NEW ZEALAND is a country with inspiring scenery. From Auckland enjoy the Waitakere Ranges or maybe take in the thermal wonderland of Rotorua. From Christchurch travel to Akaroa. Queenstown is where heaven meets the earth. From here you can experience the majestic Milford Sound. Whatever you are experiencing you will be guaranteed the same amazing experience with small groups, great food and wine and world class guides.
Most of all, enjoy the lifestyle, scenery and wildlife of New Zealand.
New Zealand has a largely temperate climate. While the far north has subtropical weather during summer, and inland alpine areas of the South Island can be as cold as -10°C /14°F in winter, most of the country lies close to the coast, which means mild temperatures, moderate rainfall, and abundant sunshine.
Because New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, the average temperature decreases as you travel south. The far north of the country has an average temperature of about 15°C/59°F , while the deep south has a cooler 9°C/48°F average. January and February are the warmest months of the year, and July is the coldest.
Known as the “City of Sails”, cosmopolitan Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, and is surrounded by a stunning harbor and mountain ranges.
It boasts vibrant waterfront cafes, world-class restaurants and a thriving arts and entertainment scene. Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. While Auckland acts as a gateway to New Zealand, it’s also a destination in its own right. Visitors can explore the islands of the Hauraki Gulf by ferry or charter boat, walk the forest tracks of the Waitakere Ranges, follow wine trails and enjoy the relaxing pleasures of urban life by the sea.
AUCKLAND CITY OF SAILS
Bay of Islands – the Northland Region
To the north of Auckland lies the stunning Bay of Islands, a perfect place to spend 2 or 3 days. Paihia makes an excellent base for exploring the Bay of Islands. It has an extensive choice of accommodation and a good-sized town centre. From the wharf you can arrange a trip to the outer islands, hook into a fishing expedition or catch ferry to Russell. Top local adventures include cruising to the ‘hole in the rock’ at the tip of Cape Brett, finding dolphins (and maybe swimming with them) and sea kayak tours. Paihia is also just down the road from the historic Treaty House at Waitangi, which marks the beginning of New Zealand as a nation. Just west of Paihia is Haruru, where you’ll find an impressive waterfall and a boardwalk.
Tauranga - Bay of Plenty
Tauranga is the largest city in the Bay of Plenty and one of the fastest growing population centers in the country. Downtown Tauranga has several historically significant areas to view during a scenic walk around the area. The Strand waterfront area has undergone a major redevelopment in the past few years, and is home to a number of cafés, restaurants, pubs and nightclubs, as well as a range of accommodation options. Tauranga’s harbour is in evidence almost everywhere you go, providing the urban area with an attractive waterfront setting. Fishing, sailing, diving and dolphin tours are easy to arrange, or check out one of the local beauty spots – McLaren Falls or the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park.
surf beach - Bay of Plenty
From the base of Mauao, a seemingly endless surf beach stretches around the Bay of Plenty to Whakatane and beyond. On the harbour side of the peninsula there’s a sheltered beach ideal for kayaks and sail boats. Soothing hot saltwater swimming pools at the base of the mountain provide a current-day reminder of the area’s fiery volcanic past.
Mt. Maunganui is named after the mountain pictured here and is situated near Tauranga, New Zealand. Maunganui is treated like a separate town but it's more of less the same place as Tauranga. It's a stunningly beautiful area and the land next to the mount with the hotels and buildings is built on reclaimed land. Behind that thin stretch of land is Tauranga harbour. It's one of the main ports in New Zealand and is thus, quite busy. Mt. Maunganui is a dormant volcano and there are geothermal hot springs close by that are great to swim and relax in for a small fee. There is also a very scenic walkway around the whole mount. This is a popular beach in summertime.
Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so volcanic activity is part of the city’s past and present. The city is also the tribal home of the Te Arawa people, who settled in lakeside geothermal areas more than 600 years ago.
Thermal Pools at Waiotapu
At Waiotapu, boiling water from the Champagne Pool empties onto a large terrace known as the Artist’s Palette. Here minerals have dissolved to create an amazing variety of colours. Waiotapu is an area of hydrothermal craters extending along a fault line. The area became active around 900 years ago. Entertaining in any weather, and at any time of the year, Rotorua promises to keep you captivated with geothermal phenomena and special cultural experiences. Geysers, boiling mud pools, marae stays, hangi feasts, an authentic pre-European Maori village and indulgent spa therapies will provide plenty of content for your emails home. Rotorua also has a well-developed adventure culture – everything from sky diving to zorbing.
Gisborne – Eastland Region
Gisborne is the first city in the world to greet the sun each morning, and it has a reputation for great food, wine and surf beaches.
As the unofficial ‘Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand’, Gisborne has a comprehensive wine trail leading to boutique wineries. Several operators offer custom tours tailored for individuals or groups, to spare you the problem of driving. Kaiti Beach is the site of Captain Cook’s first landing in New Zealand (9 October 1769); nearby is picturesque Te Poho O Rawiri Marae. If you’re interested in Maori culture, Gisborne is an essential port of call on your itinerary – old traditions are still evident in many parts of the city.
New Plymouth – Taranaki Region
The city of New Plymouth is known for its sunny climate, art galleries and beautiful parks. It is also New Zealand’s ‘oil town’, with offshore rigs extracting natural gas and oil. Mount Taranaki provides a dramatic backdrop to the city, while reminding you that the hiking trails of the Egmont National Park are just a short drive away.
Hundreds of roads radiate towards the mountain that dominates the Taranaki area, but only three offer high level access to the pristine mountain slopes and forests of Mount Egmont National Park. Many hikers choose the road that leads to Dawson Falls, the Goblin Forest and Wilkies Pools.
Napier Hawkes Bay Region
Napier’s misfortune in 1931, when it was almost leveled by an earthquake, has led to the city’s world famous point of difference. Today Napier has one of the most outstanding collections of 1930s architecture in the world. Walking around the city, you’ll see wonderful examples of Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical design.
Napier celebrates its Art Deco heritage all year round, but with particular fervour in February. A weekend of 1930s dressing up, wining and dining, vintage cars, house tours, jazz, dancing, film and theatre has the whole city kicking up its heels. It’s a ripping good time to visit Hawke’s Bay.
The Hawke’s Bay region has almost 150 years of wine history under its belt. This cellar at Church Road Vineyard is named after Tom McDonald, who pioneered quality red wine production in New Zealand. His brilliant career began in 1921 at the ripe old age of fourteen.
Napier’s other special attractions include the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers and the many vineyards that make good use of the region’s alluvial soils. On Saturday morning, the Napier farmers’ market is a chance to shop for artisan foods and fresh produce.
Palmerston North – Manawatu Region
One of New Zealand’s largest provincial cities, Palmerston North has an attractive historic heart. Many of the original stores (built in the 1920s and 1930s) have been restored and now function as boutiques, cafés and restaurants. Rose gardens and museums should also be on your agenda, particularly the Dugald McKenzie rose breeding centre and the Te Manawa gallery and museum complex.
Wellington is the political capital of New Zealand. The city is compact, cultured and full of character. Nestled between the harbour and the hills, the downtown area is ideal for explorations on foot - shopping, cafes, transport, accommodation and the city’s major attractions are compressed into an area that’s conveniently walkable. Wellington’s visitors come to browse museums, historic places and galleries, including the highly acclaimed national museum Te Papa.
The Parliamentary Library, completed in 1899, it is the oldest of the New Zealand Parliament buildings. It survived the 1907 fire which destroyed all the other buildings.
Wellington is beautifully situated between the harbour and the hills. Many of the city’s hotels can provide you with a view like this one. First thing in the morning or after the day's activities, head for the waterfront and walk to beautiful Oriental Bay, where you’ll find a choice of eating places.
From a food and wine point of view, the city is truly delectable. Night time entertainment includes professional theatre, live concerts, comedy shows and dance performances.
Nelson is an entertaining city in many ways. From a cultural point of view, it provides the chance to appreciate New Zealand art, both in galleries and in artists’ studios. The district has attracted creative people who work with glass, metal, stone, wood, clay, sand, paper, ink, paint and fabric. Nelson is also appealing from a lifestyle point of view. There are wineries scattered around the Moutere Hills and the Waimea Plains. In the city, you’ll find a good selection of restaurants – some with huge views of Tasman Bay. Activities include skydiving, rock climbing, 4WD biking, horse treks, sailing charters and water fun at the excellent beaches.
Neudorf Vineyards, near Nelson, has an international reputation for exceptional Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. The winery is named after the tiny hamlet of Neudorf, which was established by German settlers in 1842. The little village has many fine old oak trees, and it’s possible they were planted by the original settlers to supply wood for wine barrels.
In the Nelson region you can watch skilled glass artists at work. If you’d like to go a step further, there are glassblowing, bead-making and paperweight-making classes held throughout the year. Glass blowing and casting have become synonymous with Nelson, and there are many wonderful works for sale in the city’s galleries.
For sports enthusiasts, the rugby museum is an essential stop. Palmerston North is known for interesting dramatic productions – check out what’s on at the local theatres. For exceptional scenery, walk the magnificent Manawatu Gorge.
Greymouth – West Coast Region
Once the site of the Maori pa Mawhera (which means ‘wide spread river mouth’, in reference to the town’s river mouth location), Greymouth is the largest town on the South Island’s west coast. The area has a history of gold mining, which can be appreciated at the local museum and nearby Shantytown.. The local brewery is something of a New Zealand legend; it runs tours that include a tasting session. Other Greymouth entertainments include sea fishing, fly fishing, a quayside walk and hiking the Elizabeth Track, which passes through a scenic reserve and old goldmining sites. Around the town you’ll find galleries specialising in Pounamu (New Zealand jade).
Franz Josef – West Coast Region
Franz Josef Glacier was first explored in 1865 by geologist Julius von Haast, who named it after the Austrian emperor. The glacier is five kilometres from the town of the same name, and a 20 minute walk will take you to its terminal face.
Franz Josef Glacier
From the glacier car park, you can hike to a choice of lookout points for a bigger view of this awesome river of ice. If you want to actually make contact with the glacier, take a guided ice walk or a heli-hike. Aerial sightseeing is another option. In the town you’ll find plenty of places to stay and eat. At nearby Lake Mapourika there are kayaks for hire.
Wanaka – Lake Wanaka Region (West Coast)
The lakeside town of Wanaka can provide you with an appealing mix of fine living, family fun and adventure. It has a high concentration of cafes, restaurants and interesting shops. It’s obvious that the Wanaka district is nicely obsessed with aviation. At the airport you can arrange to go flightseeing or sky diving, and every two years the town hosts a spectacular airshow revolving around classic miliary aircraft. Winter is a busy time in Wanaka, as the town fills up with snow sports fans. Local snow venues include Treble Cone, Cardrona and Waiorau. Wanaka is also a handy base if you want to hike or climb in Mount Aspiring National Park.
A winter skiing or boarding adventure in the Southern Lakes region is a great way to appreciate the South Island's natural assets. Modern chairlifts, snowmaking technology and grooming machines all work to enhance the opportunities offered by the region’s abundant winter snowfall and stunning alpine landscapes.
The resort town of Queenstown is sophisticated and fantastically scenic. Its lake and mountain landscape is suited to almost any kind of adventure; but Queenstown is just as well known as a place for indulgence. The area’s history is intertwined with gold. In 1862, two sheep shearers struck it rich at the edge of the Shotover River. The ensuing gold rush town was named Queenstown because '...it was fit for Queen Victoria'. Adventure activities include snow sports, bungy jumping, jet boating, horse trekking and river rafting. Indulgent experiences include exceptional food and wine, lake cruises, spa treatments, boutique shopping and leisurely games of golf.
Perched on the edge of New Zealand’s second largest lake, the township of Te Anau is the main visitor base for Fiordland National Park. At the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre you can make plans to walk the Milford, Routeburn or Kepler Tracks. There are many places to stay, but you’d be wise to book ahead in the busy season. Restaurants are plentiful. Apart from hiking, popular local activities include lake cruising, kayaking and exploring the Te Ana-au Glowworm caves.. The museum has a collection relevant to both the Maori and European history of the area. There’s also a wildlife park specializing in native birds.
Milford Sound is probably one of New Zealand’s most well known scenic attractions. Nowhere else in Fiordland do the mountains stand so tall, straight out of the sea. Luxuriant rainforest clings to sheer rock walls and waterfalls tumble hundreds of meters to the sea below. Whatever the fiord’s mood – brooding and wet, or tranquil in the sunshine – it will inspire you.
The best and most spectacular way to see and experience everything Milford Sound has to offer is to fly in on a beautiful day. The flight to Milford Sound from Queenstown, Te Anau or Wanaka is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest scenic flights. With unsurpassed views of the mountains and glaciers on route.
There are several boat operators who offer day cruises. Most guided tours from Te Anau or Queenstown arrive in Milford around noon, so it is advisable to escape the crowds by going on an early-morning or late-afternoon cruise. If you intend to take photographs, the quality of light is usually better around those times as well. There is also the option of an extended overnight cruise on Milford Sound.
Stewart Island in New Zealand’s deep south, offers some of the best land and sea birding in the country. Largely unmodified, the Island provides excellent habitat and food for native birds. Unlike other areas of New Zealand, it has not suffered the introduction of mustelids.
We offer "off the beaten track" wilderness adventures on Ulva Island and Stewart Island. Our focus is local and New Zealand natural and cultural history, opportunities to view kiwi and rare and threatened native birds and plants in the wild.
Swing bridges are a memorable feature of the Rakiura Track, a 29 kilometre hiking circuit on Stewart Island. The three-day track follows the coast, climbs over a 300 metre high forested ridge and traverses the sheltered shores of Paterson Inlet. Department of Conservation huts provide accommodation along the way.
Swing bridge, Stewart Island.
Invercargill – Southland Region
Invercargill dates back to the 1850s, when people from the Scottish settlement of Dunedin began buying land for sheep runs in the far south. Today it is the country's southernmost city. From a visitor’s point of view, Invercargill is well-equipped. It has an excellent range of shops and a selection of lively bars and restaurants. Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco heritage buildings give the city character.
The museum has a tuatara house and the rose gardens at Queens Park are beautiful during summer. The art gallery at Anderson Park exhibits quality art from the far south and throughout New Zealand. Local food specialties include oysters and blue cod.
Dunedin/Coastal Otago Region
The city of Dunedin was built with the riches of the gold rush, consequently it has one of the best collections of Edwardian and Victorian architecture in the southern hemisphere. Gothic church spires, ornate mansions, swathes of native forest and magnificent views of the harbor make Dunedin very memorable. Around the city you can visit historic homes, dip into the chocolate factory and browse the excellent museums. Take a drive along Otago Peninsula to discover Larnach Castle and a choice of wildlife encounters – there are penguin, albatross and seal colonies here. The resident student population keeps Dunedin lively.
The Yellow-Eyed Penguin (Hoiho in the Maori language) is probably the world’s rarest penguin. It lives along the wild south-east coast of the South Island and is best observed from a viewing hut. Around dawn the penguins leave their nests to enter the sea for a day’s fishing, returning during the last two hours of daylight. There are four viewing huts on the Otago coast.
Completed in 1879, the clock tower building at Otago University reflects Dunedin’s staunch Scottish heritage. The University of Otago has an international reputation for research excellence and attracts students from all over the world. The university’s lifestyle is also a major attraction; students live as a community immediately around the campus area.
William Larnach built this castle for his beloved first wife, Eliza Jane Guise. Construction began in 1871, and 200 workmen laboured for five years before the family moved in. Gifted European craftsmen worked for eleven more years to embellish the interiors with the finest materials from around the world. The castle is open daily for viewing.
The South Island’s largest city, Christchurch is an entertaining mixture of refined lifestyle and cultural excitement. The tranquil Avon River meanders through the city, historic buildings house a lively arts community and restored trams make it easy for visitors to get around.
The Avon River meanders through Christchurch Botanical Gardens, providing a habitat for mallard, grey and paradise ducks, rainbow and brown trout, as well as native eels. From the Antigua Boatsheds, built in 1882, you can arrange a 30 minute punting trip on the river – just sit back and enjoy the view while a professional punter does all the work.
The heritage trams that circumnavigate central Christchurch are an easy way to view the city’s fabulous neo-gothic architecture. An informative commentary helps you to understand what you’re seeing, and your ticket is valid for two days. Cathedral Square, the Arts Centre, Botanic Gardens and Canterbury Museum are just a few of the potential stops.
The first four ships arrived from England to settle Christchurch in 1850, and their legacy lives on in the city’s grand heritage buildings and stately parks. Visit historic sites, museums and art galleries, and enjoy the highly developed restaurant scene. For an unforgettable scenic experience, travel up the Christchurch gondola or go punting on the Avon River.
Kaikoura – Christchurch/Canterbury Region
Kaikoura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds – it’s also a great place to eat crayfish (in the Maori language kai means food, koura means crayfish). The environment is truly spectacular – the village is caught between the rugged Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean. In winter the mountains are covered with snow, adding to the drama of the landscape. Kaikoura’s special talent is marine mammal encounters – whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters. Whale watching trips leave the town several times a day and the local seal colony is always entertaining. There are plenty of cafés, restaurants and shops.
Kaikoura is one of the few locations in the world where whales can be seen from the shore. For an even closer look, visitors can board a whale watching tour. Sperm Whales, Humpback Whales, Orca and a variety of dolphins live in the nutrient-rich waters off the coast of Kaikoura. Snorkelling with seals and shark diving are other local specialities.
Ungainly on land, New Zealand Fur Seals are graceful and inquisitive in their own environment. They feed almost exclusively at night, and can dive as deep as 270 metres. From Kaikoura it’s possible to go swimming and snorkelling with seals – a rare and memorable experience.
Bay of Islands photos by Elite Images