12 Reasons to Visit New Zealand

Friday, 25th March 2022

Will Gray

new zealand punakaiki pancake rocks istk

Travel writer William Gray explains why we should pack our bags and head for NZ.

Will’s article on New Zealand is featured in the recently published book The Best British Travel Writing of the 21st Century. With this amazing country now set to re-open to travellers on 1 May, we asked him why we should all add New Zealand to our travel wishlists – and he gave us a dozen reasons just for starters…

The freedom of the road…

new zealand lake pukaki road to mt cook via istk

When I dream of a self-drive holiday, New Zealand is one of the first places to enter my mind. Hiring a car or motorhome is such a rewarding way to explore… we spent a fortnight touring North Island and three weeks roaming South Island in a campervan. But the thing is, we could easily go back this year and rediscover the place in a completely different light – a food and wine tour perhaps, or an itinerary linking various natural wonders or adventure activities.

The film-set scenery…

Franz Josef Glacier

New Zealand’s big-screen landscapes are legendary. Admittedly, I’m a big fan of The Lord of the Rings which evokes Middle Earth through all those dreamy shots of the snow-capped Southern Alps, mist-wreathed Fiordland and rolling hills of the Canterbury Plains. But recent movies, like The Power of the Dog (filmed in the big-sky country of Central Otago) also showcase New Zealand’s dramatic scenery.

The spectacular coastline…

new zealand northland bay of islands beach istk

For such a compact country (just 10% bigger than the UK) New Zealand is incredibly diverse – and that’s especially reflected in its coastline. Just imagine – one week you could be dabbling your toes along the subtropical shores of Northland’s Bay of Islands and the next be watching albatrosses on a boat trip out of Kaikoura. Then there’s mountain-wrapped Milford Sound, the sandy bays and turquoise shallows of Abel Tasman National Park…

The weird and wonderful wildlife…

new zealand wildlife kea on a car arthurs pass istk

New Zealand’s coastal wildlife steals the limelight: bull sperm whales loitering off the continental shelf, rare Hector’s dolphins surfing the wild Catlin’s Coast… you can even spot three species of penguin (blue, yellow-eyed and crested). But it’s New Zealand’s indigenous species that have often provided my most memorable wildlife encounters – tracking kiwis at night through the Kauri forests of the north and meeting the quirky kea, a mischievous mountain parrot renowned for its intelligence and curiosity.

The open spaces…

new zealand fields and mountains near arrowtown istk

For a country of comparable size, New Zealand’s population of around five million is a fraction of the 67 or so million that call the UK home. That’s not to say you won’t find busy cities and lively communities – places like Auckland, Rotorua, Napier, Wellington, Queenstown and Christchurch may well feature in your itinerary – but it’s the lack of crowds and traffic in-between that makes a holiday in New Zealand feel so relaxed and rejuvenating.

The night skies…

new zealand mt john night tour dark sky stargazing
New Zealand Stargazing

Less people means more wilderness. And more wilderness means less light pollution, leading to dazzling night skies. In fact, the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Pick a cloud-free night, join a star-gazing tour or visit the Mount John Observatory and I guarantee you’ll never feel closer to the cosmos.

Amazing places to stay…

hapuku lodge

New Zealand folk know how to connect with nature. They’re pioneers of ecotourism and sustainable living. And they know a thing or two about sheep farming too. Combine that with jaw-dropping scenery and you end up with some of the world’s most desirable wilderness lodges, beach houses to die for and farmstays that welcome you into the heart of Kiwi culture.

The sheer range of activities…

new zealand queenstown jet boat dart river
jet boat dart river

New Zealander A J Hackett may have invented the bungee jump in the late 1980s, but the country has since stretched the possibilities of adrenaline-inducing activities. Rotorua and Queenstown have become the adventure capitals of North and South Island respectively, offering everything from jet boating, sky-diving and canyoning to zip-lining, rafting and 4WD safaris. One thing’s certain: you won’t be bored.

The possibilities for kayaking and hiking…

Routeburn Track

Two things you simply have to include in your itinerary are sea kayaking and hiking – or tramping as they call it in New Zealand. The country is riddled with trails, including the 19.4km Tongariro Crossing, an unforgettable Alpine romp across a bewitching landscape of volcanic peaks, jade-coloured lakes and wind-combed grassland that many consider the best one-day trek in the world. Then there’s the Milford Track, Kepler Track, Heapy Track, Routeburn Track… all three- or four-day tramps that have achieved legendary status with the footloose fraternity. As for sea kayaking, well, if you ask me, nothing beats the pure tranquillity or oneness with nature offered by a paddle in the wilderness. In New Zealand, I’ve drifted between icebergs in a lake beneath Aoraki (Mt Cook), slipped past snoozing sealines on the Otago Peninsula and kayak-camped deep into Doubtful Sound. Absolute bliss!

The family travel potential…

new zealand hobbiton movie set and farm tour
Hobbiton movie set

We first took our twins to New Zealand when they were four. It was a long way to go with littl’uns, but the rewards were more than worth the odd jet lag-induced tantrum. A campervan trip – your home on wheels – is perfect for a family trip where you need flexibility and freedom. On other trips we’ve stayed in self-catering beach houses, which also ticked all the boxes.

The food and wine…

new zealand nelson marlborough vineyard istk
Marlborough vineyard, NZ

New Zealand’s foodie scene never lacks flavour or imagination thanks to its enviable back-door larder of sumptuous shellfish, tender lamb and crisp Chardonnays. Whether you’re indulging in creamy, green-lipped mussels, a crayfish salad, juicy rack of lamb or a Māori hāngī (where meat and veg are cooked in an earth oven) there’s no excuse for not making every trip a pilgrimage to kiwi cuisine.

The Māori welcome…

new zealand te puia hongi rotorua tnz

Perhaps the thing that leaves the most lasting impression is the warm welcome that’s embodied in Manaakitanga, the Māori concept of hospitality. A smile and a nose rub is only the start. Manaakitanga is about forging a deep connection between visitor and host; nurturing a relationship while caring for the land and respecting others. Once you’ve experienced it, it may well be the one thing, above all others, that draws you back to New Zealand again and again.

Feeling inspired?

Our three-week Discover Aotearoa holiday is our flagship New Zealand self drive, covering all the highlights in both North and South Island, with plenty of time to relax too. It’s also fully flexible – just ask us to tailor make your perfect trip.

If you have any questions about any of our New Zealand holidays or want to start planning your own trip, call us on 01737 214 250, or send an enquiry to our Kiwi travel specialists to start discussing your options.

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