Auckland is New Zealand’s largest – and most diverse – city. Set between two magnificent harbours with superyachts moored just metres away, it’s no wonder it is nicknamed the ‘City of Sails’. Offering a sizzling blend of urban sophistication and multicultural style, Auckland is comprised of beautiful beaches, expansive hiking trails, enchanting islands, thermal springs and impressive vineyards. Try one of the 30 boutique wineries at Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf, explore the dramatic black sand beaches in the West, and sample gourmet cuisine from around the globe down by the Viaduct Harbour.
Known for both its astounding beauty and its rich history, Bay of Islands is a subtropical micro-region encompassing 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula. Much of the action here is on water, with yachting, kayaking, diving, cruising, big-game fishing and swimming with dolphins all popular during the summer months. Visit New Zealand’s most important historic site, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, or immerse yourself in Maori culture in Kaikohe. Find time to stroll through the lush Waipoua Forest to stand face to face with Tane Mahuta – the ‘Lord of the Forest’ and the world’s largest Kauri tree.
As well as showcasing New Zealand’s fascinating Maori culture, this gem on the North Island is known for its bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs. Sitting within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is a geothermal nirvana. After marvelling at the brightly coloured turquoise and orange crater lakes at Wai-o-tapu Thermal Valley, enjoy a simple soak in one of the many hot streams. The area is also home to some of the rarest native birds, reptiles and fish, making it ideal for nature lovers. For a culture fix, head to Rotorua Musuem where fantastic exhibits on Maori art and history are on display.
In the middle of the South Island lies Christchurch, New Zealand’s oldest city and one of the world’s most unique destinations. Once renowned for its classic neo-gothic architecture, much of the city’s heritage was destroyed in the February 2011 earthquake; now, following extensive urban reconstruction, it’s one of the top places to visit in the country. Set against an impressive alps-to-ocean backdrop, the city is alive with a plethora of exciting bars and restaurants, with new establishments popping up regularly. Look out for the vivid street art as you explore the parks, gardens and avenues, and keep your eyes open for the transitional Cardboard Cathedral, a symbolic structure of hope. Being the gateway to Canterbury, Christchurch is also the perfect location from which to explore Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Famously recognised as one of New Zealand’s leading producers of wine, Hawke’s Bay on the North Island should be your first point of call on any wine trail. Featuring the country’s oldest operating winery, as well as over 30 others open for tastings, visitors can expect to sample some of the finest cabernet sauvignons, merlots and syrahs ever produced. For a wine tour with a difference, rent a bicycle and cycle from one winery to another; alternatively, take to one of the numerous flat trails and soak in the impressive scenery as you cycle by. The seaside city of Napier is an Art Deco marvel and a must see - rebuilt after the 1930’s earthquake, it reflects the architectural styles of the times. While there, shop at the farmers' market for locally grown delicacies, indulge in artisan gourmet food, and join the lunchers at Napier’s Great Long Lunch.
Fiordland is one of the most striking and aesthetically-pleasing areas of New Zealand. Situated on the west coast of the South Island, the landscape is punctuated by inviting lakes, ancient rainforests clinging to gigantic mountains, and waterfalls cascading into deep black fiords. Venture into Fiorland National Park and explore Milford Sounds – the spectacular fusion of nature described by Rudyard Kipling as the 'eighth wonder of the world'. Look out for penguins and dolphins, as well as whales – the occasional one makes it all the way into the fiords. Even more secluded is Doubtful Sound. This Māori-named 'place of silence' is an active hive of wildlife and greater in size than Milford Sound, but far less visited.
New Zealand’s year-round adrenaline capital lies on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in the South Island. Skydiving, white water rafting and jet boating are a must do while here; bungy jumping, canyon swinging and skiing in the winter are also available. For the more faint of heart, Queenstown offers an array of gentle walking and hiking trails. Off-the-grid afternoons come in the form of private helicopter flights to remote alpine locations for a champagne picnics, while indulgence can be found in the luxurious boutique spas dotted throughout the city. Head out to the Central Otago region, where exquisite wines are to be savoured against a backdrop of ‘Middle-Earth’ – made famous in Lord of the Rings.
A lively city, proud of its craft beer and thriving café scene, Wellington is New Zealand’s arts and culture capital. Situated at the southern end of the North Island alongside a dramatic harbour, it exudes an intoxicating mix of culture, history, nature and cuisine. The country’s biggest food festival - Visa Wellington On A Plate - falls in the middle of August, and sees producers, suppliers, eateries and diners coming together for 17 days of taste-bud-tantalising events. For amazing views over the city, take the cable car up the hill to Kelburn; to experience the best of Wellington’s waterfront, try the City to Sea walk.