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NEW ZEALAND: NORTH, SOUTH AND EVERYWHERE IN BETWEEN
With a 13-hour flight from LA, we wanted to make sure that we gave New Zealand her due on a recent visit. So by plane, boat, and automobile, we made the most of our time there and can emphatically say the flight is definitely worthwhile.
We started our visit in the cosmopolitan hub of Auckland. With magnificent harbors that give Auckland its nickname of 'City of Sails' to volcanic cones and the spirit and legacy of the Maori people to fertile farmland covered in vines of grapes, Auckland and her people were a great introduction to the country. Whether exploring history at the Auckland Museum or Mt. Eden, getting in touch with our adventurous side on an America's Cup yacht or bungee jumping off the Auckland Harbour Bridge, going cultural at the Auckland Art Gallery or the Civic Theatre, or dining at any of Auckland's ethnic and cosmopolitan restaurants, we never ran out of things to do. And that doesn't even include the day trips out of Auckland to explore the black beaches of Karekare and Piha or drinking the tasty wines at the world-class wineries on Waiheke Island. Read more about Auckland in our feature in Cruise Travel Magazine.
Heading south to the town of Napier, we felt like we had time-traveled back to the Art Deco '30s. Decimated by the 1931 Hawkes Bay Earthquake and subsequently rebuilt in the mid-30s, the town's architecture retains the look and feel of an earlier era. Along with architectural walks and tours, the other main draws are wine from the Hawke's Bay region, the second-largest wine-producing region in New Zealand behind Marlborough and the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Read more about Napier in our port critique in Cruise Critic.
From there, we headed to blustery Wellington. Known as 'Wellywood' because of the influence of director Peter Jackson and his Lord of the Rings trilogy, Wellington is the home of an active and accessible arts scene with funky boutiques, art-house cinemas, hip bars, live-music venues and bohemian cafes. Wellington also features one of the finest interactive museums of history, culture, and art that we've ever seen at Te Papa. And for our first taste (of many) of New Zealand's wines, we headed to the nearby and burgeoning wine country of Martinborough.
Next up was the ferry across Cook Strait over to the South Island. Sometimes featuring strong winds and wicked seas, we managed to pick a smooth day and found ourselves relatively unscathed in the charming and picturesque seaside town of Picton to begin our exploration of the Marlborough region. Although the wines and wineries of the region are the biggest draws (and for good reason), we couldn't overlook the hiking opportunities of the Queen Charlotte Track, the seafood of Nelson and the kayaking of postcard-perfect Abel Tasman National Park.
From there, we suited up in our wilderness personas to explore the rugged West Coast. Following the surf-battered coast highway from the Northern 'end-of-the-road' in Karamea (including the unexpected and totally wonderful hospitality and beauty at Rough and Tumble Bush Lodge) and through the interesting towns of Punakaiki, Greymouth, Hokitika and the imposing ice flows of Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, we made our way along the edge of the Southern Alps to the Southern 'end of the road' that is the Fjordlands. With spectacular jagged peaks, glistening lakes and an air of remoteness, the Southland is ideal to explore on the water or in the air.
Our turn to Queensland didn't disappoint. Known as the 'Global Adventure Capital,' Queensland and neighboring Wanaka offers adrenaline-rushing activities such as bungy jumping, caving, rafting, sleding, skiing, jetboating, skydiving and hang gliding. And with the cinematic backdrop of snow-covered mountains and stunning lakes, Queensland is truly nature's Disneyland. Lastly, it was time to explore the East Coast of the South Island with its French-leaning town of Akaroa (and their amazing Akaroa Cooking School) and its Scottish-leaning town of Dunedin, home of Cadbury Chocolates and the University of Otago. Read more about Napier in our port critique in Cruise Critic. Both proved to be fitting ends to our tour of 100% Pure New Zealand.