Wild and rugged, at once inspiring spontaneous hikes and displaying a spirit of pulse-slowing tranquility, New Zealand’s natural beauty is as sumptuous as its oak-aged wines and as varied as its stylish, cosmopolitan cities.
From grand glaciers to explosive volcanos, there’s a sense of the not-yet-finished to New Zealand’s enchanting lands. A brooding, primeval energy bubbles from geothermal pools, burns in smouldering craters, belches in towering geysers, and permeates the mists of ancient Kauri forests, lending credibility to fantastical Maori legends narrated in wooden marae halls. Across the north and south islands, treasured national parks and reserves hold nature’s finest ecosystems for your discovery. Explore on marauding trans-alpine trains, on thrilling jet-boat safaris or on self-driving ventures along scenic coastal roads, and find gaping fjords, empty palm-fringed beaches and the extensive wine-lands of Marlborough, where the world’s finest sauvignon blanc acquires its unique aromas. Auckland’s sophisticated waterfront creaks and tinkles with swaying yachts, the powerful surf crashing on dramatic black-sand beaches along the coast, while bohemian Wellington has preserved charming Art Deco architecture since Captain Cook first surveyed New Zealand from his eponymous mount.
On the south island, picturesque Queenstown enjoys sweeping views over placid Lake Wakatipu, and old-style Christchurch trams shunt between botanical gardens, street art projects and decidedly European buildings that managed to survive a spate of earthquakes. The vast majority of New Zealand, though, is completely pristine - only luxury lodges and their steaming hillside jacuzzis stand out against awe-inspiring natural vistas. Trek the Tongariro Track over active volcanos and past turquoise lakes; cleanse in the mud spa at Rotorua’s thermal park; land on spectacular Franz Josef glacier with a camera in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other; or hit New Zealand’s waters to spot dusky dolphins, penguins, whales and seals. And a holiday here would be incomplete without joining the indigenous Maori for a delicious hangi feast, complete with jubilant song and powerful dance. From easy-going cities to fierce and barren wilderness, New Zealand truly is a destination for everyone.
Having stepped off crudely-carved canoes some 1,000 years ago to settle on New Zealand’s virgin territory, the Maori now make up some 15% of the Kiwi population. Famous for ferocious haka dances, fascinating ceremonies and tribal folklore rooted in a deep respect for nature, touch noses (Maori handshake) with these indigenous people over earth ovens and huge barbecue stoves, and share in community gossip or heroic ancestral tales.
Meandering serenely between Christchurch and Greymouth – the width of the south island – one of the world’s most famous rail routes carves through chiselled alpine landscapes, spanning precipitous gorges over the Waimakariri Rover before emerging into the rich farmlands of the Canterbury Plains. Stake out a spot in the open-air observation cart for breath-taking mobile panoramas.
From the ‘City of Sails’ in seafaring Auckland to thriving Wellington, the constitution and cultural capital of New Zealand, the urban areas that infrequently rise from unpopulated landscapes all boast a beguiling individual charisma. Fall in love with fun-loving Queenstown, applaud Christchurch as it rises like a Phoenix after disastrous earthquakes, or tour the museums and galleries of modest Wellington.
Volcanos, glaciers, forests, plains, springs, geysers, mountains and beaches... New Zealand has the lot. This is, after all, Tolkien’s Middle Earth: a place begging exploration in lively hikes, rustic horse treks and ambitious mountain summits. Perhaps best appreciated from the distance afforded by helicopters and cruising yachts, New Zealand glimmers with the promise of the extraordinary.
Besides Maori hangi cooked either in clay ovens or using the heat that surges from the planet’s core, New Zealand is famous for delicious rosemary-flavoured roast lamb, fist-sized oysters and green-shelled muscles, and exotic variations of the English fish and chips. Meanwhile, Marlborough vineyards produce staggeringly sumptuous wines that are steadily filling the trophy cabinets of New World wine estates.
It’s true: New Zealand is a paradise for adrenaline-addicts, extreme sportspeople, and even those who are tentatively wild at heart. Go fishing in icy rivers, kayaking with dolphins or jet-boating up fjords or, for those seeking the extreme, there’s bungee jumps into jagged gorges, paragliding off cliffs, canyoning down waterfalls, off-roading in the bush, and heli-hikes deep into the unknown.
New Zealand’s constant volcanic activity has created a mystical thermal wonderland: an array of heated pools, hot springs and violently boiling geysers as well as smoking volcanos stained yellow with sulphur. Get your adrenaline fix trekking over active volcanos, pamper with spa treatments at Rotorua, or simply dig your own thermal bath at Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Highlights of the South Island
13 days from £4,350 pp incl. flights
The beauty of New Zealand's South Island is in its natural landscapes and outdoor activities – discover them all with a range of curated excursions, from whale-watching tours and overnight fjord cruises to glacial heli-hikes and mountain rail journeys.
Highlights of the North Island
15 days from £7,365 pp incl. flights
Experience the best of the North Island, searching for kiwis in kauri forests, swimming with dolphins in the Bay of Islands and enjoying Maori feasts amidst Rotorua’s geothermal beauty. Known for a volcanic landscape and glittering cities, the North Island makes for a classic New Zealand adventure.
Luxury Lodges of New Zealand
21 days from £7,685 pp incl. flights
Stay in some of New Zealand’s finest accommodation as spectacular drives link together the highlights of both its North and South island.