New Zealand’s two beach-fringed islands lie 2,000km south-east of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. The North Island’s cone-shaped mountains and huge Lake Taupo were sculpted by volcanic activity, and bubbling hot mud bursts from geysers at Rotorua. Across Cook Strait from New Zealand’s windy capital Wellington, the South Island is spiked by the mighty Southern Alps and glaciers are on the move on the west coast’s rugged Fiordland. You’ll see magical glades of filigree-leaved tree ferns right across New Zealand, while forests of giant kauri trees reach for the sky in the North Island and ancient beech forests fill the South.
New Zealand’s adrenalin capital is Queenstown, the home of heart-in-your-mouth activities like bungee jumping. In the North Island, dive shipwrecks near Whangarei and surf the breaks off Gisborne. America’s Cup yachts tie up in Auckland harbour, and sea kayakers ride waves in the sun-filled Bay of Plenty and translucent Marlborough Sound. Vertical ski fields dot the South Island from Mount Hutt to Queenstown’s Remarkables and there’s family skiing at Cardrona. Hiking is called tramping in New Zealand, and whether you tackle an urban stroll around the Art Deco city of Napier or one of the country’s nine multi-day Great Walks, one of the best ways to see New Zealand is on foot.
Launch into family holidays in New Zealand from Auckland’s Sky Tower for the highest views in the Southern Hemisphere. Ride a paddle steamer across Lake Rotorua and hold your nose when Pohutu Geyser spits sulphuric steam into the air. Kids will enjoy spotting the elusive and flightless kiwi at the wildlife centre in Mount Bruce, and get hands and minds into action with interactive displays at Wellington’s national museum. Catch a ferry across Cook Strait to seek out The Lord of the Rings landscapes at Wanaka and Queenstown.
New Zealand’s cuisine blends Pacific, Asian and European flavours, paired with celebrated sauvignon blanc and pinot noir wines from Central Otago and Marlborough. Chefs clamour for South Island venison and lamb from the Canterbury Plains, and sought-after oysters from Nelson and legendary green-lipped mussels from Marlborough appear on menus across the country. In Auckland, the restaurant capital, there’s special-occasion dining in sophisticated New Zealand hotels, while Wellington sets the standard for coffee culture.
Get the lowdown on war canoes, feather cloaks and other items of Maori culture at the Auckland Museum. For a nose-to-nose greeting, head to the Tamaki Maori Village at Rotorua on the North Island for Maori myths and songs. Hear Maori spoken at intricately carved marae meeting houses on the East Cape, and watch rugby teams start play with a tongue-poking haka war chant. European and Maori art and history come together in Wellington at Te Papa, New Zealand’s acclaimed national museum.