New Zealand is the perfect place to get away from it all – as some of the biggest names in the world have discovered. Here are some secret celebrity haunts in New Zealand – and you won’t need a superstar-size bank balance or your own entourage to enjoy them.
Auckland covers all the bases, from the land to the sea. From bungy jumping from the Sky Tower (like Beyoncé) or off the city’s Harbour Bridge (like Katy Perry) to trekking along wild coastal cliff-tops (like Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel), this is a region that offers urban excitement and natural diversity.
To follow in Timberlake’s and Biel’s footsteps, take a guided hiking tour at remote Whatipu Beach. With its black sand beaches, native bush and hidden caves, it’s no wonder Timberlake posted an image of himself on the edge of a dramatic cliff with the hashtag #OnTopOfTheWorld. Locals are now referring to this spot as ‘Timberlake Point’.
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland has an international airport. Close to downtown, you can climb volcanoes like Mount Eden for spectacular views across Auckland Harbour, visit the waterfront Wynyard Quarter for restaurants and cafes, or drive less than an hour to explore the wild west-coast beaches of Piha, Bethells and Muriwai.
Taylor Swift shared a wistful Instagram of herself dancing through vineyards in a floaty white dress, captioned “Waiheke Island. Sigh.” The American singer-songwriter’s post perfectly captured the dreamy perfection of summer on this island just off Auckland’s coast. As well as swishing between rows of sunlit grapevines, Swift also managed to get to local favourite Casita Miro, a boutique Mediterranean-influenced vineyard restaurant, and to the renowned Mudbrick Vineyard for dinner. (Mudbrick was also recently visited by Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria, whose Instagram pictures show the moody winter grapevines sloping down to the water.)
Head out to Waiheke Island from downtown Auckland on a Fullers ferry– the ride takes only 40 minutes. Waiheke is not flat, so it’s best to hire a car, a scooter or an electric bicycle to explore the island, which has pristine beaches, excellent local vineyards and top restaurants.
American singer-songwriters-cum-surfers Ben Harper and Jack Johnson are renowned for their love of New Zealand’s beaches, especially Raglan. Harper isn’t shy about it: “I love it here … I love Raglan.” On the North Island’s west coast, near Hamilton, it’s easy to see how Raglan captured Harper’s heart: it has a famously laid-back culture and for surfers, arguably the world’s longest and most consistent left-hand break, at Manu Bay. At the other end of the musical spectrum, locals say members of heavy-metal band Metallica have also stopped in Raglan on visits to New Zealand.
Hamilton is about 2 hours’ drive from Auckland. Alternatively there are regular flights to Hamilton Airport from other regional centres. Raglan is about 45 minutes’ drive from Hamilton by car or bus. As well as surfing itself – you can learn to surf or paddle board - Raglan offers cafes and walks such as Bridal Veil Falls. The beautiful Waitomo Glowworm Caves are 2-hour drive away.
With its dramatic landscapes, snowy peaks and beautiful lakes, Queenstown is the perfect setting for a fairytale, so it makes sense that it was on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s recent New Zealand itinerary. Popular myth suggests Queenstown was so named because it was seen as “fit for a queen”, and William and Kate seemed to agree, spending a day touring vineyards and, less sedately, taking a hair-raising jet-boat ride on the Shotover River.
Air New Zealand flies to Queenstown daily. Alternatively, the drive there from Christchurch International Airport makes a sensational scenic road-trip over a few days. With some of New Zealand’s best ski-fields, Queenstown is a well-loved winter wonderland, although the area’s lakes, vineyards and adventure activities make it an excellent year-round destination.
Prince Harry got down to earth on the remote idyll of Stewart Island. Although located in a sparsely populated region at the bottom of the South Island, this special place is easily accessible and, in its seclusion, offers things not available on the mainland. Spend some time spotting native kiwis, or follow Prince Harry’s lead and get to know the unassuming locals. And, simply, take in what the fifth in line to the British throne loved about the island: ‘There’s no traffic, there’s peace and quiet, and beautiful sunrises.” Prince Harry enjoyed a stroll around Ulva Island – an off-shore eco-sanctuary – and stayed at Stewart Island Lodge.
To get to Stewart Island, you can catch a short flight from Invercargill on Stewart Island Flights or alternatively, Stewart Island Experience Ferry runs a catamaran across the strait from Invercargill or Bluff. Nearby visit Stirling Point, a 20 minute drive from Invercargill, is the southern-most point of mainland New Zealand marked by an iconic sign-post. Sample New Zealand’s famous Bluff oyster in the town of the same name.