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Insider's Guide: New Zealand

1.    What makes this country unique?
The land of the long white cloud is not just a land of inspiring landscapes and incredible diversity, it is blessed with incredible Maori heritage and a fascinating pioneering history, not to mention some weird and wonderful wildlife. An abundance of natural wonders awaits – including the clearest of skies for night-time stargazing, 13 National Parks and 2 World Heritage Areas, 360 glaciers in the Southern Alps and 6000 kilometres of coastline. Less than 5% of the population is human – the rest are animals! The “youngest country on earth” is renowned for capturing the heart and soul of those fortunate enough to visit. Often described as the “world in miniature” this is the perfect country for the active and independent traveller. New Zealand offers an abundance of activities, from outdoor adventure to pure relaxation and some of the finest food and wine in the world.

2.    When is the best time/season to visit and why? 
Spring or Autumn are ideal seasons to visit. Spring (September to November) is a revelation, producing a fantastic show of blossoms in regions renowned for their gardens such as Taranaki, Waikato and Christchurch. Fine days make this a perfect time for sightseeing before summer arrives and life gets busier. Waterfalls are at their most spectacular and this is the most impressive time of year to take a tour to Milford Sound via the Milford Road. Generally quieter at this time of the year and more affordable, Spring also heralds the arrival of new generations of wildlife and keen nature lovers can enjoy penguin viewings, whale watching and bird watching. 
Autumn (March to May) is a dazzling time to be in New Zealand. The changing colours are truly spectacular, particularly in the far south in historic Arrowtown and the Central Otago region, or in the famous wine-producing region of Hawke’s Bay on the North Island. Deciduous trees turn brilliant shades of yellow, gold and vibrant orange.With the weather warm and more settled this is an ideal time to explore one of the many Great Walks or walking trails and to indulge in a spot of photography. 

3.    What is the ‘hot spot’ for 2017? 
The Taranaki region, a rarely visited area of the North Island. This beautiful region is full of rural landscapes, amazing volcanic black sand beaches and a stunning mountain, Mt Taranaki. This is the perfect place for an awe-inspiring road trip – weave your way through winding remote river gorges and quiet highways, discovering hidden gems and pioneering settlements along the way. A new one-day hiking experience, the Pouakai Crossing, in Egmont National Park offers the chance to see native wildlife in its natural wetland habitat including rare birds, small reptiles and beetles. Here visitors can soak up the spectacular 360 degree views of Taranaki and Tasman Sea.  Taranaki’s cultural hub of New Plymouth is home to the fascinating Len Lye Centre , the first Museum in New Zealand devoted to a single artist. On the New Plymouth coastal walkway you can see the Wind Wand, conceived by this pioneering kinetic artist. There are art trails, festivals and award-winning museums and galleries and a thriving café culture. Pay a visit to one of the last working lighthouses in New Zealand, the Cape Egmont lighthouse. Taranaki is famous for its spectacular gardens. A visit in the rhododendron season is a must.  Originally settled by the descendants of ancient Polynesia, Taranaki enjoys a mild climate and among the highest number of sunshine hours in the country. The region’s laidback vibe and friendly locals attract visitors with the promise of invigorating activities, unique landscapes and rich history.

4.    3 highlights for first time visitors:
a.    Food – an endless array of deliciously fresh food designed to cater for every conceivable taste. New Zealand has developed a distinct Pacific Rim cuisine. Indulge in plenty of seafood (superb green-lipped mussels, crayfish, Bluff oysters and fresh fish), the finest cheeses and of course world-famous lamb. There are many wine and food festivals throughout the country and an abundance of fantastic wines on offer to complement any food choice.
b.    Place/Sight – Doubtful Sound overnight cruise. Much quieter than its nearby cousin, Milford Sound, 3 times longer and 10 times bigger, this majestic Sound sums up what New Zealand is all about, serenity, stunning landscapes and an overwhelming emotional response to its picture-perfect pristine environment. The Sound of Silence is a simply unforgettable experience.
c.    Activity  - take a thrilling floatplane flight over Lake Rotorua and out to Mt Tarawera. This majestic volcano dominates the surrounding landscape and plays centre stage to the stunning lakes which surround it. Above Tarawera views of cavernous craters reveal the power of what was the largest eruption in New Zealand’s living memory. The 1886 eruption devastated the local area including the famous Pink and White Terraces once acclaimed as the eighth wonder of the world. Enjoy incredible aerial  views of Waimangu thermal Valley and its vibrant Inferno Crater and Frying Pan Lake. 

5.    Did you know that….? Don’t miss… (little known fact). 
UK visitors can use their National Trust membership to gain entry to New Zealand’s unique heritage buildings.  48 properties throughout the country have significant historical significance to New Zealand’s fascinating pioneering history.

6.    What is your personal favourite place/location to visit/stay? 
I am a huge fan of the Coromandel. This magical part of the North Island has an abundance of hidden gems, and landscapes dominated by magnificent pohutukawa trees, tranquil secret coves, rugged rainforest, dramatic gorges and glorious white sand beaches. The Coromandel is also home to some gifted and creative artisans as well as some incredible luxury lodges. It is always very hard to leave this very special part of New Zealand. 

Copy and Images provided by Discover The World. Visit them on stand AA8 at the Destinations Show.