Almost everyone who spends any length of time in New Zealand toys with the idea of staying there forever. Moreover, it’s not hard to understand why. Although New Zealand is a relatively small country, holidays in the country often leave people with a sense that there is still so much more to see, do and experience. Which, though, are New Zealand’s truly best kept secret destinations? The places off the beaten track which only the locals know about?
Photo courtesy of Angie Watson
Situated just west of Invercargill, the southernmost city in New Zealand, the Catlins are one of the most sparsely populated and naturally pristine of areas in the country. Rugged coast meets dense, ancient rainforest, spectacular waterfalls, and numerous opportunities to chance upon yellow eyed penguins and endangered bird and sea mammal species which frequent the area. If you want to lose yourself in nature, the Catlins is, in this case, the place to do it. The only problem? It gets very windy at times so remember to wrap up warm even in the summer.
Te Wairoa Buried Village
Located near Rotorua in the North Island of New Zealand, the Te Wairoa buried village was a thriving Maori settlement up until 1886 when the entire village was buried by ash due to a local volcanic eruption. Essentially the Pompeii of New Zealand, visitors can today explore over 12 acres of frozen in time Maori residences and traditional rock and wood carvings.
Hot Water Beach
Looking for a unique beach experience? Located on the Coromandel Peninsula of the North Island, Hot Water Beach is unique in that it is heated year round my natural hot springs bubbling away under the beach itself. This being the case, the most popular activity at Hot Water Beach involves digging your own hot tub and relaxing until the tide later washes it a way for you. Be careful, though, temperatures on some parts of the beach can sometimes rise to over 63 degrees Celsius!
Anyone who ever visits New Zealand will testify to the stunning natural beauty of the country. From secret beaches to rugged snow-capped mountains, New Zealand is easily one of the most visually spectacular of the world’s holiday destinations. The only problem is that after a while people simply start taking even the most stunning scenery in New Zealand for granted. In this case, where are the best places in New Zealand to experience the country at its most scenic even by New Zealand’s own standards?
Credit Orion Expedition Cruises
Made up of miles of otherwise impenetrable fjord land, a day or night cruise around Milford sound is a must for anyone who wants to experience New Zealand at its most magisterial. Even in poor weather, water cascading over towering waterfalls into the surreal quiet of the Sound itself leads to a truly magical visual experience. Surrounded by cliffs towering upwards of 3000 feet overhead, Milford Sound is also home to some of the world’s most beautiful fauna and fauna. In fact, such fauna even includes black coral, an aquatic organism which has a lifespan of over 4000 years making it the longest living known life form on the planet.
Picture courtesy of Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Located near Rotorua, the hot water spring, mud bath and geyser capital of New Zealand, Wai-O-Tapu is a geothermal wonderland perhaps most famous for the Devil’s Bath, a stagnant pool of sulfuric green water which is actually considered a natural wonder. Of course, such a description doesn’t make the area sound too scenic. However, Wai-O-Tapu itself is considered the best place outside of Yellowstone National Park in the US for experiencing truly iconic geothermal features and resultant geology and natural scenery.
Franz Josef Glacier
Composed of more than 12km of in places cobalt blue ice, walking on the Franz Josef Glacier on New Zealand’s South Island is like stepping into a surreal blue-white world looking down over miles of lush sub-tropical rainforest. One of only a handful of glaciers in the world which terminate into such temperate climates, the only place outside of New Zealand where you can experience such scenery is Argentina. In this case, taking a Heli-hike onto the Franz Josef, or for that matter, nearby Fox Glacier really is a once in a lifetime experience.
We are often asked what and where is the best rail journey in the world? So in answer to this we have detailed below some of our must do Great Rail Journeys of the World:
Consider the luxury rail experience offered by the Eastern and Oriental Express, operating between Singapore and Bangkok and taking two or three nights depending on the direction of travel. Enjoy vistas of tea plantations, rolling farmland, colonial cities and historic temples.
Take a rail journey in Vietnam, from the bustling city of Hanoi to the village of Sapa, located in the mountains overlooking spectacular views of the Ta Van valley’s terraced rice fields. The train operates overnight in both directions.
Think about the super-fast Shinkansen ‘Bullet Train’ in Japan. There are a number of routes on offer, but no trip to Japan is complete without at least one trip in the iconic Bullet Train.
Picture courtesy of JNTO
There are three iconic rail journeys available in New Zealand, one on the North Island, and two on the South.
On the North Island, the Northern Explorer runs from Auckland to Wellington through diverse countryside comprising of rolling farmland, towering viaducts and beautiful hidden valleys.
On the South Island, the Tranz Alpine train runs from Christchurch in the east to Greymouth in the west through stunning scenery. A stop is made in the small mountain town of Arthur’s Pass, where a stay enables a closer inspection of this Alpine region. The Coastal Pacific runs from Picton (tying in perfectly with the ferry from Wellington on the NorthIsland) south to Christchurch. This rail journey stops in Kaikoura en route, where a stay gives the opportunity to take a whale watching cruise.
An impressive and popular rail journey on the Devil’s Nose section of railway in Ecuador could be a part of your holiday itinerary. Named Devil’s Nose due to the many deaths amongst workers as well as difficulty of building it, the route connects the Alausi and Sibambe stations taking a stunning trip down the rocky slopes of the Andes through breath-taking scenery.
Board the tourist train in Peru taking you on a journey through the Urubamba Valley or Sacred Valley of the Incas, to the marvellous mountaintop ruins of Machu Picchu.
One of the more popular rail routes is the Coast Starlight which takes you along the west coast between Seattle and Los Angeles stopping in Portland along the way. Why not take a day out of your itinerary to treat yourself by taking a trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train where you can relax on-board the exquisitely restored vintage rail cars and experience fine dining service, multiple course meals and the stunning Napa Valley scenery. Most people see the Grand Canyon from the skies but since 1901 the Grand Canyon Railway has been taking people right through the heart of this amazing place and you could be one of them, you’ll feel like you’re travelling back in time. For something a little different during your visit to Colorado why not travel along the 45 miles of 3 foot narrow gauge track on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway which has been running since 1881. However long your journey is travelling by rail is a definite must do during your USA holiday.
Picture courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer
The most famous rail journey in Canada has to be the Rocky Mountaineer. With a variety of routes available you can spend a couple of days or a couple of weeks on board. One of the more popular routes is the Journey through the Clouds which takes you between Vancouver and Jasper with an overnight stop in Kamloops. With different grades of service available this is a must no matter how big or small your budget is. If you want to travel the width of Canada in comfort and without missing the scenery as you concentrate on driving then take a ride on The Canadian. In the space of four nights and three days, you’ll get to see the lakes in Northern Ontario, the lush boreal forest, the western Prairies, and the magnificent Rocky Mountains as you travel between historical Quebec and modern Toronto.
Australia has some of the most iconic rail journeys in the world. There isn’t enough room here to talk about them all but here are some to whet your appetite. The Indian Pacific gets its name because it covers 4352km between Perth on the Indian Ocean and Sydney on the Pacific Ocean. The whole journey takes three nights, although you can break it up with a stop in Adelaide. You’ll travel through a variety of landscapes from towns and cities to the desert like Nullarbour Plain, from the outback to the forest of the Blue Mountains. So we’ve taken you East and West, but what if you want to go North and South? Named after the Afghan Cameleers who travelled this route, the Ghan will take between Darwin in the North to Adelaide in the South going straight through the centre of Australia. If it’s just a day on a train that you would prefer then a trip on the Kuranda Scenic Railway is perfect. It was built between 1882 and 1891 and is made up of 15 hand made tunnels and 37 bridges taking you from Cairns into the Barron Gorge National Park on your way to Karunda, known as the village in the rainforest.
Africa has a wealth of train experiences that cover the whole spectrum from world leader to leaving a lot to desire. Rovos Rail has exciting itineraries that stretch from Pretoria, in South Africa through all their southern neighbouring countries and even a trip to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Where possible they travel during the day. The Blue Train is another South African luxury train that travels from Johannesburg to Durban and Cape Town or vice versa.
Picture courtesy of SA Tourism
For further information, and for assistance planning your next bespoke, tailor made holiday which could incorporate one of these great rail journeys, please call us on 01323 446550, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
New Zealand often feels like mother nature did her best to condense the very best of the natural world into two relatively small islands teetering on the utmost edge of the known world. In New Zealand, you can experience everything from Otago Peninsula beaches which are the day and evening resting place of lumbering sea lion colonies, to UK summertime skiing over some of the world’s most active volcanoes, but what makes a truly experiential holiday in New Zealand?
Credit Tourism New Zealand
Whale Watching In Kaikoura
credit Helen Wibley
Just a short drive outside of Christchurch, Kaikoura is the place in New Zealand for year round giant sperm whale sightings. Of course, sightings aren’t ever guaranteed, however, Kaikoura itself is a magical town based on a lush green peninsula where New Zealand’s western mountains literally come to meet the sea. This being the case, the area is perfect for individual travelers and family groups who are eager to get up close and personal with New Zealand at it’s most scenic and naturally exciting.
Ready to experience the ultimate adrenaline rush? Queenstown in New Zealand might only be the size of a small UK or European market town but is often classed as the world’s foremost destination for adventure travel. From jet boating down miles of dramatic rivers to bungee jumping, skiing and skydiving, Queenstown is literally host to almost every adventure activity that there is. The only question is, are you daring enough to experience all of them?
A local surfing paradise, Piha is a small coastal settlement near Auckland with just 600 full-time year round residents. Unarguably, though, Piha is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand and is a must point of call for both water sports enthusiasts and natural beauty lovers.
From skydiving to whale watching and glacier trekking, almost all holidays in New Zealand are centred around adventure. However, as one of the world’s most pristine and unspoiled countries, holidays in New Zealand are also about experiencing some of the world’s most beautiful national parks and awe-inspiring scenery.
Credit New Zealand Tourism
From Able Tasman national park which runs the length of some of the most pristine beaches in New Zealand to the skyscraping peaks of the protected parkland around Mt Cook, New Zealand is nothing if not naturally inspiring. The only question is, which are New Zealand’s absolutely must-see natural wonders?
Mt Cook National Park
Picture courtesy of Miles Holden
Watched over by Mt Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, holidays in the land of the long white cloud simply aren’t complete without experiencing the breathtaking expansiveness of the mountain locally called Aoraki. From nearby skiing on the Tasman Glacier to midnight star gazing, Mt Cook national park is a must for anyone who wants to experience alpine New Zealand at it’s finest.
Tongariro National Park
The oldest national park in New Zealand, Tongariro is a must for anyone interested in Maori culture and breathtaking mountain vistas. Encompassing Mt Ruapehu, one of the most active volcanoes in New Zealand, Tongariro is also the country’s winter sports capital making the area a mecca for snow seekers come June & July.
Abel Tasman National Park
For sun chasers rather than snow chasers, on the other hand, holidays in New Zealand are perhaps best complemented by visits to Able Tasman national park. Locally famous for benefiting from almost year round sunshine, the Able Tasman area covers 22,530 hectares of golden beach studded coastline and is absolutely perfect for nature lovers.
Of course, holidays in New Zealand are about much more than just inspiring national park adventures. To really experience the country, though, it’s definitely worth adding a visit to at least, one or two to your own itinerary.
We’ve detailed below some of our top tips for New Zealand – useful points for anyone thinking of visiting this spectacular country.
Explore the North Island first, and the South Island second – the scenery will become better and more dramatic as you go.
Travel in New Zealand’s spring or autumn to avoid the crowds (the summer holidays there are usually throughout January and therefore visitor attractions tend to get busy).
Visit the far south of the South Island for great wildlife viewing opportunities such as fur seals, sea lions, albatross, yellow eyed penguin and little blue penguin all found in this region, and of course the elusive kiwi found on Stewart Island along with other endemic species.
Dig in the sand at low tide at Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula and enjoy your own personal spa pool.
Plan your time carefully – We suggest at least four weeks to see the key highlights, or six weeks if you’d prefer a more comprehensive trip. If you’re limited to a shorter duration, choose one region and explore it well.
Stay in a variety of accommodation – New Zealand is fantastic for B&B’s, farmstays and boutique lodges, which provide a chance to meet the locals and learn about their way of life, rather than simply providing a place to lay your head.
Put on your hiking boots and go tramping for a few hours, a day or perhaps one of New Zealand’s famous multi-day Great Walks – you’ll find fantastic scenery and well marked trails whichever you choose.
For train enthusiasts, the Tranz Alpine is a must – cutting through the Southern Alps from Christchurch to Greymouth, and providing stunning vistas along the way.
Take an overnight cruise on Milford or Doubtful Sounds for a chance to experience the region with fewer crowds.
Yvonne has been working on a lovely itinerary to Newfoundland for some customers travelling this summer, and I was reminded of the trip I made a few years ago to this remote untouched corner of Canada. She asked me particularly about Quirpon Island – a tiny island on the furthest northern tip of Newfoundland where one stays in the lighthouse keepers cottage. If you have yet to visit Newfoundland – put it on the list – it is gorgeous. Almost like a little piece of New Zealand, but virtually on the doorstep. My most visid memory is the sunset – which was to die for!
We’ve recently received a newsletter from Destination Fjordland in Fjordland a region of New Zealand, and thought it worth a mention as a reminder of just how diverse this part of the country is. Located on the South Island, and most easily accessible from Te Anau, both Milford and Doubtful Sounds are stunningly beautiful – with sheer cliffs, superb waterfalls, flora and fauna.
There are a huge variety of ways in which the region can be explored – fairly traditionally by way of a day trip from Te Anau comprising coach and cruise, or more energetically by kayak or by tramping the well marked trails. Trails include the renowned Milford Track and Keplar Track, along with the lesser known Chasm Track. The walks vary in difficulty – some graded easy, and others for the more experienced hiker.
Consider joining a walk along the rugged coastline –the longest walkable stretch of wilderness coastline in New Zealand for something a little different.
One unique option is to dive Milford Sound and Piopiotahi – with a chance to see legendary black coral trees that grow up to five metres tall, red corals, sea dragon, dog sharks, crayfish, snake stars, octopus and others besides.
Take a horseback ride or quad biking tour through the beautiful scenery – much of which features in the Lord of the Rings films and the new Hobbit film, or take a tour of a working farm.
These are simply a few possibilities in this region – there truly is something to suit everyone here, whether your interest lies in the scenery, the wildlife, activities or a combination of these. The region is a ‘must’ during a holiday to New Zealand, and we can work with you to incorporate this region into a wider itinerary to this beautiful country.
I have recently returned from a whirlwind trip to the south part of the south island of New Zealand, and have fallen totally and irrevocably in love with the region! This is the path less travelled – where those on a tight time schedule tend to miss out, and boy do they miss out!
Discover the Otago Peninsula, with its stunning views over the harbour and opportunities to see endangered wildlife such as the Royal Albatross, Little Blue Penguin and the rarest penguin in the world – the Yellow Eyed Penguin. Visit Larnach Castle with its Scottish architecture and interesting history, and explore the city of Dunedin with its heritage buildings and home to Speights Brewery.
From Dunedin, drive west through the beautiful Catlins region – home to rolling farmland, beautiful deserted beaches, temperate rainforest and plentiful waterfalls. See New Zealand sea lions lounging on the beach, tramp one of the many walking trails through the rainforest, and explore the small villages of this quiet region. A visit to Curio Bay and the Petrified Forest is a must – with more chances to see the rare Yellow Eyed Penguin in its natural environment (as I was lucky enough to see!).
Drive on to Invercargill, and from here travel by light aircraft or by ferry to the wild and incredible Stewart Island. With less than 400 residents on the island, and most of the island made up of National Park, this is a real chance to get away from it all, and enjoy the opportunity to explore the endemic flora and fauna found here. Nearby Ulva Island is a must for bird watchers, with many endemic and native species found here, and the island being almost entirely predator free. On Stewart Island itself go kiwi spotting at night (one of the few places to see kiwi in the wild), tramp part of the Rakiura Track – from a few hours to several days, or meander the small village of Oban and learn about the locals’ way of life.
This southern region provides a chance to get back to nature – to enjoy the stunning scenery and wildlife, to meet some of the friendliest people and to taste some of the freshest seafood on offer in New Zealand.
For more information on the region, and how it can be incorporated into a wider New Zealand bespoke tailor made holiday, call our office on 01323 446550 or email me at email@example.com and we can discuss the possibilities to suit your preferences and requirements.
We were delighted to receive a newsletter from Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism this week informing us that the iconic trams in Christchurch are now back up and running. This final piece of the puzzle means that 100% of the visitor attractions in the city are now operational – and are a true testament to the optimistic and hardworking locals there.
Whilst there is a still lot of construction work happening following the earthquakes, almost all of the demolition has now been completed and the local people are embracing the opportunity to redesign the city – ensuring of course that all new buildings are built using the newest earthquake-related technology.
The regeneration of the city will take several years, and this interim period is a unique and exciting time to visit Christchurch – see the innovative Cardboard Cathedral, the wooden pallet open-roof bar (popular with locals and tourists alike) and the Re:Start shopping complex built out of shipping containers. All of these sit alongside the traditional attractions of the city –punting along the river, the botanic gardens and of course the iconic tram.
The biggest gateway to the South Island of New Zealand is still very much a ‘must’ when planning your trip to this diverse and beautiful country – for more information on Christchurch and how a stay there can be incorporated into a wider New Zealand holiday, see our website www.experienceholidays.co.uk, call our office on 01323 446550 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we can work with you to put together the right bespoke tailor made itinerary to suit your requirements and preferences.
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