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New Zealand, in Maori called Aoteaoroa means “the land of the long white cloud”, AKA, it does rain a lot, but this is why its famous for its lush green landscape, along with towering mountains, navy blue lakes, exciting geothermal geysers, boiling lakes and simple laid back life at the beach or farm.
I grew up there since I was 10 years old, just north of the economic capital Auckland in the North Island. New Zealand is a majestic place to travel because of its geographic diversity and small population which means you can really escape to peace and quiet. Depending on what you like to do, a trip to New Zealand can be a mix of relaxing, adventurous, natural loving or foodie experiences.
The North Island hosts the city you would fly into, Auckland, also known as the “city of sails” which is a great place to try restaurants, visit vineyards and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. Also interesting is geothermal Rotorua and Troutfishing at Lake Taupo.
If you have extra time, the vineyards and Orchards of Hawkes Bay and the Art Deco town of Napier are lovely if you are a foodie and want a diversion.
The South Island has only 1 million people of the 4 million in NZ and is by far 10 times more majestic. Queenstown is a must see with breathtaking lakes and numerous extreme sports and hikes as well as a buzzing little town. A few hours away are the dramatic Milford Sounds Fjords where you can take a boat through the waterfalls and massive cliff faces.
The hiking in Malborough, at the top of the South Island is pristine and you can do kayak or hiking tours with stays at department of consveration huts or just single day hiking if you prefer.
Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier can be hiked over anytime of year. This is still on my to do list.
New Zealand is a big country about 1000 miles long over 2 main islands and some very small roads so DO NOT think you can do it in 1 week (it should take 2-3 weeks comfortably) and definitely do not try and squeeze it in with Australia (an enormous country) in your 2 week vacation!!
Here are top AUCKLAND tips:
– Stay at Mollies for an authentic colonial vibe in this Herne Bay Villa turned hotel.
– Visit WAIHEKE ISLAND, the art and vineyard island in the gulf which is a 40 minute boat ride from Auckland Harbour. Have lunch at Mudbrick or Cable Bay Wineries and do a winetasting tour around the island with a rental car of hop-on hop-off buses.
– Visit the Viaduct Harbour to eat, drink, dance and the new Britomart area for eating, drinking and shopping.
The food culture is New Zealand is a fusion of Italian and Asian (namely Thai and Indian) with some Moroccan spices thrown in the mix. Cooking usually features fresh local ingredients and the execution can range from amateur to world class depending where you go.
The locals are friendly, laid back and very sweet. You will want to stay longer!