There really is no place like New Zealand. Sure, there are some spots that will remind you of alpine Europe, some that will remind you of the tropics and some that are straight out of Middle-earth. But you’ve never seen anything that packs all the natural beauty, adventure and culture. With a population of just over 5 million in about 100,000 square miles of land, there’s a lot of wide-open spaces, and the people you do encounter are friendly and welcoming.
They haven’t seen many outsiders in the last couple of years with international travel to New Zealand extremely limited as the island nation enacted strict COVID policies, thanks to which the country has had less than 100 COVID-related deaths. Now, the country is in a phased reopening plan, and it’s expected that fully vaccinated Americans will be able to visit beginning in July.
You’re most likely to arrive in Auckland on the North Island. It’s New Zealand’s largest city, and ranked among the most livable cities in the world. It’s also a gateway to beaches, vineyards, islands and Hobbiton, with original sets from the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies. Himself a Kiwi, director Peter Jackson knew no place on Earth could stand in for J.R.R. Tolkien’s ethereal Middle-earth so well as New Zealand does.
In Rotorua, you’ll encounter the fiery volcanic activity the Ring of Fire is famous for, along with the unique culture of the Maori people. Rotorua is also one of New Zealand’s great adventure spots. Taupo, on the country’s largest lake, has the world’s largest commercial skydive drop zone. Napier, on the North Island’s East Coast, is known for biking, wine and golf. From there you can make your way to Wellington, the national capital and a hub of creativity, on the southern tip of the North Island.
On the ferry across the Cook Strait, you’ll be gobsmacked by the gorgeous scenery and enjoy excellent seafood. The adventure only ramps up on the South Island, where you can scale Franz Josef Glacier and climb or bike mountains in Wanaka before you reach Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world. There, you can do bungy jumping, jet boating, horse trekking and rafting to your heart’s content then relax with a spa treatment and a gourmet meal. From there you can head to the stunning fiordland of Milford Sound and visit Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain and part of the Southern Alps. You’ll be on top of nothing else like it in the world.
Where to stay
So hip, so vibrant: SO/ Auckland is the trendiest melting pot in the City of Sails. Located downtown in the lively Britomart district, this 130-room “rebellious lifestyle” hotel bursts with dynamic energy emanating from the decadent black-walled lobby up to the HI-SO rooftop bar with its Instagram-worthy views of Waitemata Harbour. Michelin-starred chef Marc de Passorio leads diners on a gastronomic journey at Harbour Society restaurant; fashionable boutiques, galleries, and waterfront nightlife are a short stroll away.
Huka Lodge has enjoyed a location of natural beauty on the banks of the mighty Waikato River since it was founded as a simple trout fishing camp in 1924. This legendary retreat continues to define absolute style while offering privacy and relaxation with authentic outdoor adventure to those who appreciate exquisite cuisine, personal service, and unique experiences. With just 25 guest suites and 2 superb private cottages within 17 acres of magnificent grounds, this is truly an exclusive experience. Huka Lodge proudly takes its place among the world's best retreats – with its reputation and awards all richly deserved.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers, named by Captain James Cook in 1769, features some of the most dramatic coastline in New Zealand. Worldly travelers know it as the home of The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, a 6,000-acre working sheep and cattle farm on land that ends at cliffs plunging 800 feet straight into the sea. Cottage suite accommodations open to stunning Pacific views and feature every creature comfort one could wish for. When you're not traipsing the grounds on foot, by bicycle, or by four-wheel drive, tee off on the award-winning golf course, where each hole offers ocean views – promising to thrill golfers of all levels.
Few places can claim such a coveted alpine locale as Matakauri Lodge. Just seven minutes from Queenstown, the lodge sits along Lake Wakatipu with uninterrupted views of the big three: The Remarkables, and Cecil and Walter peaks. You can soak in the panorama from the infinity-edge swimming pool or the inviting courtyard, as well as any of the 12 stylish suites with private porches or the four-bedroom Owner's Cottage. The spa takes full advantage of local ingredients in its healing treatments, as does head chef Jonathan Rogers in preparing his exquisite cuisine – enjoy it with a selection of local wines.