6 New Zealand wonders
Best Urban Escape
Just a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke is the city’s castaway island. Many of the island’s 30 wine growers have wineries open for cellar door sales, some with chic restaurants. Activities belong to the DIY variety. Hire a sea kayak and explore the serrated coastline, hop on a bike, swim, explore the bird and marine reserves and the island’s walking tracks.
In a park-like setting outside Queenstown, much awarded and applauded, the Spa at Millbrook brings a silken touch to the wild paradise of New Zealand’s adventureland HQ. Impressive features include the tiled, rectangular candlelit baths, the hot stone treatment and the Vichy aqua treatment.
The drive from Greymouth to Queenstown takes in some of the most accessible glaciers on the planet, New Zealand’s tallest mountains, wild, lonely beaches with seal colonies perched on the headlands, glacial lakes and spongy forests webbed with moss. Start at Christchurch for the drive over Arthurs Pass, or better still take the TranzAlpine Express from Christchurch to Greymouth, pick up a hire car from the station and watch the wonders unfold. Give yourself three days, and make a feast of it.
Best Wildlife Experience
At the windy end of Dunedin’s Otago Peninsula, Taiaroa Head has one of the world’s only breeding colonies of the rare royal albatross. You can visit the colony on a guided tour but viewing is limited to slits in underground bunkers. Better still is watching the birds on the wng, from the Monarch Wildlife Cruises & Tours vessel which makes a short journey out into the open sea. As well as albatross dipping and gliding with the waves, expect shearwaters, gannets and close-up viewing of the seal colony at the base of the cliffs.
Best Maori Encounter
Unwinding from the volcanic slopes of North Island’s Tongariro National Park, the Whanganui River has a deep and intimate connection with the Maori people of the region. Awa Tours is a Maori owned and operated enterprise that offers three-day canoe safaris on the river, along its scenic and placid middle reaches.
Best Luxury Lodge
Queenstown is known for its postcard scenery, yet even by the high standards that apply here, the views from Matakauri Lodge call for fresh superlatives. Constructed from local schist stone with extensive use of cedar and beech, this handsome lakeside lodge looks across dipping lawns to the cresting peaks of The Remarkables on the far side of Lake Wakatipu.
Best Wine Region
Spread across the flat, funnel-shaped Wairau Plains, the vineyards of the Marlborough region are solidly linked with Sauvignon Blanc, yet the region also produces Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling with great finesse and character. Among the region’s finest are Hans Herzog’s wines, made by a consummate Swiss perfectionist who brings the proud traditions of European winemaking to his13-hectare vineyard.