It’s a wild, wild world out there – especially in the northern fringes of New Zealand. Filled with magnificent beaches, geothermal wonders and mysterious landscapes, the Northern Bay is brimming with great nature and even greater adventure. Start with a relaxing flight on Air New Zealand before heading to the iconic Bay of Plenty in Tauranga; grab a taste of the land’s bounty with lunch at the Mills Reef Winery, and gear up for a Waimarino Evening Glow Worm Kayak Tour, which will see you paddling through a moonlit cave filled with these luminescent critters. Hike the summit of Mauao or explore its base track through archaeological landmarks before unwinding with a relaxing dip in Mt Manuganui’s hot salt water pools.
En route to Whakatane, explore the world of honey bees, step into the enchanting forest of Tane Mahuta, or stop to savour the fruits of many a berry farm along the way. 49km offshore is White Island, a volcano that spews vivid hues of sulphur, which can be explored through scenic flight or helicopter. A Maori Cultural Tour will have you learning all about Maori legends, history and customs, complete with traditional hangi feast. In Taupo, aquatic activities await; take an adrenaline-pumping jet boat ride down Huka Falls or go prawn fishing at Huka Prawn Park. Rotorua, a popular tourist destination, is a geothermal wonderland renowned for its therapeutic mud baths; go on a magical tree-top adventure with Rotorua Canopy Tours, visit a unique farm experience at Agrodome, or relax with an indulgent spa therapy at Polynesian Spa or Hell’s Gate.
Then, of course, is the famed Matamata, the site of the Hobbiton Movie Set. Explore the remnants of the original Hobbiton village that appeared in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit with a 2-hour guided tour. A short drive away, the sprawling Hamilton Gardens, a collection of 21 themed gardens ranging from Italian Renaissance and Tudor to the exotic Taj Mahal-inspired Char Bagh, beckons for that picture perfect shot.
Central New Zealand – After a luxurious flight on Air New Zealand, start your tour of New Zealand’s boutique cities at the international Art Deco icon of Napier, which rose to fame after a massive earthquake in 1931. Indulge in great local produce such as Manuka honey from Arataki Honey, luxurious lambskins from Classic Sheepskins, and fresh fruit from Pernei Orchard, before driving up to Te Mata Peak for a spectacular sunset view.
Wellington, dubbed ‘the world’s coolest little capital’, is famed for its vibrant arts and gastronomy and quaint harbour front setting. Here, a plethora of activities await – take a cable car up to Carter Observatory to visit planetariums and multimedia galleries; join a Zest Food Tour for some of the best-tasting produce in town; visit the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa for culture galore; and visit the Weta Cave Workshop for a behind-the-scenes peek into the world of blockbuster design and effects. As dusk falls, uncover the nocturnal world of glow worms, kiwis, and other birds with the Zealandia Night Tour.
Foodie adventures continue in Blenheim; taste New Zealand’s most awarded wines at Villa Maria or enjoy a sumptuous lunch with the world’s first Sauvignon Blanc in Brancott Estate. Marvel at Sir Peter Jackson’s personal collection of WWI aircraft and artefacts at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, or head down to unique Nelson to visit the World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum, the latter boasting one of Australasia’s largest private collection of classic cars. End off with a beautiful picnic at the Abel Tasman National Park, filled with golden beaches and sculptured granite cliffs. The park’s world-famous track will see you hiking through ancient Maori sites to discover wild natives such as cormorants, gannets, and even fur seals as they sunbathe and swim the day away.