Colossal mountains and volcanic ranges, sheer glaciers and health-giving thermal springs: New Zealand delivers nature on a grand scale. It’s also one of the few places in the world where you can holiday in luxury on the precipice of stupendous beauty while enjoying unique bespoke activities. Beyond the adrenaline rush and more blokey outdoor pursuits, a plethora of exclusive cultural, gourmet, health-giving and natural experiences make New Zealand a stand-out holiday destination for any pace.
Just You And Nature
In a country where the sheep famously outnumber people and the wildlife poses no threat, you don’t need to be a he-man or travel far to find yourself in the middle of nowhere. Luxury glamping in a remote wilderness area, such as Explore Life’s stunning Lake Wanaka location, raises the bar on camping, with flushable loos, gas hot showers, queen-sized beds, lambskin rugs and mink throws.
Then there are the stunning and secluded Pure Pods, 5-star luxury accommodation in Kaikoura and Little River reached via a short hike, where the walls, floors and even ceiling are made of glass, making it easy to immerse yourself completely in nature.
Hot Spring Goodness
With geothermal hot spots dotted throughout the country, New Zealand is full of health-giving, mineral-rich waters and natural hot springs. They’re so prolific, you can even dig your own – at Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula.
For hot spring heaven – and the closest you can get to a Japanese onsen town – the city of Rotorua, built on an active volcano site, is a must-visit – from the picture-perfect Polynesian Spa with its stunning Lake Rotorua location, to the steamy expanse of mud pools, geysers and hot springs of Hell’s Gate and private thermal bathing near Waimangu.
For a different perspective, take a heli-flight to the active volcano of White Island, past boiling, sulfurous lakes, mud pools and spitting fumaroles before landing on the summit of Mount Tarawera, site of the spectacular 1886 eruption.
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The Hangi, The Haka And More
The indigenous Maori culture is one of the most diverse, accessible and engaging in the world. One minute, you could be taking part in a ceremonial haka war dance, the next carving a bone pendant, learning about Maori myths and spirituality or learning the language.
In the cultural heartland of Rotorua, the hangi is a must-experience. This thousands-year old tradition of slow-cooking meat and root vegetables buried in a pit of hot volcanic stones until earthy and pungent is often part of a night of celebration that includes the ceremonial laying of the hangi (digging the oven) and storytelling through song and dance.
For an intimate cultural experience, the award-winning Maori Tours in South Island’s Kaikoura, is a must for their celebration of more than 800 years of unbroken family history and tradition.
More Than Just Fish 'N' Chips
Forget about fish and chips, pavlova and hokey pokey. New Zealand is all grown up and it shows in its sophisticated and innovative Pacific Rim cuisine and the quality of its seasonal produce. From the must-try plump and creamy Bluff Oyster, only in season in the South Island from May to August, to greenshell mussels and whitebait, you’ll find some of the freshest seafood in the world, along with artisan produce, cheeses and meats.
Then there are the internationally renowned, award-winning wines and wine regions: Gisborne, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay in the North; Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury and Central Otago in the South. For a change of pace, hire a bike and explore the many small-batch wineries of Hawkes Bay on one of the largest off-road cycle trails in the world.
The flightless kiwi bird may be the national emblem but, thanks to the subcontinent split 85 million years ago, it’s just one of many diverse fauna and flora that call New Zealand home. Sail or kayak the eco-marine wonderland of Kaikoura and Marlborough’s Bay of Many Coves and discover the only King Cormorant breeding colony in the world.
Visit the world’s largest gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers, explore the World Heritage area of Te Wahipounamu in the South and heli-flight over Milford Sound and the 1.2 million hectares that make up the Fiordland National Park. With more than 20 per cent of the country given over to national parks, forest and reserves, as well as two World Heritage Areas and more than 80 per cent of the fauna native, it’s no wonder Peter Jackson settled on New Zealand as the location for his mythical Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings movies.