New Zealand

Heaven on Middle Earth

We love New Zealand. The entire country is an exhortation for travellers like us to be open to new experiences. Whether it’s driving around the breathtakingly scenic South Island or food-hopping in Auckland or sipping on fine flat whites in Wellington, New Zealand never ceases to amaze.

From whale-watching in Kaikoura to observing albatrosses soaring in Otago; from scaling Fox Glacier to revelling in the fragrance of a lavender farm; from playful dolphins in Doubtful Sound to dancing around giant boulders in Moeraki — the only question on our minds is simply “What shall we do and see next?”

Deep South: Otago’s wild coastal drive

Royal Albatross Centre, Dunedin

From Moeraki to Dunedin

If driving on windswept coastal roads is your idea of a good time — it’s certainly mine — then there’s no better region to explore than the South Island’s wave-cut Otago coast that is rich in wildlife and geologically fascinating landscapes.

The very idea of a road trip is to do everything at your own pace. Drive, stop, wander, relax. Along the way, encounter boulders, fur seals, shags, seagulls, albatrosses, penguins and even Cheshire cats (no joke, but more on this later).

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Shag Point

Journey into Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound

The sound of silence

If you seek the sound of silence, consider making a trip to Doubtful Sound, a serene and isolated fiord in the south-western tip of New Zealand’s scenic South Island. Doubtful Sound was originally named Doubtful Harbour by Captain Cook, who discovered it in 1770 and doubted – hence the name — whether it could be safely navigated.

Also known as Patea (its Maori name), whalers and sealers in the area later renamed it Doubtful Sound. Geographically, a “sound” is basically a narrow sea channel between two bodies of land though most experts agree today that it is more of a fiord due to its steep cliffs, created by glacial erosion over two million years ago.

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Doubtful Sound

Tasting Auckland in a day

Oysters at the Depot

The Kiwi capital is a melting pot of flavours

Consistently rated as one of the most liveable cities in the world, Auckland has all the trappings of a cosmopolitan city but with a more laidback Kiwi vibe. Seekers of a great quality of life will inevitably rate a city’s food scene as a factor and Auckland excels in this area.

In fact, you could spend a whole day dining in Auckland and explore the many culinary influences New Zealand has absorbed over the years from the different cultures who have made it home – from the French to the Vietnamese.

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La Cigale French Market

Hiking on Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

Experience the Kiwi “ice age”

Remember that scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring when our heroes tried crossing the Pass of Caradhras? They were beat back by an ice storm summoned by the evil wizard Saruman.

Looking upon the frozen veneer of Fox Glacier in New Zealand’s South Island, we can’t help but ponder if this was what inspired director Peter Jackson’s wintry setting. To find out, try walking on that very glacier!

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Fox Glacier

The scent of a Kiwi… lavender farm, that is

Wanaka Lavender Farm

Lavendyl Lavender Farm & Wanaka Lavender Farm

In Kaikoura, Lavendyl Lavender Farm is located under the rugged slopes of Mt. Fyffe. The view is simply stunning: one side is the ocean, the other the mountains with their snowy peaks.

Wanaka is the gateway to the Southern Alps’ Mount Aspiring National Park, so the resort town has it all: glaciers, snowcapped mountains, forests and alpine lakes.At 4 hectares, the Wanaka Lavender Farm is slightly larger than the Kaikoura farm, allowing more space for activities such as weddings and animals such as sheep and alpacas.

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Wanaka Lavender Farm

The “Middle Earth” of coffee

Scratch Pop-up on Commerce Street, Auckland

Café-hopping in New Zealand

Most of us associate New Zealand with the All Blacks rugby team, the kiwi fruit (and bird), and yes, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies. Yet “Middle Earth” is also home to some of the best coffee in the world. Diehard Kiwi coffee lovers even say the flat white was invented here (though their Aussie neighbours may well dispute this).

No surprise then this island nation has some of the best cafés in the world, from havens for artists, musicians, and hippies, to a Tennessee-inspired enclave in its capital (some say the coffee capital of the world). How about a café-roastery that gives back to the community, or a coffee shop that also doubles as an archive of thousands of National Geographic magazines?

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Morning Magpie, Dunedin

Have a “whale” of a time!

Whale-watching in Kaikoura

Watching sperm whales in Kaikoura

Make a beeline for Kaikoura, a small fishing town on the east coast of the South Island. Here, it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the magnificent sperm whale, which resides off the coast of Kaikoura all year round. Reaching up to 18 metres in length, the sperm whale is the largest toothed whale in the world.

Kaikoura itself offers some extraordinary views, as it’s situated between the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps and the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. The currents that arrive at the Kaikoura Peninsula bring with them abundant marine life such as paua (abalone) and koura (crayfish). In fact, the name Kaikoura means “a meal of crayfish” in Maori, hence the town’s history as a centre of the crayfish industry.

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Whale-watching in Kaikoura