Daily Mail Travel Editor Mark Palmer took an 8-day tour to New Zealand and now he can’t stop talking about how great it is:
New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud, is also the land of adventure. It’s a place for bungee jumping, canyoning, or throwing yourself out of a plane.
The number of visitors to New Zealand increases a year, making the country one of the most visited vacation destinations in the world. In 2013, about 190,000 visitors from the UK visited NZ. In 2016 that figure reached 221,000.
Queenstown is the perfect place to begin your NZ experience.
While exploring, one soon realises that it’s an adventure capital with a zillion things to do and see. And throughout your visit, you’re immersed in Kiwi hospitality. The Kiwi’s are proud of their beautiful land, and it’s easy to see why.
In my 8 days there, I met only kind, pleasant locals, eager to show off their amazing landmarks and mind-blowing activities. No wonder NZ is consistently top of most tourists’ “must visit” countries.
Its very distance from the rest of the world gives visitors the feeling that they are pioneers, adventurers, and that anything is possible.
New Zealand itself is smaller than Great Britain and only the city of Auckland has a population larger than 1 million. This harbour city is a successful mix of Maori and “Pakeha” (the Maori word for white, or non-indigenous, New Zealanders) cultures. It is a good place to enjoy shopping, eating, museums, and people-watching.
One small piece of advice – travel to Auckland at the end of your trip, rather than at the beginning. If you’ve just flown from the UK or Europe, taking an internal flight right away might be the end of you.
Another city worth visiting is Wanaka, smaller than Auckland and located only an hour’s drive north of Queenstown.
Wanaka is set on a lake and offers a series of activities. We tried jet boating, a New Zealand invention often claimed by Australia (see also: flat white coffee, bungee jumping, the pavlova, Crowded House, Russell Crowe, etc.). While driving our driver did a 360-degree turn, completely soaking us, before heading to the World Heritage Site Matukituki Valley, where the famous Lord of the Rings series was filmed. Exhilarating.
From Wanaka, we headed to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. It is a thrilling site, especially when the blue crystal waters of the Tasman Lake finally come into view.
The Hermitage Hotel was a lovely place to stay with accommodation for every price range.
We were lucky to have a well-appointed room overlooking Mount Cook, which was a training mountain for Edmund Hillary and his team before they left for Everest.
It was so beautiful that we signed up for a star-gazing session, entering a room where our telescopes were all set up in a row and the knowledgeable astronomy guide informative and wise-cracking. Interesting fact: the skies above New Zealand’s Mount Cook are some of the darkest in the world.