Amazing New Zealand

Mount-Cook-view.jpgIt’s by no means an overstatement to say New Zealand is a truly fascinating place. This island nation to the southeast of Australia has an abundance of natural beauty, along with all the modern amenities of its larger cities. As anyone who’s been to New Zealand can testify, it’s like no other place in the world that you can visit with Transat Holiday Luxury Collection.

 

The Country

New Zealand is made up of two large land masses, the South and North Islands separated by the Cook Strait, along with several smaller islands. The country’s varied terrain ranges from mountains with glaciers to warm sandy beaches. Geothermal activity provides plenty of hot springs and pools throughout both main islands, ideal getaway spots for locals and tourists alike.

Hiking the remoter sections of the country is simply jaw-dropping. With plant and animal life that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, towering rain forests, snow-capped mountains and thousands of miles of isolated back country, it’s no wonder many movies with fantasy themes have used these areas as backdrops. New Zealand is also a popular destination for thrill-seeking tourists, with Queenstown in particular earning the name “The Adventure Capital of the World.”

 

The Cities

Auckland, the country’s largest city, is home to around one and a half million people. That’s around a third of the population of the entire country, so it’s no surprise that the city is the nation’s economic powerhouse. Downtown has historical buildings intermingled with glistening skyscrapers and the iconic Skytower towering over the busy streets.

Auckland is packed with wonderful restaurants that serve up Asian-inspired dishes as well as locally sourced beef and mutton. As part of an island nation, the city also has its fair share of incredible seafood restaurants. The influence of the ocean is so strong, one in four Auckland residents has access to a boat of one kind or another.

Wellington, located on the southern tip of the North Island, is New Zealand’s capital city and second most populous. It’s also a coastal city that many sailing and fishing enthusiasts call home. Art and sport play major roles in the city’s culture.

The small city of Nelson, at the top of the South Island, is renowned for its arts scene and warm microclimate. With dozens of great beaches within easy reach, including the long stretch of Tahanianui on the edge of the city itself, it’s no surprise that Nelson is a popular holiday destination with locals.

 

4 Great Extreme Sports to Try Out in New Zealand

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There’s no disputing that New Zealand is home to some of the best activities for thrill seekers, with adrenaline junkies from around the globe travelling to this spectacular destination. Not only does it offer a panorama of incredible views and rich history, New Zealand has become known as the home of extreme sports. To make sure you get the most out of your next adventure to this beautiful country, check out these 4 great extreme sports to try out in New Zealand.

 

Bungee Jumping

Many people associate New Zealand with this iconic activity, and it has almost become a rite of passage that all visitors participate in a bungee jump into one of the many stunning ravines and into the sparkling rivers below. For those who want to try a new twist on the theme of bungee jumping, make sure you check out canyon swinging. As the name suggests, instead of a straight up and down bounce, you jump from the platform and are swung at speed through the canyon for a truly unique thrill.

 

Heli Skiing

If ordinary skiing isn’t quite enough to get your adrenaline pumping, you need to try heli skiing. Imagine going on a ride in a helicopter through some of New Zealand’s most incredible alpine scenery, climbing higher and higher until you reach the peak with the slopes dropping around you on all sides. From here, you jump out of the helicopter and onto the snow, and begin your heart pumping, high speed downhill descent for the skiing adventure of a lifetime.

 

Zorbing

New Zealand is the home of this unique extreme sport, which involves little more than a giant inflatable ball and a willing participant. After clambering into the ball, you plummet downhill, bouncing in all directions in a wild and unpredictable ride unlike any other. It’s sure to get your pulse racing, and give your friends plenty of opportunities to take some hilariously memorable photos to show back home.

 

Snow Sports

The land of the long white cloud is famous for its amazing snow. With such perfect conditions on offer, it’s no wonder that snow sports have become so popular in New Zealand. Professional skiers and snowboarders from around the world travel here to test their skills and carve up the scenic alpine regions of this unique destination. There’s simply nothing like watching the incredible freestyle tricks and stunts, and if you’re feeling up to it, you can always try it out for yourself. Whether you’re pulling your own tricks or simply watching the show, New Zealand’s incredible snow sports never fail to impress.

 

5 ways to make a trip to New Zealand more affordable

Dolphins in NZ

New Zealand is an incredible place to visit – the beauty and waterfalls of Milford Sound, amazing hiking in places like the Abel Tasman and Tongariro National Parks, swimming with dolphins and scuba diving in the far north, and so much more. There’s a good reason why it’s a must-see destination for so many people.

The problem is that visiting New Zealand and experiencing all that it has to offer is far from a cheap exercise. So distant from the rest of the world, with a high dollar and dozens of costly activities on offer, spending a few weeks down under can be an expensive exercise. Here are x tips for making that holiday of a lifetime a much more affordable experience.

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The best road-trip route around New Zealand’s North Island

Road to Mount Cook

One of the most common requests we get from people planning trips to New Zealand is for assistance with driving routes.  New Zealand is a relatively small country (only a little larger than the UK), but has a surprisingly large number of attractions, spread out from top to bottom.  Being long and thin, with winding roads and few highways, driving times can be deceptively long – 300km can easy be a four or five hour drive, for instance.  As a result, it’s important to plan a sensible route to make the most of your time and avoid spending all of your holiday staring at the back of the campervan in front of you…

In this, the first of a two-part series, we provide some suggestions and tips for road-tripping around the North Island. Note that unlike the Australian visa rules, many nationalities visiting New Zealand do not need to arrange a visa ahead of time.

With most international flights arriving in Auckland, it makes sense to start a North Island route there.  If you’re arriving in Wellington instead, either by plane or ferry, just adjust the driving plans accordingly.

 

Two week North Island road trip:

Auckland (1 night) – Start in the City of Sails, giving yourself a night to recover from the long flight and explore a little.  Stay somewhere reasonably central to avoid having to drive too much in this, New Zealand’s largest and most congested city.

Raglan (1 night) – Drive south to Raglan, New Zealand’s premier surf town.  With a relaxed beach vibe, black sand beaches and plenty of opportunity to for surf lessons and board hire if that’s your thing, it’s a great introduction to the Kiwi lifestyle.

Waitomo (1 night) – Keep heading south to Waitomo, a tiny village that’s world-famous for its glowworm caves.  There are both free and paid opportunities to see the famous bugs, as well as plenty of caving and other adrenaline sports.

Taupo (2 nights) – Head east across the island to Taupo, a small town on the shores of New Zealand’s largest lake.  As well as relaxing on the sandy shore, there are hot springs, waterfalls and jetboat rides to enjoy.  If the weather – and your fitness levels – are good, drive or use a coach service to get to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, often called the best one-day walk in the country.

Rotorua (2 nights) – Stay in Rotorua for at least a couple of nights to make the most of the surprisingly large number of activities it has on offer. There are several bubbling mud pools and steaming geysers in and around this small city, which explains the ever-present smell of sulfur. With a large Maori population in the area, there’s also the opportunity for visitors to experience a taste of semi-traditional culture and food. Adventure activities abound as well, most of them involving propelling yourself down a hill at high speed. Mountain biking, go-carting, even Zorbing (eg: rolling down a hill in a giant inflatable ball) are all an option for the brave!

Mount Maunganui (1 night) – Keep heading north to one of New Zealand’s favourite summer holiday destinations, Mount Maunganui.  With both a quiet harbour beach and thundering surf beach literally a few hundred metres apart, plus a large hill perfect for hiking, running or even paragliding and many beach bars for relaxing in afterwards, it’s easy to see why the town is so popular with local and foreign visitors alike.

Coromandel Peninsula (2 nights) – A beach where you can dig your own hot pool, majestic caves, great sailing, diving and bush-walking are all reasons to linger in the Coromandel.

Paihia/Bay of Islands (3 nights) – A long drive awaits, heading west then north through Auckland and up to Paihia in the Bay of Islands.  One glimpse of the beach as you drive into this little town, however, and all is forgotten.  Swimming with dolphins, sailing and several other water activities about, as well as day trips to the dunes of Ninety Mile Beach – or just relax and do nothing if the sun is out for the last part of your trip.

Head back to Auckland to drop the car off and reluctantly board the plane back home, after a road trip to remember!

If you have three weeks or more in the North Island, add extra days in any of the destinations listed above, or extend the route to take in the country’s capital and coolest city, Wellington.

 

The Unconventional Guide to Visiting New Zealand

Queenstown sunrise

New Zealand is unmistakeably a highly popular tourist destination for a range of different travellers. While some are happy to get off the plane in Queenstown and see a prescribed list of sites before boarding to go home again, other travellers are seeking something unique. They are pursuing a way to see the heart and soul of this magnificent country, to explore the spectacular landscape and look beneath the surface to discover the rich cultural heritage that unites this diverse land. Here is the unconventional guide to visiting New Zealand for the inquisitive and adventurous traveller.

 

Getting There and Back Again

With so many people taking the option of flying to New Zealand, they inadvertently miss out on an incredible journey before they’ve even arrived. Why not make your trip an exceptional experience within itself and consider one of the many specialised cruises to New Zealand. From voyages that will take you weeks and explore a range of unique destinations, to a several day trip to get you straight there, there’s a cruise for every taste. Indulge in decadent luxury or take a smaller vessel for a more intimate journey, the choice is entirely yours.

 

Adventure Activities

New Zealand is often heralded as the home of adventure, and once you spend some time exploring the activities on offer you’ll soon see why! Bungee jump from bridges, swing through canyons, hike the spectacular snow-capped mountains, kayak through impeccable lakes, abseil down waterfalls in a caving expedition or gallop through the scenic Lord of the Rings landscape on horseback. The adventure continues with the adrenaline rush of heli-skiing, white-water rafting, snowboarding, luging and downhill mountain biking.

It’s not just about thrill seeking though. As you undertake these incredible adventures you will travel through some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes in the world. Taking time to trek through the wilderness allows travellers to see firsthand the diversity of flora and fauna, as well as experience the awe-inspiring landscape on foot. This magical experience will leave you with memories that last a lifetime. Such beautiful surrounds are bound to kindle the spirit of your inner adventurer, and leave you impatient for the next expedition.

 

Cultural Exploration

With such a rich cultural heritage, New Zealand offers a truly unforgettable experience for anyone with an anthropological interest in their surrounds. There are a range of specialised tours hosted by local Maori guides who will take you further into the history and spiritual significance of this glorious landscape. From the importance of art, music and dance to the traditional practices still being kept alive by dedicated Maori communities, your experience of New Zealand will be enriched by their extensive knowledge.

Get the most out of your New Zealand trip, and take a trek off the beaten path. Open your mind to new and inspirational ways of travelling to gain a deeper insight into this striking country. A curious attitude and passionate sense of adventure are all that’s required to delve into the beauty of New Zealand.

 

Written by Emma Jane

Tutukaka

Tutukaka

If you’re a scuba diver – or would like to be – check out the small town of Tutukaka, on the North Island’s east coast.

The coastline is stunning, with rocky shores, pristine white sand beaches, and gorgeous sheltered bays that barely see a visitor even in the height of summer. There are some brilliant coastal walks along these rocky shores too.

The best part of this part of the country, though, is the diving. With the wonderful Poor Knights Marine Reserve just offshore, there’s an abundance of great dive spots within easy reach. Tutakaka was voted as one of the ‘Top Ten Must-Do’s in New Zealand,” and it’s not hard to see why as soon as you get there.

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Auckland

Auckland

Flying into Auckland is a memorable experience, with the city and harbour sparkling below you as the plane comes in to land.  There are plenty of airlines that fly into New Zealand’s largest city, and if your favourite carrier does not, it is worth checking to see if their partners do.  For instance, there are no direct Jetblue flights into Auckland, but partners such as Singapore Airlines and Emirates operate regular services to the city.

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Land of adrenaline

Whakatane - image via Flickr/rengber

Sheer adrenaline, drama and remoteness? Where am I talking about? New Zealand of course.

It’s a long way from the rest of the world, so if you’re wanting to put some distance between reality and fantasy, escape hum-drum, well this is the place. The flight however, well that’s the downside, at around 25 hours, yet this is the price we pay for experiencing something truly mind-blowing.

New Zealand is a country of contrasts and contradictions, from the North to the South Islands you’ll find rugged, dramatic coastlines, volcanic landscapes, huge ravines and lakes, lush forests and imposing mountain ranges, all alongside some very cosmopolitan cities. It’s a country that begs to be explored.

In my opinion, New Zealand is all about getting outdoors, to get amongst nature and breathe in some of that fresh, southern hemisphere air. New Zealand is famous for white-knuckle sports, with bungee jumping and sky diving famous. If you’re going to do it anywhere, I’d highly recommend you save yourself for here! Queenstown is particularly famous for its jumping sites.

If that’s not for you, maybe something a little more sedate is in order. Walking and hiking are very popular, and there are countless tours and routes. Some of the more famous ones head through the Fjordland National Park, such as the Milford Track, and take several days to complete. Be sure to book your tour with a reputable company. Of course, a basic level of fitness is required, but there’s a tour for everyone, and the scenery is simply magical.

Continuing the theme of the great outdoors, the North Island is home to the huge and imposing Lake Taupo, created entirely at the hands of a massive volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. The lake is fantastic for water-sports and to explore the surrounding area, still holding nods to the volcanic history, including nearby Tongariro National Park.

So let’s move onto the cities. Auckland is probably the most famous, and with good reason, since it’s by far the largest. Sitting in a waterfront position on the North Island, Auckland has something for everyone, with many water-based activities for those wanting to indulge, and lots of shopping opportunities for those, like me, who prefer a little retail therapy!

A visit to New Zealand wouldn’t be complete without heading to the capital, Wellington, and if you’re into arts and culture, this is for you. Te Papa is the famous attraction in the city, documenting the country’s cultural story through art. There are of course yet more shopping opportunities, and many bars and restaurants to relax in. This city is known for its delicious, top-notch cuisine and wines, so I’d definitely suggest you indulge a little!

New Zealand is of course where Peter Jackson chose to shoot the Lord of the Rings, because of the country’s hugely diverse landscape. I don’t think you’ll find another country with such beauty all in one place.

Nelson

Nelson - image via Flickr/Kiwi MikexNelson is known as the sunshine capital of New Zealand, and with good reason.  Along with the highest number of sunshine hours in the country, the town boasts great beaches, wonderful vineyards and outdoor adventures within easy reach, a thriving local art scene, award winning restaurants and a burgeoning café culture.

Three national parks lie within a 90 minute drive of the city centre.  Abel Tasman, Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi National Parks are all well worth a visit, with some great short and multi-day hikes.  Secluded bays and dense forest have attracted visitors to the area for decades.

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