Few countries in the world can boast New Zealand's range of natural features. From glaciers in vast mountain ranges to golden sand beaches, no wonder New Zealand was awarded Favourite Country at the Telegraph Travel Awards this month.
Visitors heading north from Auckland will discover New Zealand's cultural and geographical foundations - the sub-tropical ancient kauri forests that have existed since time immemorial, the magnificent Hokianga Harbour where the legendary Maori explorer Kupe first came ashore in New Zealand, and Waitangi in the idyllic Bay of Islands - birthplace of the modern nation.
Or take the road south of Auckland to Rotorua where indigenous Māori culture thrives in a unique geothermal landscape. Much of the central North Island is an active volcanic field - dominated by four volcanoes and the great Lake Taupo (New Zealand’s largest lake and the result of a massive ancient volcanic explosion that was witnessed in the skies as far away as Rome) - of steam vents, bubbling mud pools and brilliant thermal colours. In Tongariro National Park - a dual world heritage site - the famed Tongariro Alpine Crossing is known as the world’s best one-day hike.
Pass through the wine regions of Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa (award-winning reds and fabulous boutique food producers) to Wellington. On the southern tip of the North Island, the capital city is renowned as a creative hot bed of arts and culture, including Sir Peter Jackson’s international film empire (‘Lord of the Rings’, and recently released ‘The Hobbit’).
Experience the South Island
Sail across Cook Strait by ferry from Wellington to Marlborough, at the northern tip of the South Island. The Marlborough Sounds and nearby Nelson’s Abel Tasman National Park offer a sultry coastal region of sparkling water, golden sand beaches, peaceful coves and lush forests filled with native songbirds.
Heading south by the west coast the traveller discovers towering forests fringed by rugged endless beaches and the snow-capped Southern Alps where the twin glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef, the world’s most accessible glaciers, descend from mountain slopes into coastal rainforests at near sea level. This is the beginning of Te Wahipounamu South West New Zealand world heritage site - famed for dramatic wilderness scenery, unique nature and wildlife, and iconic Milford Sound.
Or travel south by the east coast through Marlborough vineyards (home of New Zealand sauvignon blanc) to the vast Canterbury plains and the alpine playground of the Southern Alps. On the eastern seaboard, Kaikoura is a world mecca for whale watching or swimming with the dolphins at Akaroa, on Banks Peninsula.
The Southern Alps, dominated by Aoraki Mt Cook New Zealand's highest mountain, sweep the length of the South Island offering endless opportunities for outdoor year-round activities. Picture yourself skiing, snowboarding, hiking, cycling or taking part in water sports and adrenalin challenges. And that is just a few of the possibilities.