Like its activities, no one can expect New Zealand to be stuck in a rut. The country is as active as its lakes and mountains, always presenting travellers with new and exciting experiences each year.
Fortunately, 2016 is no different, boasting an array of unexpected trends, additions and ideas for first-time visitors and those who've been making NZ their second home.
The ski fields of New Zealand are known for offering avid skiers and snow boarders some of the best snow conditions in the Southern Hemisphere – and New Zealand holds claim to arguably the longest ski season in Australasia!
There’s no such thing as the best place to ski in New Zealand. Instead, the best way to approach the snow is to keep coming back to explore all the options.
The South Island has nine commercial ski fields, most of them scattered around the stunning Southern Alps. Queenstown is the ski and snowboarder hub (The Remarkables and Coronet Peak are the two ski fields closest to Queenstown) and is ideal for those wanting to enjoy the snow by day and the apres ski atmosphere by night; Mt Hutt has a chilled-out vibe; while families rate Porters, the ski field closest to Christchurch.
The North Island is home to two commercial ski fields and the country’s only skiable volcano. It’s worth heading to Mount Ruapehu just for brag rights – because “I skied a volcano” will never get old.
It's Getting Hot In Here
New Zealand is home to 107 geothermal pools and the majority of these are located in the North Island. The natural warm waterholes are a result of geothermal activity – a side effect of volcanoes, to put it simply.
Many are still untouched and these are often harder to access (usually via picturesque walking trails or remote roads), making them all the more extraordinary to visit. Kerosene Creek in Rotorua, Hot Water Beach in The Coromandel and Great Barrier Island east of Auckland are three great options for those seeking an as-natural-as-it-gets thermal pool experience.
Some of New Zealand’s natural pools have been turned into public leisure spaces and visitors can access the manned sites for a fee – a great option for families or those looking for pools that have facilities. Taupo has a few good options, including Taupo DeBretts and Tokaanu Thermal Pools.
In Rotorua visitors will also find the lavish Polynesia Spa (New Zealand’s best-known thermal spa), just five minutes away from the Maori cultural centre of Te Puia.
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For The Finer Things In Life …
New Zealand's top luxury lodges: fine dining, mingling with fellow guests and outdoor adventures in stunning scenic spots.
Taupo, North Island
If it’s good enough for the Queen Elizabeth II (she’s stayed four times), it’s probably good enough for you, too. This exclusive property is located by the Waikato River, close to the mighty Huka Falls.
Dining here is an experience in itself – you’ll meet your fellow guests for pre-dinner drinks, then you’ll be whisked away to a private nook for a memorable five-course meal that changes daily.
Blanket Bay Lodge
Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and a pristine lake, you’ll be hard pressed to take your eyes off the rugged scenery at Blanket Bay. Once you do though, you can enjoy elegant suites with cosy stone fireplaces, fabulous food and adventurous activities such as heli-skiing and horse riding.
Despite the rugged backdrop, Blanket Bay is handily located only a 45-minute drive from Queenstown.
This hideaway (on the southern tip of the North Island) is situated on a sheep station overlooking Palliser Bay. But don’t worry: you aren’t about to rough it. The main lodge is dripping in antique furniture and each cottage has all the luxury amenities you could care for.
So relax in the day spa, learn in a cooking class, or explore one of the 29 wineries nearby. Not unique enough for you? Try a spot of archery or clay target shooting instead.
Less than five per cent of the population of New Zealand is human, proving the country is a paradise for animals (and their fans). Wildlife sightings are easy to come by in New Zealand and one of the best areas for a variety of wildlife encounters is an exploration of the Hamilton and Waikato region.
Kids will love the Hamilton Zoo where they can meet creatures from all over the world; and if they’re fans of birds and reptiles, the Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park is the place to go.
Reptiles include geckos, otagense skinks and tuataras and of course the New Zealand kiwi is the famous bird most people come to see. The park is home to one of the best nocturnal kiwi viewing facilities in the country.
House of treasures
New Zealand’s national museum is located in Wellington. Te Papa Tongarewa is an immersive collection of all things New Zealand – history, wildlife, arts and more. It’s also home to the largest Maori collection in the country.
Opened in 1970, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth was New Zealand’s first contemporary art gallery.
For history buffs
One of New Zealand’s most celebrated historic buildings, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, also houses a collection of Maori crafts and Polynesian artefacts.
The museum was has been closed for the last couple of years (for earthquake strengthening) and was re-opened July 2015 – with more exhibition space and a centre dedicated to the work of modern artist and kinetic sculptor Len Lye.