As you tramp through the abundant native forests you’ll think of Canada and the American Northwest. And then, waving your way through the fiords, geysers and boiling mud you’ll be sure you’re in Scandinavia. Look closely though, and the truth is revealed. Much of the flora around you is particular to New Zealand.
The word ‘Maori’ means ‘ordinary’, but the friendliness shown by New Zealand’s natives is something else. Everybody seems down to earth, happy to help, and as soon as you’re out of the cities people have time to stop and talk.
The South Island, the larger of New Zealand’s two main landmasses, is home to the Southern Alps including New Zealand’s highest peak, Mount Cook. On its coast, Christchurch, the Garden City, now has a modern, modish feel. In the southwest you’ll find Queenstown, a city designed to produce adrenaline. You can ski, jet boat, bungee-jump, mountain bike and hike – and that’s just before breakfast.
The North Island is known for its geothermal wonders, running from Tongariro National Park, through the Maori spirit of Rotorua to the active volcano of White Island in the Bay of Plenty.
Auckland, at the top of the island, is the largest city: a true metropolis and a fine sailing port. Wellington, down south, is the capital and has a more laid-back, slightly Bohemian character.
With Nelson, Hawkes Bay, and Marlborough you have some of the world’s finest wines. To match the quality of the wine, chefs take their inspiration from many of the wider regional influences. You’ll find South Pacific dishes fused with European flavours, presented with a New Zealand sense of theatre.
Just spend a few hours wandering along a beach, paddling a canoe or mountain biking and your spirit soars. No wonder it’s so popular with filmmakers. New Zealand is cinematic — life in widescreen.
When to go
The north of New Zealand is subtropical while the south is temperate. And though it’s a comfortable climate all year round, we recommend the warmest months from December to April.