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New Zealand
 
Almost twice the size of the UK but with a population of only 4 million, it is no wonder people come to unspoilt New Zealand to get away from it all. Natural beauty abounds from the snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps to the deep forest clad gorges of Fiordland National Park, to the stunning Fox and Frans Joseph Glaciers and dramatic coastal scenery and beaches of the Coromandel, to name but a few. Enjoy this great outdoors at a leisurely pace or, for thrill seekers, pay a visit to Queenstown the ‘Adrenalin Capital of the World’ where you can indulge in bungee jumping, jet boat riding, sky-diving – or just watch others do it! Enjoy a traditional feast and learn about the Maori culture in Rotorua, a geothermal hotspot on the North Island. Wine connoisseurs should head for the world renowned wineries of Marlborough in the South Island and city lovers will enjoy all that Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington have to offer.
 
Auckland
 
The most populous city and economic capital of the country, Auckland on the North Island is dubbed ‘City of Sails’ possessing not one but two fine harbours – one giving on the Pacific, the other, separated by a narrow isthmus, into the Tasman Sea. It has 139,000 assorted ships & boats and if you’re not into sailing, better get familiar with All Black rugby – Auckland’s a prime source of the stars. The Maori name for the city incidentally is Tamaki Makau Rau which means the maiden sought by 100 lovers – a colorful way of describing its justified popularity.
 
Christchurch
 
First sighted by Captain Cook, who thought it was an island, Christchurch is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The Banks Peninsula (Cook’s ‘island’) juts eastwards out into the Bight of Canterbury, an excellent area for whale watching trips (from Kaiapoi). Christchurch has the well-deserved nickname of the ‘Garden City’ with a well-endowed Botanical Gardens, Hagley Park and Mona Vale on the river all contributing to its International Floral City status. Westwards, the foothills and then the mountains of the Southern Alps are an hour’s drive, providing spectacular vistas in summer and winter skiing (with hot springs pools to relax in after-ski). For further relaxation, try the justly famed New Zealand wineries.
 
Queenstown
 
Arguably the adrenaline capital of the southern hemisphere, Queenstown in Otago in New Zealand’s South Island is a spectacular location for every kind of adventure tourism. Beside the zig-zag Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by magnificent mountains, it offers an unending list of sporting activities: climbing and walking, skydiving, bungey jumping, canoing, fly-fishing, jetboating, river surfing, heli-skiing – you imagine it, it’s here. In winter there are four individual ski-fields, one rightly named ‘The Remarkables’. More conventionally there’s some great golf or leisurely trips on the lake in a hundred-year-old steamship. Many of the mountain locations were featured in Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. The neighbourhood is home to the southernmost wine region – and there’s a vigorous aprés-activity nightlife.
 
Rotorua
 
‘Aotearoa’, the Maori name for New Zealand, was originally used only for the North Island. Rotorua is both a lake and a city in the hinterland of the Bay of Plenty about 150 miles south of Auckland and is an important area in Maori culture. It is also a very active thermo-geological region with a nearby volcano Mount Tarawera, shooting geysers and bubbling mud pools and hot springs everywhere – the lake itself is in a volcanic caldera. There are many spas and health facilities (plus a ‘distinctive’ sulphurous aroma) and the lake offers all kinds of watersports – and amazing views. Rotorua is one of the best places to learn about Maori customs and culture, in museums and by personal visits – be prepared to face the Haka welcome/challenge ritual, which is a touch more intimidating than on a rugby TV screen.
 

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