This city is New Zealand’s capital, located at the physical centre of country, at the southern tip of the north island. It is a beautiful harbour city, with residents living on the hillsides that surround the city’s centre, and is New Zealand’s answer to Chicago, known to all New Zealanders as the country’s ‘windy city’. For fantastic views across the metropolis, take a trip up to the top of Mount Victoria. The city is a centre for both arts and culture, and for politics – it is the governmental centre of New Zealand, and parliament is based in one of the countries greatest architectural curiosities, the Beehive. The city can be split into different areas of interest, for example Cuba Street, Lambton Quay and Courtenay Place in the centre for shopping and the suburb of Thorndon for historic sites. The city is also home to arguably the country’s best museum, the innovative Te Papa Museum of New Zealand history and culture.
Auckland airport is the most common entry point for international visitors to New Zealand, though it is also possible to fly into Christchurch and Wellington. Auckland, despite not being the capital, is New Zealand’s biggest city, and more cosmopolitan than Wellington. It has the biggest Polynesian population in the country, and a large number of Asian immigrants in more recent years give it its culturally varied atmosphere. It is also New Zealand’s financial and business centres, with the centre’ sky scrapers housing the HQ’s for many of the country’s biggest companies. It has been dubbed the city of sails after the two large and impressive harbours, with a bridge between the two to rival Sydney’s. Sailing around the harbour on a sunny day is a popular pastime of residents, who have the right idea – one of the most enjoyable ways to see the city is on a harbour cruise.
Auckland is an extensive city, easily divided into suburbs, each with quite different and individual characters. The best shopping is to be found in Parnell and Newmarket, while the historic part of town is in Devonport, and an arty-crafty atmosphere can be found in the in western suburb of Ponsonby. Good beaches for swimming include Mission Bay and Kohimarama, while in the gulf just outside the harbour there is a small group of islands worth visiting. Auckland also has a small collection of fantastic museums including Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World and Arctic Encounter, not to mention the Auckland Museum, located in the centre of The Domain, the city’s large public park.
Rotorua is at the heart of an area of much seismic activity, based on a fault line that runs through the length of the country and makes this town something of a thermal wonderland. The result of all this geothermal activity is that Rotorua has become known as the City of Sulphur,due to the strong and pervasive smell! It has also made it into major tourist centre, and has proliferation of tacky shops to suit. As well as the smell, the area is known for its impressive array of hot springs, mud pools and geysers, all within in easy reach of the town centre. The other major draw of Rotorua is that it is also home to one of the most accessible examples ofMaori culture in the country, offering one of the few opportunities to see a traditional community in action. The town is located next to picturesque Lake Rotorua, which provides alternative options to the usual fare, including trout fishing, and a variety of lake cruises, from paddle steamers through to jet boats.
Nelson is a small city, popular with backpackers and tourists alike for its location in the Nelson and Marlborough region, an area full of vineyards and popular walking trails, such as the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, and the Heaphy. It is a pleasant and active, yet laid back area, with some of the best beaches in NZ, and more hours of sunshine a year in which to enjoy them than any other area.
THE place to come to go whale watching, swim with dolphins, and generally get close to wildlife (there is also a seal colony and a proliferation of bird life). It is also the best place in New Zealand to eat crayfish – Kaikoura means ‘to eat crayfish’ in Maori, and that alone would make this tiny town worth a visit.
A little England, bearing physical similarity to Oxford or Cambridge – it even has punting on the river! It was built to a plan created by members of Christchurch College, Oxford, after which the town is named. It is a leafy and attractive city, which is great place to explore by bike, as it is relatively small and flat, as well as picturesque. For such a small city, there’s a great range of restaurants and a good nightlife, and is considered by many to be the cultural centre of south island. Among the museums worth visiting, the International Antarctic Centre is particularly notable – offering visitors the opportunity to experience first hand Antarctic conditions, and to meet some of the local fauna.
West Coat Towns – Greymouth and Hokitika
The west coast of New Zealand is known for two things – rain and mining – but despite this there are a few places worth visiting, and the seascapes along the coast can be very dramatic.Greymouth is the biggest town, and main stop along the way, while slightly further down isHokitika, the biggest greenstone-carving centre in New Zealand. North of Greymouth isPunakaiki, where you’ll find the unusual and impressive pancake rocks, part of an area declared a National Park in 1987, which boasts a whole range of natural attractions. There’s no need to make a special stop here, as most buses will stop here on route to other towns along the coast.
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers
Further down the west coast are the amazing Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers. They are the closest glaciers to sea level in the world, and therefore most accessible. They are incredibly impressive just to look at, and you can do this just by walking around the glaciers, or to get a bit closer, book a guided hiking tour across the ice – it’s not safe to cross alone without a guide unless you are highly trained and experienced in the use of ice equipment. There are a whole host of other exciting activities that you can book, including ice climbing and helicopter trips, also heli-hiking, which combines both activities, though all of these options can be quite pricey.
Situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, this town is the extreme sports capital of New Zealand, and a general party town, with more nightlife on offer than you’ll find in almost any other part of the country. The nearby town of Wanaka is of a similar temperament, though mildly more sedate. It’s location between the Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu, make it ideal for a huge number of different adventurous sports, and put it just a short distance from some of New Zealand’s most popular walking trails. There is great skiing in winter, and hiking, jet boating, bungee-jumping, white water rafting and so on, for the rest of the year, all of which can be booked in the innumerable companies’ offices along Shotover Streetin the centre of town.
This is the closest that the Southland region gets to a capital, a tiny town of just 1500 people. It is beautifully located on the edge of lake Te Anau, and is kind of a tiny Queenstown, with a wide range activities on offer. However, most people come here to start the famous Milford Track, or to visit the amazing Milford Sound.
Visiting Stewart Island might feel a bit like coming to the end of the earth! However, it’s not as inhospitable as you might expect, has some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets you’ll see, and is a great place to really get away from it all. Due to its comparative isolation, it is the place in New Zealand where you are most likely to see a kiwi, or a mutton bird, as well as much other bird and animal life, all under the canopy of a different kind of forest to the rest of the country. The track that rings most of the island is the best opportunity to see all the wildlife the island has to offer, and will take to the extreme that getting away feeling.
By Guilia Vincenzi