Auckland – the City of Sails, New Zealand

Auckland’s love affair with its waterside location has earned its name, ‘City of Sails’. Sparkling waters trickle along narrow isthmus of the Waitemata and Manukau Harbour. A cover of rainforest sprinkles over the surrounding hills, forty-eight dormant volcanic cones dot the landscape.

There is never a boring moment, from travelling up to the top of the Sky Tower, to plummeting off the top in a bungee jump. Or propel off mountainous summits, or the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Explore the Ranges

Hunua Range’s bush walks take you through 14,000 hectares of native forest. Relax in the rippling water from the Hunua falls. Hear the call of the native pigeon, kaka, kakariki, fantail, kingfisher, shining cackoo and tui. Abseil, bird watch, fish, horse ride, sightsee, or take short and long walks over the ranges. Precariously make your way over the suspension bridge to a lookout platform to get a breath-taking view of the forestry beyond.

Travel to the North Shore and explore the Waitakere Ranges. Wander through 16,000 hectares of native rainforest and coastline, to beaches, rocky outcrops, streams, waterfalls and farms. Rimu, totara, miro and kahikatia trees shadow the path, Pohutukawa rolls down the cliffs.

Plunge into the Waitakere Ranges by the Rain Forest Express. A narrow-gauge railway that takes your over wooden bridges, through tunnels; lit at night with a multitude of glow worms and housing the old cave weta.

Rumble along the upper Nihotapu Dame, while listening to the driver narrate the story of the Rain Forest Express.

After enjoying the vast landscape of the Ranges, journey to Henderson to visit Collard Brothers. Specialising in Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot and Chenin; this family-owned hundred year old vineyard was one of the first vineyards to grow Viognier. You can grab a great deal on case wine and mix and match for the different occasion.

 

The Island Retreats

But perhaps what Auckland is most loved for is not for what is in it, but what surrounds it. The many islands that dot the ocean offer a range of activities sure to delight.

Rangitoto Island is one of the favourites. Walk or ride to the mountainous summit. The lava rock sleeping volcano which emerged from the sea in a fiery explosion. The lava field providing a deep brown soil housing the largest Pohutukawa forest in the world, surrounded by native trees and a Maritime Park.

One can easily explore the unique island that is a well-known New Zealand icon.

If you are into diving, then you cannot by-pass Goat Island. Home to a pool of friendly, colourful fish; this island offers a fun snorkel or diving experience.

Kawau Island is a little more unknown, even to some Aucklanders. Explore the island and try to spot some of the peacocks and wallabies in the native forest.

Great Barrier Island is home to land and sea activities. Biking, trekking or visiting the local museum is a fun way to get around the island. Bush tracks taking you to natural hot springs and kauri tree dams.

Or on a hot summer day, try kayaking, diving, fishing, sailing and surfing the crystal clear waters.

The kids will love the Glenfern Sanctuary; birds living in the natural environment, crossing over a suspension bridge into the crown of a 600 year old kauri tree.

But if you only have time to see one island, it’s got to be Waiheke Island. Blend of farmland, forest, beaches, vineyards and olive groves. Biking, yachting and scenic flights.

Journey on the Fullers Vineyard Tour, taking you to three award-winning wineries and olive estate, with a light lunch and tasting.

Take a walk on the wild side with Whankanewha Regional Park, 2.5 hours of coastal forests, cascading streams and beaches.  Other walks will lead you through Oheroa Village, historical highlights, reserves, beaches and bays.

But perhaps what the island is most known for is the many vineyards that are scattered across the island. A variety of tours offering you the best of Waiheke Island’s vineyards.

Te Whau in Oneroa is well-known for their Bordeaux-style bends and Chardonnay. Located above the bay, the 2.5 hectare vineyard grows internationally and nationally awarded wines. Sit back and sip a glass of wine while enjoying the top-quality New Zealand produce with a European influence, with over six-hundred of the very best of New Zealand wines on offer.

Matakana

Matakana is well-known for its fabulous destination for weddings on the sandy beaches, with its vineyards, galleries, gardens, sculptures, gourmet food, Regional Park, cruises and horse riding it is definitely worth the trip.

Heron’s Flight vineyard specialises in Sangiovese and Dolcetto wines, well-known for making elegant Italian-style wines. Resembling a New Zealand villa, running on solar-power, the restaurant provides a generous view over the Matakana countryside. Relish an Italian red while crunching into a slice of wood-fired pizza, and unusual varieties of Maori potato. With the wines only available locally, be sure to indulge in the tasting options and purchase a bottle (or two) of these unique wines.

Auckland Central

But don’t overlook Auckland itself. With the tumbling waves of Piha, to the laid back cafes of Mission Bay, meandering along the coastal walkway, to look out across to the islands beyond.

Visit Devonport, the historic seaside village with petite galleries, and renowned chocolate shop.

Auckland Zoo is a wonderful day for the children to come into close contact with the native animals, and perhaps even pet and feed some of them on tour.

Cruise along the Hauraki Gulf on the Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari. Exploring the home of twenty-two species of dolphins and whales. With a ninety per cent dolphin sighting, the kids won’t be disappointed. Watch the dolphins sped along with the boat, birds flying upward, plummeting to the sea.

Voyage under the sea in the Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World. Walk through the underwater glass tunnel and see real life King and Gentoo penguins, or… be adventurous and swim with stingrays and sharks.

Off the Beaten Track

There is nothing quite like surveying the landscape on horseback. The Pahiri Beach horse rides through native bush, farmland and white sand beaches. You can start off with one hour, or even take a week to discover this wonderful landscape.

And of course, for the wine enthusiasts you cannot by-pass Kumeu – the wine country. Kumeu River Wines offers a delicious and light Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Eighty per cent of grapes are directly sourced from Kumeu, allowing you to taste across a wide range of vintages.

Journey out to Vin Alto to enjoy the taste of little Italy in Clevedon. Wander the slopes above Clevedon to see the olive groves, farm deer and some friendly donkeys. A special treat is the Italian tradition of enoteca – serving local wine with regional food. Fresh seasonal food is served over the afternoon, matched with the perfect wine. Envision yourself back in Roman times, as dish after dish is presented over the course of four hours. An array of hand-made cheese, freshly baked bread and home-made Italian pasta with fresh produce will be at your fingertips. Finished off with melt-in-your-mouth liqueurs, such as Limoncello, made at Vin Alto.

Appreciate the history of the architecture that dates back hundreds of years.

The ‘City of Sails’ offers a variety of escapes for the novice to expert traveller.

Sources:

Auckland New Zealand, “Auckland’s highlights”, Accessed 01/08/11

Vin Alto, “Vin Alto Vineyard”, Accessed 01/08/11

Peter Janssen, “Auckland Vineyards”, “150 of New Zealand’s Best Vineyards”, HarperCollins Publishers 2007

 

 

 

 

Connect With the South Island by Train, New Zealand

Coastal Connection

Ever dreamed of experiencing the whole of New Zealand without getting lost or not knowing what to do when you finally get where you want to be?                                                                            Rail New Zealand offers the prospect of travelling all over New Zealand without the hassle of traffic and inconsiderate drivers. The Coastal Connection combines the ferry and train services to enable all those that want the taste of something a little different.                                             Your journey can start in the South Island of Christchurch or Kaikoura, or in the North Island in Wellington.

Cruising Across the Cook Strait

For those in the North Island you will cruise your way between Wellington and Picton, crossing the infamous Cook Strait that separates the North and South Islands, connecting the South Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea.                                                                                            While viewing the expansive ocean-life you can dine at the food court, ranging from light snacks to three course meals. For those that want to relax with some entertainment, a range of movies are available on board to satisfy all. The ferry also contains a nursery, on-board shop, three passenger lounges, work stations, children’s play area and plenty of outdoor deck to explore and get a breath of fresh sea air.

Marlborough Sounds

The ferry will embark at Marlborough Sounds, reminiscent of the Nordic Sounds. Marlborough Sounds is home to many islands, bird sanctuaries, marine reserves and salmon farms.                                                                                                                                                      You will have the chance to become familiar with the local life of Picton. Enjoying the little town containing quaint shops, and visit the Aquarium or the Edwin Fox Museum.

Tranzcoastal Train

You will then board the Tranzcoastal train, Kaikoura to Christchurch. The train rumbles past the Marlborough vineyards, where a range of fresh New Zealand wines are made. You will pass by Lake Grassmere Salt ponds to Kaikoura, famous for the observation of whales and other sea life. The Tranzcoastal train allows viewing the scenery at leisure while enjoying a glass of wine, beer, sodas, light meals and snacks. If you so choose, you have the option of staying overnight in Kaikoura.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura is surrounded by majestic mountains, which for a large part of the year are wrapped in snow. Kaikouri offers a unique experience of ocean and mountain life.  You can go whale watching, swim with the dolphins, or just wander around, picking up those titbits you can’t find anywhere else.

Locals suggest visitors take a look at the Kaikoura Museum and Fyffe House, which shows Maori and European settlement and whaling history.

Kaikoura is known for its seafood specialities like grouper, cod, mussels, paua, and the town’s namesake, crayfish. The freshly caught seafood served in the locally-owned restaurant rivals any other tasted. The next day will take you onto Christchurch.

Coast Through the South Island

For those that want to encounter the countryside of the South Island, then the Tranzcoastal from Picton to Christchurch offers that event. The train voyages through the grapevine country, over plains and river valleys. The train runs along the coastline between the ocean and mountain ranges. You will encounter the expansive farmland, tour over the Waimakariri River – meaning cold, rushing water. And cross-over into the garden city – Christchurch. Although ravaged by earthquakes and aftershocks, Christchurch locals have shown their resilience to these natural disasters, making the city stronger than it was before.

The tour will take around five hours, and during this time you will enjoy the comforts of food and drink.

Finding Your Destination

The South Island stations are situated at Picton, Blenheim, Kaikoura, Christchurch, Arthur’s Park and Greymouth.

Rail New Zealand also offers a Scenic Rail Pass that allows those that are interested in travelling by train. The Scenic Rail Pass includes the Overlander, the TranzCoastal and the Tranz Alpine trains. You can choose your route, stop and start wherever and whenever you like, and travel as many times. The pass also includes Interislander ferries between Wellington and Picton.

Rail New Zealand and the routes they take you on give you a ride to remember.

 

Sources:

Coastal Connection, Accessed 14/07/11, www.RailNewZealand.com

Dunedin – Oldest city in New Zealand

Deeply embedded into Scottish heritage, migrants established a town in 1848, thirteen years later gold was unearthed.

Tour around Dunedin to view the towering cathedral spires, Flemish-style railway station, nineteenth-century castle and neo-gothic convent.

Escape into the many art galleries and museums containing some of the best collections in New Zealand.

Quietly wander into the wildlife reserves like no other. Royal albatross, yellow-eyed and Little Blue Penguins colonise on the tumbling shores.

And what better place to propose? CNN International naming Dunedin as one of the ten most romantic places in the world to propose marriage.

Food Festivals

If you are arriving at the beginning of October you may be a little overwhelmed at the excitement filling the port. Why? The Port Chalmers Seafood Festival displays the freshest seafood, selection of Otago’s wines, ales and beer, live music and demonstrations.

Don’t worry; tastings will greet you at every turn.

 Glow Worm Tours

Tours only available at night will sure to guarantee a fascinating experience.

Start your expedition travelling around Dunedin, getting to know the sights before journeying to your ultimate destination.

As the moon slivers in and out of focus behind the trees, you tramp through native bush, your torches flickering on the trees and the night life begins to waken. A pair of beady eyes may peer at you from the trees, the possums skittering from branch to branch; curious at what has disturbed their sleep.

Unobtrusively drift through the caves, the glow worms lighting the walls and ceiling like a Christmas tree, threads hanging like crystal chandeliers. The almost ethereal glow from these tiny insects will leave you spellbound.

This tour is particularly good to start your stay in Dunedin, introducing you to the sights you may want to explore during your trip

Otago Peninsula

Cruises and charters can take you across to the Otago Peninsula; where you can experience award-winning wildlife encounters, have close encounters with endangered penguins, rare New Zealand sea lions, royal albatross, little blue penguin and fur seals.

Enter into the world of these creatures through a lane of gnarly trees, walking through farmland to sheer cliffs overlooking the blue ocean.

Grip the railing as the vehicle passes through narrow and winding roads, see the Royal Albatross soar into their nests, crouch down in silence as you watch some penguins nesting on their eggs.

Inhale the scent of homemade food wafting from the kitchen in the café, ending your sightseeing on a delicious note.

Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2010 ranks the Peninsula the best place for going on cycling adventures. Swift descents, steep climbs and Royal albatross flying over the tumbling ocean waves.

Delight Your Taste Buds in Cadbury World

This is definitely one for the kids, or the kids at heart. Cadbury World takes you close to the chocolates everyone has come to love. Chocolate-themed displays will take you into a dark, gooey world where you will learn about the history of chocolate.

Be greeted with the intoxicating scent of Jaffa, Turkish delight or cocoa. Gaze upon the one tonne of melted chocolate cascading down five stories.

Take a guided tour through the factory, sampling little goodies along the way. Your tour guide will take you to visit the chocolate fall housed in a five-storey high decommissioned crumb silo, and taste the melted, still warm chocolate oozing from it.

Try a fresh cocoa bean, then… step into the land of purple. The shop containing an overwhelming sight of chocolate, lollies and colourful displays.

At the end of your tour, you receive a goodie bag to continue sampling all day.

Discover the World of Butterflies

Otago Museum’s Discovery World and the Tropical Forest is an innovative and fascinating world to escape in.

Come face-to-face with more than a thousand butterflies roaming around you, dozens of them landing on your shoulder, hovering so close to you, quickly escaping from your reach.

Enter into a maze of interactive exhibits. Try your hand at table soccer, inflate a hot air balloon, warp yourself in the trick mirrors, or stomp out a tune on the piano.

Gaze upon the fossils of whales and dolphin ancestors, visit the Animal Attic where centuries old animals habitat.

Pass by the large-scale model ships, or visit the Nature Gallery.

If you’re bringing the kids, you might want to visit the Museum first, the kids won’t be able to get enough of the interactive exhibits.

Travelling on the Railway.

Hop on the train and discover Otago’s stunning countryside on the Taieri Gorge Railway. Tracks weaving through remarkable scenery, untamed landscapes and transcending viaducts. At each stop you can enjoy exploring the range of sightseeing available. The trip taking around four to six hours.

 

Reconnoitre the Past

Gaze out the tower views, examine the New Zealand antiques, explore the 35 acres of gardens, or wander in and out of twelve beautifully themed rooms in Larnach Castle. New Zealand’s only castle, offering guests a look back in time.

Stay a night in one of the rooms, enjoying the superb food they serve in the conservative dining room.

For those that would enjoy Larnarch Castle, then you can’t miss Olveston; enabling an intimate glimpse of Dunedin in Edwardian times.

Meander through the English/New Zealand inspired gardens. Your tour guide taking you through a maze of ancient treasure, the furniture set as if waiting for someone to come live here. The atmosphere creating lived-in quarters, as if a person from the Edwardian era is going to step through those doors, startled at your intrusion.

Touring through Nature and Beyond

Enjoy the convenience and the history of Dunedin by opting to go on one of the many tours that will take you to all of the popular locations.

Monarch Wildlife Cruises and Tours has the option of taking one hour cruise, half day coach to a full day which includes Larnach Castle, Penguin Place and Royal Albatross centre, as well as city sightseeing.

Elm Wildlife Tours captures the heart of the peninsula, viewing all the stunning creatures. You may even be able to view the yellow-eyed penguin just one to five metres away, although beware of the steep steps and climbing up the hills.

Next you can explore the terrain in the 8-wheel vehicle, travelling over bumpy and muddy trails.

On this hour long trek, New Zealand fur seals and their pups cuddle together, and you may even have a chance to get close to them. The sweeping view of the sheep grazing on the green hills, swooping down to the sea, the yellow-eyed penguins tottering about is sure a sight to behold.

Relax in the Gardens

If you just want to relax, then come to the Dunedin Chinese Garden, where Shanghai artisans constructed this beautifully landscaped garden with centuries-old building processes. Sit back and enjoy the tea and traditional Chinese finger food in the Tea House, transporting you to the bustling city of Shanghai.

Climbing the Steepest Street in the World

After all that food, you may want to stretch your legs. Come and climb Baldwin Street, “the steepest street in the world’, said by Guinness Book of Records, and receive a certificate at the top for your accomplishment.

Tour through Tui

After all that climbing you may feel a little thirsty. The guided tour of Tui brewery shows  you how the beer is made. Step inside the large tasting room and learn the art of pouring beer. Of course best of all, you get to sample around six to seven beers, even going back for seconds, or thirds.

Finish of your tour by relaxing in the pub for a lunch or dinner, enjoying the good ole pub lunch.

 

Trekking on Horseback

But you can’t finish off your stay in Dunedin without exploring the landscape on horseback.  Hare Hill Horse trek, located in Port Chalmers, is designed for both beginner and advanced riders.

Leisurely cross the sandy beaches, keeping a look-out for the wildlife hidden amongst the seas and land. Listen to the stories the guide tells you.

Or canter along the pristine beach, splashing in the water.

Stop for a cuppa and biscuit; continue your journey to see sea lions and penguins colonising on the shores.

Only taking a small group allows for a peaceful and relaxing experience.

The World’s Most Southern Winery

Weston Winery is embedded deep in the south of Dunedin. Their pure, non-filtered wine offers an unadulterated pleasure on the tongue of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Black and Red current wines.

A small winery, but sure to please any wine enthusiast that enjoys the full body of elegant wines.

Taste Dunedin through Food and Wine

St Clair Beach Resort offers tours that will indulge your senses and bring to life the food and wine that plays an integral part to Dunedin.

Stay in a luxury hotel during the night, enjoying a bottle of Central Otago Pinot Noir.

Explore nature through food, stopping for morning tea with cheese, bush foods and coffee.

Sojourn in at hotels to hear and enjoy tastings of wine and food.

Relish on lunch at an award-winning restaurant, devour the tastings at the Gourmet Ice Cream Company and Greenman Brewery. Finishing off tastings at Weston Winery or Rhubarb café and wine shop.

Or you can choose just to travel through the wineries and vineyards, sipping tastings as you go, lunching at Northburn Station Winery and purchasing local products.

Or indulge in the ultimate tour and do both.

Dunedin may be the oldest city in New Zealand, but it offers old to exciting new activities leaving a lasting memory.

 

 

Sources:

Dunedin, “Attractions”, Accessed 23/08/11  www.dunedinnz.com

Dunedin, “Family Activities”, Accessed 23/08/11    http://www.jason.co.nz

Otago Cycling Tours, Accessed 23/08/11, www.otagocyclehire.co.nz

Cadbury World, Accessed 23/08/11, www.cadburyworld.co.nz

Hamilton – the Other Garden City, New Zealand

To most New Zealanders Christchurch is the Garden city, but many overlook what Hamilton has to offer in its spectacular collections.

From the majestic Waikato River to lakes, walkways and golf courses, the Hamilton Gardens have got to be a one of the best visiting points.

The Gardens

The botanic gardens offer a range of collections to satisfy the novice to the enthusiasts. Discover the paradise collection; home to Chinese Scholar Gardens, English Flower Garden, Japanese Garden of contemplation, American modernist, Italian Renaissance and Indian Char Bagh.

Learn how to make a more productive garden; from the quite unique kitchen garden, to the sustainable, and herb garden. Absorb the traditional knowledge, interpretative material and ceremonies of the Maori in the Te Parapara.

Lose yourself amongst the Fantasy collection of Chinese and Japanese gardens, or unearth the mystique of the Orient.

Become intoxicated with the range of exotic plants and flowers, the blooming Rhododendrons of the Cultivar Collection.

Retreat into the Landscape collection of cemetery designs and valley walk, using natural resources to achieve a Naturalistic/Aesthetic style.

Excite the Child Within

But if you’re not into strolling the magnificent grounds of the gardens, then hide indoors at Exscite – Hamilton’s Interactive Science Centre. Two floors full of interactive, educational exhibits sure to excite the child within.

Learn about the Waikato River history, see if you can spot a Taniwha, hear the call of the wildlife, peer closely at live displays of pest fish, journey along the Discovery Trail to see exclusive river creatures and generate electricity from water.

The Interactive Science Gallery will get your heart racing on the Mario Kart, or discover how fast you can throw a ball.

Wander the halls of the Waikato Museum; exhibitions of history, culture, arts and science, hosting numerous international exhibitions.

If that doesn’t get your heart going, climb at Extreme Edge Indoor Climbing centre. A hundred different top-rope routes, thirty-three climbs and 14.5 of overhanging off the lead wall, it is sure to get the heart pumping.

Hamilton Zoo

What is sure to be a family winner? The Hamilton Zoo; home to the largest walk-through aviary and Australasia’s leading white rhino conservation programme.

Meander through the rainforest exhibits, or have face-to-face encounters with tigers, ring-tailed lemurs, capuchins and cheetahs. Feed the smaller animals, or watch the keepers feed the bigger cats.

If you are not strapped for cash then you can choose the Eye 2 Eye encounter. Learn all about your chosen animal, wander through cheetah yards, watch a Rhino training session, feed a chimp, and have a photo with a tuatara, amongst many other exciting tasks.

Experiencing the Great Outdoors

For those that want to experience the great outdoors in true ‘Kiwi’ style bush walks, tramping and hiking in the largest forest park will introduce you to the energetic kiwi lifestyle. Climb up Mount Perugia; an extinct volcano rising 959 metres, bordered by rimu, totara, tawa and tree ferns looming over the path. Stop and listen to the distant call of the kingfisher, kereru and New Zealand falcon, or watch as a fantail hops to one branch after the next in sync with your steps, as though teasing you to come near.

Pass by the rushing water of the rapids gushing over moss-covered rocks. On a clear day you emerge into a clearing at the peak of the mountain, Mount Taranaki and Mount Ruapehu standing tall, like brothers beckoning each other.

Hike to the Wairere Falls; lush green forest envelops large round boulders, water cascading over the jagged rocks, creating layers of flowing water.

Tramp to the Mount Maungatautari summit; the habitat of native species.

Or just relax on Lake Arapuni, where trout fishing and boating are fun activities to enjoy with the family.

For those that are a little more adventurous, Canoe and Kayak Waikato offers two hour guided tours through Hamilton, day or night, kayaking over torrential rapids, or canoeing along still waters.

Karamu Trail Track allows you to ride through native bush, pass along streams and prancing up rolling hill country on horseback.

Relaxing with Food and Wine

Visit the Hilltop Winery set on the pinnacle overlooking the Waikato. Wander through the vineyard to sample Pinot Gris, Flora, Cabernet Franc/Malbec/Merlot grapes and wines.  Stay at the B&B set in the tranquil vineyard, splurging on the Hilltop wine and antipasto platter arranged on arrival.

After a busy day, why not sit back and enjoy Hamilton city pass you by on the Waikato River. Sixty to ninety minutes of listening to music play as you cruise on the still waters.

The Family Friendly Jazz and Blues Hangi Dinner Cruise sails along the river. Live jazz and blues band play those catchy tunes, while you peer out over the water’s edge. A heavenly smell wafts to your nose, alerting you to dinner. Bite into the most succulent meat you would have ever tasted, cooked for a long period under the ground.

 

Hobbiton Tours

Hobbiton Farm is a must-see for any ‘Lord of the Rings’ fans. Near Matamata on a private farmland, you can experience what it was like in the Shire. The two hour guided tour will take you over the lush green land of the sheep farm, bringing you to your first glimpse of the Shire.

Amble along the pathway beside the tranquil river, past small chimneys popping out from the hillside, squat down to peer at the Hobbit holes in the hills. Pass by the Green Dragon Inn and the Mill while listening to how Middle Earth was created.

Rest a spell in the Shires Rest café, relaxing on the balcony overlooking the man-made paradise. Bite into fresh lamb burgers, crisp salads, crusty bread, fresh fruit and chocolate mud cake.

If you still haven’t had enough, you can take the Sheep Farm Experience. Pet and feed hand-reared sheep, watch a demonstration of sheep shearing, hand bottle pet lambs, and hold a little black or while lamb.

Raglan

Raglan may be a little drive away from Hamilton, but it is definitely worth the trip. About forty minutes from Hamilton you come across the place well-known for the surfing lifestyle. Try your hand at surfing with the Surf Safe Surf Coaching on Ngaruniui Beach; black sand beach surrounded by hills.

Roam the lush hills and paved pathways on horseback with the Magic Mountain Horse Treks over farmland, or to Bridal Veil Falls.

Be a little more daring and take the Wildcoast Extreme Horse Adventure treks over farmland, up Mount Karioi, ride through native bush, pass by bubbling streams, roving along Ruapuke beach; the glistening of the black iron (volcanic) sand beckoning.

Watch ancient limestone formations fade by, wildlife peeking out of their seclusion, listen to stories told, and enjoy a gourmet BBQ with local produce on the Wahinemoe Harbour cruises.

Waitomo Caves

One of the most popular tourist destinations is only an hour’s ride from Hamilton. Stare spellbound as tiny glow worms radiate luminescent light above you. Sit in a boat travelling along the still waters, listening to your guide tell you stories of these caves.

Commencing at the Cathedral; eighteen metres in height, famous singers stand marvelled at the purity of the sound. Jagged golden formations extend out a narrow passageway, as though you are walking through a lost secret passage. Proceed along a narrow passageway to the Tomo; a sixteen metre vertical limestone shaft marking the course of a waterfall, which today flows during heavy rain, as though the water is frozen on the shaft.

Glide silently along staring up at a starry sky, cruise underground along the Waitomo River, allow the galaxy of light to guide your way.

Only a short distance away you can tour the Ruakuri Cave; the longest underground guided walking tour of the caves. Journey through the spiral entrance, limestone formations cascading down frozen in time, crystal rain of light, distant thunder of subterranean waterfalls fills this cavern.

Your children can start off with an adventure of trying to unearth hidden treasure, hold tightly to tin cans as you cautiously wander into ‘ghost alley’. Silence seems to echo off the walls, visitors afraid to speak as though scared of what they may awaken.

Emerge onto Ruakuri Bush trail, the brightness of the sun failing to compare to the sprinkling of light in the caves, try to spot native wildlife hiding from the cavern holding secrets yet to be discovered.

A five minute drive from Waitomo caves will bring you to Aranui Cave. Some may say not as exciting as the other two, this cave still holds national treasures. Just inside the entrance is a colony of cave wetas, entering into the cave hazy light created by stalagmites; pale brown, pink and white creates radiating light throughout the cavernous trip.

The other garden city offers a splendid array of treats, excited to be discovered.

Sources:

Hamilton New Zealand, “What to see and do”, Accessed 02/08/11

Hamilton Zoo, “The Animal Encounters”, Accessed 02/08/11

Waitomo, “Waitomo Glowworm Caves’, Accessed 02/08/11

“Raglan”, Accessed 02/08/11, www.raglan.net.nz

“Cruise Waikato”, Accessed 02/08/11, www.cruise-waikato.co.nz

“Hobbiton Tours”, Accessed 02/08/11, www.hobbitontours.com

 

 

 

Invercargill – Gateway to Southland Scenery, New Zealand

Capital of the Southland, right at the bottom of the South Island, gateway to New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery. Immerse yourself in the seafood culture, taste the famous succulent bluff oysters.

Travel through the Southland Museum

On a cloudy day, why not explore the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. The remarkable sight of a twenty-seven metre high pyramid housing the museum will leave you wondering what you are entering into.

The kids (and the kids at heart) will be enthralled at the live displays of the tuatara. Step back in time to the roaring 40s. View the variety of national and international exhibitions on display.

Recline in Queens Park

On a sunny day, take the time to relax in Queens Park. An amazingly tranquil eighty hectare park set in the centre of the city. Wander through the varied rose gardens, smell a rhododendron or azalea, contemplate life in the Japanese garden, stroll through the looming trees, bush paths and rock and herb gardens.

Enter inside the indoor winter garden with tropical and flowering plants and cacti blooming on either side.

Tread inside the large bird aviary, watching as the birds flitter from branch to branch, curiously eyeing you in anticipation for food.

Your children will giggle with delight as the Alpacas and deer nuzzle your hand for food, while the pigs plod along scavenging in the dirt.

 

 

Explore the Sandy Shores

Roam the 2,000 hectare sand and shingle Sandy Point peninsula. Learn about the history of the whaler that distilled rum from the many cabbage trees littering the area.

Pleasantly gaze out across the waters on Oreti Beach, once called Ma te Aweawe (Misty Way). Watch as the people before you go off into the distance, appearing to float above the sand and disappearing into the mist.

Take a boat out to Nugget Point; viewing fur seals, sea lions, elephant seals, yellow-eyed penguins, and a breeding colony of gannets, shags and sooty shearwaters habitat the rocky outcrops, the tide flowing in and out carrying their dinner.

Porpoise Bay is a must-see for the entire family. Famously known for the rare Hector’s dolphins surfing in the waves, you might even have a chance to swim with them.

Yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals and sea lions bath on the rocks.

Indulge in the Seriously Good Chocolate Company

After a bit of exploring reward yourself by visiting the Seriously Good Chocolate Company. You won’t have seen chocolates quite like these.

Specialising in alcoholic chocolates; tickling your taste buds with Pinot Noir truffles, Riesling truffles, Sauvignon Blanc truffles, Speights and Pinot Gris truffles amongst others. Or try their Haka bar, with a Speights chocolate filling.

The kiwiana range made of Sauvignon Blanc truffles, liquorice truffles, dried fruits, manuka honey chocolate and lemon & Paeroa chocolates.

Indulge in the white chocolate Pavalova truffles infused with vanilla and fruit.

Sample their standard range of Bailey’s logs, coffee chocolate, cranberry and Pinot chocolate log, and Flat White chocolate log.

After all that indulging, it’s off to climb the forty-two metre high water tower.

 

Stewart Island Getaways

Experience an adventure on the Stewart Island Flights, half to full day of taking the coast to coast adventure over Mason Bay; a four to five hour wilderness trek, taking the water taxi ride through the Freshwater River to Golden Bay.

Stewart Island seems be a haven amidst the turbulent seas. With only one tiny village, twenty-seven kilometres of sealed roads, and 157,000 hectares of lush rainforest and sand dunes rising and falling above the crystal blue ocean.

Dive into the depths as the warm currents sweep over you from the Australian Great Barrier Reef, sending 170 species of seaweed, and over fifty species of fish circling around you.

An hour’s ferry ride will take you to this tranquil setting, every which way you turn water washes over bays, golden sand beaches beckon, densely forested hills rise above the sea, not even a picture being able to capture the moment.

Fire over Water Rapids

But for the adrenaline junkie, experience Stewart Island at its finest. Jump on the Hump Ridge Jet across lakes and down rivers, crash over twenty-seven kilometres of Grade 3 rock strewn water rapids.

Snake through the forests on short or long treks, hearing the call of the wild.

Sit back and listen to the birds chirping around you as you munch on a bush-style venison BBQ lunch.

For those that really want to uncover the secrets this island holds; tramp over hills, past valleys, climbing up mountainous peaks on the four to five hour trek to Percy Burn Viaduct. A 125 metre length ravine and thirty-six metre high wooden ravine, the largest in the world.

Or be really adventurous and take the three day trek covering the vast landscape of the island, to view the other ravines used for logging, now deserted.

 

Track along Rakiura National Park

Plunge into the forestry depths of Rakiura National Park, through its 245 km of walking tracks. From ten minute strolls, to basic day walks, or the mother-load – a three day track through native bush, coastal paradise and historic landmarks.

Tramping along the tracks, you may spot a Stewart Island kiwi coming out to feed, the only kiwi that feeds during the day.

See a weka slither out from the bush to peer curiously up at you. Hear the call of the kaka, tui, bellbirds, native pigeons and the rare saddleback.

Immerse in Untarnished Nature

Five Islands lie 600 miles to the south of Invercargill. These islands hold New Zealand’s most remote and sensitive nature reserves and harbour, still some areas remaining untouched by humans.

Step off the boat onto Ulva island’s misty atmosphere, enveloping you in the surreal ambiance the island holds. The light mottled, surrounding you with a thicker and cooler air. Listen to your guide explain to you how Steward Island is called the ‘old New Zealand’, untarnished by man-made buildings.

Learn about how the Maori used the plants around you to cure ailments, hear how your guide identifies the bird calls, and walk past a 900 year old rimu tree.

Peer skywards to the totara, rimu and horoeka extending to the blue sky, looming over the pathway, covering it in shadow.

Tour around the Land and Water

Ride a horse like you would never have ridden a horse before. Traverse over the 18,000 acre high country on horseback. For the experienced horse rider, join the workers and canter along to gather the herd, scattered across the ranges.

If you are looking for more of an underwater adventure, take the Marine Nature two-an-a-half hour cruise. Glide along the water to see dolphins surfing the waves, then slowly descend under the watery depths in a semi-submersive boat and look out for seals, great white sharks, penguins, dolphins and albatross.

Or take the Southern Aqua Adventures. Dive into the waters, fish swarming around you; go fishing for your dinner; paddle in a kayak down the inlets of Stewart Island.

Submerge under water in a cage; watching as the great white shark looms ever closer, his large mouth opening wide, displaying his razor sharp teeth, death-defying close to your face.

Journey off to the Caitlins

The Caitlins is the gateway to Dunedin, the Bluff and Invercargill; but it holds a generous sprinkling of pleasures to guarantee an enjoyable stay.

Day tours take you through unblemished nature; white blooms sprinkle the side of the road, dotting the scenic routes in spring.

Climb to Nugget Point, to the top of the Lighthouse; peering down at the Elephant seal paddling along the shores. Gaze down at the wave-eroded rocks creating an open mine of gold nuggets tumbling down the cliff face. The fur seals sunbathing on the rocks, the colony seeming to bathe the area with mottled grey, their calls echoing across the sea.

Amble through the internationally renowned Petrified Forest, world’s finest fossil forest. At first glance looking over at Curio Bay, all you can see is sand and sea.

Slowly descending onto the sandy beach, you stroll across the vast expanse, suddenly coming to this ancient forest. Enter into another era, the Jurassic period coming back to life, feeling as if a dinosaur may suddenly arise from the fossilised branches.

Meander along to discover McLean Falls, the tumbling waters smoothing out to a calm stream.

The tour taking you along the sand to explore Cathedral caves, two large openings, shut off from the tide. Mosey inside the opening, the vast expanse of sea eroded stone, some parts standing thirty metres in sections. Varied colours and rock formations surround you as you step inside, as though you are entering into another world, another time.

Journey on to Purakaunui Falls; strolling through podocarp and beech forest. The clear, crisp waters cascade over three tiers of rocky outcrops; like a layer cake of movement.

Watch for that steep decline to the lower platform to view the fall framed by the looming trees, inching closer to the water’s edge.

Finally arriving at Cannibal Bay to spot the rarest sea lion in the world – the Hooker’s sea lion.

Even though it’s at the bottom of the south island, Invercargill gathers the fruits from the sea, laying them at your fingertips.

Sources:

Invercargill, “What to see and do”, Accessed 24/08/11     www.invercargill.org.nz

The Seriously Good Chocolate Company, Accessed 24/08/11, www.theseriouslygoodchocolatecompany.com

Stewart Island, “Stewart Island Experience”, Accessed 24/08/11, http://www.stewartislandexperience.co.nz

Caitlins, Accessed 24/08/11, http://www.caitlins.co.nz

 

 

 

Napier – Wine Country, New Zealand

Stroll along the Marine Parade, parks, gardens and memorials; inner streets lined with swaying palm trees. Here you first notice the art deco buildings, artfully created to re-establish a bustling city.

Devastated by a large earthquake in 1931, the city has banded together to once again rebuild. Each summer a festival takes place to celebrate the reconstruction. Performers dancing in the streets, music filling the alleyways; trains, planes and automobiles line up to be viewed; picnics and galas in vintage style.

Napier houses some of the oldest wineries and wine making, home to some of New Zealand’s best wines. The above average sunshine hours enables a lively and fruitful climate.

Mountains rise above the city, sheltering it from the chilly breezes, only allowing refreshing sea breezes to waft over the shops that dot the city centre.

Bike D’Vine Cycling Winery Tours

Napier is particularly known for its variation of tours through vineyards, across hill country and beyond.

Bike D’Vine Cycling Winery Tours allows you to cycle around the countryside at your pleasure, on your own time; provided with maps and instructions, or be adventurous and plan your own route.

Breath in the fresh air as you cycle along to the oldest vineyard in New Zealand – Mission Estate. Perched on the bluff above Taradale, the old mission house renovated to display fine architecture, while still holding onto old-world charm.

Explore the vineyards bordering Havelock North.

Black Barn vineyard greets you with extensive rows of planted trees. Growing all its wines on the 10 hectare property, you can wander through the vineyard filled with Chardonnay, sauvignon Blanc and Bordeaux-style blends.

Roam the countryside of Craggy Range, also specialising in Bordeaux-style blends, the landscape surrounding the inspired European Chateau, a wide terrace looking out to the Tukituki River. The Terroir Restaurant is one of the best vineyard restaurants in the country.

Journey along routes taking you to Church Road winery. Beautiful park-like grounds surrounding a boutique vineyard. Regular award winners, tasting these smooth-on-the palate wines will sure to delight.

Bike along the country roads to Te Mata Estate; crossing over a small brick bridge, an old avocado tree shadowing the pathway, a roofless tower overhung with ivy, leading to an enclosed courtyard. Gently walk across the tiled fish ponds glistening with the summer light. Sample the delicate wines of Cabernet/Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and other exotic grape varieties.

Tour around Napier

But there’s a lot more to see than just vineyards. Bays Tours and Charters offer a range of wine and food tasting, along with sightseeing.

Relaxing back on one of their luxury coaches or vehicles, the driver will humorously inform you of the surrounds on your way to the Arataki Honey Visitor Centre, a fun and tasty experience for the family.

Walk through the hall of the interactive environment of the Honey Bee. As you emerge from viewing how the honey is created, you are greeted by a large table full of samples of every variety of honey you can imagine. Test out the honey beauty products.

The honey chocolate is sure to send your taste buds sizzling.

Your excursion then transports you to the Olivery centre, Hohepa cheese tasting and Chocolate factory and tasting.

The Silky Oak Chocolate Company and Café allow you to sample their range of exquisite chocolates. Stroll through the museum that contains a 2,000 year old Mayan chocolate pot. Sit back and sip one of their real chocolate drinks, or be adventurous and try the Triple Chocolate Dipper.

Pass by a variety of stump carvings, Maori village, Mission Estate winery and Sheepskins factory. Experiencing a hands-on free tour to see the whole process of how the wool is made, and buy authentic sheepskin products.

Or even better, plan your own journey. Exploring the roads, getting to know the sights.

Indulging Your Senses with Wine

The New Zealand Wine Centre is sure to excite any wine enthusiasts. State-of-the-art interactive wine tasting sends you into another world. Get lost in the aromas of the Aroma awareness room, sit back in a uniquely constructed theatre, and be taken high above the land.

Voyage to Park Estate Winery, a family-built Spanish mission-style complex on a 20 hectare site between two rivers. What may be most surprising about this winery are not only their fine red and white wines, but their fruit wines. Surprisingly delicate, enhancing the taste of the fruit. You can sample their wines and fruit juices, or relax back in the Mediterranean-style atmosphere of the restaurant.

They also offer home-grown fruits, jam, honey, pickles, chutney and creamy fudge.

 

 

Long Island Tours

Privately owned and customised tours journeys to the best of what Napier has to offer.

Mix and match your tours, take a day or overnight trip to private land, losing yourself amongst the wild life, following your guide while they take you to exclusive fishing spots.

Discover the culture of the Maori, involving yourself in their day-to-day life and past.

Stroll through country gardens filled with blooming plants and flowers.

But of course no tour can be complete without roving through the vineyards. Travel for a half or full day, tasting award-winning wines and food. Have a girl’s weekend away, or take the special Syrah tour.

Ferg’s Fantastic Tours

Drive through Napier’s Art Deco district to experience the wonderful tenacity of locals recovering from the 1931 earthquake. Stop at the Pania of the Reef, reliving the legend and having your photo taken by the statue.

Meander through the Centennial Gardens and waterfall, take a deep breath and look out over the expansive city.

Or take an afternoon tour to wander through the Tukituki river valley; savour palate exciting wines at one of the top wineries; get a sugar hit at Arataki honey; take a photo of the towering Te Mata Peak; indulge in freshly picked strawberry and chocolate sauce, cascading over real fruit ice cream or frozen yoghurt at the Strawberry Patch. And visit New Zealand’s oldest winery – Mission Estate and taste their food-altering wines.

Mohaka Rafting

Kick-start your adrenaline on these rafting tours.

Starting off with Grade 2, perfect for the whole family; gorges, mountains and native forests peacefully pass by as you gently cruise along the mild waters.

Grade 3 rafting begins with the basics, before thrusting into the unknown. Jump off a cliff into the chilly waters, swim through a gushing rapid, and stop mid-way through the four-plus hour trip to enjoy a lunch in the forest.

Grade 4/5 will get your heart racing, highest commercially grade rapid available. Cruise along flat calm water, suddenly surging into a 700 metre grade 4 rapid. Work hard to keep on the raft. Race past house size boulders, propelled through narrow shoots, for a moment catch your breath to grasp the surrounds before being propelled once again through water.

Family Adventure

For a day out with the kids visit Hawkes Bay Farmland Zoo. Friendly goats, sheep, Llamas and Alpacas roam the lush farmland, nudging your hand to encourage you to fed and pet them. It’s quite surprising how gently the large Llamas actually are, tickling your hand when they eat the pellets.

Spread out your picnic blanket, and relax on the green grass or picnic tables dotted around the zoo. Bite into your sandwich and watch the Flemish giant rabbits roam the picnic area, seeing what they can steal from you.

Watch a peacock spread its colourful wings to impress the female, pigs rolling on the dirt, sheep grazing, calves bouncing along behind their mother, ostriches extending their large necks to see what is going on, and turtles meandering along in their pen without a care in the world.

But the highlight would definitely be the pony rides. Little ones being led around the zoo track, while the older ones can learn to ride horses.

Experience the oldest route of transport, on horseback. Stride past the Tuki Tuki River, disappearing under the Black bridge, taking you to look at views of the many vineyards of the regions, nibble on your lunch while you look out over Cape Kidnappers.

The National Aquarium of New Zealand

You can only hazard a guess what will be greeting you when you enter into the architectural design of a stingray. Teetering on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the marine life living here rivals those throughout New Zealand.

Wind your way beneath the Oceanarium on the travelator; immersing yourself in the underwater world of eels, trout, sea horses, turtles, octopus and tropical marine fish.

Amble along the displays of kiwi, tuatara, water dragons, native frogs and crocodiles.

The Behind-the-Scenes tour is a stimulating way to encounter the animals hidden amongst the marine life. Observe the sharks circling the ocean tank, touch the scaly back of a turtle, or have a blue-tongued skink climb up your arm.

Experience close encounters with these amazing creatures, prepare and even feed some of the marine life, tour around the viewing areas as your guide describes the different species of fish swimming in its waters.

But the next thing is only for the dare-devil. Take the once in a life-time experience of submerging in the blue surrounds of the water. Watch as colourful fish zoom by, stingrays gliding along the bottom of the ocean floor, then suddenly come face-to-face with the fierce and misunderstood shark as it sashays so close to you, your heart will still be pounding once you leave.

The only place in New Zealand to allow free swimming with the sharks. Even the kids that are able to swim can explore this truly awe-inspiring environment.

Whatever your preference, Napier is sure to set your senses alight.

 

Sources:

Napier, “Tours”, Accessed 15/08/11

Mohaka Rafting, Accessed 15/08/11, www.mohakarafting.com

The National Aquarium, “Swimming with Sharks”, Accessed 15/08/11

Long Island Tours, Accessed 15/08/11, www.hawkesbaynz.com

Ferg’s Fantasic Tours, “Tours”, Accessed 15/08/11

 

 

Nelson – Birthplace of Rugby, New Zealand

At the Botanics Reserve, Saturday, 14 May 1870, the first ever rugby match was played. Soon gaining steam to travel to Wellington, Wanganui, Auckland and Taranaki.

Sun-kissed fruit, organic vegetables and succulent seafood offer a menu for any food lover’s paradise. Immersing yourself in the wine culture, twenty-five award-winning wineries scattered across the region.

Sip in the Ruby Bay Lodge

Ruby Bay Lodge and Vineyard on Pomana Road sits in the midst of rolling hill country.

Originally an apple orchard, they broadened their horizons to specialise in Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Visitors can usually enjoy a glass of wine with the owners, while scanning the selections of wine on offer. Indulge in their handmade chocolate truffles, and taste the smooth, bright wines they offer with delicious fresh Nelson produce.

Fling open your curtains in one of the two lodge suites or self-contained cottage, peering outside as the sun slowly begins to rise above the snow-capped mountains.

Seifried Estate

One of the earliest vineyards to be established; the only winery in the country to produce Würzer and Sylvia grape varieties.

Recline in the restaurant and sample the fresh seafood from the Tasman Bay, while watching your children play in the playground. Or taste one of their many wines in the outdoor courtyard, watching as the sun flashes over the vineyard.

Rummage through their little shop that sells wine-related gifts, locally made chocolate truffles and grape juice.

 

 

Natureland Zoo

A fun and interesting day for the family. Stroll through the walk-through aviary that provides a natural environment for a variety of bird species. Watch as the kea, tui, kakariki flitter from branch to branch, the array of colour zooming by your face.

Try to spot the tuatara and gecko hiding in the dark, perhaps peeking out every now and then to scavenge for food.

Crouch down to watch the skink slither along the ground.

Monkeys slinging from the overhanging, some brave enough to come close to the bars.

Otters sliding in and out of the water. The farmyard animals lazing in the dirt, some cautiously approaching to see if you have any food for them.

 

 

Jetting Through the Waters

For the adrenaline junkie, you cannot by-pass the white water rapids in Nelson. Known for the best rafting and kayaking in New Zealand, eighteen rivers at your fingertips, a variety of adventures ready for you to explore.

Take the road out to Buller Gorge; it will definitely be worth the trip. The forty minute Goldrush Jet hurtles to the foot of the Ariki Falls, charging through the pink granite rocks of the gorge, zooming under the swing bridge. As you heart begins to go back to its normal rhythm, hear the calls of the native birds pierce the air.

But there’s more to do than just jetting through the waters. Meander through the many walks that cross over the gorge, through native bush and beyond. Suddenly happening upon the Swing Bridge. A hundred and ten metres in length, New Zealand’s longest swing bridge. Precariously cross over the bridge, gently swinging backwards and forwards over the river, feeling as if you may swing right off.

Travel back to the gold rush days, journeying along the river, squatting down with your tin plate, searching the river for gold. Perhaps spotting that golden trinket floating to the surface.

If you haven’t had enough to get your adrenaline going, come fly on the Comet line; a 160 metre flying fox zooming you high above the river. Go with a friend to make the ride even faster.

But if you really want to give your adrenaline a boost, the Supaman ride launches your body into the air at high speed in a harness, but… feeling the freedom of your flight without a seat. Your body being propelled through the air, your legs dangling underneath you.

Trekking across the Valley

Hop on a horse and trek across the thirty-nine hectare grazing block on the Blackbird Valley Horse treks. Meander past Boer goats, cattle peering up at you with blinking eyes, horses grazing in the fields. The array of Appaloosas, Standardbreds, Clyesdales and Thoroughbreds scatter the fields.

View Mount Arthur, the Western Ranges and Tasman Bay high on the hilltop.

Happy Valley Adventures

For the ultimate day out, you’ve got to visit Happy Valley. The variety of adventures to choose from makes it suitable for everyone.

Quad bike across farmland, into a thousand acre native forest, the under sixteen’s can ride on the back.

Pass by the giant Matai tree and explore native bush. Or zoom along tracks designed to get your heart pumping.

But if that wasn’t daring enough, you’ve got to try your hand at the world’s longest flying fox. Set high on forest hills; risk a glance below at the sea and river valleys. Soar like a bird for over three kilometres and up to 150 metres.

Listen to the quiet of the forest, native bird calls echoing around you, suddenly being propelled with speed over the ranges.

Fasten your seat belts as the ride takes you forward and backwards, abruptly freefalling 800 metres, and reaching speeds of 100 kph. You won’t be forgetting that ride in a hurry.

But if you want something a little more laid back, sit inside a luxury 10-seater driving around the land, strolling through native bush, peer upwards to the looming Matai tree, connecting with the ancient forests of New Zealand.

Or horse trek through rivers and along mountain trails.

Make the most of it when the weather is wet. Set inside the Argo – an amphibious vehicle splashing through the river, doing 360-degree spins, covering you in mud.

Explore the Cavernous Wonders

Te Anoroa Caves takes you on a journey to an ancient place deep within the earth. Crystal chandelier threads form a jagged light above you, frozen in time. Fossilised shellfish appear to have been swimming in the clear formations, suddenly being caught as the formations hardened.

Jagged peaks fill the subterranean cavern, beckoning you further inside its abode. The one-and-a-half hour underground adventure takes you on a memorable journey through 350 metres of ancient limestone formations.

 

Chetwood Forest

Ngarua caves sits inside the hills of Takaka. Amble through Marble Mountain, the entire mountain covered in a spectacular array of colourful smooth marble. Gingerly step beyond the threshold to what appears to be a ballroom; the stalactites hanging like chandeliers in the Wedding Cathedral.

Silently wander along the radiant passageway, suddenly happening upon the large complete skeleton of the extinct Moa.

The unique array of colour from the usually plain limestone will remain still fascinating to as how this has been created.

But why you may ask, Chetwood Forest?  Well, for all those Lord of the Rings fans you’ll know what I am talking about.

Imagine climbing over the miniature mountain ranges, following Strider through the rough country to escape the Black Rider. The hobbits wondering if they can trust this ranger as they disappear into the misty terrain.

Catch a helicopter to take the flight of Saruman’s black crows as they flew through the sky to look for the Fellowship.

End your day by sojourning to Harrington’s Brewery in Richmond to sample the stout that was served over the bar in the Prancing Pony.

Skydive over the Abel Tasman

Most locals and visitors alike will claim that if you are going to skydive somewhere, it’s got to be with Abel Tasman skydive. Giving you one of New Zealand’s highest skydives.

Climb to altitudes over mountainous ranges, peering down at golden beaches, shimmering turquoise waters beckoning.

At 16,500 feet a gust of air fills the craft, your heart begins to pump, your stomach does somersaults, and you wonder ‘what the earth was I thinking?’

Suddenly it is upon you, your body flies out over the side, plummeting down through the air, the South and North Island beneath you, your whole body seeming to float above you, feeling as if you are leaving everything behind.

The exhilaration and adrenaline pumps through you, propelling towards land in only seventy-five plus seconds, but seeming to last an eternity.

Finally landing, you ask “can I do it again?”

 

Kayaking along the Waters

Cable Bay Kayaks invites you on a journey filled with the awesome wonder of nature. The waters taking you past Nelson’s newest marine reserve, kayaking across clear coastal waters, hidden underneath a bounty of marine life.

Seal’s calls echoing across the rocks, the dolphins surfing the waters near you, sea birds flying above you.

Snorkel in the water to catch a glimpse of the colourful fish drifting in and out from the rocks.

Navigate through cave formations concaving over you, casting a dark shadow as you pass under it.

Swimming with the Seals

Abel Tasman Seal swim aqua taxi takes you on a forty-five minute cruise up to the Tonga Island Marine Reserve.

Submerge into the waters where you can have a one hour swim with the seals, perhaps even spot a baby seal, curious cuties that often approach humans to investigate.

Appreciate the peaceful ambience, as seals relax and interact with their natural watery environment. Their large brown eyes with their little button noses, and tiny pixie ears will melt your heart. Their bodies zigzagging in the water, baiting you to follow them to the unknown.

 

Nelson introduces you to what the South Island holds in store.

Sources:

Ruby Bay Lodge and Vineyard, Accessed 26/08/11 , www.rubybayvineyard.co.nz

Seifried Estate, Accessed 26/08/11, www.seifried.co.nz

Bay Tours, “Winery Tours”, Accessed 26/08/11

Top Wineries of the Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Esk Valley Estate

Swing back rustic cellar doors into another era, grapes sourced from Hawkes Bay and Marlborough. Famous for “The Terraces”, a grape variety only released when they produce an exceptional vintage.

Robert Bird first planted grapevines in 1933, although now owned by George Fistonich, founder of Villa Maria estate in Auckland and Marlborough; they ran this estate independently, putting their brand on Esk Valley.

Gimblett Gravel vineyard supplies Esk Valley with grapes famed for becoming one of the most New World terroirs.

While Marlborough supplying them with some of the best Sauvignon Blanc grapes in the world.

Rows of vines slope over the beige landscape, shadowed by trees. Sprawling views over the ocean creates one of the most picturesque winery sites in New Zealand.

Step inside, reach for a glass and be transported to another place.

Aromas of peach, musk and orange citrus, with grapefruit enhancing acidity sparkles to life in the Esk Valley Verdelho 09. The only winery to produce this variety.

Savour the richness the Gimblett Gravels grapes provide of plum, red fruits and dried herbs in the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec blend.

Notes of stone fruit and characters of grapefruit sing out in the Reserve Chardonnay 06.

But, of course, you cannot by-pass this estate without relishing in the richness of the Terrace range. Grown on a steep, terraced, north-facing hillside, producing a bold dark wine. Planted with Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes. Cherry and blackberry embody the deeply coloured wine.

Created to look like a historic Italian village, a palm-lined drive extends out to the terraced gardens, sitting below the hillside vineyard.

Hatton Estate

Established in 1992 by Michael and Colleen Daymond-King, specialising in creating wine from the 1200 acre Gimblett Gravels region.

Gradually becoming known for producing high quality Bordeaux blends and Syrah. Utilising the sheltered districts some fifteen kilometres from sea, bringing a warmer sea breeze than other regions.

Even though they use the Gimblett Gravels grapes, they too produce some outstanding varieties on their forty acre vineyard.

Most awarded for their Hatton Estate Gimblett Gravels Tahi 2000 by notable wine critics, and the internationally known chef, Gordan Ramsey. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot; first hints of chocolate mixed with vanilla, revving up the palate with bold dark fruits.

While rich black berry fruits, with a long finish explains why they are so well-known for their Syrah.

Bob Campbell from Gourmet Wine Traveller 2007 talks of the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc in the Reserve 2005, “elegant… with fine ripe blackberry and cedar flavours”.

Or linger on the EC2 Chardonnay 2007 with aromas of grapefruit and mandarin, notes of lime, apple, watermelon and grapefruit lingers on the palate.

It is certainly an enjoyable tasting experience, sipping the wine with the staff, while they give first-hand accounts of what you are drinking.

 

Lime Rock Wines

A unique experience awaits you as you enter into Lime Rock land. Situated on north-facing limestone hills, creating an elevation of 230-270 metres, resulting in cooler sites.

The ten hectare vineyard is mostly made of Pinot Noir with nine different clones. Parts of the vineyard established on shallower soil providing more elegant wines, while others set in deeper soils, producing more muscular wines.

Rosie Butler with Australian husband, Rodger Tyran, took up the challenge of establishing such an elevated vineyard in 2000. Additionally specialising in Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Merlot and the unusual variety, Grüner Veltliner. A variety mainly planted in Austria, full of exotic tropical fruit notes.

Blessed with a climate similar to Marlborough, they produce exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, the raging sea below producing a cooler area, different from other Hawkes Bay vineyards.

As you climb the slopes, the land lays before you. The Ruataniwha Plains to the Ruahine Ranges stretches out amidst a fine mist that can sometimes be seen floating above the land. Vines sloping down the hill toward the cellar door, plantings of perennial plants scattered about, providing food for beneficial insects.

Bring a picnic, sampling the Ellsgrove gold medal extra virgin olive oil, saffron and gourmet products.

Sip a glass of Pinot Gris 2009; ripe nectarine, peach, ginger, orange peel and spice sending aromatic notes.

Boysenberry, dark red plum fruit with sweet truffle are brought to life in the White Knuckle Pinot Noir 2007.

But there is one Pinot Noir that cannot be missed. Receiving gold in several Australian wine tastings, the Lime Rock Pinot Noir 2008 balances out undertones of plum, cherry, blackberry and wild thyme.

All the while glancing at the stone sculptures that litter the garden, giant oyster and scallop shells from ancient limestone are displayed.

 

 

Kim Crawford Wines

Who could have guessed it? Certainly not Kim Crawford, who first started his winery in a small Auckland cottage, extending out to be one of the most well-known New Zealand wineries. Wines found in some of the top international restaurants.

Beginning in 1996, Kim Crawford and his wife Erica began their biggest project; building on crafting wines that were lacking in the market, becoming well-known for their fruit-forward Chardonnay.

Now a virtual vineyard, selecting grapes from Marlborough, Gisborne and other parts of Hawkes Bay, bringing the wines back to the winery to produce some purely organic wines.

You could easily get lost amongst the rows of vines, looking outward to the sea. The backdrop of blue, mixed with grainy green develops the landscape into a mass of vines and nature.

Obtaining numerous awards for their wines, although an emphasis on whites, their reds certainly get a following.

‘Kim’s Favourite’ Pinot Noir small parcels of cherry and plum drift to the nose, while red and black fruit dominate on the tongue.

Aromas of black plum, white plum, berry and currant lingers on the palate from the Hawkes Bay Merlot.

Their Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc supplies intense aromas of gooseberry, passion fruit and citrus flavours.

While a light sweetness of pear, peach and nectarine glisten in the Marlborough Pinot Gris.

Zepelin

Located a kilometre from Havelock North, the distinctive shape of Te Mata Peak in the background, you enter into a 2.8 hectare vineyard that slightly slopes to maximise sun exposure. A paved driveway lined with palm trees across the expansive lawn, violet shoots out from the green. You could be forgiven for thinking you have entered onto someone’s private property, landscaped to create a family-style haven.

In the late ‘90s, Dr. John Loughlin established this boutique vineyard, dedicated to producing classic Bordeaux-style wines, predominately planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, later extending it to Syrah.

One of their favourite times of year is February, harvest time. When deck chairs, umbrellas and picnic rugs litter the lawn. Wine tasting, food and entertainment fill the hot summer days.

Only producing reds, they dedicate themselves to producing the very best. The winemaker having worked with Syrah for over a decade.

Zepelin 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon is filled with spice and baked fruits, deepening into dark plums, mocha and cedar.

Damson plums, ground pepper and molasses deepen the seductive wines of the 2002 Syrah.

A particularly sweet number is their 2006 Rosé; made from the intense Cabernet Sauvignon, lightened with berry fruits and sweet toffee, rhubarb characters hint for lingering sweetness.

The soil and sunshine hours of the Hawkes Bay enables wine makers to produce light and sweet white wines, while the red wines deepen in colour and flavour, alluring you to further dapple in their seduction.

 

Sources:

Peter Janssen, “150 of New Zealand’s best”, Vineyard Visits, HarperCollins Publishers 2007

Esk Valley Estate, Accessed 13/09/11, www.eskvalley.co.nz

Hatton Estate, Accessed 13/09/11, www.hattonestate.com

Lime Rock Wines, Accessed 13/09/11, www.limerock.co.nz

Kim Crawford Wines, Accessed 13/09/11, www.kimcrawfordwines.co.nz

Zepelin, Accessed 13/09/11, www.zepelin.co.nz

The Jewel of the Bay of Island, Paihia, New Zealand

The Jewel of the Bay of Islands

Paihia is renowned for a popular holiday spot all year round. But Paihia is not just a place to go sightseeing, but a place filled with history, culture and dynamic people.

Paihia’s Past

Maori were the first settlers to create their own haven with their traditional Maori huts. Paihia was a dream, surrounded by crystal water and friendly encounters with the range of sea-life that inhibited the sea all around them.

White people arrived in Paihia in 1823.The Reverend Henry Williams led this group of missionaries and went on to build a house, store and the first church in Paihia. This church was constructed using raupo, a traditional Maori building material. Henry was able to gain the trust and respect of the natives, as he tried to understand and learn their way of living. He was actively involved in attempting to eliminate the friction between the Maori and Pakeha (white people).

In commemoration of all the work Henry and his brother William did, plaques have been set up by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust along Paihia’s waterfront.

One of the most significant days in New Zealand history was in 1840 when the local chiefs, missionaries and Queen Victoria’s officials gathered to sign the treaty of Waitangi.

The Locals

Back in the 1800s it was mainly Maori who occupied this small paradise. But now when you visit, there is a diversity of cultures, nationalities and people. Retirees are commonly seen relaxing outside their homes, enjoying the view and the quiet atmosphere around them. Going into the township the locals take it easy, without a care in the world. No rushing or beeping of horns. Some even greet each other and stop to chat.

The locals that work in the shops are always friendly and willing to help. Even offering a quick history lesson when you inspect one of the unique Maori carvings.

Walking along the waterfront allows you to see those out on the water enjoying the time to relax away from the land. There is no sense of city life, just a carefree attitude and an appreciation to what they have. With a small population of around 2000 people, it’s easy to get caught up and forget about the life you left behind.

The Culture

The Maori culture is dominantly seen with carvings and jewellery in the stores, to carvings and other art work dotting the scenery in the town centre. Maori maraes scatter across the countryside, where you can experience first-hand the traditions of the Maori. Stores are filled with Maori artwork, depicting ancient legends, Maori gods, and the scenery that used to be untarnished before the white people came.

The Location

The small town of Paihia is surrounded by a variety of island getaways. It is just south of the mouth of the Waitangi River and opposite Russell; a little island known for its chocolate factory. You can view how their chocolate is made, get a couple of samplings and buy some exquisitely wrapped chocolates.

Where to stay

Accommodation ranges from expensive sea view apartment and motels, to the cheaper options of caravan parks, backpackers and hostels.

The Retreat is for those that literally want to ‘retreat’. Situated in a quiet 10-acre peninsula, with private bushwalking, good fishing, and easy access to coastal walking and native birdlife. Only minutes from the town centre makes it convenient to stop in at one of the many tourist shops. It has to be said that this place is not one if you are trying to keep to a budget. Tariffs range from $105-$195, and increases in peak season.

Another motel to recommend is the Bayview Motel. It has waterfront apartments, all with sea views, 1 km from the Waitangi Treaty ground, and 1 minute from the town centre. Prices range from $90-$350 in peak season.

For ones that want to enjoy Paihia cost-effectively, then a camping and holiday park is for you. The Waitangi River runs through the park. You can go swimming, kayaking and fishing all in this wonderful location. You have the option of staying in your own tent with power at $14-$25, or cabins/onsite caravans for 2 people at $45-$90. If you are not keen on camping, then the tourist flat/motel is available at $55-154 a night.

For those backpacking around New Zealand try the Mayfair lodge, Peppertree lodge, YHA

Paihia and Saltwater lodge. All of these places have friendly staff and a wealth of different people staying there. So you have a chance to meet people from all over the world, as these places offer cosy accommodation suited for encouraging people to get to know each other.

Picking up a Souvenir, or two

For the people that enjoy going on holiday and spending much of their time shopping, then Paihia is not for you. Paihia is not known for high-fashion shops and malls, but for the quaint shops catered for that special buy you cannot find elsewhere.  There are a variety of shops in the town, but two are recommended by the locals and visitors alike.

Classique Souvenirs is located in central Paihia, containing all you need to show people back home what this place is really like. Products available range from native wood products; like Kauri clocks, Maori carvings, wooden bones, photo frames and photo albums. The clothing is made from possum wear, Earth Nymph clothing range, leather squashy hats or souvenir t-shirts and socks, amongst other things. You can buy bone, greenstone or paua jewellery and thermal mud, honey, kiwifruit and lanolin range cosmetics. This shop is especially good for the late-night shopper, as they are opened from 9am-9pm in the summer, seven days a week.

The Cabbage Tree is said to be the best place to shop in Paihia. They cater in New Zealand products ranging from bone/jade carvings, kauri and rimu, bowls, handblown and fused glass, ceramics, jewellery, wall art and quality clothing – possum and merino. They are also open 7 days a week, until 7pm in summer.

Sightseeing, events and festivals are plentiful in Paihia. They offer for those that want an adventure, to those that want to relax and enjoy the culture of Paihia. The Maritime Building offers a wide range of activities on sea and land; they can tell you the best cruises to go on, as well as restaurants, entertainment and local festivals.

Experience Paihia at its finest – on the Water

Paihia is renowned for its deep sea fishing and diving, offering a range of cruises. These cruises leave the Paihia Wharf and visit some popular destinations, like Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock. Throughout the cruises you will frequently see Bottlenose dolphins, and in some of these cruises you will have the opportunity to swim with these beautiful creatures.

For those that have always wanted to experience the sea air the traditional way, the R.Tucker Thompson Sail Training Trust offers this unique experience. You will travel in style on Northland’s own tallest ship; a replica of a 100-year-old schooner, like a working ship in the 18th century. On this adventure you can participate with the crew to set the sails, climb the rigging or just relax in the sun. This ship will explore the bays and beaches of the Maritime Park. Morning Cream tea and a barbeque lunch is also provided.

 

There are a variety of other cruises and water activities to choose that range from diving, fishing, dolphin discoveries, sailing and cruising, scuba diving and sea kayaking.

The favourites are the Cream Trip Super Cruise, touring around the many islands, exploring the famous ‘Hole in the Rock”, and allowing the opportunity to spot the marine wildlife.

The other is the Cape Brett ‘Hole in the Rock’ cruise, where you discover the local islands, thread your way through the ‘Hole in the Rock’, pass by beaches and secluded bays, as well as spotting the dolphins, penguins, whales and gannets living in their natural habitat. There is always an opportunity to catch these magnificent creatures in action on your camera.

For those that are looking for an adventure, the Excitor Fast Boat Adventure – ‘Hole in the Rock’ is for you. It offers you a unique adventure, speeding around the Bay of Island Maritime Park. And feel your adrenaline as it surges through the ‘Hole in the Rock’.

Experience Paihia and its surroundings – on Land

Wine tasting is one of those activities that suits just about everyone. Marsden Estate offers succulent wine tasting in the midst of citrus-covered slopes. This estate is named after Samuel Marsden, who first introduced the grapevine to New Zealand in 1899. This activity not only provides an enjoyable experience coupled with pure New Zealand wine, but it is affordable at $20 for admission. Don’t forget to take some home with you.

Popular land tours include Cape Reinga Wanderer via Ninety-mile beach; strolling through the towering Kauri forests, hurtling along the sands of Ninety-mile beach, skimming down the large sand dunes at the Te Paki quicksand stream. Others include exploring through Northland Glow-worms and Culture; allowing you to experience a half of a day travelling from Paihia to the cascading Haruru Falls, the Cheese factory, Maori Arts and Crafts, famous Hundertwasser Toilets, Kawiti Glow-worm caves and lots more.

If you are interested in experiencing the culture and traditions of Paihia, then join a group of like-minded people to voyage the Waitangi River on the Maori Culture and Canoe tour. You will experience the old way of transport for Maori, exploring your surroundings in a traditional Maori canoe. The history of the Maori traditions will be revealed as you visit a traditional Maori village, feel the sprinkle of the gushing water from the Haruru or Waitangi Falls, and learn Maori chants and songs. You will have the opportunity to talk with the local Ngapuhi Maori tribe, sit beneath the Haruru Falls, get exclusive photos, and see native flora and fauna. This tour really captures the original culture of Paihai.

Capture the Heart of Paihia

If you are interested in discovering Paihia, walking tracks weave throughout the Waitangi-Haruru Falls, Opua Coastal Walk, Kauri Walk, Kerikeri River Track and Russell Coastal Track.

The cultural and historical options are especially a fascinating find. The Shipwreck Museum and the Waitangi Treaty House provide you with a wealth of information.

Their cultural activities provide a feast of visual and performing arts, music theatre, workshops and art exhibitions. Others provide an experience of Maori culture, sound and lights, revealing the journey about the first Maori chief that discovered New Zealand to the present day.

Relax and Enjoy

To avoid disappointment, check with the Maritime     building or Jason website to see which tours are seasonal.

When you want to chill out, there a variety of restaurants to choose from; a la carte to bistro, cafes, and takeaways.

Don’t forget that there is also dinner cruises available. A well-known one is Darryl’s Dinner cruise; an intimate cruise that limits around 8-10 people. While you are enjoying a steak, chicken or fish meal with accompaniments, Darryl will introduce you to all the scenery that surrounds you. When dusk has fallen, the little boat will wander over to the Haruru Falls, where you can sit and watch the water surge over the colourful array of lights.

So whatever your preference, Paihia has it all. The number of adventures from land and sea provides a breath-taking trip that will leave you gasping for more.

Sources:

Paihia accommodation, attractions and travel guide, Accessed 15/07/11, www.jasons.com/NewZealand/Paihia

Things to do in Paihia, Accessed 15/07/11, www.seaspray.co.nz/paihia

Things to do in Paihia, Accessed 15/07/11, http://www.ki-wi.co.nz

Wellington – the Fourth Top City in the World

Wellington – the Fourth Top City in the World

The Capital of New Zealand, housing the well-known Beehive, a sphere of mountains, surrounded by hills and rugged coastline. One can easily escape the wind that ripples through the city by entering into another world of arts and culture.

The city designed almost like a ring; shopping, galleries and cafes encircle one another in this compact city.

Lonely Planet naming it as the fourth top city in the world to travel.

Wellington Sightseeing Circuit

You could easily get overwhelmed by all that is on display, but the Wellington Sightseeing Circuit Bus has you covered. A hop on/hop off bus travelling on a continuous loop around the city’s main attractions. Starting anywhere from Te Papa; New Zealand’s main cultural museum, travelling to Wellington Zoo, Carter Observatory, Zealandia and Parliament.

Or view the city from the top, travelling upwards on the cable car, overlooking the city from all directions. Escape the cold chill in the café, allowing panoramic views while sipping a hot coffee and biting into a freshly-made muffin or scone.

Te Papa Museum

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is world renowned for its travelling exhibitions; from Lord of the Rings, to international exhibits and national arts.

The faint smell of sea salt lingers in the air as you step inside the free vibrant meeting house; home to New Zealand’s geology and natural environment.

Get a first-hand glimpse of what New Zealand used to be like when the Maori first occupied it. Tread inside a traditional meeting house, become entranced amongst New Zealand art and visual culture, explore the always-changing exhibits.

The Taste of Treasures Tour is for anyone that wants insights into Maori culture, studying the artefacts hidden in this museum. Settle down for a bite to eat of traditional Maori food; rēwera bread with pikopiko pesto, kawakawa and manuka short bread, and kawakawa tea with manuka honey.

The shop and café offers a basket of little trinkets that can keep you in the museum for hours.

Carter Observatory

Carter Observatory offers a state-of-the-art full-dome digital theatre, allowing a glimpse into the starry heavens. The kids (the small and big kids alike) will love stepping through space, strolling through the world-class interactive multimedia experience. Being able to escape earth, and view astronomical artefacts.

Zealandia

Zealandia: The Kauri Sanctuary is home to some of the rarest wildlife. Meander along the bush tracks in the sanctuary valley, a large predator-proof fence encloses the 225 hectare of regenerating forest.

Play with the interactive displays; see, feel and investigate the history of New Zealand’s wildlife and landscape.

As darkness falls, you can take the Zealandia Night Tour; stepping beyond the fence, into the world of the kiwi, and try to spot the one of the many kiwis that hide in this darkened domain.

Wellington Zoo

Stop off at Wellington Zoo, home to animals from far off countries. The close encounters provide an entertaining and fascinating way of getting to know these gorgeous creatures.

Discover what a cheetah smells like, feels like and what kind of sounds they make. Come face-to-face with the tallest animal in the zoo – the giraffe. Hand feed the cutest animals. Or crouch inside a red panda enclosure, their small paws resting on your knees as you feed them grapes, their large dark eyes staring trustingly up at you.

Lookout from Mount Victoria

But that’s not all to see and do in the capital. Climb the Mount Victoria Lookout to watch the ferries sail into the harbour. The 196 metre tall hill offers panoramic views of the entire city; wander along the cycling and walking trails up the side of the hill, leaving the city that is so close behind.

Unless you are with a guided tour, you could be forgiven for not realising where you are. This unassuming spot begins the adventure for the hobbits in the ‘Lord of the Rings’. Imagine walking around the trail the hobbits took when they fell from the embankment after being chased for stealing food. Envision the scene as the hobbits made a mad dash to the ferry, running away from the Black Rider. The eerie breeze wafting leaves towards you.

Stop-offs along the Way

Roam through the twenty-six hectare of exotic forests, native bush, and specialist gardens of the Wellington Botanic Gardens.

Or for those movie enthusiasts, visit the Weta Cave; where you’ll find a mini-museum containing characters and props from the movies that were produced here. Or select from a variety of pop culture collectibles. Immerse in the world of WellyWood.

Tours out and about

One of course can get overwhelmed by what’s on offer. So take one of the many tours that provide an informative journey throughout Wellington.

Zest Food Tours will take you to the best gourmet shops, enabling you to sample local specialities.

Seal Coast Safari propels you over twenty rugged kilometres; along beaches, over rocks, around bays and headlands, the ocean lapping the 4WD trucks.

Or take A.T.A Tours; a variety of tours offering camping, mountain biking, fishing and the much-loved ‘Lord of the Rings’ tour.

Drink and Eat in Style

Loved and celebrated amongst locals and tourists alike, Duke Carvell’s Swan Lane Emporium presents a unique eating experience, taking you far away into the sunny days of Spain. Live entertainment will accompany this social meal, your group congregating around the table to share the variety of tapa dishes they have to offer.

Kapiti Coast

If you are up for a bit of a drive, then Kapiti Coast is a must-see. The walking and tramping in one of the most valuable native reserves in New Zealand is sure to offer any novice to enthusiast a chance to explore.

Colonial Knob Scenic Reserve protects the most significant area of native forest.

Flail against the strong winds gusting through the top sections of the walking tracks. It may be a bit of a climb, but it is certainly worth the effect.

Your body feels as if it is floating above ground looking out to Kaikoura range and Mount Taranaki. The ethereal feeling of flying high above everything else is hard to compete with. Sit on the harbour at sunset in summer and watch amazed as the hills light up with a red glow.

Rangatira also reveals some spectacular scenery. Meander on the short walks through forest, stop and observe the bird life fly from branch to branch. Or for the more experienced, track through mature forest on a steady uphill climb.

Hear the distant call of the tui, bellbird, waka, kaka, kereru and North Island Robin beat out a tune, breaking the strange silence of the forest.

View the shoreline where shag and gull species peak at the rocks, reef herons plunge into the sea emerging with a fish for their dinner.

Kapiti Island Reserve

Discover Kapiti Island Nature Reserve, dive or snorkel in the clear waters; explore the ‘Hole in the Wall’ and three different marine habitats.

Kapiti Island nature tour supplies an inspiring insight into another world. Once you disembark from the boat, you feel as if you have entered into a heavenly sanctuary.

Walk through native forest, emerging to cabins dotting the landscape.

Listen to your guide telling you about Maori culture and storytelling. Spot the Takahe, kaka and weka. At night take the overnight kiwi tour; immersing into the night life of the kiwi, your best chance to see the kiwi peeking at the ground for food.

You certainly won’t need to set your alarm in the morning. One of the main reasons people come to the island reserve is for the magic that begins in the morning.

Just before the dawn begins to break, the call of the kiwi echoes throughout the hillside, next the bellbirds and tui’s chime in.

You have to leave your bed to see what is going on. Stepping outside, it seems like a seven symphony orchestra is playing on your back step. The almost deafening sound of hundreds of birds echoing throughout the chasm is hard to comprehend, standing spell-bound at the marvel and purity of nature.

Enjoy a hot breakfast on the veranda, and watch the seals sunbathing on the rocks.

Nga Manu Nature Reserve

Yet another place to see the popular New Zealand icon on the thirteen hectare property. Spot the tuatara; cautiously wander into the kiwi enclosure, watch the silver fern flitter around the trees. Drift around the reserve with your guide as birds flock to your hand to feed. Observe the gruesome feeding ritual of the eel, or see a diver submerge into the scaup dive tank.

Martinborough Vineyards

Just a bit more than an hour’s drive from Wellington is a spectacular haven filled with vineyards. Martinborough Vineyard was one of the first four in the Martinborough region. Resembling the climate to Burgundy in France, this vineyard specialises in the smooth wine, Pinot Noir. Stroll through the formal rose garden to the tasting room to enjoy the varieties of wines they offer.

Tirohana Estate lives in the heart of Martinborough country. A family-owned vineyard, they offer a petite range of wines that remain pure in nature. Spread out your blanket and enjoy a pre-packed lunch while savouring their Pinot Noir or dessert wines close to the building resembling an old-fashioned house.

Also indulge in the wine jellies, chutneys and preserves they make.

If you are a Pinot Noir lover, then Martinborough is your wine heaven.

Wellington is not only the place where ‘Lord of the Rings’ was made, but a cool little capital surrounded by unsurpassable landscapes and animal life.

Sources:

“Wellington”, Accessed 16/08/11, www.wellingtonnz.com

Kapiti Coast, “Nature Tours”, Accessed 16/08/11

Wellington Zoo, “Close Encounters”, Accessed 16/08/11