101 Holidays

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The Sunday Times Travel writers Mark Hodson and David Wickers.

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New Zealand

Mark and David's verdict:

The scenic wonders of New Zealand have stolen the show in many Hollywood movies. In real life, the landscapes of the newest country on earth are even more impressive than their on-screen portrayal, populated by a cast of friendly Kiwis, featuring a host of thrilling activities and served with some of the best food and wine on the planet.

Recommended tour operator: Bridge & Wickers

Spectacular sceneryVineyardsUnspoiled beachesBay of Islands

Bridge & Wickers says

New Zealand is one of the planet’s most beautiful countries, a world of voluptuous scenery, the cleanest air, amazing food and wine, memorable walks, adventurous activities and sumptuous places to stay.

  • Exciting activities
  • Natural wonders
  • Private and group tours

Shaped by geological upheavals and cataclysmic forces of nature, the North Island is a world of volcanic landscapes and bubbling mud casseroles, sub-tropical vegetation, two of New Zealand’s most exciting cities and a bay of beautiful islands.

Auckland, the largest and most cosmopolitan city, presides over a vast natural harbour dotted with islands – including the delightful Waiheke – and speckled with sailing boats. The presence of water also dominates the capital, Wellington, contained by a horseshoe of green hills.

Head north to the Bay of Islands, a seascape of some 150 islands combined with a slew of historic sites and the famous Ninety Mile beach, or the Coromandel peninsula. Rotorua is not only where you’ll see the best show of thermal springs and geysers but, as the home of Maori culture, the place to experience a traditional hangi feast and a haka greeting. The North Island also has lakes teeming with trout and vineyards.

The South Island is dominated by the 550km long chain of Alps whose saw-tooth and often snow-capped peaks and glaciers meet the ocean in the southwest in a number of Norwegian-like fjords. Natural highlights include both Doubtful and Milford Sounds, Stewart Island which is one of the prime spots for seeing wildlife, the Abel Tasman National Park which offers both walking and kayaking, best reached from Nelson, and Kaikoura famous for its year round presence of whales as well as the opportunity to swim with dolphin. Most of New Zealand’s famous wines come from the Marlborough vineyards the north of South Island.

Three very different cities inhabit the South Island. Christchurch, which could pass as a South Seas version of Oxbridge, is also an important international gateway, so ideal for anyone wanting to ‘fly-drive’ from one end of the country to the other. Elegant Dunedin is often called the ‘Edinburgh’ of the southern hemisphere, its Scottish roots apparent from the statue of Burns. And finally the lakeside Queenstown, a hub of outdoor activities but a firm favourite even among the more sedentary visitor.

Whether you prefer to travel independently in New Zealand or in company on an escorted tour, speak to one of our knowledgeable consultants at Bridge & Wickers. Also see the best time to visit New Zealand.

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