Even among the key areas it’s an impossible task to settle on one given their differences; in fact, you’ve gone all that way, it’d be foolish not to see them all.
Auckland is the country’s largest city and an impressive urban hub. The feel is cosmopolitan and lively – there’s always a gig or a show to be seen, while the food scene has seen a boom in invention and excellence. Head to its wild west, just an hour away, and a world of sea views, rugged clifftops, rainforest, lagoons and breathtaking beaches awaits.
Wellington’s architecture and eclectic vibe give the capital a winning personality. There’s a great nightlife, a concentrated centre and beautiful harbour.
Christchurch, the gateway to the South Island, boasts a winning mix of historic elegance and contemporary culture. Its 21-hectare Botanic Gardens are elegantly cultivated and more importantly, free to enter. The extensive array of flora is truly heartening. Also on the South Island, Queenstown is framed by the dramatic indigo peaks of the Remarkables mountain range and enclosed by the coves of the striking Lake Wakatipu. Buzzing with life, charming little pedestrian streets, cosmopolitan restaurants, excellent vineyards and a healthy arts scene, Queenstown is a small town with big impact.
Napier, meanwhile, is a rare gem, with street after street of unforgettable art deco architecture. Built up from the rubble of one of New Zealand’s deadliest earthquakes in 1931, the town is an exemplar of the typically hopeful and colourful response from New Zealanders to disaster.
“expect top tastes in laidback surroundings. Great Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Indian, and comforting mainstays like pizza and burgers getting their due”
Of course, on any journey sustenance and spirits are all important. Thankfully New Zealand’s buzzing food culture won’t just keep the energy up, it’ll inspire along the way. Enveloped by the ocean, it’s little wonder that seafood is a must, but, as you’d expect by now, the choice on offer is far more eclectic. Culinary influences from Asia, the Pacific and beyond merge with more established food traditions from earlier European settlement and Maori cuisine. There is little pomp in New Zealand’s food scene; expect top tastes in laidback surroundings. Great Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Indian, and comforting mainstays like pizza and burgers getting their due. Hawkes Bay is New Zealand’s oldest wine region–and second largest–with a climate similar to Bordeaux. Expect full-bodied reds that use Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes, and rich, complex Chardonnays. There are plenty of food markets too, providing a great showcase of traditional local and family farmer produce alongside up-and-coming experimentalists.
The stunning vistas have become so synonymous with Hobbits, Orcs, Dwarves and Wizards, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a country of pure adventure alone. But just as the country is made up of an estimated 600 outlying islands, on top of the two main North and South islands, there is more bubbling under the surface than meets the eye. It’s inventive arts scene, booming craft beer scene, welcoming locals–who happily chat to strangers–and celebration of the historic Maori culture shows there’s a whole world to explore. As for the people, the locals inspire intrepid travellers because they are so intrepid themselves. The coffee’s pretty top notch as well.