Auckland is a major city in the north of New Zealand’s North Island and is based around two large harbours. Fabulous views of Viaduct Harbour can be seen from the iconic Sky Tower, and the city’s oldest park, Auckland Domain, is based around an extinct volcano and home to the formal Wintergardens. Rugby is played by several teams at Eden Park, New Zealand's largest sports stadium. Internationally, New Zealand is proudly represented by its rugby union teams, the Black Ferns (women) and the All Blacks (men). The Haka is a traditional Māori posture dance with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet to the accompaniment of rhythmically shouted words. It is performed, not only to showcase Māori culture, but also to intimidate the opposition.
Piha (pronounced Pee Har) is situated on the west coast of the North Island, 40 kms from the city of Auckland. It is New Zealand’s most famous surf beach, and is well known for its black ironsand (the ironsand was formed 2.5 million years ago from rock deposited on the coast by volcanic activity in the Taranaki region). The beach is backed by the Waitakere Ranges, a protected parkland of sub-tropical forest, accessible through numerous bush tracks. Along with Piha’s rugged cliffs, the majestic Lion Rock stands guard, dividing North and South Piha beaches. The scenery is dramatic and inspiring.
In the Northland region, the Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes can be found along Ninety Mile Beach near Cape Reinga. This region is known for its coastal scenery, giant kauri trees, and heritage sites. Te Paki is home to a wide range of native plants and animals, great campgrounds, walking tracks and many recreation opportunities.
The Coromandel offers pristine beaches and misty forests, and is one of New Zealand's most popular holiday destinations. Activities and attractions include fishing, diving, hiking, cycling, skydiving and guided sea kayaking along the coast. Billie chose to dig her own hot pool in the sand at Hot Water Beach.
Rotorua district is renowned for its Māori culture and geothermal activity. There are bubbling mud pools, natural hot springs, and the 30m-tall Pohutu Geyser which erupts many times daily. It’s also home to a living Māori village and the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, with traditional wood carving and weaving schools. The high sulphur content of the hot pools results in a rather unique pungent aroma in the air, and it is because of this that Rotorua has been nick-named The Sulphur City.
Stratford is the closest town to Egmont National Park. It is named after William Shakespeare’s birthplace and is home to New Zealand’s only Glockenspiel (the clock tower celebrates the town’s connection to the English playwright with scenes from Romeo and Juliet). There are many things to see and do along the Forgotten World Highway - one being the unique experience of travelling into the wilderness along the decommissioned railway line on self-drive carts.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. It sits near the North Island’s southernmost point on the Cook Strait, and the strong winds through the Cook Strait give it the nickname "Windy Wellington”. Wellington’s iconic red cable car travels between Lambton Quay and the Wellington Botanic Gardens. Cuba Street is a prominent street in Wellington, and is generally known as the centre of the city's unique culture. The Bucket Fountain consists of brightly coloured buckets filling with water and surprise-splashing people as they walk by.
The Butterfly House in Christchurch is a unique project that brings school children, residents and butterfly enthusiasts together. It is located on privately owned land, however, the generous owners have allowed the site to be used for education and events that provide community and environmental benefits. The children from St Michael’s Church School are the young caretakers of the Butterfly House, however, anyone can visit. It is truly a community collaboration, with over 100 schools growing swan plants for the summer months. This means there is a steady supply of mature swan plants laden with Monarch butterfly eggs and hungry caterpillars, and lots of flowers for the butterflies to enjoy.
Punakaiki is a small west coast settlement famous for its pancake rocks and blowholes (columns of water shoot skyward from rocks that resemble giant stacks of pancakes). The pancake rocks at Dolomite Point are limestone formations that began forming 30 million years ago, when lime-rich fragments of dead marine creatures were deposited on the seabed. These were later overlaid by layers of soft mud and clay. Earthquakes then raised them from the seabed. Local operators provide horse treks, canoe hire, caving, guided walks and rafting adventures, and there is a diverse range of birdlife and marine wildlife. Fur seals can be seen on the rocks and Hector’s dolphins close to the shore. There are many birds seen in the area, including blue penguins, shags, gannets and herons, and the Westland petrel has its only mainland breeding colonies close by.
Whilst there are many glaciers to be found, the three main attractions in New Zealand are Tasman, Fox and Franz Josef. Visiting these ancient rivers of ice is a magical experience. You can participate in guided ice walks, and helicopters and ski planes can take you up to where the glaciers begin.
Jackson Bay is a gently curving bay on the southern West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. The fishing village offers spectacular views of the ocean and the Southern Alps. Jackson Bay is one of only two known areas in the South Westland region of New Zealand that is regularly used as a nursery area by the rare Hector's dolphin females and their calves. The region has been designated a World Heritage Area.
Queenstown sits on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu and is set against the dramatic Southern Alps. It is a base for exploring the region’s vineyards and historic mining towns, and is renowned for many adventure sports, including bungee jumping, jet-boating, skiing, skydiving, walking, cycling, and others.
Stewart Island is New Zealand's third-largest island, located 30 kilometres south of the South Island, across the Foveaux Strait. In the Māori language, Stewart Island is known as Rakiura, which means ‘the land of glowing skies’, and this refers to the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) which often appears as sheets of light shimmering in the sky during the winter months. As well as searching the night sky for the glow, hiking and bird-watching are popular activities.
Dunedin is located at the head of Otago Harbour on the South Island’s southeast coast. It's known for its Māori and Scottish heritage, and Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Rare yellow-eyed penguins, Hooker sealions, and the majestic Northern Royal Albatross can be found on the Otago Peninsula, and as well as the wildlife, many natural attractions can be found amidst the hills and coastline.