Auckland is New Zealand's largest city and will most likely be your entry point into New Zealand. Also known as the City of Sails, or as Kiwis themselves name it Little Big City, Auckland is certainly the most vibrant and most happening city in New Zealand. By international standards it's quite small, but it's also one of the world's most exciting waterside cities. Situated in the Hauraki Gulf the city is surrounded by water, and this is reflected in the number of leisure boats per capita, which is the highest in the world. To really appreciate it, you have to take to the waters, sailing on the harbour or taking a ferry to one of the numerous islands, including Waiheke and Rangitoto Islands, or a little bit more off the beaten track, Great Barrier Island.
Bay of Islands
Northland is a region in New Zealand rich with historic significance, and it is also the birthplace of New Zealand. It is one of the first regions settled from Polynesia, and also the place where the European settlers first made contact with the Maori. The main attraction in this region is the sublime maritime park of the Bay of Islands, with no less than 144 islands and secluded bays. Most visitors queue up for the Bay of Islands, but all along the East Coast you'll find scenic, sheltered bays and exquisite beaches.
Also called the "Winterless North", the subtropical climate is pleasant throughout the year, and an aquatic playground for a whole range of leisure and adventure activities such as diving, fishing, sailing, surfing, kayaking and dolphin swimming. The main gateway for these activities is Paihia.
Green rolling hills and lush farmlands are the main decor in Waitomo/Waikatoa, and it is home to some well known icons such as the world class surf breaks in the bohemian seaside town of Raglan, which also happens to be our home. The set for the Shire in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbiton movies in Matamata is a unique experience not to be missed, and the world famous Waitomo Caves are a magical place, with numerous options to explore the caves, whether participating in one of the many adventure activities or marvelling at the wonderful light display created by glowworms.
Rotorua is New Zealand's main geothermal area and a centre where Maori culture thrives. It is situated on the shore of Lake Rotorua, and the whole region offers a mix of pristine lakes to enjoy. Explore the many geothermal wonderlands with boiling mud pools, geysers, steamy and colorful lakes, and unwind at a natural hot spring spa or choose from one of the therapeutic spa and massage therapies
The Coromandel Peninsula is a favourite among New Zealanders themselves, and it's not hard to understand why. Its only a 2 hour drive from the major cities Auckland and Hamilton, but yet it feels quite remote and isolated, so it's an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The fact that is also boasts some of New Zealand's finest and most pristine beaches may obviously play a big role as well!
Lifestyle in the Coromandel is very relaxed and there are many coastal towns each with their own distinct character scattered across the peninsula. It is a haven for those seeking an alternative lifestyle away from the city.
Taupo - Central North Island
New Zealand's main volcanic area, the Taupo Volcanic Zone, stretches in a line from White Island, north of the Bay of Plenty, through Rotorua and down to Tongariro National Park, which proudly claims the title of dual UNESCO World Heritage Area. The Central Plateau, at the heart of the North Island, is the centre of New Zealand's volcanic activity, and the volcanoes put on a spectacular show from time to time, perhaps once around every 7 years.
The Ruapehu/Tongariro National Park region is a mecca for outdoor lovers, year round! Summer is a great time to hit the hiking or biking trails, and in winter you can ski down an active volcano, and it is also the largest ski field in New Zealand! The world famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing is New Zealand's premier day hike, if not one of the world's! For an even greater appreciation of all the volcanoes, the Tongariro Circuit is a 3-4 day tramp around the volcanoes and is one of New Zealand's Great Walks. The fresh rivers near Turangi provide for world class trout fishing, which can also be found in Taupo.
Lake Taupo is New Zealand's largest lake. In fact, it is the largest fresh water lake in Australasia, and with the plethora of activities on offer (from fishing and boating on the lake or scenic flights over the voclanoes to the adrenaline pumping activities such as skydiving, bungy jumping, jetboating) it is on most traveller's itineraries. Taupo is also the source of New Zealand's longest river, the Waikato River, and the Huka Falls are a spectacular sight to behold.
Hawke's Bay - East Coast
The East Coast of New Zealand is a sun blessed region and receives most sunshine hours annually across the entire country. No surprise it is also one of the largest wine regions in the country, and there's no shortage of world class wine to sample on a variety of available wine tours.
Beautiful beaches can be found all along the East Coast, and as the first place to see a new day in the world, the sunrises on show every morning are devastatingly spectacular. Inland you'll find towering forested hills in the Kaweka and Raukumara Forest parks, and a little more inland the majestic Te Urewera Park, taking you back in time with ancient and enchanting forests.
The East Cape is a scenic, isolated and little known region in the North Island where the pace of life is laid back and the settlements are predominantly Maori. The drive around the Cape offers magnificent views of the wild coast dotted with little bays, inlets and coves that change their mood together with the weather. For a unique, remote experience off the main tourist trail, this is a must place region to visit in New Zealand.
Southland is most famous for Milford Sound, and while a visit to Milford Sound simply cannot be missed, it is well worth spending a little more time in this incredible frontier of rugged fiords, mountains, spectacular coastal scenery and an abundance of marine and bird wildlife.
The spectacular Fiordland National Park, part of Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area, includes some of the best walks in New Zealand such as the world famous Milford and Routeburn Tracks. Along the Milford track you'll find a sign somewhere "the finest walk in the world", and we don't argue that. It is right up there and the scenery is jaw-dropping from start to finish. Three of the walks in Fiordland National Park also belong to the Great Walks of New Zealand, the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn. The gateway into Fiordland National Park is Te Anau, beautifully situated on the shores of Lake Te Anau.
Wellington is a destination with many superlatives. It is beautifully nestled between bush clad hills and one of the most picturesque harbours in the world, it was named the best city to live in the world in 2017, and it is also one of the windiest cities in the world. But as Wellingtonians say : You can't beat Wellington on a good day, and we certainly have a soft spot for this fantastic city.
Wellington is the nation's centre for arts and culture, with the National Museum Te Papa one of the main icons of the city. The city also contains a plethora of restaurants, cafes, bars, nightlife and activities and is also home to New Zealand's parliament. Due to its compact size it is easy to explore the city on foot.
Taranaki might be a slightly less known region in New Zealand, unless you're a keen surfer or windsurfer. The landscape is dominated by the perfectly shaped volcanic cone which is Mt Taranaki, or Mt Egmont. At 2500m not only does it entirely dominate the landscape, but it also creates its own climate. On any given day, the winds may be reaching gale force on one side of the mountain, while on the other side you may be relaxing on the beach without a sigh of wind, such is the impact of the mountain.
In winter you may ski down the mountain in the morning, and in summer there are a number of excellent hiking opportunities, including hikes to the summit or right around the mountain.
Surf Highway 45 offers word class surf and windsurfing conditions and the black iron sandy beaches are wild and beautiful and aplenty.
When travelling from the North Island to the South Island on the Interislander ferry, the sheltered waterways of the Marlborough Sounds are the first sight. Picton is the destination port, and a good base to go walking, fishing, sailing, kayaking and exploring the many secluded bays in the Sounds.
The Marlborough region is internationally recognized for its world class wine, most notably its Sauvignon Blanc, and there are many different ways to sample these wines as their are many wineries offering excellent wine tours. By bike, or by luxury old timer cars, the creativity with which these tours are organized is brilliant. The seafood in this region is also sumptuous, great to combine with a glass of the local wines.
Those put off by the large crowds on the Abel Tasman Track will love the Queen Charlotte Track. The beaches are a little less exquisite, but the coastal scenery is still stunning and there are many accommodation options aolong the track.
Nelson - Tasman
The Nelson-Tasman region is blessed with an incredibly diverse natural beauty, offering no less than three of the finest National Parks in the country. From the golden beaches of Abel Tasman National Park, dramatic and lush rainforests in Kahurangi National Park, to the alpine environment of Nelson Lakes National Park, this region has it all. The area around Nelson is also one of the sunniest in the country, due to the protecting surrounding hills, so it's a popular region with travelers.
Nelson is the South Island's second largest city, noted for its fruit-growing industry in the Motueka Valley, wineries and micro-breweries. It also has an energetic local arts and crafts community with local artists exhibiting their products on the famed Nelson market every Saturday. Nearby Rabbit Island boasts great swimming beaches, boating fishing and forest walks.
Further west, Motueka is the centre of a green tea, hops and fruit-growing area, and is a good base to explore the nearby parks. The drive over Takaka Hill takes you into Golden Bay, whre you may find the biggest cave in the Southern Hemisphere as well as New Zealand's largest freshwater spring, the Waikoropupu Springs, simply called "Pupu Springs", with reputedly the clearest water in the world.
Kaikoura is a unique place by the sea where marine wildlife lives in abundance, against the backdrop of the impressive Kaikoura mountain ranges. It is well known for its range of eco-tourism activities and getting up close with the main inhabitant along its shores, the giant Sperm Whale.
Whale watching in Kaikoura is simply a must-do as you're guaranteed to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, and along the way you're most likely to see a pod of bottlenose or duksy dolphins play in the water, be impressed by the take-off and water landing of the Royal Albatross, and see a bunch of sea lions lazing about on a rock, suc is the diversity.
The ocean here also provides some spectacular seafood, and a stay in Kaikoura may not go by without having tried the crayfish
Aoraki - Mt Cook
The approach to new Zealand's tallest mountain, Mt Cook, via the blue lake of Lake Pukaki is something you will remember for a lifetime. At 3754m Mt Cook entirely dominates the landscape and as you draw ever closer, its imperious glaze on you only gets more and more impressive.
Mt Cook National Park, along with Aspiring and Westland National Parks, have been incorporated into a World Heritage Area extending from the Cook River in Westland down to the base of Fiordland. Of the 27 mountains in New Zealand which are over 300om, 22 of them are in Mt Cook National Park. The park also boasts New Zealand's longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier.
The park offer numerous hikes to get up close with Mt Cook, but also offer many other exciting adventure activities, such as mountaineering, helicopter flights, heli-skiing and sea-kayaking on glacial waters.
West Coast - Glaciers
The West Coast or Westland is a rugged and wild land with rocky beaches, deep river gorges, bush-clad hills and towering icy-peaks. Extending across a 600km long stretch on the western side of the Southern Alps, a visit here takes you through a myriad of five National Parks, yes five!!, including the World Heritage Area - Te Wahipounamu. Each of the national parks - Kahurangi, Paparoa, Arthur's Pass, Westland and Mt Aspiring National Parks - have their their own unique and distinct features. You'll find New Zealand's highest mountains, most dense and lush rainforests, natural rivers, glacial lakes, deepest gorges, and of course the two phenomenal Glaciers themselves, Fox and Franz Josef.
Canterbury is the hub of the South Island and contains its largest city, Christchurch. It is also one of the driest and flattest areas of New Zealand. The moisture-laden westerlies from the Tasman Sea hit the Southern Alps and dump their rainfall on the West Coast before reaching Canterbury. The region is dominated by the expansive Canterbury Plains, dead-flat farming land backed by the Southern Alps.
Christchurch was hit by devastating earthquakes in 2011 which damaged a lot of the inner city's infrastructure, but the city is bouncing back remarkably and the creativity and community spirit has made the city a vibrant place once again. The city's botanic gardens receive international acclaim and a great place to relax before you start your journey or have concluded your journey, as you're most likely to start or end your tour in Christchurch. The nearby Banks Peninsula was formed by two giant volcanic eruptions and has a strong French influence. The picturesque harbour of Akaroa is well worth a visit.
In North Canterbury the thermal waters of Hanmer Springs have been attracting visitors for many years, but the region is also popular for outdoor activities including hiking, rafting, bungy jumping and skiiing in winter. All of this action means it is a favourite weekend spot for people from Christchurch.
Wanaka receives slightly less attention than it's more famous neighbour Queenstown, only about an hour away, but one may argue which of the two towns is nestled in the most impressive scenery. While that may be a very difficult question to answer, Wanaka boasts a similar range of adrenaline activities, but with some more serenity about it all. The town offers fine dining and living and is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park and the Treble Cone, Cardrona, Harris Mountains and Pisa Range ski areas. Every second Easter, Wanaka hosts the incredibly popular Warbirds over Lake Wanaka, a huge international air show that sees the town swell with visitors.
The central feature of the region is Mt Aspiring, surrounded by the national park with the same name. The alpine scenery does not get any more dramatic than this in New Zealand, and offers some of the best hiking in the country. The park has wide valleys, secluded flats, more than 100 glaciers and towering mountains. The southern end of the park around Glenorchy receives most visitors and includes popular hikes such as the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's great walks, but there are also excellent shorter walks and more demanding hikes in the Matukituki Valley close to Wanaka.
For a long time Queenstown in Central Otago has had an international reputation for its spectacular scenery and adventure activities, but the region is now also recognized for its award winning wines.
Queenstown is the unofficial 'adventure capital of the world', but the entire Wakatipu region with its stunning lake and surrounding mountains alone are a real attraction. The aptly named Remarkable mountains provide the most breathtaking backdrop, whether snow capped in winter, or at sunrise or in the afterglow at dusk.
Facilities in Queenstown are excellent as well, from budget to boutique accommodation options, some of the best dining in New Zealand and a buzzing nightlife with numerous cafes and bars.
There's also great skiing in winter on Coronet Peak and Cardrona and plenty of substitute adrenaline activities in summer. Bungy jumping was invented in New Zealand and Queenstown offers a plethora of jumping options. There's also skydiving, jetboating, mountainbiking, canyoning, white water rafting, hiking, sledging, parapenting, the list is simply endless.
Scenic Franz Josef
In the heart of the village and edge of the Westland World Heritage Park, the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier is only a breath away from the spectacular Franz Josef Glacier.
This hotel offers everything you need to be able to explore this dramatic region in style and comfort. With an exceptional restaurant, serving hearty, West Coast fare, and the Moa Bar with its open fireplace, you are never without choice. Plus, with the private hot pools and our Amaia Luxury Spa close by, you can enjoy time out to rejuvenate after a day taking in the many walking tracks and other outdoor pursuits.
Free WiFi is available throughout the hotel, plus a guest information and booking service will ensure that you can make the most of every minute you spend in the Westland region.