Bay of Islands
Waitematā Harbour, Auckland
Kia ora and welcome to Aotearoa. Its Maori for greeting and welcome to New Zealand, 'the land of the long white cloud'. This picturesque country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean has two main islands, suitably named the North and South, which are surrounded by another 600 odd islands. The natural beauty of New Zealand is intense, and it's become a nature lovers paradise with mountainous lookouts, farmlands, vineyards, drives, walks, skiing, and cycle opportunities for every age, level of fitness and every budget.
On the North Island: there is Auckland, New Zealand's largest city. For a 360 panoramic view, visit the Sky Tower. Bars from rooftop terraces to extravagant lounges and everything in between, beckon for those that like the late-night scene. The Caretaker is one of our favourites. Splore, a festival held in Tapapakanga Regional Park each February, is three days of music and art with a tribe of friendly party animals. Wellington, the capital, is on the southernmost tip of the north island. It's compact, cultural and cuisine orientated.
Rotorua is the Maori Heritage capital, and the home to rather smelly but remarkable hot springs and some of the finest New Zealand artisans, from sculpture to paint and tattoo. In the Coromandel region, try building a natural jacuzzi on the sand at Hot Water Beach or take a drive and visit the black sand beaches. Venture in the Waitomo Caves system and see the glowworms. Poor Knights Islands offers some of the best sub-tropical diving in the world.
South Island proposes further adventures. Milford Sound, in Fiordland National Park, has breathtaking views with its towering peaks, hundreds of waterfalls, and unique wildlife. Take a leap of faith, bungee jumping off the Kawarau Suspension Bridge just outside of Queenstown, take a boat cruise, or trek along one of the delightful hiking trails. Visit an outer island and fish for Blue Cod, learn more about Maori culture, and this gorgeous, entrancing country. Take the time to sip and visit an award-winning vineyard and taste the local produce or pause at a local shop selling fresh mussels. Hobbit lovers: you will be in heaven. The Trilogy was filmed entirely in New Zealand, throughout locations on both the main islands: follow the hobbit trail and discover the real Middle-earth.
Pick your activity and plan your visit around that, as New Zealand is an all-year-round destination. If you ski or snowboard, then it's the South Island in winter. It is the perfect winter playground, with tonnes of powder. Spring and autumn are best for walking and cycling. Winter can be cold, especially in the south, so prepare to add layers for clothing; however, it's also a magical time to visit.