Photo courtesy of New Zealand Tourism (Lake-Wakatipu Queenstown)
I know if you were to ask a Kiwi or anyone who has experienced the wonderfulness of New Zealand, they would give way more reasons why you'll fall in love with the country. Wonderful, proud, friendly people, stunning scenery, unique flora, fauna and wildlife, the land of Bilbo Baggins and the Shire, caves lit up by glow worms, delicious food and wine - these just a few.
Top reasons why you'll love a visit to Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud:
New Zealand, land wise, is about the same size as the United Kingdom and Japan, but with a far smaller population. With only 4.8 million residents in comparison to the UK's 68.5 million and Japan's 126 million, New Zealand is truly a destination with plenty of elbow-room. Auckland is the typical big city, but once outside the city limits you'll find little to no traffic, easy driving and few crowds.
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Tourism, Lake Wanaka, photographer Martyn-Williams
STUNNING SCENERY AND DIVERSE LANDSCAPES
It's amazing how diverse New Zealand is, between the north and south islands as well as each island in of itself. On the North Island, you can explore for weeks beautiful beaches, rolling farmland, volcanoes, geothermal hot spots, Lake Taupo (the size of Singapore) and wine regions. The South too has its wine regions and its share of national parks, like Abel Tasman, plus the Southern Alps, glaciers that meet up with temperate rain forests, and not to forget the beautiful fjords of Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sounds. These are just the highlights - believe me there is oh so much more.
SOMETHING FOR EVERY TYPE OF VACATION
New Zealand has experiences for just about every type of vacation: Adventure, wildlife viewing, luxury lodges, culinary, relaxation and spas, culture and art, sports (rugby, sailing, fishing), sightseeing. From bungee jumping to fly-fishing to relaxing in a geothermal spring, New Zealand is perfect spot for multi-generation travel given the variety of activities for all types of interests.
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Tourism, photographer Adam Bryce
Tramping? That's Kiwi for hiking! With 13 national parks and over 8700 miles of tracks, there are plenty of areas to take walks, ranging from a few hours to days. New Zealand rates its tracks by levels, with 1 being very easy (accessible with wheelchairs) to 6 for those seeking extreme adventure. And for people (like me) who prefer a bed, hot shower and great meal after a terrific day of hiking, many of the tracks have conveniently located lodges, from basic to luxury. The Milford Trek has been on my wish list for a long time, and knowing I can from hike hut to hut, not having to carry a tent, sleeping bag, etc, makes it even higher on my list of adventures.
Prefer to cycle? New Zealand has plenty of cycling tracks as well, some suitable for mountain biking.
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Tourism, photographer Miles Holden (RouteburnTrack-Fiordland)
CULTURE AND HERITAGE
Maori culture is a big part of Kiwi life and provides exceptional and unique experiences for visitors. Museums, performances, art, war dances, hangi feasts cooked in earth ovens or steamed in geothermal water - all authentic indigenous experiences not to be missed.
New Zealand 's cuisine is driven largely by local ingredients and has taken on a unique Pacific Rim flair. They are well known for seafood (green-lipped mussels, lobster, Bluff oysters, fish and chips), Hangi, local cheeses and my personal favorite, lamb. New Zealand's wine regions are world class, and craft breweries and cideries are gaining in popularity. Amazing cuisine, and oh so fresh!
Restaurant Tarras Central Otago, photographer Alistair Guthrey
WINE (AND BEER!)
Visiting all New Zealand's wine regions will take you from the tip of the North Island all the way down to the Waitaki Valley in North Otago near Queenstown. Check out Waiheke Island, a short ferry ride from Auckland, with its 40+ boutique wineries, or Hawke's Bay, New Zealand's oldest and second largest region that dates back to 1851. New Zealand's flagship wine region, Marlborough (located on the northern tip of the South Island) is known for sauvignon blanc.
Wine is undoubtedly a big part of New Zealand's culinary experience, but it isn't the only part. Kiwi's are also beer drinkers, and craft beers have been growing in popularity. There are over 150 craft breweries, with Wellington taking the lead as the Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand.
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Tourism, photographer Dean McKenzie
UNIQUE FAUNA, FLORA AND WILDLIFE
Thousands (millions?) of years ago, the New Zealand land mass broke away from Antarctica and Australia. This isolation has resulted in the area having unique plant, bird and wildlife only found in New Zealand. The most well known of course is the endangered kiwi, a nocturnal, flightless bird. But New Zealand has a large number of unique species, including the tuatara, a reptile with a third eye, the yellow-eyed penguin found in the south and the endangered Hector dolphin.
While not a unique species, the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin has the world's only mainland breeding colony of the albatross, and is home to both penguin and fur seal colonies. Whale and dolphin watching is popular in Kaikorra (just north of Christchurch).
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Tourism, Hawke's Bay and Cape Kidnappers
THE HOME OF MIDDLE EARTH
Experience a slice of Middle Earth visiting the movie sets of The Hobbit Lord of the Rings trilogy in the Waikoto region and Taikoto Regional Park on the North Island and the South Island's lake region near Queenstown and Glenorchy. A tour through these areas will surely have you believing in hobbits and elves!
Fun Fact: While the Hobbit series is the most known about, New Zealand has also hosted a number of other famous movie sets, including the Chronicles of Narnia, The Piano, The Last Samurai, Vertical Limit and even King Kong!
Photo courtesy of Weta Cave Museum Wellington
Original article written May 2018.
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