Its magical sceneries, indigenous culture, and renowned Kiwi hospitality still captivate many visitors from all over the world. Join us as we journey through Middle‑earth and witness its magnificence and grandeur. Welcome to New Zealand! By: Khristy Choo.
Charter a private helicopter flight to the Cape Reinga region, the most northern point of the country accessible to the public. Along the way, you will be mesmerised by the spectacular bird’s-eye view of New Zealand’s least urbanised region, with lush forestry and secluded bays and beaches. The Cape Reinga lighthouse is an iconic landmark, and here you will be able to witness dazzling swirls of crystal clear blues, where the Tasman Sea collides with the Pacific Ocean. There is strong cultural significance here as well, as the Māori (indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand) believe that spirits of the deceased travel up here, before leaping off the Cape on their journey to the afterlife. Not to be missed in this region is the famous 90 Mile Beach, with its pristine waters and silky ivory sand, and views stretching out as far as you can see, and the Te Paki Sand Dunes, with magnificent sand formations that will astound you.
Helicopter flight and tour prices begin at over US$3,000 for two people, with multiple add ons available to customise your trip. www.saltair.co.nz/
Propelling New Zealand into the spotlight from 2001 onwards were the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, leaving movie fans excited to see and trace the footsteps of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins in real life. There are over 150 filming locations that may be found all around New Zealand, but perhaps none as recognisable as a farm in Matamata, where an entire village of Hobbit-holes was built for the movie. You can book a private tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set, where your personal guide will enthrall you with behind-the-scenes facts, production secrets and point out intricate details you may have missed in the movies as you leisurely stroll through The Shire. Another popular filming location is Mount Ngauruhoe at the Tongariro National Park, with its dramatic landscape bringing life to the fiery Mount Doom, and the active stratovolcano is well worth a visit on a clear day.
Base yourself at the exclusive Owner’s Cottage at Huka Lodge, whose previous guests include Queen Elizabeth II, Bill Gates and Barbra Streisand. There, you will enjoy a relaxing stay and wake up to splendid views of the Waikato River, the longest river in New Zealand. From the lodge, you may choose to fly or be chauffeured to the National Park.
Summer rates for the Owner’s Cottage begin at over US$5,000 per person per night. www.hukalodge.co.nz/
FIORDLAND, SOUTH ISLAND
Home to an impressive 14 fiords is the Fiordland National Park, a destination that is often at the very top of the South Island travel list for most visitors. This region is known for having the most rainfall in the country, but this is something to look forward to, as the rainfall only further enhances the magnificent waterfalls that exist in the fiords.
The most popular by far is Milford Sound, often dubbed as the “Eighth Wonder Of The World,” and a location that is not to be missed with its picturesque views and curious wildlife that occasionally come out to greet their equally curious human counterparts.
To explore this area in its entirety, opt for a luxury multi-day cruise to fully immerse yourself in the scenery, history and nature. See the thunderous waterfalls up close and personal, and explore historical sites, islands and beaches, while keeping an eye out for sightings of the Royal Albatross, Fiordland crested penguin, and rare native birds.
MOUNT COOK, SOUTH ISLAND
Aoraki/Mount Cook’s list of attractions boasts an impressive trifecta consisting of the country’s highest mountain, largest glacier, and being one of the best recognised stargazing sites. There are many ways to discover this area in person: for instance, you could embark on one of New Zealand’s most scenic day walks, passing multiple swinging bridges before ending up at the iceberg-speckled Hooker Lake with views of the majestic mountain.
Fancy a picnic amongst the peaks? Charter a private exclusive ski plane flight, and enjoy the myriad of colours from above: the crisp white blankets of snow enveloping the mountains and the calming hues of blues and greens of the glacier lake, before landing on the glacier itself. Your pilot will set up a private picnic for you to enjoy on the snow while you bask in the spectacular views from all angles. Price per person is over US$700.
As a certified International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association, this region is one out of very few places in the world recognised for having exceptional quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment. Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and lights and be prepared to be awestruck at the sheer density of stars you will be able to witness here. Book a stargazing and astrophotography tour and lesson, and have professional photographers capture this special moment of you under the glittering southern night sky. Prices begin at US$100, with private tours available upon request. https://starlightadventures.co.nz/
Surrounded by jaw-dropping views of Lake Wakatipu and the famous Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, and there are activities available to suit every type of traveler here. You will be able to catch a glimpse of the town’s mesmerising scenery in the upcoming film A Wrinkle in Time, as portions of the movie were filmed in this area.
For a head over heels experience, make your way over during the winter and have your pick of four incredible ski fields, each boasting unparalleled scenery and suited for both first timers and seasoned professionals. Test out the slopes with an all-day introductory package, priced at over US$500 per person, and discover for yourself why these world-class sites attract many return visitors every year. www.nzski.com/queenstown
If skiing and snowboarding are not your cup of tea, explore the mountains by flight instead, and combine it with a tour of some of Central Otago’s premium vineyards for a sweet finish to the day. As a region that is renowned for producing award winning Pinot Noirs, wine enthusiasts will have personalised and exclusive tasting sessions with the vineyard owners and enjoy cheese and wine pairings that will tantalise your tastebuds. Prices per person begin at over US$1,000 for the day. https://appellationwinetours.nz
For the more adventurous travellers, Queenstown boasts hundreds of land, air and water-based activities to fill your time, from paragliding off Coronet Peak (US$150, https://tandemparagliding.com/), to high-speed jet boating through the Dart River into Te Waipounamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (US$280, https://www.dartriver.co.nz/) and cruising the waters of Lake Wakatipu onboard the TSS Earnslaw, a 1912 Edwardian vintage twin screw steamer to Walter Peak to spend the night at the luxury farm stay lodge there (prices begin at over US$1,200 per night, www.thelodge.net.nz
The name AJ Hackett is synonymous with bungy jumping, now boasting over 3.5 million customers who have jumped at their various sites worldwide. This activity is particularly special in Queenstown, however, as it proudly houses the first ever commercial bungy site, over the famous emerald green waters of the Kawarau river for those who dare to take the plunge.