THE INSIDE TRACK
What draws you to New Zealand?
The diverse landscapes are quite simply breathtaking. From mountains and glaciers to volcanoes, lakes, rainforests and beaches, they’re all here and all easily accessible. It’s like Scotland, Wales and Yorkshire all rolled into one, with a little bit of Middle Earth thrown in for good measure.
I first visited in 2006 and its natural wonders have continued to draw me back again and again. Luckily for me, my youngest sister fell in love with a Kiwi farmer in recent years and is now a permanent resident – so I now have even more reason to return.
Are there outdoor activities other than bungee jumping?
Yes of course, New Zealand provides a canvas for all types of outdoor activity. Queenstown is well known as the adventure capital of the southern hemisphere – perfect if you’re an adrenalin junkie, but New Zealand is home to plenty of low-octane pleasures too. It’s prime walking country, with the Milford Track in Fjordland and Queen Charlotte Track through the pretty Marlborough Sounds among the best hikes on offer.
There’s phenomenal trout fishing in untouched alpine rivers, excellent cycle trails and both bird and whale watching. To this you can add sailing, skiing, volcano hiking, rafting, canyoning, kayaking, glacier climbing – the list is almost endless.
Do you have a favourite place to stay?
After an active day, it’s vital to rest your head somewhere special. Luckily, New Zealand is home to the most incredible lodges – the term ‘Super Lodge’ was practically invented here! It’s hard to say which is my favourite as they’re all so special, but the service, style, food, wine and comfort levels are consistently spot on.
If you really pushed me, I’d suggest a stay at Eagles Nest, a chic villa estate overlooking the Bay of Islands in the subtropical north of the country. Cruising the islands aboard the catamaran Cool Change, which you can privately charter straight from the property, will be a highlight of any trip.
What’s your most memorable New Zealand experience?
During a recent trip, I was lucky enough to take a helicopter flight with Nick Wallis from Queenstown to Minaret Station. Nick is one of four brothers behind this 50,000-acre property nestled deep within the Southern Alps, which is so remote it can only be reached by helicopter. We flew low through the mist into the spectacular wilderness before arriving at the most idyllic luxury hideaway you can imagine.
Guided heli-hiking, skiing and fishing adventures make stays here a must for lovers of the outdoors. Retreating to your suite’s private hot tub at the end of the day is the icing on the cake. I shed a tear when I left.
Can you arrange vineyard tours?
Absolutely. New Zealand is wine heaven, and although everyone thinks of Sauvignon Blanc there are so many more varieties of note to be found. I’m particularly partial to a New Zealand Chardonnay – Trinity Hills and Gimlett Gravels are highly recommended – and some of the Cab Savs and Pinots are also phenomenal. From Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago to Marlborough and Martinborough, the vineyards and wineries are incredible.
For me, a highlight was going to the boutique vineyard Himmelsfeld near Nelson and meeting Beth Eggers (never in a hurry to release her wine), where the 2006 Moutere Chardonnay was sheer joy.
Would you recommend a stopover en route?
Whatever you do, don’t be put off by the flight. If you fly with Air New Zealand you’ll get to experience the wonderful NZ hospitality before you even set foot in the country. A couple of nights in Singapore makes a great layover, depending on who you fly with, but it really depends how much time you have to spare.
If New Zealand is the focus, I say go for a flatbed if you can and head straight there. Once you’ve landed in Auckland, helicopter straight over to Waiheke Island and stay at the fabulous Boat Shed for a few nights to get over the jet lag in the most perfect surrounds.
WHEN TO GO
New Zealand’s subtropical north is warm year-round. Elsewhere, the best time to visit is summer (November to March) although prepare for wetter weather the further south you go. Skiers should wait for winter (July to September) when resorts like Tongariro in the North Island and Queenstown and Wanaka in the South Island provide powdery pistes aplenty.
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New Zealand in a Nutshell
We’re often asked if it’s possible to see New Zealand in as little as two weeks. While ambitious, it is entirely feasible to see the best of both islands in (around) a fortnight. We tell you how.
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