New Zealand Destination Guide by Ruth Carlton, Leisure Specialist

Below is a personal insight into Ruth’s top suggestions to explore in New Zealand, when Trans-Tasman flights are back in action!

New Zealand is often referred to as “the World in Miniature”: Truly magnificent natural features, stunning scenery and unique attractions! The country offers visitors an unspoilt countryside, lush forests, bubbling mud pools, endless miles of golden sandy beaches and a dramatic coastline. Combine this with the rich and fascinating Maori culture and an unequalled range of activities and experiences and it is not hard to see why New Zealand is a destination to enjoy!

These suggestions are based on my own experiences during a number of trips to Kiwi Land, but particularly when I escorted a small Private Wine Tour around the North Island.

My clients do not, necessarily, have to use Escorted Tours, it is, in fact, easy and extremely comfortable and enjoyable to look around this country under one’s own steam, with itinerary, flight, rental car, accommodation and some important sights pre-booked by us. A good idea is an open-jaw ticket – meaning you fly into Wellington/out of Auckland, or v.v.

WELLINGTON – the World’s most southerly capital, is mostly built on reclaimed land, the central part of the city is only 2 km wide! A good hotel, the James Cook Grand Chancellor, is in the original 1840 shoreline part of town, today the main shopping area around Lambton Quay. The City is home to the Royal NZ Ballet, the NZ Symphony Orchestra, the National Dance and Drama Schools and is recognised as the Culture and Heritage Centre, also with the Te Papa Museum known as the World leader in National Museums! The Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament is lovingly called the “Beehive”, it is located along Lambton Quay. Absolute MUSTS are a visit to the Te Papa Museum, and a ride on the Peak Tram, the view over “windy Wellington” from the top is stunning!

Heading North, along the East Coast of the Island, one of the first treasures is reaching the Wine Area of Martinborough – oh yes, it does not always and only have to be Marlborough!
Great idea to have some Tastings and look around in the Vineyards, I can recommend:
– Palliser Estate Wines of Martinborough
– Margrain of Martinborough (Great Pinots!)

Another sight to visit, on your way North, is the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre, they proudly ensure the conservation of some of the country’s most endangered wildlife and act as environmental education. You could see Kiwi, Kokako, Kaka and many other species!

Before reaching the Hawke’s Bay and Napier, after a good 300 km, a stop is recommended at Te Mata Peak, some 400 metres above sea level. Might not be much, but from the summit, you can enjoy panoramic views over the Ruahine, Kaweka and Maungaharuru Ranges and Cape Kidnappers, and on a clear day, you might just spot the volcano Ruapehu, in the centre of Tongariro National Park!

NAPIER – became famous, sadly, after a 7.9 on the Richter scale Earthquake in February 1931. The Township went through a massive rebuilding of the city process, and as Art Deco was the popular “thing” at that time, Art Deco it was for Napier, and it turned out to become one of the best examples! It would be more than worthwhile to invest in a Private Guide for a tour so that you not only admire the building facades, but you will hear the story behind each of the buildings! The Scenic Circle Te Pania Hotel on Marine Parade, by the way, is a great hotel, with a stunning view over the Bay!

Wineries in the Hawke’s Bay area – so many of the Vineyards not only offer tastings but also great Restaurants, for small snack type Luncheons to Gourmet Meals, here I am thinking of the Restaurant at The Mission. In this area, a drive around Cape Kidnappers is a great enjoyment!

Personal recommendations:
– Mission Estate Winery – this is New Zealand’s oldest winemaker establishment founded in 1851 – by, of course, the Monks!
– CJ Pask Winery – great Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons!

On the drive inland, from Napier to Rotorua, one comes past wonderful Lake Taupo – it is more than worthwhile to dedicate more than one day to this area!

Personally, I think this is a must, because:
– Lake Taupo is the largest Lake in New Zealand, by surface, and it is the Caldera of the Taupo Volcano
– The experience of waterskiing, sailing, kayaking, boat trips, Huka Falls and Huka Prawn Park and the Crater of the Moon – Unmissable!

ROTORUA – just a good hour away from Taupo, and we reach the 75000 Population Maori Culture Centre and the Spa Centre of New Zealand, with its Mud Pools!

A good hotel is the Novotel Rotorua Lakeside, it also offers, on some nights, a delicious Hangi with Maori Concert!

COROMANDEL PENINSULA – another well worth “linger” and drive around, on the way North! The Peninsula got its name after HMS “Coromandel” of the British Royal Navy stopped there in 1820, the ship itself got the name from the Coromandel Coast in India! The Peninsula stretches North, from the Bay of Plenty, a rugged place mainly covered by rainforest. Not a bad place to have your Fish and Chips Kiwi style!

Venturing further North, and by-passing Auckland, for the moment, the landmass becomes more and more narrow. And the price is the Bay of Islands region!  What a treasure! On the way up, by the way, you go through Whangarei – pronounced something like Fangarei – and guess what, this is the hometown of Michael Hill – and who does not know Michael Hill!

BAY OF ISLANDS – is an area of more than 140 subtropical Islands, underdeveloped beaches, big game fishing, Maori Culture, Maori Artefacts, and the 19th Century Whaling Port of Russell! The jumping-off port to the Islands is Paihia. I, together with my group, had the privilege of staying at Eagles Nest, WOW! Have a look at their Website, it costs a fortune, but oh my goodness – we had a night of more than luxury accommodation and treatment, including a Dinner on the Terrace overlooking the Infinity Pool, then the Bay – of course with the meal served and prepared by Private Cook! The cost is outrageous, but then again, what a top idea for a very special Wedding Anniversary!

WAITANGI TREATY GROUNDS – the sacred place along the Bay, the site where on 6 February 1840 the Treaty between Members of the British Crown and Maori Chiefs was signed, building the solid ground for further interactions between the original Inhabitants and New Zealand of today, at large – do not miss a visit!

Luxury Lodges New Zealand – at this point I want to highlight that New Zealand offers a wealth of Luxury Lodges for accommodation! A good source for checking is the 100% Pure New Zealand – at the time of my small group trip we stayed at an absolutely charming Private Guesthouse called Fantail Lodge, in Kati Kati, I believe though that it is not quite the same any longer. Morton Winery is just outside of Kati Kati!

Some Lodges I have used successfully for my clients:
– Kauri Cliffs – also Bay of Islands
– Huka Lodge – on Lake Taupo
– The Farm on Cape Kidnappers Hawke’s Bay

AUCKLAND – Let us finish with New Zealand’s largest city! But again, the population is just slightly over 1.5 Million! The city is located in between two harbours, the Manukau on the Tasman, the Waitemata to the Pacific, and absolutely stunning they are, full of Superyachts! Right in the centre of Auckland is the most narrow landmass of the North Island, dividing the Pacific and the Tasman. The views from the Skytower are breathtaking! Auckland, by the way, has the largest Polynesian population in the World!

Hopefully, Ruth has inspired you to add New Zealand to your bucket list. For more information, email holidays@orbitworldtravel.com.au or call 1800 249 804

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