For a country not much larger than the UK, New Zealand certainly has more than its fair share of wow factor scenery. In the space of a couple of hours, a road trip in beautiful Aotearoa (the country’s Maori name meaning ‘Land of the long white cloud’) takes you from hidden beaches to snow-capped mountains via vineyards and native forest.
Movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit have catapulted the country to the forefront of holiday wish lists across the world, and the tourism industry is thriving like never before. Aside from the incredible scenery, another reason we love New Zealand so much is down to the wonderful ‘Kiwis’… the naturally laidback, gregarious folk who are lucky enough to call New Zealand home. They’ve taken to their new position on centre stage like ducks to water, with no bells and whistles, just good old down to earth Kiwi hospitality.
Here are some of our favourite places to include on your trip to New Zealand… but don’t try and fit them all into one holiday as we’re sure you’ll want to go back for one more day!
1. Bay of Islands
North of Auckland, the Bay of Islands consists of 144 emerald isles surrounded by deep blue sea. Highlights here include sailing, dolphin spotting, Waitangi Treaty Grounds and a scenic flight to the northernmost tip of the country, Cape Reinga.
Rest your head: Eagles Nest
2. Waiheke Island
A short ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke Island is brimming with vineyards, olive groves, hidden coves, fabulous restaurants and even a zip line!
Rest your head: The Boatshed
3. Rotorua & Taupo
In the centre of the North Island, the country’s thermal heartland bubbles and boils with erupting geysers and steaming mud pools. There’s also a strong focus on Maori culture here. Less than an hour south, picturesque Taupo is home to its famous blue lake and the mighty Huka Falls, with ski fields and the iconic ‘Great Walk’ nearby in Tongariro National Park.
Rest your head: Acacia Cliffs
4. Hawke’s Bay
The second largest wine producing region in NZ (after Marlborough), Hawke’s Bay is oenophile heaven! Alongside the countless award-winning vineyards, there are vast sandy beaches, world class golf courses, cycling trails, the world’s largest gannet colony and a thriving Art Deco scene.
Rest your head: Little Tom’s Cottage
There’s plenty more wine to quaff here – including big names such as Cloudy Bay and Villa Maria – as well as winery tours, cellar doors and fabulous vineyard bistros. Away from the grapes, go kayaking on the beautiful Marlborough Sounds as dolphins play beside you, or head along the beautifully scenic Queen Charlotte Track.
Rest your head: Bay of Many Coves Resort
With a steep ocean shelf close to shore providing a year-round feeding ground, the waters around Kaikoura are filled with sperm whales, seals and dolphins. See these magnificent ocean dwellers from the air, from a boat or up close and personal in the water!
Rest your head: Hapuku Lodge & Treehouses
7. Abel Tasman
The country’s smallest National Park, Abel Tasman is packed with golden bays, lush native forest, stunning coastal walks and hidden beaches only accessible by kayak or water taxi!
Rest your head: Edenhouse
The adventure capital of NZ, Queenstown is the place to be for adrenaline activities – think bungy jumping, white-water rafting and jet-boating – as well as life-affirming lake and mountain scenery, numerous vineyards, hiking and biking trails, ski fields, an impressive restaurant and bar scene… the list is endless!
Rest your head: Eichardt’s Private Hotel
Home to wild scenery, where mountains meet lush rainforests and waterfalls tumble into deep fiords, Fiordland is dramatic and enthralling. Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are its most famous highlights, and you can even join an overnight cruise to soak it up when the day-trippers go home.
Rest your head: Fiordland Lodge