It was the brass band that convinced me. I had already decided that Wellington was a decidedly cool city when I stumbled upon a raucous ensemble entertaining the crowds.
I had arrived in Wellington just as CupaDupa – the Kiwi capital's newest street festival – was getting into full swing. Under leaden skies, the multi-piece brass ensemble was entertaining a throng of high-spirited party-goers who had turned out to "celebrate the last part of summer and the first party of winter", as the festival's website put it.
The brooding clouds hanging low over the city certainly suggested winter was coming, but with the streets awash with sound and colour, nobody seemed to mind.
Wellington is a great place to kick-start a New Zealand holiday. With the Monteith's flowing like rainwater and the city's must-try hot spots living up to their billing – the Wellington Cable Car springs immediately to mind! – the Kiwi capital proved an impressive introduction.
Queenstown, it turns out, is equally noteworthy. The Remarkables certainly deserve their name; a fact I pondered appreciatively whilst gazing at them from the outdoor hot tub at my perfectly-located hotel.
I enjoyed a somewhat blurrier look at the landscape as I tore down the mountainside on the Skyline Queenstown Luge – who said it's just for kids? – and wondered aloud to no one in particular if the view from atop Bob's Peak wasn't the most spectacular in New Zealand.
The South Island certainly boasts its fair share of scenery. I discovered as much time and time again; whether on an overnight stay at Lake Tekapo, a picture-postcard drive around Wanaka or punting idly down the Avon River in Christchurch.
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While clouds obscured Lake Tekapo's famous night sky, the terrain itself was spectacular in its own right, with a drive to the top of the Mount John Observatory revealing the wild and rugged landscape below.
The surrounding Mackenzie Basin was named for notorious sheep thief and casual speller James Mckenzie; presumably then, the stunning Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo was named for the hardy band of shepherds who succeeded him.
While the quiet surrounds of Tekapo make it a great place to relax and recharge, the South Island's largest city Christchurch is a hive of activity. Though the earthquake that struck in early 2011 caused considerable damage, today this picturesque city in the heart of Canterbury province is rebuilding at a rapid pace.
The Re:START City Mall offers arguably one of the most unique shopping experiences in the world, as boutique designers sit side-by-side with fresh and funky food vendors in shipping containers transformed into bright and airy retail spaces.
Then, of course, there's the classic punt ride down the Avon. It may be a tourist cliche, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Just a few hours' drive from Christchurch is the tourist town of Hanmer Springs – best known for the natural hot springs that draw hundreds of visitors to this small hamlet each day. Sitting in the sunshine, soaking up the crisp mountain air in the bucolic surrounds of the Canterbury countryside, is just about the perfect way to relax.
Dunedin, by contrast, was a frenetic hive of student-fuelled fun – or at least, it would have been had most of the students not gone home for the holidays. Despite their absence, this was still a great city in which to enjoy a tipple or two, with Dunedin's lively bar scene up there with the best in New Zealand.
It was a thought I pondered as I sipped on a selection of craft beers at Auckland Airport waiting for my flight home. Could New Zealand just about be one of the best holiday destinations in the world?
It certainly offers something for everyone. From Wellington – "the coolest little capital in the world" – to the apres-ski scene of Queenstown, the vibrant clubs and bars of Dunedin, the jam-packed boutique stores in Wanaka and the vast open skies above Lake Tekapo, I certainly felt like I'd seen the best of the country on my whirlwind trip across the Tasman.
What's more, I'd head back to New Zealand in a heartbeat. If that's not the measure of a great destination, then I don't know what is.