I recommend spending a few nights in Wanaka before heading down to the madness of nearby Queenstown, which is just an hour's drive away. Wanaka is almost a miniature version of the adventure capital of the world but with a much more relaxed atmosphere. The views of the lake and the surrounding mountain ranges are simply breathtaking and one of the best ways to see this is by hiking up Mt Iron. The town is dotted with bustling cafés and restaurants in both the summer and in the winter, when it becomes a popular destination for skiers.
Matt, New Zealand Specialist
I first fell in love with New Zealand when it became the highlight of my seven-month trip of a lifetime backpacking around the world. I was inspired by the mesmerising landscapes, the clash of cultures and the adrenaline-fuelled nature of this incredible country, culminating in me confronting my own fears with a bungee jump and a sky dive. I spent two months travelling across both islands in the autumn and I was gifted with beautiful weather and even more beautiful scenery. I find it astonishing that you can climb volcanoes, walk across glaciers and sail across spectacular lakes all in such tiny proximity, and littered with an amazing array of wildlife. Ever since that initial trip, I have wanted to share my passion with others, in the hope that they can also experience some of the life changing opportunities I am lucky enough to have had.
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A perfect retreat on the East coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, the 970 Lonely Bay Lodge is a delightful B&B conveniently located between the nearby town of Whitianga and the village of Hahei. Slightly hidden from the main road, the lodge boasts large, lavish bedrooms, each kitted out with bath tubs and a complimentary minibar. From the property's garden, you can walk to the nearby Lonely Bay and the Shakespeare Cliff Reserve, which provides stunning panoramic views of the surrounding Mercury Bay area where Captain James Cook observed the transit of Mercury in 1769.
I'll never forget when…
My favourite and most memorable experience in New Zealand is completing the famous alpine crossing in the Tongariro National Park. I was picked up at the crack of dawn from my accommodation in Lake Taupo and transferred to the starting point, where the gruelling 19.4 km hike begins. I will never forget the moment that I climbed to the summit of Mt Tongariro and the clouds parted, as if by magic, leaving a jaw-dropping view of Mt Ngauruhoe directly opposite (perhaps more famously known as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Add to this the spectacular red crater and the glorious emerald lakes along the way, and it is no wonder the crossing has been dubbed New Zealand’s greatest day walk. As I finished the crossing, which is littered with landscapes that look as though they belong on the moon and not earth, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment but also bewilderment at what I had witnessed that day.