New Zealand is consistently ranked as one of the ‘must-see’ places which many Britons have on their ‘wish-list’ of destinations to visit. Some might say that it has lived in the shadow of its larger brasher brother – Australia – for a long time, but certainly more recently, the delights and wonders of this unexpected land have come to the attention of the international stage.
People are now discovering what many others have known for years (but just not told anyone) – that New Zealand is the diamond in Oceania. In fact, in our opinion, New Zealand is in the ‘positively cool camp’! You only need to flick through recent copies of lifestyle and travel magazines – and you will notice that they are full of everything ‘Kiwi’. It may take a long time to get there – but the rewards once you arrive in this pristine unspoiled corner of the world – make it all worthwhile. For the gourmet connoisseur – New Zealand is a food and wine paradise.
New Zealand wines (in particular, the Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough and the Chardonnay from Hawke’s Bay) have achieved worldwide acclaim for their excellence and when it comes to the restaurant menu, New Zealand is at the forefront of the emergence of the internationally renowned ‘Pacific Rim’ cuisine which, drawing on inspiration and influences from Europe, Asia and Polynesia – combined with the freshest local produce, namely lamb, venison, salmon, crayfish (lobster), Bluff oysters, mussels, scallops, kumara (sweet potato), kiwifruit and tamarillo, has created a blend of mouth-watering and irresistible flavours.
This succulent food is served up with dramatic scenery, an abundance of flora and fauna, a fascinating Maori culture, wonderful accommodation – New Zealand offers some of the finest contemporary and boutique-style retreats of anywhere in the world – and a laid-back lifestyle which could only exist on the edge of the Pacific.
No part of New Zealand is more than a couple of hours drive from the sea – so there’s little wonder why the outdoors and the beach are important aspects of any New Zealander’s way of life – and even in the winter, most people are within driving distance of a ski field.
New Zealand consists of two main islands – the North and the South Islands (separated by the waters of the Cook Strait) and a third, less wellknown island – the small, southerly and pristine Stewart Island. The three main gateway cities are Auckland and Wellington (in the North) and Christchurch (in the South).
The South Island – home of the dramatic Southern Alps, glaciers, fiords, the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park and the Marlborough Sounds to name but a few – is widely regarded as the most breathtaking of the two main islands, whilst the North is better known for the geothermal city of Rotorua, the Waitangi Treaty House and original capital Russell in the Bay of Islands, the present day capital Wellington – and of course, Auckland, the ‘City of Sails’ which has never looked back since twice winning the prestigious ''America''s Cup''. Our tip is to try to experience a bit of both, perhaps concentrating on a few areas of the country enabling you to explore at a leisurely pace. Distances in New Zealand are relatively small, so unless your time is really limited, it is a great country to self-drive around (what''s more – the Kiwis drive on the left too!) – although it is also worth including one or two internal flights to maximise your time. The ever-changing landscapes – the beaches, lakes, rivers, volcanoes, mountains, glaciers and geo-thermal regions – are all easily accessible by car.
The seasons are opposite to ours – summer is from December to February, autumn from March to May, winter from June to August and spring from September to November – and whilst summer tends to promise the hottest weather (and the New Zealand school holidays too!), both spring and autumn can also be wonderfully warm times to visit. There are surely few places in the world where you can snow-ski and water-ski in the same day? There’s something uniquely exhilarating about a morning’s spring skiing on the slopes near Queenstown followed by an afternoon’s waterskiing on the still waters of Lake Wakatipu – only in New Zealand!