The landscapes of New Zealand are perhaps better described as demanding than dramatic. From ancient forests to ice fields, the islands morph into many forms, all demanding your attention. To discover more, we asked the experts at Audley Travel to tell us about the top things to see and do with their exclusive New Zealand travel guide.
Take in the scenery
New Zealand’s epic scenery is arguably its biggest draw and one of the reasons the country’s lifestyle focusses so much on the great outdoors. For an interesting walk, head to Tongariro National Park; a desolate, barren space which was used to depict Mordor in ‘The Lord of the Rings’. The park sits at the southern end of Lake Taupo and is home to three active volcanoes; Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. The Tongariro Crossing is often referred to as New Zealand’s best day-walk and is a fantastic introduction to the country’s natural beauty. The walk is around eight hours and you’ll pass alpine scrubland, moonscape craters, emerald lakes and hot springs before descending through dense podcarp forest. You can also hike to the summit of Mount Ngaurohoe or Mount Tongariro for panoramic views of the Thermal Plateau.
Discover Maori culture
New Zealand’s North Island is known as its cultural centre and a great place to learn about the indigenous Maori people. The famous haka offers an intriguing window into the Pacific Island heritage and there are many authentic ways to learn more. In recent years, iwi (tribes) have opened up their spiritual heritage to To Pakeha (non-Maori) to offer an insight into their culture and values. Rotorua is the place to visit, Maori people are integrated here and live modern lives, but they will happily guide you through their interesting history. You can also watch them prepare a hangi (a traditional feast) reserved for special occasions today. It comprises of meat and potatoes and is cooked underground.
Get a taste of adventure
Sitting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu with the backdrop of the Remarkables Mountains, Queenstown is surrounded by magnificent scenery. The self-proclaimed ‘adventure capital of the world’ offers thrill-seekers a huge variety of activities from mountain biking to sky diving. For the best views of the skyline, head up the gondola from Bob’s Peak, this is particularly beautiful in the winter when a dusting of snow covers the colossal landscape.
For something different, head to the handsome fjords of Milford Sound which are thought to be the work of superhuman masons by the Maoris. They are remarkably alluring at any time of day; reflecting the morning sun or sitting moodily dark in the evening. A great way to view them is on a sightseeing flight, here you’ll see spectacular alpine scenery including Mount Cook and Mount Tasman which are New Zealand’s highest peaks. You’ll also see the Tasman, Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers and enjoy a short snow landing.
Sample the delicious food and drink
New Zealand is home to many great vineyards, a wonderful way to experience them is with a two-night stay. With so many wine regions on both the North and South Islands, it is really easy to add a vineyard experience into your trip. The Marlborough Sounds are a maze of flooded valleys reaching out into the Cook Strait and home to the annual Marlborough Wine and Food Festival which takes place in February.
On the east coast of North Island sits Hawkes Bay, its location affords it warm summers and crisp winters. These conditions are perfect for horticulture and it is known as the ‘fruit bowl’ of New Zealand due to its delicious apples and kiwi fruit. There are also many locally-owned wineries dotted along the fertile plains between Napier and Hastings.
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At Audley, our specialists travel regularly in search of unique, authentic and unforgettable experiences. The specialist who plans your trip will carefully tailor it to your specific interests, tastes and budget.