New Zealand—The Islands with Everything
For an island nation covering only a little over 100,000 square miles,
New Zealand offers an astounding range of landscape features, from volcanic peaks and massive glaciers inland to idyllic beaches and dramatic fjords along the coast. With a wonderland of natural beauty and world-famous scenery, it’s a dream vacation that should be on everyone’s bucket-list.
Although it’s quite a trip to get there from North America, the destination is more than worth the journey, especially for thrill-seeking adventure sports enthusiasts and the ever-growing number of J. R. R. Tolkien fans who dream of exploring Middle Earth in the hobbits’ furry footsteps.
The World’s Most Photogenic Landscape
Vacationers whose focus is on filling their Instagram feed with envy-worthy photographs will have no end of subjects. The best photo spots for beach lovers are the Bay of Islands where fur seals sunbathe, the Coromandel Peninsula with its DIY hot-tubs at Hot Water Beach, and the Otago Coast’s unique beach landscape of the Moeraki Boulders. Dramatic mountain scenery is just as plentiful, from the stunning alpine peaks of Mount Cook and the Remarkables mountain range to the eerie volcanic landscape and geothermic pools of Rotorua and Tongariro National Park.
Some of the best ways to get fresh perspectives is by exploring, whether by foot, cycle, or watercraft. Hikers of all skill levels will find plenty of options, with Abel Tasman National Park offering a wide variety. Sea kayaking is another popular way to admire the scenery; suggest clients kayak in and around the Scottish-influenced town of Dunedin to admire Larnach Castle or among the towering glacial walls in Fiordland National Park.
Auckland, New Zealand’s Metropolis
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, straddles a relatively narrow strip on the North Island’s northern end, accessible via both the Tasman Sea and the South Pacific Ocean. Waitemata Harbour is the one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, located on the Pacific side, with commercial ferries connecting to outlying islands. It’s also home to an impressive population of yachts and sailboats, which make stunning scenery along the city’s seafront district and many gorgeous beaches.
To get a better understanding of the sea’s importance in New Zealand’s culture and economy, visitors should head to the New Zealand Maritime Museum. To appreciate the diverse ocean life native to the surrounding waters, tourists should visit the SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium and then book a dolphin and whale-watching cruise. Suggest that dedicated nature lovers also set aside time for a visit to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Islands, especially the small but fascinating Tiritiri Matangi Island where a wildlife sanctuary protects kiwi, blue penguins, and other important native species.
Queenstown, Extreme Sports Epicenter
What this city lacks in size, it makes up for in scenery and activities. Nestled on a crook of Lake Wakatipu and adjacent to two mountain ranges, Queenstown is a mecca for outdoor sports enthusiasts and nature lovers.
One of the most popular adventure outings is a jet boat ride on the Shotover River, but Queenstown earned its reputation as a thrill-seeker’s paradise in 1988 when the first bungee-jumpers leapt off Kawarau Bridge. Today, visitors can jump 43 meters at the original spot or opt for a jump off the world’s third-highest bungee-jump at Nevis Point, an astounding 134 meters high. Tourists can also find plenty of other activities, including hot air ballooning, ziplining, paragliding, and even parachuting.
The absolute best views of the lake and alpine landscape are from Skyline Queenstown, a cable-car gondola that offers dining from a scenic vantage point at the summit of Bob’s Peak. Your more adventurous clients can opt to bring a bike up and cycle back down, or ride down the slope on a luge-style go-kart. Queenstown also makes an excellent base for winter sports, with excellent ski and snowboard conditions at nearby Coronet Peak and the Remarkables mountains.
Napier, the Art Deco City
The small coastal city of Napier is well-known for its staggering number of Art Deco buildings, the fortunate side-effect of an unfortunate disaster. From the ruins of an earthquake in 1931, the residents rebuilt downtown in the era’s most popular style, with many prominent landmarks designed by local architect Louis Hay. Those visiting in February get the extra treat of Tremains Art Deco Weekend—a celebration dedicated to all things 1930s.
Napier is also home to attractions like the National Aquarium of New Zealand and the free-to-visit MTG Hawke’s Bay, a museum and arts venue. There are also botanical gardens, a gorgeous seaside promenade, and a nearby Maori archaeological site. This is also a top destination for foodies, known for its exceptional local farm products and wine.
Specialty Tours: Visiting Iconic Film Sites
Those who want to visit the idyllic Hobbiton and Shire, which were painstakingly built for the 14-month filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, will want to head straight to the town of Matamata. Located on the North Island about 2 hours’ drive from Auckland, the bucolic Shire is ready to be explored, including the original hobbit-holes and even a pub that offers second-breakfast. Fans can then head to Wellington on the southern tip of the island to explore Kaitoke Regional Park, the site of the elven paradise Rivendell, as well as several other areas featured in the films.