With their striking, varied countryside made all the more famous as the undisputed star of The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, the astounding islands of New Zealand have something for nature lovers of every flavour. With ten times as many sheep as humans, and abundant indigenous cultures to explore, few dispute NZ tourism’s claim to be amongst the most memorable spots on earth.
Largest city Auckland gets in on the natural wonders, with volcanoes and lava ridges forming the backdrop to a vibrant city and green suburbia, littered with sometimes dazzling and often embarrassing architecture, the best dating from Victorian and Edwardian times.
Few hang around in the cities, though; there are just too many adventures to be had. Hefty bungee jumps are essential traveller fare, while the still more intrepid head out to sea aboard kayaks to drift nervously amongst the numerous whales and dolphins. Windy Wellington is an essential stop off on the significant sailing scene, while Tongariro National Park is home to off-the-beaten-track bike rides, and dramatic roof-of-the-world hikes. Then there are the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, which can be explored on foot or absorbed in full from the air, plus the picture-postcard waters and craggy shorelines of Abel Tasman National Park, and the astonishing views from the southern Islands TranzAlpine train.
As much as the nature is utterly compelling (and should be at the core of every trip), New Zealand throws up countless other memorable moments, like munching on slimy hu hu grubs straight off the grill, stumbling across ancient Polynesian ceremonies, and exploring the vineyards or boutique beer barns of the inner islands. Then there are the surf towns, the vivacious nightlife and blend of steamy thermals, and Maori culture to be found amongst the tattooed tribes of Rotorua.
Overcome your fears all at once, by swimming with whales, rolling down steep slopes in polystyrene balls, and coming face to face with the kind of food you’d rather have left under a rock. Or you could just stick to ogling the stunning scenery, but where would be the fun in that?