Tui uncovers New Zealand’s lesser-known treasures
Having recently attended a New Zealand product update in London, it was refreshing to be reminded of some of the very unique and off-the-beaten-track regions of New Zealand, which are often overlooked by first time visitors to the country. Many of these regions deserve more than the 2-3 nights we often give them on our, but often this is due to restrictions in amount of time people have available when visiting New Zealand. Combining a holiday to both and is possible, but by focusing on New Zealand only, this allows more time to really get a feel for the country and allow yourself time to enjoy some of the fantastic experiences each region has to offer.
For second or third time visitors, there are some fantastic areas to visit away from the trodden tourist trail…
The Canterbury region covers 1/3 of the South Island and there are some fantastic areas to visit outside of the main city of Christchurch. The city itself has begun to be rebuilt after the earthquake in February 2011, and while some parts of the city remain cordoned off, most visitor services are open (including bus services, the international airport, accommodation and visitor attractions such as the International Antarctic Centre and Punting on the River Avon).
Christchurch remains the gateway to the Canterbury region and the wider South Island. Only 2½ hrs drive north of Christchurch you can experience the amazing wildlife, spectacular coastline and breathtaking scenery of Kaikoura.
Giant sperm whales can be seen on a virtually daily basis, but you can also view dusky dolphins, fur seals and albatrosses. Other migrating species such as rare hector dolphins, orca, humpback whales and blue whales are also frequent visitors.
Only 90 minutes drive from Christchurch the picturesque township of Akaroa is a charming French inspired village with sweeping harbour views and boutique shops, galleries and gourmet eateries. Here you can also take a swim with the rare hector dolphins, a year round activity which is a must-do when visiting Canterbury. Further south, the coastline of North Otago and the Catlins is an area not often visited by first time travellers to New Zealand, yet this region holds some wonderful scenery, native and unique experiences. To be able to get up close and personal with the rare yellow eyed penguin in their natural environment is a very humbling experience and makes you appreciate how lucky we are in New Zealand to have such intimate wildlife experiences available for everyone.
The Catlins can be accessed by driving from either Queenstown or Invercargill along the coast road towards Dunedin (from Invercargill to Dunedin via the Catlins takes about 5 ½ hours drive).
This is an area of outstanding natural beauty with sweeping beaches and rugged cliffs. Yellow-eyed penguins are often seen making their way to and from their coastal nests, and you can often see sea lions and fur seals sunning themselves on the rocks.
There are many walking tracks throughout the area – easily accessible along the Southern Scenic route, giving you the opportunity to explore ancient forests, hidden waterfalls and serene lakes.
If you’re looking for a treat in Dunedin, I would recommend staying at Larnach Castle on the Otago Peninsula, where lodge accommodation is available in a colonial style farm building, which is set in the grounds of the picturesque grounds of the castle.
From here it’s very easy to access many of the wildlife encounters along the Otago Peninsula. I would highly recommend taking a trip on the Monarch Wildlife cruise where you get the chance to see so much of the wildlife the peninsula is famous for. This is the only mainland nesting place for the Northern Royal Albatross in the world, and you can also spot over 20 species of ocean birds, as well as fur seals.
Visitors to our capital city, Wellington, often only stay for a night before heading over to the South Island, but to really appreciate what Wellington and the surrounding region has to offer you need to stay for at least two nights (especially if you have driven into Wellington from areas further north such as Napier, the Hawkes Bay or Rotorua). Wellington is nestled between a sparkling harbour and rolling green hills, offering a chic city experience in a stunning natural setting.
The city is packed with cafes, bars, restaurants, galleries, public art, sanctuaries and innovative museums all located within a compact area easily within walking distance of your chosen accommodation. Te Papa, New Zealand’s interactive and innovative national museum is set in a beautiful location on the waterfront and is free for general admission and a must-see on all itineraries.
Just 10 minutes from central Wellington, ZEALANDIA is one of the best places to see native wildlife such as kiwi, tuatara, takehe and saddleback in the wild. This is a 500-year vision to restore a special piece of New Zealand to what it was before human settlement.
Within an hour’s drive north of Wellington the Wairarapa region is one of New Zealand’s top food and wine destinations. Packed with charm, Martinborough features over 30 wineries, most within walking distance of the quaint village square, but you can also hire a bicycle or visit the cellar doors by horse and carriage! This area is a popular weekend destination for Wellingtonians, who enjoy premium wines, vineyard cafes, boutique stores, quality accommodation, olive groves and award-winning restaurants.
For a bit of adventure through the central North Island, taking a road less travelled along State Highway 35, is one of the great coastal road journeys.
Eastland is a diverse region with a proud cultural and colonial history, and this is a great place to meet the locals. You might pull up to a local diary for refreshments and meet one of the locals riding his horse along the main road, who has also dropped in for break.
Eastland also boasts the first point of land to see the sunrise each day.
There were many other unique regions of New Zealand represented on the day – this is just a snapshot of a few that are often overlooked. Here at ANZCRO (UK) we’re happy to provide advice and suggestions based on our own personal experiences to help you make the most of your holiday. Just give our reservations team a call on 01872 266 899 or email