Imagine an urban environment where everyone lives within half an hour of beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanted holiday islands. Add a sunny climate, a background rhythm of Polynesian culture and a passion for outstanding food, wine and shopping – you’re beginning to get the picture of Auckland, NZ’s largest and most diverse city.
Being at the narrowest point of the North Island, it literally stretches itself from one side of the country to the other, from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea. This means, wherever you are in Auckland, you’re never far from the water. And what amazing water it is. From wild surf beaches to the tranquil Hauraki gulf, the sea and all its attractions are why this is known as the City of Sails.
Rotorua is one place where the turbulent forces that formed New Zealand are most evident. This city, on the Volcanic Plateau, has one of the world’s most lively fields of geothermal activity. Skyrocketing geysers, hot springs and boiling mud pools all tell you that this place sits squarely on the Pacific Rim of Fire.
Rotorua is also the ancestral home of the Te Arawa people who settled here more than 600 years ago and their presence offers the visitor numerous cultural experiences. Try a hangi feast – cooked in the steaming ground, take a tour of an authentic pre-European Maori village or treat yourself to an indulgent spa therapy. If adventure is your thing, Rotorua has many attractions to get the adrenalin flowing; everything from skydiving and luging to zorbing and one of New Zealand’s best mountain bike circuits.
New Zealand’s second-largest city, Christchurch known as ‘The Garden City’ is a place of variety and innumerable attractions where, you can ski, play golf, bungy jump, go whitewater rafting, mountain biking, wind surfing, whale watching, and visit world-class vineyards and gardens. Where else in the world can you do that?
In February 2011, Christchurch was hit by a huge earthquake. Much of the central city with its classic neo-gothic architecture was destroyed. But it remains a beautiful city, a city where you can cycle alongside the river, stay in good hotels and indulge in fine sophisticated dining, and a city where, just 15 minutes from the centre you can scramble up mountain bike tracks or ride a wave at a surf beach. The buildings may have been damaged but the soul of the city and the welcoming spirit of the people remain very much intact. Don’t miss visiting Christchurch.
Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s top visitor destinations and if you come to the region you’ll understand why. The town sits on the shore of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu among dramatic ranges. The lake and mountain landscape make it suited to all kinds of adventure.
There’s skiing in the winter and activities such as bungy jumping, canyon swinging, jet boating, horse trekking and river rafting all year round. If hardcore adventure isn’t your thing, there are plenty of mellow options available. Experience one of the many walking & hiking trails, sightseeing tours or indulge yourself with spa treatments, boutique shopping and excellent food and wine. Head out of Queenstown and the drama of the Central Otago landscape unfolds around you. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan you’ll recognize many of the locations of Middle-earth here
West Coast – Glaciers
The West Coast, or ‘the Coast’ as locals call it, is a wild place of rivers and rainforests, glaciers and geological treasures. Never more than fifty kilometres wide, in the whole stretch of it down the coast of the South Island there are only 31,000 people. Greymouth is the largest town.
Visit the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. These giant rivers of ice have squeezed down the valleys to just 250 metres above sea level.
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