes its wine very seriously, and thus a tour of wine country is imperative for any funseeking tourist. Head to Waiheke Island, just 35mins by ferry from Auckland, for a sample of the southern hemisphere’s finest grapes. There are just 30 growers, but they attract 800,000 visitors every year. Try award-winning labels like Goldwater Estate, Cable Bay and Paddage Rock. Tour the numerous restaurants, cafes and art galleries between glasses. The Waiheke Island Resort is the best place to plan your stay if you love nature and enjoy the panoramic views that such locations offer.
The Coromandel Hot-Water Beach
This is probably the only place in the world where you can construct your own spa. Just land up on Coromandel Beach two hours on either side of low tide, and you can dig your own: below the golden sands of the beach, mineral-rich hot water bubbles to the surface. Once you are done soaking in your own DIY hot-tub, head out to explore the local wonders: trendy cafes, art galleries, and the splendid Cathedral Cove, named for its gigantic rock arches. Plan your stay at the Hotwater Beach Hotels if you do not wish to waste your time wandering and travelling.
New Zealand’s oldest national park and world heritage site will leave you breathless if you like a little kick of adventure. The Tongariro Crossing is counted as one of the top 10 day-treks in the world; the 20km trek will take you through steep climbs, past volcanic peaks, jaw-dropping scenery and through unpredictable weather. Movie-buffs, this eerie landscape may look familiar; this is the fabled land of Mordor, as shown in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. Check out the National Park Hotels list online and pick a hotel that is close to this world heritage national park and offers a comfortable stay.
Who can resist the sight of a million glow-worms lighting up an entire cave? Take a boat-ride through the interior of Waitomo caves, along with a naturalist-cum-geologist guide, and watch these little creatures strut their stuff. You will get a fascinating lesson in the caves’ history and geology, as you gaze awe-struck at the panorama of continuously shifting, twinkling lights overhead. Vegas’s finest neondisplays cannot match nature’s unique light-show. The Waitomo Caves Hotels are comfortable and close to these unique caves so that you do not spend a lot of time travelling to this spot.
Walks of the South Island
Five out of New Zealand’s nine fabled walks are on South Island, and the sixth is on Stewart Island, further south. This is where the outdoorsy beauty of this country jumps out at you. There’s Milford Track in Fiordland, NZ’s largest national park, which takes you deep into Maori country. Try the three day Routeburn Track, or the four-day Kepler Track. Rakiura, on Stewart Island, provides that thrilling ‘end of the earth’ feel. The easiest, for all ages, is the 50-km Abel Tasman coastal track. You can plan your stay at Stewart Island Hotels for Proximity and ease of travelling.
North Island Great Walks
North Island makes up the remaining three of the Nine Great walks of New Zealand. Hit the volcanic Tongariro North Circuit (of which the Tongariro Day walk is one section), which starts and finishes at the base of Mt. Ruapehu. In the remotest region of N Island is the Lake Waikaremoana Track, just 46-km, but with a steep climb thrown in. The gorgeous Whanganui Journey is actually a 145-km kayak/canoe trip through ancient Maori country, and should be on every adventurer’s bucket list. Try out New Zealand’s Best Adventures during your stay so that your time there remains memorable.
You cannot leave South Island without a visit to Catlins Coast on the south east corner. Every wonder that nature can throw at you is here: beautiful beaches, stunning cliffs and swathes of rain-forests, misty waterfalls and gorgeous open country that truly gives a new meaning to “off the beaten track”. The wildlife is abundant and extraordinary. Being so far south, the summer days are long, with languorous twilights that make star-gazing a truly special experience.
Abel Tasman National Park
This is the Maori homeland, where they lived, fished and thrived for 500 years before white man came. Stretching from the golden sands of the coast to the wild-life rich rainforests of the interiors, there is something for everyone here. Trekkers, try the two great walks, the Coastal Track and the Inland Track. Water enthusiasts, head for the sea-kayaks and sailboats. Pedal-pushers, rent mountain bikes and hit the tracks. Hunting feral pigs is also permitted, for the gun-loving tourist.
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers
Sticking to its reputation for having ‘everything’, this tiny, twin-island country also boasts the world’s most stunning glaciers. The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are rated among the world’s best for adventure and scenery. The Glacier Valley Hike is the easiest, taking you through the lower reaches of the park. The Ice Tours and the Glacier Heli Hike provide moderate difficulty, and the Big One (for the experts and the nuts) is the Ice Climb. Hikers planning to visit the Fox Glacier should go through the Fox Glacier Hotel List and choose a stay that is comfortable.
The Tranz Alpine Train
Yes, this is a must-do; who does not love an epic train journey? Climb on board at Christchurch for one of the world’s most scenic rail experience. Glide past the gorgeous rolling farmlands of the Canterbury Plains. Fly over the deep gorges cut magnificently by the icy Waimakariri River. As you chug through the Southern Alps, keep a camera ready, as there is a jaw-dropping view at every turn of the head. When you eventually disembark at Greymouth, resist the urge to ride back.
In the great outdoors of New Zealand, the weather can change rapidly, especially in the mountains. Sunny days can suddenly turn wet and chilly, so always carry warm, waterproof gear. Known to be a trekker’s paradise, do not plan any hike without a detailed guide book and a map.