Welcome to one of the world’s ultimate outdoor playgrounds, bursting with opportunities for adventure amid diverse and inspiring landscapes. Action Aplenty Hiking (known as 'tramping' here) may be the South Island's classic adventure, but there are far racier ways to immerse yourself in its landscapes.
Paris may be the city of love, but Auckland is the city of many lovers, according to its Māori name, Tāmaki Makaurau. Those lovers so desired this place that they fought over it for centuries. It’s hard to imagine a more geographically blessed city. Its two harbours frame a narrow isthmus punctuated by volcanic cones and surrounded by fertile farmland.
Queenstown & Wanaka
With a cinematic background of mountains and lakes, and a ‘what can we think of next?’ array of adventure activities, it’s little wonder Queenstown tops the itineraries of many travellers. Slow down slightly in Wanaka – Queenstown’s less flashy cousin – which also has good restaurants, bars and outdoor adventures on tap.
Rotorua & the Bay of Plenty
Captain Cook christened the Bay of Plenty when he cruised past in 1769, and plentiful it remains. Blessed with sunshine and sand, the bay stretches from Waihi Beach in the west to Opotiki in the east, with the holiday hubs of Tauranga, Mt Maunganui and Whakatane in between. Offshore from Whakatane is New Zealand’s most active volcano, Whakaari (White Island).
Coromandel Peninsula & Waikato
Verdant rolling hills line New Zealand’s mighty Waikato River, and adrenaline junkies can surf at Raglan, or undertake extreme underground pursuits in the extraordinary Waitomo Caves. But this is also Tainui country. In the 1850s this powerful Māori tribal coalition elected a king to resist the loss of land and sovereignty.
Marlborough & Nelson
For many travellers, Marlborough and Nelson will be their introduction to what South Islanders refer to as the ‘Mainland’. Having left windy Wellington, and made a white-knuckled crossing of Cook Strait, folk are often surprised to find the sun shining and the temperature 10°C warmer.
Bay of Islands & Northland
For many New Zealanders, the phrase ‘up north’ conjures up sepia-toned images of family fun in the sun, pohutukawa in bloom and dolphins frolicking in pretty bays. From school playgrounds to work cafeterias, owning a bach (holiday house) ‘up north’ is a passport to popularity. Beaches are the main drawcard and they’re here in profusion.
A small city with a big rep, Wellington is famous for being NZ’s constitutional and cultural capital. It is infamous for its weather, particularly the gale-force winds that barrels through. It lies on a major geologic fault line; negotiating the city's one-way traffic system can also leave you quaking with rage.
Surrounded by the soaring indigo heights of the Remarkables and framed by the meandering coves of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is a right show-off. Looking like a small town, but displaying the energy of a small city, it wears its ‘Global Adventure Capital’ badge proudly, and most visitors take the time to do crazy things that they’ve never done before.
The East Coast
New Zealand is known for its mix of wildly divergent landscapes, but on the East Coast it’s the sociological contours that are most pronounced. There's a full spectrum of NZ life here, from the earthy settlements on the East Cape to Havelock North’s moneyed, wine-soaked streets. Māori culture is never more visible than it is on the East Coast.
Taranaki & Whanganui
Halfway between Auckland and Wellington, Taranaki (aka 'the 'Naki') is the Texas of New Zealand: oil and gas stream in from offshore rigs, plumping the region with enviable affluence. New Plymouth is the regional hub, home to two excellent art galleries, a provincial museum, and enough decent espresso joints to keep you humming.
The West Coast
Hemmed in by the wild Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps, the West Coast is like nowhere else in New Zealand. The far extremities of the coast have a remote, end-of-the-road feel, from sleepy Karamea surrounded by farms butting up against Kahurangi National Park, to the southern end of State Hwy 6, gateway to NZ's World Heritage areas.