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.
Despite its somewhat grand name, this compact area is an unassuming kind of place reflecting the series of lakes that hug the coast all the way from Port Stephens to the regional centre of Forster-Tuncurry. The joy here is forsaking the highway for leafy roads through national parks.
Taupo & the Ruapehu Region
From river deep to mountain high, New Zealand’s geology takes centre stage in this diverse region – and boy, does it shoot for the moon. Much of the drama happens along the Taupo Volcanic Zone – a line of geothermal activity that stretches via Rotorua to Whakaari (White Island) in the Bay of Plenty.
Standing above the waves and cliffs of the rugged South Coast is an exhilarating experience. And on calm days, when the sea is aquamarine and white-sand beaches lie pristine and welcoming, it's an altogether different type of magnificent. Even busy summer holiday periods down here in the 'Great Southern' are relaxed.
Fraser Island & the Fraser Coast
Nature lovers, rejoice! World Heritage–listed Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, a mystical, at times eerie, land of giant dunes, ancient rainforests, luminous lakes and wildlife including Australia’s purest strain of dingo. It's truly unlike any other place on earth.
Speckling the calm waters of the Coral Sea, the superlative Whitsunday Islands are one of Australia’s best-known natural attractions. Opal-jade waters and pure-white beaches fringe the forested isles; around them, tropical fish swarm through the world’s largest coral garden in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Goldfields & Grampians
History, nature and culture combine spectacularly in Victoria’s regional heart. For a brief time in the mid-19th century, more than a third of the world’s gold came out of Victoria and, today, the spoils of all that precious metal can be seen in the grand regional cities of Bendigo and Ballarat, and the charming towns of Castlemaine, Kyneton and Maldon.
Welcome to a vibrant city in transition, coping creatively with the aftermath of NZ’s second-worst natural disaster. Traditionally the most English of NZ cities, Christchurch's heritage heart was all but hollowed out following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that left 186 people dead.
Southwest & The Murray
Between Sydney and Albury, a string of atmospheric old inland towns straddles the Hume Hwy, each of them with a claim to some kind of fame, be it bushrangers, drought, rich grazing land or old money. Northwest of the highway, the land flattens out, becoming incrementally redder and drier.
The mighty Murray River is Australia’s longest and most important inland waterway, and arrayed along its banks are some of Victoria's most captivating towns. It’s a stirring place of wineries and orchards, bush camping, balmy weather and river red gum forests. The Murray changes character constantly along its 2400km route.
Victorian High Country
With its enticing mix of history, adventure and culinary temptations, Victoria's High Country is a wonderful place to spend some time. The Great Dividing Range – Australia’s eastern mountain spine – curls around eastern Victoria from the Snowy Mountains to the Grampians, peaking in the spectacular High Country.