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My early memories of New Zealand from when I was quite little are of a magical, kind-of mystical place. I’ve been so fortunate to return, thanks to my career, and every time I come back, the more I discover and my love for this place just grows deeper.
To truly experience New Zealand, you have to get out: first, to meet the people and feel the vibe; then, to get off the beaten track to immerse yourself in the landscape. It’s about the same size as California but there’s this extraordinary variety from one place to another.
These are my essential elements for a transformative New Zealand holiday:
- People: Meet the locals, especially Māori. It’s their spirit that infuses the nation. Learn about their culture at Te Papa (the museum in Wellington), or in Rotorua, or practically anywhere in New Zealand. They’re amazing storytellers and their culture enriches the lifestyle with a respect and love for the natural world. You can also sense that in everyday life because Kiwis have this warm happy style - everyone seems genuinely grateful and hopeful.
- Land: Take a walk in the New Zealand bush and breathe deeply to awaken the senses. If you want to escape deep into the wilderness, there are some great guided hiking trails that start near Queenstown like the Routeburn Track in Mt Aspiring National park. Or, take a short walk in the forest with a Māori guide to learn about the ancient kauri forests in Northland.
- Water: Water is literally everywhere in New Zealand. You’ve got the Tasman Sea on the west coast and the Pacific Ocean on the east, and you can go to the place where the oceans meet on Cape Reinga at the tip of the North Island. Or you can cruise down a beautiful river on a Funyak inflatable canoe with no one in sight apart from your guide, sail on the ocean or across a lake. And then, you can soak in a naturally heated thermal spa in Rotorua.
- Sky: Step outside at night and look up at the stars. In the Southern Alps, the International Dark Sky Reserve at Aoraki Mt Cook is a famous star gazing destination with some of the world’s clearest night skies but just take yourself away from the lights anywhere in New Zealand and you see amazing skies. Queenstown has gorgeous Onsen Pools where you can luxuriate in glacial water in a private tub with the stars above.
- Adventure: A holiday in New Zealand is an adventure so don’t miss out on trying your own level of adventure. You can be extreme or go for a softer adventure. It’s the home of the bungee if you want to throw yourself off a bridge, but you may prefer to leap in a jet boat for a thrilling high speed journey down a rocky narrow river gorge or to cycle your way around some vineyards.