From mountain peaks to deep fiords to rolling plains, New Zealandís landscapes offer incomparable beauty with a relatively small - yet very hospitable population. Itís an unspoiled nation of remarkable vistas, with more than half the country protected as national park or reserve land.
New Zealand is about the same length as California and Washington
State combined. As islands, you will always be close to the water Ė
the maximum is 70 miles.
Bay of Islands
Golden beaches, secluded coves, tranquil harbors, warm waters, dramatic coastlines and spectacular forest, Northland is also rich in a unique history that ties both Maori and non-Maori people together. Bay of Islands belongs to the Northland region and includes Kerikeri, Waitangi, Paihia and Russell.
The Bay of Islands provides a maritime park of over 144 islands and bays with miles of white sandy beaches to explore. It is a very popular fishing and sailing destination and is renowned internationally for big game fishing. Incredible marine life including dolphins can be found playing amongst the islands, most famous of which is the Hole in the Rock.
Historical sites can be found throughout the region including Waitangi, Russell and the Hokianga. Waitangi is where the founding document of New Zealand was signed in 1840 by Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown. Kerikeri is the largest town in the Bay of Islands and has some of the most historic buildings in the country. Paihia is the tourist hub in the Bay of Islands and is where New Zealandís first game of cricket was held. Russell was the first permanent European settlement and one of New Zealandís oldest sea ports.
A number of celebrated artists and craftspeople live and work here and visits to their studios and galleries can be woven into the scrumptious food and wine trails the north is fast gaining a reputation for. These trails make it easy to experience the delicious fresh local produce, seafood, gourmet goods and award winning wines available across the entire region.
Home to a population of more than one million people, Auckland represents the largest urban city in New Zealand. Auckland's waterside location has fostered the locals' love affair with the sea, earning this place the nickname "City of Sails".
Auckland lies across an 11 kilometer wide volcanic isthmus separating two harbors - the Waitemata and Manukau - and is a water loverís paradise with what is believed to be the largest boat ownership per capita in the world. A cloak of rainforest covers the surrounding hills, dozens of dormant volcanic cones dot the landscape and enchanting holiday islands are scattered throughout the vast Hauraki Gulf.
Two of the best island getaways are Waiheke Island and Great Barrier Island. Auckland's heart beats to a Polynesian rhythm, its people a melting pot of European, South Pacific and Asian cultures and a strong Maori heritage. This diversity brings with it an abundance of unique dining and shopping experiences. Auckland's temperate climate, easy access to the coast and variety of activities earn the city consistent top five rankings in international lifestyle surveys.
Long before the first Europeans arrived in the Bay of Plenty, Maori were drawn to the area by its easy access to the coast and its "fruit bowl" qualities.
The region, with the major city of Tauranga and the popular Mount Maunganui, is blessed with a mild climate year-round, which enables produce such as kiwifruit and citrus to prosper. The vast harbour, islands and proximity to the open sea ensure that seafood is a local specialty. The regionís legendary beaches attract swimmers, surfers, kayakers and kite-surfers throughout the year.
Tauranga is also where cruise ship passengers will access Rotorua, a place known for its geothermal activity and rich Maori culture.
With its unique volcanic landscape, living Maori culture, natural hot springs and plenty of options for adventure, Rotorua is one of New Zealand's most famous destinations. When explaining the appeal of their region, the people of Rotorua like to talk of five spirits:
1. Feel the spirit of the earth, as it rumbles beneath, escaping and hissing through fumaroles and
2. Witness the spirit of Maori culture, with authentic village and performance experiences.
3. Rejuvenate the spirit with a soak in a natural hot spring or with a relaxing massage.
4. Free the spirit with outdoor adventures whether it's trout fishing, kayaking, water skiing, swimming,
hiking or mountain biking.
5. Challenge the spirit with adrenalin-charged extreme activities such as sky-diving, jet boating and
Hawkeís Bay wine country has diverse landscape, bountiful produce, award-winning wines, unique wildlife, stunning architecture and a rich cultural heritage.
Bursting with taste sensations, Hawke's Bay is one of New Zealand's leading food and wine destinations, home to fabulous wines at over 70 wineries, as well as delightful fresh produce, epicurean delights and gourmet experiences. The regionís unique heritage ranges from fascinating Maori legends and sacred sites to European settlement. Hawkeís Bayís destiny was shaped by a devastating 1931 earthquake and the remarkable result was the birth of the dazzling Art Deco and Spanish Mission architectural styles of Napier and Hastings. Hot on the New Zealand scene, Hawkeís Bayís stunning Mediterranean climate and enviable East Coast setting lure visitors to experience a region rich in delicious flavors and beautiful things.
Wellington is New Zealandís capital city and offers an unforgettable experience in a stunning natural setting.
Nestled between a sparking harbor and rolling green hills, Wellington has incredible shopping, professional theatre, memorable arts, culture and heritage attractions and more than 300 cafes, bars and restaurants.
This sophisticated yet friendly city has all this urban excitement within earshot of untouched nature spots. Great events also keep Wellington pumping all year round!
Nestled between the mountains and the sea, at the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound, is Picton.
Once a Maori settlement, and now a charming seaside township that accommodates the regionís port, extensive marina facilities and visiting cruise ships, Picton is rich in history.
Ship Cove, visited several times by explorer Captain James Cook as he charted New Zealand, is one of many historical sites in Picton. Motuara Island is also an important site as it was where Captain Cook first claimed British sovereignty in January 1770. It is now a bird sanctuary where endangered birds such as the rare South Island robins can be spotted. En route, there may be the opportunity to see dolphins, penguins, shags and seals too. Picton is part of Marlborough, which is recognized as a relaxing retreat from city life, an unspoiled haven and foodie heaven.
The commercial hub of Marlborough is Blenheim, which is now most well known for its distinctive, herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc. It is New Zealandís largest wine making region with around 65 wineries and 290 grape growers and over 4000 hectares planted in grapes, mainly Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer.
Christchurch (Port Lyttelton)
Christchurch is bordered by hills and the Pacific Ocean, and is situated on the edge of the Canterbury plains stretching to the Southern Alps.
It is centered in an area of great geographical contrast. Much of the cityís area has been set aside for parks, natural reserves and recreation grounds. The city center is compact with the central feature being the Avon River. From art galleries to theatres, weekend markets to museums, there is a taste of Christchurchís unique culture at every turn.
Dunedin (Port Chalmers)
Dunedin's Otago Peninsula is renowned for hosting the world's only mainland breeding colony of the northern royal albatross, and being home to the world's rarest penguin, the yellow-eyed, and various species of seals, sea lions and pelagic birds.
Dunedin is also regarded as New Zealand's architectural heritage capital. The foundations of New Zealand's richest architectural heritage were built on the gold rushes of the 1860s and today, Victorian and Edwardian buildings can still be seen at every turn. The grandeur and rich heritage of Dunedinís historic homes is something to be experienced. The Octagon, with its many bars and cafťs, is a well-known meeting place in the city center. Well known for its artistic flair, Dunedin is also the place to check out the local art and fashion scene.
Milford Sound (Piopiotahi in Māori) is a fiord in the south west of New Zealand's South Island, within Fiordland National Park, which is also classified as a World Heritage Site.
Captain Cook, in the 1770ís, charted the region and in doing so, incorrectly termed the fiords as sounds. The word Ďsoundsí subsequently appeared on maps and remains to this day. Milford Sound is acclaimed as New Zealand's most famous tourist destination. Milford Sound runs 15 kilometers inland from the Tasman Sea and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 meters or more on either side. Among the peaks are The Elephant at 1,517 m (4,977 ft), said to resemble an elephant's head, and Lion Mountain, 1,302 m (4,271 ft), in the shape of a crouching lion. Lush rain forests cling precariously to these cliffs, while seals, penguins, and dolphins frequent the waters.