New Zealand hit list: Must-see attractions and new tours

New Zealand hit list: Must-see attractions and new tours

After spending more than 24 hours in the air to reach New Zealand, you can bet that anyone who makes the epic trip will want to make the most of their holiday.

This stunning country offers far more than can be seen in one visit, but as many won’t have the opportunity to go twice, make sure they tick off all their ‘don’t-miss’ sights.


North Island

Bay of Islands: These 144 islands, surrounded by clear seas, offer countless secluded beaches. Book clients on a cruise through the ‘Hole in the Rock’, or a speedboat ride to the tip of Cape Brett. They can swim with dolphins, or visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for an authentic kapa haka performance.

Auckland: Nicknamed the City of Sails, New Zealand’s largest city looks stupendous from the water, whether visitors splash out on a cruise on a classic yacht or take the ferry. The viewing platform from the Sky Tower also provides a stunning panorama. Attractions include Auckland Zoo for animal encounters, a daily Maori cultural performance at the Auckland Museum, or the thrills and spills of the rides at Rainbows End Adventure Park.

Waitomo Caves: Underneath the lush green landscape lurks vast limestone cave systems. The brave can raft, abseil and crawl their way through them; the more sedate can take a boat ride through Glow Worm Grotto – both will see the beautiful rock formations.

Rotorua: The geothermal power of the earth itself is more than evident at the North’s Island’s volcanic central plateau. Three active volcanoes tower over Tongariro National Park; steaming craters, mud pools and scalding geysers can be found at Rotorua and further south at Lake Taupo.

Hawke’s Bay: Wine buffs and casual tipplers alike will be happy in the country’s leading area for red wine production. As well as visiting charming vineyards, they can sample locally produced artisan foods at farmers’ markets and take in the art deco architecture of Napier, a town rebuilt almost entirely in this style after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931.

Wellington: The compact harbour capital is home to heritage attractions such as the national museum Te Papa, a gothic cathedral and parliament buildings. Tell clients to take the historic cable car up to the Botanic Gardens, where they can take in the fantastic views of the city. Wellington is easy to negotiate, with four distinct quarters offering shopping, cafes, entertainment and nightlife and cultural attractions.


South Island

Abel Tasman National Park: The smallest and most manageable of New Zealand’s national parks offers unspoilt tranquillity. Recommend clients either trek the coastal track – usually a three to five-day walk – or get the feel for the area on a day’s sea kayaking trip.

The West Coast: The wilderness is writ large in the Southern Alps, with the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers sweeping down valleys, surrounded by rainforest. Suggest clients splash out on a heli-hiking experience to get the full, jaw-dropping flavour of the ice formations. Greymouth was a gold rush town, and visitors can still pan for the shiny stuff, or head out to Punakaiki Pancake Rocks to se the blowholes – these spout sea water most impressively at high tide on a windy day.

Christchurch area: The Tranzalpine train between Greymouth and Christchurch winds through dramatic gorges and over viaducts. On reaching their destination, visitors can take a tram ride around the elegant neo-Gothic town, or punt on the Avon river. Snow-capped mountains create a backdrop for the town of Kaikoura, where whale watching cruises set sail to seek out sperm whales, fur seals, dolphins and penguins.

Queenstown: Make sure any extreme sports fanatics spend time in adrenaline capital Queenstown, which sits in the shadow of a mountain range modestly called The Remarkables. In winter, they can ski and snowboard, in summer hike and mountain bike, climb, ride horses, bungee jump, sky dive or paraglide, kayak, sail, jet-boat, canyon or raft. Quieter pursuits include golf, or fishing for rainbow trout in Lake Wakatipu.

Fjordland: Yet more breathtaking scenery; this time mirror-calm lakes, snow-capped peaks, and steep fjords. The most accessible of these is Milford Sound. Suggest a cruise to appreciate the full impact of the glacier-scarred rock faces rising vertically from the sea. The flora and fauna of this isolated area are unique; a guided walk along the Milford or Routeburn tracks is a great opportunity to experience it.


Sample package

Premier Holidays’ 16-night New Zealand Wonderland escorted coach tour visits Auckland, the Bay of Islands, Rotorua, Wellington, the Marlborough wine region, Queenstown, Franz Josef Glacier, Milford Sound and Christchurch.

Prices start from £2,155 per person, with extensions possible in Auckland and Christchurch. (08444 937 444,


What’s new from operators

APT has launched its 2009 Australia and New Zealand brochure, with more touring options in New Zealand, 50% discounts on single supplement costs and smaller group tours on all Premier Plus Escorted tours.

New tours include the three-day Bay of Islands tour, from £535 per person twin-share, and for the first time, guests on any tour can choose from three meal plans; room-only, bed and breakfast or half-board. (020 8879 7444, APT agent site)

Travel 2 has new additions to its New Zealand Programme. The Small Ship Overnight Cruise in the Bay of Islands costs from £148 per person twin-share on new boat Ipipiri, which sails for the first time in October. Price includes one night’s accommodation, meals, transfers, use of kayaks and snorkelling equipment.

The new 21-day Land of the Long White Cloud self-drive itinerary starts from £1,183 per person twin-share and features highlights as well as more off-the-beaten track delights, such as the French-influenced fishing village of Akaroa, and the lively city of Dunedin, with its Scottish heritage.

Travel 2 now also offers luxury small ship cruising on Oceanic Discoverer. There’s a five-night trip out of Auckland to the Bay of Islands and Great Barrier Island, and a 12-night cruise between Auckland and Queenstown. Book before July 31 for 20% off the long itinerary (down to £3,036) or 25% off the short one (down to £1,482). (0800 0224 182,

Kuoni’s 2009/10 brochures feature 17 new properties across New Zealand, and many new tours and experiences. These include glacier heli-hiking, whale watching, overnight cruises in Milford and Doubtful sounds, self-drives and overnight stays in a treehouse at Hapuku Lodge in Kaikoura.

Gold Medal feature two new properties. Kauri Cliffs at the Bay of Islands consists of 11 guest cottages, each with two suites and open fireplaces. Prices start from £324 per person twin-share, half-board. Blanket Bay near Queenstown is a boutique retreat with views of Lake Wakatipu and the Humboldt Mountains, in the heart of Lord of the Rings country. Prices start from £227 per person twin-share, on a half-board basis. (0800 923 7777,

Attraction World has added two new tours in Queenstown. The Funyak Safari includes a thrilling jet boat trip up the Dart River, followed by canoeing back down, pausing for lunch and to explore the streams, rockpools and forests. This costs £123 per adult/£79 per child. Bungee jumping off the 43-metre Kawarau Bridge costs £73 per adult, £49 per child. (0871 700 8888,

Keith Prowse Attraction Tickets has added an Auckland City Highlights and Maori Concert arrangement, from £34 (£17 for children). The city tour includes a visit to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, followed by a 30-minute Maori Cultural Performance. (02890 232425, Keith Prowse agent site)


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