New Zealand: The Bold & Beautiful
With beautiful beaches and dramatic fjords, lovely islands, snow peaks, vineyards and fine views at almost every turn, New Zealand is one of the world’s most beautiful countries.
Words by Brian Johnston
Start a New Zealand visit in Auckland, where beautiful landscapes unfold. Few cities have such wild scenery on their outskirts, combining black-sand beaches with ancient volcanoes.
Admire the city’s harbour setting on a ferry ride to the seaside suburb of Devonport, or on a lovely harbour walk that follows Tamaki Drive. It’s just a taste of things to come.
Head north from Auckland and encounter gorgeous coastlines and shimmering bays, a flotilla of islands perfect for yachting and some of the country’s oldest Māori sites. Across the gulf to the east, the Coromandel Peninsula has 400 km of rugged, wave-battered, rainforest-draped coastline designed for hiking, swimming, fishing or just refreshing the spirit. Enjoy walking tracks to Cathedral Cove and the caves and rocky pools below Pa Hill, or paddle a kayak into the blue bay and spot dolphins. Don’t miss Hot Water Beach, where ancient volcanoes provide heated water that bubbles through the sand, a natural spa for locals.
Further south around Rotorua lies a strange, otherworldly landscape of geysers, mud pools, billowing steam and gorgeous lakes. Some coloured mineral pools are at just the right temperature for a soothing dip. But New Zealand isn’t just about scenery: Rotorua is the heartland of Māori culture and a centre for adrenaline sports such as river-rafting and zorbing, too.
Of the North Island towns, Napier is perhaps the most interesting, since it features a well-preserved core of 1930s art deco buildings and flowerfilled gardens. As for cities, Wellington is New Zealand’s small yet comforting capital, with a surprisingly avant-garde flair and youthful energy. The city is crammed with cafés and cultural venues, notably the incomparable Te Papa Museum, with its high-tech exhibits that trace New Zealand’s history, geology and natural history. Simulators allow you to try virtual-reality bungee-jumping or a ride on a whale’s back.
Skip across to the South Island and landscapes get ever more dramatic. The northernmost region features rolling vineyards, beach-meets-mountain scenery and national parks such as Abel Tasman, which lure visitors for hiking, kayaking and caving. Cities include slowly reenergising Christchurch, recovering from its 2011 earthquake, and university town Dunedin. It has a fascinating Scots heritage and is perhaps the only place in the Pacific where you’ll find a castle, kilt makers and a whisky distillery.
The New Zealand Alps are the South Island’s highlight. Mt Cook National Park, named for the country’s tallest peak, features the 27 km Tasman Glacier, which can be explored by lake boat or four-wheel drive. As mountains give way to the sea on the west coast, huge fjords appear, the most famous of which is remote Milford Sound, best admired on a cruise.
Queenstown is the holiday capital of the Alps, with a fabulous lakeshore setting, ringed by snow-capped crags. It offers skiing in winter and hiking and mountain biking in summer, but has sedate pleasures too, including great restaurants and surrounding cellar doors showcasing New Zealand’s excellent wine. Raise a glass in celebration: you could hardly be in a more beautiful place.
Jakarta to Auckland
Frequency 21 flights per week
Joint service with Air New Zealand
From Colours April 2016
5 Senses – Sight
Fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit flock to New Zealand, where numerous locations stood in for Middle Earth during the filming of the movie series. A sheep farm at Matamata became the setting of The Shire, home to the Hobbits. The movie set of Hobbits’ houses and the Green Dragon Inn is now a permanent attraction set in pastoral landscapes of rolling green hills. Tours delve into the background of the movies’ production.