Recently anointed Tourism New Zealand cycling ambassador Megan Gale took a pit stop to tell us her favourite things about NZ. The model, designer, actress and media personality is ambassador for the New Zealand Cycle Trail network, endorsing The Great Rides that are suitable for all ages, cycling tastes and abilities.
Gale has family roots in New Zealand, a nose for fine food and wine, and an appetite for adventure. Here are her picks for the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Why New Zealand?
My Mum is from the Ngāti Kahu iwi and grew up in Kaitaia in Northland so I’ve always felt a connection to New Zealand. Not to mention its world-renowned food and wine, culture, history, nature and stunning scenery.
What’s your idea of heaven in NZ?
Waiheke Island for a dreamy weekend getaway. Wellington for its quirky designers and seriously good coffee stops. I’m a big foodie so Hawkes Bay for its Art Deco streets, gentle cycle trails and amazing vineyard destinations.
Christchurch – there are so many new and innovative places to explore, including Roots (NZ’s top restaurant, which caters only for 10 tables; everything is either foraged or locally sourced). Wanaka for its romantic outdoor landscapes and life-changing pinot. In autumn the green, gold and red colours are spectacular.
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What’s your favourite cycle route in NZ?
The Timber Trail – I cycled through native forests and across impressive suspension bridges. And the Otago Central Rail Trail for its historical towns and delicious local cuisine and wine.
Everything is surprisingly close to each other and it is amazing where two wheels can take you. My cycling journey was truly stunning with so much to do, see and experience.
Cycling is part of my exercise routine so combining it with travel is the perfect balance. The best part is you can explore the country from an entirely different angle – it’s like riding through a postcard!
What’s your favourite place in NZ?
I’d like to explore Fiordland – to see natural New Zealand at its best. Specifically, the heart of Fiordland National Park, an area of New Zealand overflowing with native forests, ancient glaciers, waterfalls and Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most spectacular places of pure beauty. An overnight cruise or leisurely kayak through Milford Sound is on my list.
What’s your favourite meal in NZ?
My favourite places to eat in New Zealand include: Pitches Store, Ophir; Sam Neill’s Two Paddocks Winery, Central Otago; Olivers Restaurant, Clyde; and Bistro Lago, Hilton Lake Taupo.
What’s your favourite attraction in NZ?
New Zealand is in my blood – my mother is part Māori so I’d like to take my family back to Kaitaia in Northland where she’s from. I’d like to visit the Waipoua Forest and see the four mighty and ancient kauri trees, including Tane Mahuta – the largest kauri tree in New Zealand.
When did you first go to NZ?
What’s your carry-on essential?
Apart from the essentials, i.e. passport, wallet, phone, laptop and clothes, I like to try and squeeze in my yoga mat if possible, a travel candle, and vitamins such as Vitamin C, Zinc, ArmaForce and Magnesium to support my immune system.
How do you beat jet lag?
Keep hydrated – it’s easy to lose track of time and forget to do something as simple as drinking lots of water but it’s so important to hydrate your body more than usual on long flights. I also use a lavender mist on my face and it’s good to get a stretch in – your body will thank you for it.
Do you prefer adventure or luxury holidays?
A healthy holiday is all about balance. I love good food and the odd tipple of wine so I like to level things out with exercise, plenty of rest and relaxation.
New Zealand is ideal for me as there are so many different activities and all within close proximity. It’s great to enjoy an active holiday experience – choose your activity and be adventurous!
I recommend cycling, as it suits all levels of fitness, plus you get off the beaten track. Basing your holiday around an activity gives you a real sense of achievement at the end of each day.
What’s the essential ingredient for a good trip?
Here are my top tips for getting the most out of a cycling holiday in New Zealand:
• It’s all about new experiences. Every day is a different journey on The Great Rides in New Zealand. Be sure to stop and explore each place you pass, whether it is a quaint historical town or hidden beach. There is so much to discover. Being on a bike enables you to get up close and to see things from a different perspective.
• Get to know the friendly locals. Striking up a conversation with a local is never a bore! New Zealanders are famed for being friendly and welcoming so take advantage of local knowledge – you’ll learn something new every day.
• Take a fully charged phone with you. Another tip I would say is to always make sure your phone is fully charged before heading out, in case you run into trouble or there is an emergency. And take a charger with you. Also, you want to be able to take a lot of photos, as the scenery is just so spectacular.