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New Zealand

New Zealand is a diverse, unspoilt, and photogenic country, renowned for its green environment, adventure activities and outdoor way of life. The country’s culinary offerings are impressive. Huge servings of local lamb, beef, oysters, crayfish, Fjord land groper, Marlborough salmon and West Coast wild-stag are complimented by locally produced; internationally award-winning Pinots and Sauvignon Blancs.

New Zealand’s North Island is a melting pot of European, Maori and Polynesian cultures within cosmopolitan cities and quaint townships. The north half of the island boasts fabulous beaches and lush vineyards, while the southern half’s landscape flaunts volcanic fields, lush rain forest, rugged mountains, rolling hills of farmland, spectacular hiking trails, and the country's largest lake.

New Zealand’s South Island offers an unparalleled variety of scenery. Snow-capped mountains, deep fjords, waterfalls, luminous glaciers, placid lakes, open plains, vast sheep stations and fertile farmlands envelope world-class vineyards and welcoming cities.

The North Island

Auckland is a modern, vibrant harbour city with beautiful beaches, great shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. Downtown is the place to go for hustle and bustle; the Britomart district’s historic warehouses house some of the city’s most stylish restaurants and bars; and the Harbour beckons pedestrians to find their sea-legs on a leisurely cruise or thrilling yacht race. Each Saturday, Auckland hosts the City Farmers’ Market with fare from an exceptional selection of artisanal food producers. Vendors sell the freshest and best food New Zealand has to offer, from fresh whitebait and oysters to deep-fried Hungarian pastries. North of Auckland is the aptly named Northland, and Bay of Islands region. Known as the nation’s birthplace, it is beautiful, unspoiled and wonderfully rich in history and culture. Popular activities in the sub-tropical north include a cruise to the famous "Hole in the Rock", swimming with wild dolphins, and a visit to Waitangi National Park where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by the British and Maori chiefs in 1840.

The Bay Of Plenty, located on the Pacific Coast Highway, is one of the sunniest regions in New Zealand. It is full of beautiful beaches and secluded bays, orchards, spectacular surfing beaches, and a strong Maori culture. So nice, it is the destination of choice for New Zealander holiday makers.

A few hours’ drive south of Auckland is Waitomo – a land of sculptured, underground masterpieces. Waitomo’s awesome limestone caves are home to millions of glow worms, waterfalls, pink stalactites, fossilised oysters and whalebones. The Ruakuri Cave is the longest underground guided walk revealing, along the way, Maori folklore, legends and sacred sites. Visitors can also enjoy a more challenging and unique cave experience by rafting, abseiling, rock climbing and even crawling through some these wild, underground places. Rotorua is the heartland of New Zealand’s Maori culture and is surrounded by natural beauty. Famous for being an active thermal area, its geysers, boiling mud pools, colourful silica terraces, and steaming lakes make this 'Sulphur City' a must-visit location. The region’s top natural attractions include dense, native bushland; The Blue and Green lakes, named for their reflective colours; Whakarewarewa Forest with its towering California Redwood and Douglas fir trees; and trout fishing in over 15 lakes. Visitors to Tutukau Gorge rave about ‘The Squeeze’ – a tour that sees you squeeze through narrow crevasses, climb boulders, and wade through warm waist deep water before emerging, surrounded by stunning native bushland. Rotorua also offers several opportunities to experience the Maori culture (perhaps to share in a traditional hangi meal), get up close and personal with the native wildlife, enjoy a geothermal mud bath, or even raft a 7 metre waterfall.

Wellington has been busy, of late, reinventing itself first as a city of gourmands. With an attractive waterfront, it has more bars, restaurants and cafés per head than New York City. Rich in cultural and artistic wealth, Wellington is home to NZ’s dynamic film industry (hence the nickname ‘Wellywood’) and the cutting-edge Te Papa Museum which has an excellent collection of Maori works and artefacts.

The South Island

At the tip of New Zealand’s South Island are the Marlborough Sounds, covering some 4,000 km² of The steep, wooded hills and small quiet bays of the sounds are sparsely populated, making access difficult. Picton’s Queen Charlotte Walking Track offers an ideal route to explore (for 1 day or 4, depending on your pace), as does an afternoon spent kayaking around the coastal inlets – with a good chance of spotting seals and dolphins. The main channels of the Marlborough Sounds have calm water and are popular for sailing. Visitors can also dive at the shipwreck of the Russian cruise liner Mikhail Lermontov, which sank in 1986 in Port Gore, close to the mouth of Queen Charlotte Sound.

The Marlborough area is also known as one of the world's greatest wine producing regions – and the best producer of Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Home to a diverse range of large scale and boutique local wineries that can be reached by car, coach or bicycle, it is a lovely area to meander through. Cellar door wine-tastings and lunch among the vines are simply a labour of love for all who visit the region!

Kaikoura is an idyllic small seaside town on the east coast’s rocky peninsula, and is one of the best marine wildlife locations in New Zealand. Located within the Southern Hemisphere Whale Sanctuary, it is perhaps one of the best places in the world for whale watching, dolphin, fur seal, and penguin spotting. Cruise operators offer visitors the chance to swim amongst pods of friendly and curious Dusky dolphins, and up-close encounters with open-ocean sea birds such as the great Albatross. The South Island’s capital, Christchurch, is the most English of New Zealand’s. This large, provincial city boasts quaint vintage trams, a large number of parks and gardens, and one of the most beautiful churches in the southern hemisphere, The Roman Catholic Christchurch Basilica. Many tourists use Christchurch as a stopover enroute to the Southern Alps but it is certainly worth a closer look. An alpine crossing known as Arthur’s Pass is located 140 km from Christchurch. The crossing offers good opportunities for mountaineering, and a chance to get closer to the Southern Alps without the great ascent.

Further south is Queenstown, New Zealand's spectacular alpine resort. Though it is renowned as the adventure capital of the world, the hidden allure of Queenstown’s chilled-out style and stunningly beautiful surrounds is attracting a great deal of attention. Stylish accommodation, snappy bars and restaurants, and shops packed with chic wares are all just a short walk from each other in this popular city. Shotover Street bustles with tourists, tempting the daring and energetic with any number of activities designed to test one’s mettle. The brave can try out their wings on the Kawarau Bridge 43-metre jump; the Nevis Highwire for an 8.5 second fall; or the Ledge which is located 400 metres over Queenstown itself. Queenstown is also the place to be during winter’s ski season when snow-bunnies descend en-masse to enjoy the nearby mountains’ excellent snowfalls and ski runs.

Offering more than thrills, great dining and shopping, Queenstown is also surrounded by excellent vineyards, picturesque lakes and mountains, and some of the best spas in the country. Swedish massage therapies and aromatherapy treatments sanction weary travellers to lose themselves for hours in indulgent pampering – to emerge, perhaps, in time for an alfresco meal and a little more sightseeing!

Only a short drive from Queenstown is Lake Wakatipu. Renowned for its scenic beauty, the lake offers views over the Remarkables mountain range, which appears to exist in a world of its own. Also known as a venue for adventure tourism, travellers have the chance to go paragliding or bungee jumping in stunningly scenic surrounds.

Glacier Country is at the heart of the broader UNESCO World Heritage area. The region’s untamed, yet accessible wilderness of lakes, rivers, forests and beaches are spectacular. Glacier Country adventures like guided glacier walks, kayaking, kiwi encounters, quad biking, off-road buggies, tandem skydiving and white-water rafting are popular experiences. The twin glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef are region’s best-known attractions, and can be explored either on foot, with an experienced guide, or from the air as part of a scenic flight. The Milford and Doubtful sound areas are best explored by taking a leisurely cruise, or helicopter flight. Awestruck visitors, often silent in a gesture of humility, absorb the magnificent views and the imposing Commander Peak at the head of Hell Arm Fiord. A number of luxurious lodges offer guests a sanctuary of comfort to cap-off an incredible west-coast experience. Described as the ‘Finest Walk in the World’, the Milford Track is New Zealand’s most famous. The 55km long trek from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound takes four days to complete and can be done alone, or with a guide. Unforgettable memories and a great sense of achievement reward all who traverse this path.

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