New Zealand - No 1 Tourist Destination
There's one thing about New Zealand – there's always something to do.
From breath-taking scenery to adventure sport like nothing you've ever seen. Or if life on the quieter side is more to your taste, there are many scenic walks through some of the most pristine bushlands all over the country.
If venturing into the wop-wops [backblocks], as New Zealanders call them, doesn't appeal there are more culinary and viticultural delights awaiting up and down the country.
The North, and more populated, is the home of the largest city Auckland in the north, and the country's capital, Wellington in the south. Between them lies a plethora of experiences. Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world and the most cosmopolitan of New Zealand's cities.
A three-hour drive to the south will take tourists to the thermal wonderland that is Rotorua where a chance to sample Maori culture is a must. But, by making a longer trip of it, an excursion around the Coromandel Peninsula will provide some outstanding vistas which make New Zealand such a diverse geographic entity. Further south call in at Mt Maunganui on the way to get a sample of one of New Zealand's finest beach resorts.
After you've taken in the delights of Rotorua drive back across country to the rugged west and check out the Waitomo Caves and their world-famous glow-worms.
By driving south, or taking the daily excursion train from Auckland to Wellington, you can pass through the rugged hinterland in the middle of the North Island known as the Volcanic Plateau where live volcanoes, Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe sometimes put on a show.
Wellington, the stop off point to catch the inter-island ferries, is worth an extended stay to take in the national museum Te Papa, the Sir Peter Jackson movie base at Weta Studios, the Wellington Maritime Museum while also dining out in the capital's thriving restaurant and café scene. Again check there may be a Super Rugby game at the Westpac Stadium.
A trip on the inter-islander across Cook Strait takes just over three hours and travels through the Marlborough Sounds to disembark at Picton.
Four hours to the south lies Christchurch. There are two ways of getting there. The shorter four-hour route involves a coastal drive down the east coast through the whale-watching town of Kaikoura and then a trip through the northern Canterbury Plains to Christchurch.
The longer route involves heading across to Nelson, an artists' enclave which is the doorstep to the stunning Abel Tasman National Park, renowned for the safety of its pristine waters and the entrance way to the Heaphy Track which links the Tasman region to the West Coast.
But driving south through rugged mountain passes can take tourists over the less demanding Lewis Pass, or further south over the stunning Arthurs Pass with its amazing man-made roading structures through the heart of the Southern Alps, across the western Canterbury Plains to Christchurch.
After looking around Christchurch and partaking of your Golden Oldies activities it is worth making the five-hour drive down the inland scenic route to Queenstown. By driving inland to the rural hamlet of Darfield and then turning left, the road cuts right along the bottom of the Southern Alps, through the magnificent McKenzie Country and the glacial lakes of Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau. A worthwhile deviation is a trip into the base of Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain. Known in Maori as Aoraki ('A-o-rah-kee') it is well worth a look.
The McKenzie Country has been developed as part of New Zealand's hydro-electric energy resource and massive canals linking the lakes are obvious everywhere.
Once passing over the Lindis Pass you move into Central Otago and the Southern Lakes region with Wanaka and its lake the first port of call. A drive over the Crown Range, New Zealand's highest road, will provide a stunning entrance into Queenstown, the jewel of New Zealand's tourist crown. Renowned as the adventure capital of the world with its jet-boating, para-punting and other tourist-related activities, it is also a place where it is easy to soak up the view surrounded by superb mountain views. Golf courses abound while the Government Gardens on the peninsula in Queenstown Bay is an excellent place to watch the TSS Earnslaw steam back from its journeys across the lake.
It is also possible to take a day trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound which features so many attractions along the route it is well worth the drive.
As we said, there's no lack of things to see and do in New Zealand…and we've only scratched the surface.