When songwriter Dave Dobbyn penned the hit song “Slice of Heaven”, no doubt he sourced much of his inspiration from the beauty of his home country, New Zealand. But if anything, a “slice” would be an understatement – New Zealand offers the whole feast! The North and South Islands are home to pretty much every landscape on the planet: ice, sand, rock and rainforest.
The snow resorts:
For snow cover, ease of access and value for money, New Zealand’s snow resorts are unrivalled for snowboarding and skiing. The North Island has Mt Ruapeu, which is an active volcano – now that’s got to be worth some bragging rights. The South Island has three main areas:
- Christchurch-Canterbury, with Mt Hutt and Methven.
- Mt Cook-Mackenzie, with Lake Tekapo, Mt Dobson and Ohau
- Queenstown-Wanaka, with Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona and Treble Cone.
Accommodation is off mountain, with regular, short coach transfers to and from the ski fields. This keeps the costs down, so you have more cash to spend on the important things, such as Sauvignon blanc and Pinot noir.
If you feel like cooling your heels for a bit, the South Island’s west coast is famous for its glaciers. Take Franz Josef Glacier for example. Drive on the highway to within 5km from the glacier or drop in – literally – via one of several helicopter services. Clamp on the crampons, grab an ice axe, and enjoy one of the world’s great travel adventures – a glacier walk. Combine the experience with a visit to the glow worm caves.
The sand mountains:
The north-west tip of the North Island is the Bay of Islands, home to Cape Reinga. Being the point where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, Maori belief has it that this is where the spirits of their deceased will leap into the ocean and return to their ancestral land. The nearby Sand Mountain is famous also for leaping and sliding, or try your hand sand boarding with those daring dune dudes. And swap the sand board for a boogie board and ride waves at 90 Mile Beach.
If you feel like hanging around somewhere different, try a treetop walk among the giant kauri and kaihikatea trees, in NZ’s temperate rainforests. Wrapped by creepers and vines, these massive trees are up to 50 metres high and are so old that they were already mature when the Maoris arrived. The experience will give you a new perspective on nature.
At the bottom of the west coast on the South Island, is Fiordland. This is the biggest National Park in New Zealand, and the scenery is simply stunning. Popular for kayaking, boating, cruising, walking, and hiking, this is “outdoors heaven”. Try this on for size: Mitre Peak drops almost 1,700 metres to the Milford Sound fiord, which has a depth of 450 metres. There is no mobile phone coverage, so it’s a good place to escape from work.
The adventure travel:
If adrenaline is your medicine, then New Zealand is your dispensary. Abseiling, skydiving, jet boating, hang gliding, rafting, climbing – it’s all here. Queenstown is a good base and caters for most of these activities. The nearby Shotover River has the old timber bridge where AJ Hackett launched bungy jumping, and millions of visitors have sped through the Shotover Canyons in the Shotover Jet boats since 1965. Queenstown also has the world’s highest bungy jump, Nevis (no not Nervous, it’s Nevis) Bungy, which is 184 metres high… that’s almost 9 seconds of freefall! Shotover St, in Queenstown, can boast to having Fergburger, considered the best burger cafe in NZ, but rock up early as the queue can extend down the street.
New Zealand movie director Peter Jackson chose his native country as the setting for the blockbuster movies, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Hobbit trilogy. Hobbiton Township has been kept intact, near Matamata, on the North Island. It is hugely popular so expect a queue almost as long Middle Earth, and the entrance fee is about AUD$100.
The climate, the country, the history, the adventure – New Zealand has it all. It’s like all the best aspects about our planet have been collected and put in one place.
(Featured image: Tom Hall)