If fabulous landscapes from mountains to beaches, as well as the opportunity to walk on a glacier and drink fine wine are on your bucket list, New Zealand is the place you want to be. For its size, the islands of New Zealand pack some big bang for your buck. Your travel advisors at GetAway Travel can package you up a vacation that involves adventure or sightseeing, or some of both!
A natural paradise
Without question, New Zealand is recognized as one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It has scenery that takes your breath away, plenty to do and see for all ages, friendly people and, this might surprise you, some of the finest wine in the world.
The temperate climate means you can go snow skiing one day and water skiing the next. You can go bungy jumping in Queenstown and zorbing in Rotorua (you’ve probably seen videos of this) which is rolling around the countryside in a large transparent ball. There’s geothermal marvels and glowworm caves, too!
You can get an idea of how gorgeous the scenery is if you’ve seen “The Lord of the Rings” or any of the “Hobbit” movies.
The indigenous population, the Māori (Mau-ree) are naturally friendly and outgoing and love to share their culture and heritage. And, as we always say, be respectful of local culture and landmarks because you are a visitor and would expect the same if they were visiting you.
Let’s hit some highlights
New Zealand is two islands, somewhat uncreatively known as North and South islands. Together they are about a 1,000 miles long and at the widest point, about 280 miles across. There are five million inhabitants on the islands.
Rotorua is famous for geothermal features and representations of the Māori culture. There are bubbling mud pools, boiling geysers, colored rock formations and the resorts feature hot springs bathing. The surrounding area is studded with Māori villages including Mitai, Whakarewarewa and Tamaki. They have cultural shows that feature traditional music and dance as well as hangi meals. Hangi cooking is cooking large meals in pit ovens using heated rocks. The meat and vegetables come out extremely tender and flavorful.
Waitangi on the North Island is a major historical site. In 1840 the Māori chiefs signed a treaty with Britain giving it ruling power. There is a museum on the treaty grounds as well as a fascinating ornately carved marae (which is a Māori meeting house) and a ceremonial canoe.
Hokianga Harbour is perfect for camping, dune boarding, dolphin watching and horseback riding. Coromandel Peninsula has hiking trails, some eclectic quaint towns and Cathedral Beach on the peninsula is thought by many to be one of the country’s most beautiful beaches.
Tongariro National Park is a dual UNESCO site, certified for both its cultural and historic significance. It has three volcanic peaks, Mount Tongariro, Raupehu and Ngauruhoe.
One of New Zealand’s premier wine producing regions, as well as its oldest, is Hawke’s Bay. More than 200 vineyards are clustered in this temperate area. It is famous for its sauvignon blanc wines, some have even said they are the best in the world! Napier in Hawke’s Bay has a large collection of Art Deco architecture buildings.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. The New Zealand Parliament Building is known as the “Beehive” due to its unique architecture and you can book a tour of the Weta Workshop. A film special effects company, it was founded by Peter Jackson, director of “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Hobbit” movies. Speaking of the Hobbit, if you are fond of the shire, Waikato is the place to go for a guided tour of the Hobbiton movie set.
Kaikoura is a great spot for whale and dolphin watching. If you visit Fiordland Park, nearby Anau has glowworm caves.
Nelson is known for having the greatest number of sunshine hours per year in the country. There are numerous dining spots that highlight the area agriculture with farm-to-table cuisine as well as fine local wine.
Let’s eat… and drink!
Mutton is on the menu, but don’t pass up having lamb. Served roasted with vegetables or cooked in a hangi, it’s delicious. Vegemite and marmite — ok, not many people refer to yeast extract as tasty. Try it once. Marmite is a little sweeter than Vegemite. Put a thin layer on buttered toast and you can say you tried it.
Venison is also on the menu, but it’s not like your usual venison. The deer here are farm raised and the venison is not tough or gamey.
New Zealand co-opted fish and chips from the Brits, but in New Zealand you can pick the type of fish you like. Speaking of seafood, it’s great here. Don’t pass up the abalone, Bluff Oysters or green lipped mussels. Chow down on a sausage sizzle which you can pick up at a street gazebo. It’s a sausage eaten on white bread with tomato sauce, mustard and fried onions. Likewise, mince pies can be purchased at the dairy store which is New Zealand speak for corner convenience store or at any gas station. Mince is the traditional filling, but there are lots more to choose from including vegetarian or vegan.
The wine is fabulous. There’s a drink you must try — Lemon & Paeroa, which is a carbonated lemon juice and mineral water drink. And there is craft beer aplenty. Local favorites include Garage Project, Parrot Dog and Heyday. Oh, there’s sweet things, too. Pavlova is like eating a meringue cloud with whipped cream and fruit, peanut slabs are candy bars with peanuts, pineapple lumps are chocolate lumps with a pineapple center and hokey pokey ice cream is vanilla ice cream with toffee bits.